Minnesota Ice castles things to do in winter

While the astronomical calendar only lists 90 days of winter, Minnesota winters can start as early as October and you can always count on an April snowstorm or two. Regardless of what the calendar or forecast says, here are 90 ways to embrace and enjoy all the fun things to do in Minnesota in the winter. Original post: Nov. 14, 2020; Updated: Jan. 15, 2024.

Top winter activities to do in Minnesota or wherever the snow flies and temps dip

Colorful paramotoring on a frozen lake with chute open
Fun things to do in winter in Minnesota: Go paramotoring on and above a frozen lake like Lake Marion in Lakeville, Minnesota.

Living in Minnesota, I’m well aware of how brutal winter can be. I’ve also become more aware of how to embrace it and find fun things to do in the winter in Minnesota and other cold-weather states, provinces and countries. Here are 90 top winter activities and festivals and events – one fun winter event every day of the season.

Special note: While I’ve updated this post to reflect the 2023-2024 winter season, please contact event organizers to confirm any specific details. Some events may be canceled, postponed, or modified due to local or state health and safety guidelines and weather conditions.

This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All images taken by kmf are available for purchase via digital download.

How this sunny beach lover learned to try new things to do in the winter

View from above of two people looking at frozen waterfalls and a bridge
Chasing frozen waterfalls is a thing. Pictured: Minneopa Falls at Minneopa State Park in Mankato, Minn.

I am not a fan of winter. And there are 90 days of it (91 days during a leap year like 2024).

After nearly 30 winters in Minnesota (aka MinneSNOWta) I finally challenged myself to embrace the frozen tundra. And created a list of the top 90 fun things to do in the winter.

At the same time, I’m hoping we don’t have more Polar Vortexes and life-threatening -55ish degrees below zero wind chill (Fahrenheit) that shut down Minnesota a couple of years ago. So far this season, we’ve only experienced ~30ish below zero wind chill.

I’m not exaggerating. Listen to Alexa. The entire state shut down because of winter. Motorists were advised against driving, some schools were closed for days (even the universities), and with natural gas shortages, Minnesota customers were asked to turn thermostats down to 63 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the strain.

Granted that was pretty extreme. We do have some nice winter days (after the Polar Vortex, zero degrees felt balmy).

Staycation: Things to do this winter in Minnesota

Things to do in winter: catch snowflakes on your tongue
Things to do in winter: catch snowflakes on your tongue

I had so much fun exploring my own backyard here in Minnesota the past two summers and falls. So I’m challenging myself to embrace winter (again) in Minnesota this year – all 90 days of it.

Granted, I don’t expect to conquer this entire list – but it’s nice to have options and some motivation. I invite you to join me on this winter challenge and create your own list of to top fun things to do in the winter where you live. If you live in the south or in more moderate climates, I’m sure your list of things to do in the winter will look slightly different..

Would love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions on anything that I may have missed – especially any unique things to do in the winter that I should try.

And here we go!

Top 90 winter activities to do

Top things to do in the winter – for each day of the calendar season. In Minnesota, winter can come as early as October and we always have at least one April snowstorm – and it has even snowed in May. Fortunately, spring snow doesn’t stick around long.

1. Top things to do in the winter: Book a beach vacation.
Sun over ocean and beach with blue sky
The beautiful beaches of the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. Taken in January 2020 – the last place we traveled before the pandemic. Related post: Best places to stay, eat and play in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera.

Check! Going to Isla Mujeres in January.

We typically head to Mexico in the winter. Last year, we changed it up and went to Maui (before the devastating wildfires). Check out my Mexico video montage on repeat.

And see why we love Hotel Secreto – the best boutique hotel on Isla Mujeres, Mexico (island across from Cancun).

2. Top things to do in the winter: Learn how to start a snowblower.
Car in driveway top winter things to do snowblower

I’ve never tried starting a snowblower. But it seems like it’s something I should know how to do especially in Minnesota.

Limited-time offer: Join Rakuten for free and get $40 when you spend $40 or more (and I’ll also receive cash back when you use my referral code).

3. Fun things to do in the winter: Discover a new museum.
Visiting a local museum is a great way for families to get out of the house during the winter – fun for all ages! Pictured: Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, Minn.

Winter is the perfect time to spend a day at the museum – try a new one or one of your favorites. And many offer free days so check your local museums.

4. Unique things to do in the winter: Build an ice bar – or go to one.

Building an ice bar sounds like a great project and fun thing to do this winter. Or going to one at a winter festival.

5. Fun winter traditions: Go to a winter festival or winter carnival.

Nearly every community offers some kind of winter festival or winter carnival. A popular one in the Twin Cities is the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. Back for its 138th year, this winter festival in St. Paul, Minnesota offers many fun family winter events from Jan. 25 through Feb. 4, 2024.

Check out their website for their complete calendar of events from ice carving competitions to concerts to parades to performances to the ice bar and more. Many of the winter carnival events in St. Paul, Minnesota are free.

6. Family things to do in the winter: Find your inner child with some sledding and tubing.
Snow tubing and sledding is one of the best things to do in the winter – and many times it’s free!

Find a neighborhood hill like Neill Park in Burnsville, Minn. (video clip) or check out some of the area’s ski resorts for snow tubing and sledding adventures. One of our favorite places for snow tubing is Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minn. as it’s only five miles away from our house – fun for kids and adults of all ages.

Snow tubing and sledding are fun things to do in winter – a fun winter activity for the entire family – including dogs – and is often free.

7. Top things to try in the winter: Skiing or snowboarding.
Couple cross-country skiing x-country skiing in Minnesota with snowy trees in background
My husband and me cross-country skiing back in the day.

I’m more of a crosscountry skier (and I say more as in I own a pair of cross-country skis that I used a lot back in the day; I think they’re in the garage collecting dust). My husband and I did, however, take downhill skiing lessons as adults so it’s never too late to learn something new. And many ski areas offer after-school ski and snowboard clubs. Not sure how that will play out this season, so be sure to check out your local ski resorts.

And check your local park and rec as we also took cross-country skiing lessons with them a few years ago.

See my related post: Guide to Lutsen Summer and Ski Resort – the Midwest’s largest ski resort. For the best ski resorts in the U.S., check out this post from Planning Away.

8. Embrace fun winter activities this season: Lace up and go ice skating.

Check out your local parks for free ice skating. Nearly all Minnesota communities offer outdoor ice skating rinks, hockey rinks and warming houses as well as public skating at hockey arenas.

9. Minnesota’s favorite winter activities: Play hockey! Or watch.
Boys hockey team lined up with hockey sticks on a hockey arena

I live in Minnesota – THE state of hockey; and home of the NCAA men’s hockey national champions (a few times) – University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD) (and my son’s alma mater). I was a hockey mom for 12 years and served on the Lakeville (Minn.) Hockey Association’s Board of Directors for three years. So every now and then I need a hockey fix – youth (Go Cougars!), college (Go Dogs!) or professional (Go Wild!).

And for some outdoor hockey, you can check out the 19th annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships Jan. 18-28, 2024 on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. You can play hockey or volunteer and celebrate hockey the way nature intended outdoors on one of the best lakes in Minnesota – Lake Nokomis in the Twin Cities metro.

10. Fun things to do in the winter: Binge watch movies.
Movie reel to reel projector and clapboard

We are a movie family and enjoy going to the movie theater in person but equally love holding a movie marathon in our home theater especially in the winter as the countdown to the Oscars starts.

Need some movie inspiration? Check out our movie-loving family’s one-word movie review series for our favorite movies. And my one-word review series continues with streaming shows.

11. A family-favorite thing to do in the winter: Oscar best picture marathon | Oscar pool | host an Oscar party.
Woman standing on a red carpet
Here I am walking the red carpet at a Mexican resort – the year I accidentally booked a girls getaway over Oscar weekend. Fortunately, they hosted an Oscar party and I was texting with my husband and son in real-time.

One of our family traditions and fun things to do in the winter is to watch the Oscars every year and have an Oscar pool – even when my son was too young to watch some movies. When he was in college, he’d drive home for the weekend. Typically scheduled in early February, we download the Oscar pool ballot and pick our winners. Loser of the Academy Awards pool buys dinner for the family.

My goal every year is to watch at least all of the Oscar best picture nominees and then the films with the Oscar best actress and best actor nominated. Hint: If an Academy Award nominee is up for a Golden Globe nomination, it’s pretty likely (but now always) it’ll show up on the Academy Award nominee list (in case you want to get a jump start on movies).

Related post: A movie-loving family’s Oscar predictions (will update with link to this year’s nominees once we’ve watched them).

I’ve always thought it would be fun to host an Oscar red-carpet party and have everyone dress up; but I enjoy watching too much to host. And won’t be be happening this year for sure.

12. Fun family things to do in the winter: Learn a new comfort food recipe.
Egg rolls on a platter with a dish of dipping sauce and green lettuce garnish

With the number of pins I have for chili, soups, mac and cheese, pot roast, etc., I could do this every day of winter. My two sisters-in-law are originally from Thailand and have given me a couple of cooking lessons to make my favorite Thai dishes.

My sister-in-law Tor taught me how to make her authentic Thai recipe, Pad Kaprow Goon Khi Doun (shrimp with fresh Thai basil, garlic, peppers and veggies with a fried egg on top and a side of jasmine, red and brown rice), online in the Recipes section of this blog. And if you love egg rolls, then you will love Mam’s, my other sister-in-law, delicious and simple-to-make Thai egg rolls recipe.

13. Winter is the perfect time to stay at a resort at off-season prices.
Bed with lots of pillows with a skylight
One of the best places to stay on the North Shore during the winter in Minnesota: Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen, MN. Check out my full review of our hosted stay last winter.

Many places, at least in the northern hemisphere, have great off-season rates at their resorts along the lakes and ocean during the winter season – as long as they’re not also ski resorts. Worth checking into especially this winter if you’re unable to fly to your typical beach getaway. Staying at a cozy cabin or cottage in the woods with snow all around you sounds like the perfect thing to do in winter – and help chase off those cabin-fever blues.

14. This fun winter activity will keep you warm outside: Get warm and toasty around a bonfire.

Bonfires aren’t just for summer and fall nights; winter is a great time to hang out by the fire. We have a bonfire pit next to our pond, but we don’t use it much in the winter so will change that up this season.

15. Snow excuse not to fire up the grill this winter – a fun winter activity.

It’s always grilling season – winter is snow excuse. This video clip of my husband clearing snow off our deck currently has more than 800 views on Instagram.

16. Fun things to do in the winter: Visit your local arboretum and conservatory.

Unless you’re Frosty the Snowman, visiting your local arboretum or conservatory can help cure cabin fever. Although the outdoor gardens and trails may be closed in winter, many offer holiday and winter events. For example, the Como Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn. is open 365 days a year with plenty of special events. They do require advanced reservations.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum opens up trails in the winter. My husband and I loved our Winter Lights visit at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN. The 0.75-mile walk takes you though outdoor Christmas light displays, a 16-foot weeping willow, flowers, trees typically through the month of December.

17. Family-fun things to do in the winter: Visit your local zoo – in person or online.

While I typically think of visiting the zoo during the summer (and during the Minnesota Zoo Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in October), winter is a great time to go. Check for winter hours and special educational opportunities and group events (even overnighters).

18. One of the best remedies for cabin fever: Meditate at the aquarium.
fish in an aquarium

I find aquariums so relaxing – I could just sit or stand in front of an aquarium for hours. You can typically find an aquarium open in the winter at most zoos (like the Minnesota Zoo‘s Tropical Trail). Sea Life at the Mall of America (pictured) in Bloomington, Minn. is like an ocean. So mesmerizing. See my Things to do in winter: Experience the Mall of America for more details.

19. Fun spectator winter sport: Cheer on professional ski jumpers.

Check if you have any ski jumping clubs in your area to watch these skilled athletes – or maybe even try it. Bloomington, Minn. is hosting an International Ski Jumping Competition on Feb. 3, 2024.

20. Fun things to do in the winter: Take a Christmas holiday light tour.
Christmas lights Fairfield Iowa square

Get in the holiday spirit by taking a Christmas light tour, or walk through your neighborhood or scoop the loop to admire the holiday lights.

One of my favorite childhood things to do in the winter was to attend the official Christmas lighting of our town square in Fairfield, Iowa (pictured during the day time). It’s been named as one of the prettiest squares in the U.S. and one of the best places to see Christmas lights. I do remember when I was really little wanting to ride the reindeer – and sobbing when I was told I couldn’t because it wasn’t that kind of merry-go-round.

GLOW Holiday Festival in St. Paul Minnesota Christmas lights tunnel

See related post

Best holiday lights and Christmas events in the Twin Cities, Minnesota

Bentleyville USA Tour of Lights in Duluth, Minn. is still on my bucket list. With more than 4 million lights, the Tour of Lights won first place in USA Today’s Readers Choice Awards for best public holiday lights display. Weather has not cooperated every time I’ve been in Duluth during the Christmas season. So maybe this season.

21. A must-do winter activity: Take a holiday tour at a historic home.
Best historic home Christmas tours in Minnesota Glensheen Mansion

Touring historic homes is one of my favorite things to do. And if you’re feeling especially nostalgic, visit during the holidays when they are all decked out in boughs of holly. A few of my favorite historic homes in Minnesota include James J. Hill House in St. Paul, Minn., Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, Minn., Mayowood Mansion in Rochester, Minn. and the Historic Hormel Home in Austin. Minn.

Be sure to check out the historic home websites for winter availability (some are only open during the holidays in the winter months).

Check out my Glensheen Mansion Christmas tour experience last year and my summer experience in July. And my related post: Best historic home Christmas tours in Minnesota.

22. Building a snowman is one of the most classic and best things to do in the winter.

When was the last time you built a snowman? Or snowwoman? Pictured are a couple of them built by the neighbor kids – one of the best things to do in the winter.

23. Top things to do in the winter: Make a snow angel.

Call on your inner child and make one right now. Make a snow angel – one of the best things to do in the winter.

24. Fun things to do with kids outside this winter: Play fox and geese.

Fox and geese was one of my favorite snow games growing up. And, Minnesota, don’t you dare call it fox and gray duck. For those outside of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesotans don’t call the childhood game, Duck, Duck, Goose. They say, Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. I don’t get it. I digress.

Fox and Geese is kind of like tag or maybe Pac-Man. You create a path/maze in the snow and the fox tries to get the geese. And the geese try to avoid a dead-end and get caught by the fox. Or at least that’s how we played it. Here are some rules/guidelines on how to play the fox and geese snow game. It’s a lot of fun and one of the best things to do outside this winter. .

25. Top things to do in the winter: Build a snow fort.

May as well since you’re out in the snow. No snow where you live? Then try an inflatable snow fort. Then everyone can enjoy one of the best things to do in the winter.

26. Educational and fun things to do in the winter: Winter magic vs winter science.

This was one of the most fun things I did in the winter last year. Throw some boiling hot water into the air on a frigid winter day and watch it disappear/evaporate right before your eyes. Throw in a little food coloring and take a video in slow-mo. Another fun experiment is to blow bubbles in cold weather and watch crystals form and freeze the bubbles.

27. Top things to do in the winter: Ice castles and ice mazes.
Ice castles in Minnesota in the winter

My husband, niece and I visited the beautiful Ice Castles in Minnesota a few winters ago. It was one of the coolest (and coldest) things to do in the winter. Ice Castles is set in New Brighton, MN on Long Lake and weather-dependent. Check their website for dates, hours, and admission.

Minnesota Ice Maze Vikings Eagan Stillwater

We checked out the Minnesota Ice Maze in Stillwater a couple of seasons ago. Normally, you can visit the Minnesota Ice Maze at the Viking Lakes in Eagan. However, Minnesota had an unseasonably warm December. So they made the decision to cancel the Minnesota Ice Maze in 2024.

28. Simply admire or learn how to create ice sculptures and snow sculptures – fun things to do in the winter.

I’m amazed at the artistry when it comes to ice sculpting and snow sculpting. Check your local winter festivals and winter carnivals for events, such as what you’ll find at the aforementioned Saint Paul Winter Carnival. It’s a fun thing to do in the winter.

Woman standing in front of a giant whale snow sculpture

So excited that Bartz Snow Sculptures is back this season! Check out the Bartz Snow Sculptures’ Facebook page for more details and to see the snow sculptures the three brothers created over the years since 2012 – many in their front yard! They even made the Ripley’s Believe it or Not book!

Pictured here is their 2020 snow sculpture masterpiece – a 22′ x 63′ whale that took 800 hours to create. What a fun thing to do this winter in Minnesota!

29. This is such a Minnesota thing to do in the winter: Ice fishing – and I finally did it.
Woman ice fishing on a frozen lake in Minnesota with ice fishing house in background

My friends Jen and Eric took me ice fishing for my very first time a few winters ago. It only took me 26 winters in Minnesota, but I finally tried it. It was a warm Minnesota winter day so that definitely helped (see video). So warm we didn’t even need an ice fishing hut. Ice fishing is definitely one of the best things to do in the winter in Minnesota.

TP kit toilet paper
On the Go TP Kits are not only convenient when ice fishing, the tissues and wet wipes are lightweight, portable and 100% biodegradable. While I received a complimentary box of the TP Kits, my opinions are my own.

Here are some of the best lakes in Minnesota – and most are great ice fishing spots.

Is there anything more quintessential Minnesota than ice fishing? Maybe hockey.

Ice fishing is one of the most popular things to do in winter

30. Top things to do in Minnesota: Watch people ice fish.

There’s a lake near my house (weird…I live in Lakeville, Minnesota – the land of 11,842 lakes) and ice fishing huts pop up all over Lake Marion. So I could just go walk over and onto the lake (after reminding myself the ice thickness guidelines) and watch others fish.

Or it might be fun to go up north for the annual Brainerd (Minn.) Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake or the Fishing for Ducks event on Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison, Minn. Check the respective websites for the latest developments for these two ice fishing events.

31. Experience Christmas Markets or Christkindlmarkts during Advent.
European Christmas Market St. Paul Union Depot

Check your local communities for special Christmas market events / Christkindlmarkts like the European Christmas Market in St. Paul, Minn. for details.

Traditionally, this in-person event is free and one of the best things to do in the winter in Minnesota. It is based on the traditional, charming, and festive open-air Christkindlmarkts that spring up in Germany, Austria, and other countries during the Advent season (four weeks in December).

Another one that sounds great for future travel is the annual Christkindlemart – a German holiday market in downtown Chicago. You can read more about it in Family Fun Joy’s post on the top 26 things to do in Chicago in December.

Additionally, check if your local farmer markets will continue in the winter. Many times you’ll find some Christmas gifts and holiday foods.

32. Fun things to do in the winter that I haven’t tried yet: Blaze new trails – snowmobiling.

My 30th winter in Minnesota and I’ve yet to go snowmobiling – even though I can hear them. I’ll definitely have to try one of the best things to do in the winter especially in Minnesota.

33. Fun things to try this winter: Snowshoeing
Three women wearing snowshoes on a frozen lake

My friends and I tried snowshoeing last year; it’s harder than it looks – but fun and a great workout. Check your local parks and rec for rentals or purchase your own.

34. Visit a local, state or national park.
Judge CR Magney State Park winter hike in Minnesota

Winter is a magical time to visit your local, regional, state and national parks – fewer crowds is a plus. And it’s a very different experience than summer or even fall. Check out my Minnesota state park challenge where I have visited 33 of the 66 state parks. If you’re located in the metro area, here are some of the best Minnesota hiking trails and parks within 50 miles of the Twin Cities. See also my related winter hiking posts: Best winter hikes in and near the Twin Cities and Top 16 winter hikes in Minnesota. Pictured: George Crosby Manitou State Park.

And for those of you outside Minnesota, check out the Best State Parks in America guide – recommendations from more than 30 travel bloggers for more than 60 state parks across the country.

35. Chasing waterfalls is a beautiful way to spend a winter day.
Frozen waterfall in the forest
Chasing frozen waterfalls is a beautiful way to embrace winter and get outside. Check out this epic frozen waterfall tour – best day trips from Minneapolis and St. Paul and Minnesota’s North Shore.

Chasing frozen waterfalls is one of the best and prettiest things to do in the winter. But be careful; wear proper hiking shoes with strong grips and don’t go alone. Pictured above and below are the beautiful frozen falls of Minneopa Falls in Mankato. Please note: Due to a tragic accident, access to the base of Minneopa Falls is not currently available. You can still see the stunning frozen waterfalls from the observation areas.

See my related post about the most epic frozen waterfall tour – best day trips and short road trips from the Twin Cities.

Frozen waterfalls Minneopa Falls in Minnesota
Lower Minneopa Falls at Minneopa State Park in Mankato, Minn. See related post: Best things to do at Minneopa State Park.
36. One of my favorite things to do in the winter: Read in front of a fireplace.

Reading a physical book or on my kindle in front of a fireplace is my second favorite venue; the beach is, of course, first.

That’s our precious Romeo enjoying the warm fireplace on a cold winter day. It was one of his favorite things to do in the winter.

37. Things to do in the winter: Participate in a reading challenge marathon.
Stack of books on bookshelf

I participate in reading marathons every year and it was one of the best things to do in the winter. You can find online reading marathons by searching for #readathon on Twitter or Instagram. It’s a fun way to enjoy solo time in a virtual community that’s providing support and motivation.

Related posts for the best book recommendations and one-word book reviews:

38. Fun things to do in the winter: Learn how real maple syrup is made.

We used to live in St. Albans, Vermont and nothing compares to pure maple syrup. I’m a little biased because I think Vermont maple syrup is the best. I mean, St. Albans is home to the annual Vermont Maple Festival (which typically happens the last week in April – granted that’s technically spring on the calendar, but it’s possible there will still be snow on the ground). Tapping trees for maple syrup is a short season – February through April. If you get the opportunity to do this in seasonal winter (not the calendar winter), it is a cool thing to do.

39. Make a favorite winter recipe like the simple sugar on snow – aka maple taffy.

Sugar on snow is pretty easy to make if you’ve got the right ingredients. Pure maple sugar and fresh snow. Two ingredients. That’s it and you have a fun thing to do this winter. Heat up the maple sugar and pour it over the snow and you’ve got sugar on snow (aka maple taffy). It’s that simple.

40. One of the best things to do in the Twin Cities this winter: Experience the Mall of America.
Mall of America

The Mall of America is an event. While you can certainly do a little shopping at its 520+ stores, it offers so much more. From the indoor Nickelodeon Universe amusement park to ziplining to the Sea Life Aquarium to bowling to restaurants to so much more. It has more than one fun thing to do this winter.

Related posts:

41. Cabin fever cure for the kids of all ages: Visit an indoor playground or indoor theme park this winter.
Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America Rollercoaster

If your kids have cabin fever and looking for something fun to do this winter, an indoor playground or indoor amusement park like Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. is the perfect remedy. See related post: Things to do in winter: Experience the Mall of America.

Nickelodeon Universe, like many theme parks, has social distancing and safety protocols in place including limited capacity, online ticketing and reduced hours. Always check the venue for the latest operating hours.

42. Fun things to do with kids this winter: Transform the classic blanket fort into indoor glamping.

For a simple and fun way to chase off the winter blahs, the classic building a simple fort out of blankets never goes out of style. Add a sleeping bag, some indoor s’mores and you’ve got a glamping experience in your own living room.

43. More fun things to do with kids this winter: Spray paint flowers in the snow.

First, don’t use actual spray paint. Use food coloring in spray bottles (consider making your own alternative food coloring – another way to embrace winter). You can create stencils or just let your artist freestyle. Perhaps even create a friendly neighborhood competition for a fun thing to do this winter.

44. What’s trending this winter? Curling.

Curling – the latest sports craze where you push a 42-lb. stone down some ice while two team members sweep a path in front of the stone. I’ve heard that it looks harder than it is, but a lot of fun. Check your local park and rec to see if there is a curling league or curling lessons near you.

45. Volunteer with seniors this winter.

Check with your local agencies and senior centers if there are ways you can volunteer to help seniors out with snow shoveling, grocery shopping, or even just calling them on the phone or sending them greeting cards. Or playing board games or making crafts.

46. Things to do in the winter: Pickup game of broomball.

If you don’t skate, broomball is a good alternative for sports on ice and a fun thing to do in the winter. Players wear special shoes and use a stick (aka broom) to hit a ball into a net.

47. Write your name in the snow this winter.

Kinda like when you write your name in the sand, write your name in the snow and see who wore it better. That’s one fun thing to do this winter in your own backyard.

48. Grow your own herbs inside.
Indoor garden fresh Thai basil

Bring your own herb garden inside. Here’s my sister-in-law’s basement garden where she grows fresh herbs for her many Thai recipes – like this delicious and easy-to-make shrimp pad krapow.

Authentic shrimp pad Thai recipe
49. Crazy things to do this winter: Tailgate in your driveway.

Gather your friends and neighbors to set up a tailgating space in your driveway. Guests can BYOB or hot chocolate with Bailey’s or hot butter rum. See my related post: The year of homegating – the new way to tailgate – for ideas.

50. Crazy cool and fun things to do in the winter: Run a polar dash.

Now this is one way to embrace winter. I’ve run a polar dash twice with friends – and both times the races were below zero. However, you warm up quickly; it’s only after the run when you start to get chilled. So make sure you have a ride nearby to get warm.

51. One crazy or fun thing to do this winter: Take the Polar Plunge.

I’ll be right over here cheering you on. The Polar Plunge is probably one thing to do in the winter where I’ll sit out and make it a spectator sport.

52. A unique thing to do in the winter: Mushing through the snow.
Dogs pulling sled in Ely Minnesota in winter

Last winter I joined my Women Who Hike Minnesota Facebook group to try dogsledding in northern Minnesota. It seemed like a good idea. While I’m glad I tried dogsledding, it isn’t for me. Will share my experience in a post later.

Here’s a post about my travel blogger friend’s experience with dog sledding in Canada. Special thanks to Casandra with Karpiak Caravan for this awesome photo!

Dogs pulling a sled through snow and evergreen trees
Photo credit: Karpiak Adventures
53. Find a Home and Garden Show near you for some spring and summer vibes.

What better way to look forward to winter than to look forward to spring at a home and garden show? I’m not much of a gardener, but love to look at gardens. The 90th Minneapolis Home + Garden show at the Minneapolis Convention Center is Feb. 21-25, 2024. Check their website for any schedule changes or updates.

54. Attend the Red Bull Ice Crash World Championship.

I’m kicking myself that I never went to the Red Bull Crashed Ice when it was held in St. Paul, Minn. for seven years. Now known as the Red Bull Ice Crash World Championship, it’s held in other cities. Well, I guess that’s where the travel in travel blogger comes in. Although this season probably won’t happen. Check their website for details.

What is ice crash? It’s essentially ice skating really fast down a track with steep turns and high vertical drops. 

55. Take a sauna – one of the best things to do in the winter.
The Ivy Inn in Grand Rapids, Minn. best Airbnb near MN state parks sauna
One of the best Airbnbs near Minnesota state parks comes with an indoor private sauna.

Saunas – it’s a Finnish and Minnesota thing to do in the winter, and well, any season probably. I have friends and family who have built their own. If you prefer a private indoor sauna, check out this Airbnb – one of the best places to stay near Minnesota state parks.

56. Get outside this winter and learn your animal tracks.

We back up against a pond and have some wooded areas nearby so we have all kinds of wildlife in our backyard. I’m interested in learning more about what is leaving those tracks in the snow in our backyard.

57. Kicksledding? All the cool kids are doing it this winter.
mother and son kicksledding in Minnesota

Kicksledding seems to be all the rage these days. I’m seeing rentals everywhere. And came across this mother-and-son duo trying it out. Apparently, it’s a Nordic sport you can participate in by yourself or with others. It’s like a chair on runners.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan/Apple Valley, Minn. is just one local park that is renting kicksleds along with other winter sports equipment including snowshoes and cross-country skis. You must make all weekend winter equipment rentals in advance online; walk-in rentals during the work week are limited.

58. Feeling adventurous this winter? Try ice climbing.
Ice climbing Ouray Ice Park Colorado
Photo courtesy of Fierce Planet Adventures

If you’re feeling adventurous, try ice climbing as a fun winter activity. I guess it’s like rock climbing, but on ice. Since I haven’t yet experienced this exciting thing to do in winter, check out Fierce Planet Adventures on Instagram: Ouray Ice Park Day Two; Ouray Ice Park Day Three. Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado is free and open from mid-December to late March for icy climbing and snowy views.

59. Learn the Minneapolis skyway system this winter.

I’ve lived in Minnesota since 1993. It’s time I learned how to navigate the Minneapolis skyway system (skyways connect buildings so you don’t have to walk outside in inclement weather). But may have to do it virtually this year and then test it out when it’s safe to roam freely again.

60. Winter camping is one way to really embrace the colder season.

If camping is your thing, doing it in the winter would definitely be an adventure. And did you know you can rent an RV at your desired destination? And some are even pet-friendly.

Check out my related post: A beginner’s guide: SUV camping 101. I tried this glamping adventure in the summer; however, the temps did drop down to the 30s the first couple of nights.

61. Embrace winter with some stargazing, skygazing, cloudscapes, and moonscapes.

Take some time this winter and step outside at night and check out the stars, clouds and sky. It’s pretty magical especially on full moon nights. The image pictured was taken at night – a really bright night. And if you’re up in northern Minnesota, you may even see northern lights.

62. Fun things to do outside this winter: Explore the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.

Exploring the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in Wisconsin is on my travel bucket list in any season. And the ice caves look particularly magical in the winter. Just make sure they are safe and accessible (conditions have to be perfect to explore). The Apostle Islands is a perfect weekend getaway from Minnesota.

See my related post of the best state parks in the U.S. – the Apostle Islands are included in that travel blogger collaboration post featuring more than 60 of America’s best state parks.

63. Things to do in the winter: Get your Nordic culture on at cultural centers like the American Swedish Institute.

The American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis offers really cool programs and events year-round. However, I’ve toured during the Christmas season and loved their holiday traditions on display at Turnblad Mansion. And they offer several holiday-specific events (with many selling out) early November to early January.

64. Unique things to do in the winter: Go fly a snowkite!

Well, not actually fly one, but you’ll feel like you’re flying with a snowkite. Similar to kite-boarding on water, snowkiting takes place on ice. There are a number of snowkiting schools if you’re looking for lessons.

65. Fun and free things to do in the winter: Watch the winter sunset or winter sunrise.

Even though it’s winter, the sun is still around – and watching it set earlier in the day is not always fun, but a winter sunset holds its own vs. a summer sunset. Check out my related post: The most beautiful sunsets and sunrises in the world.

66. Top things to do this winter. Fat tire bike riding in the snow.

Getting a fat tire bike is a great way to get your cycling fix and have fun in the winter.

67. Fun things to do this winter: See what your local park and rec is offering this winter.

Your local park and rec should offer lots of fun winter experiences for all age groups in your family. Our local park and rec is offering the following fun things to do this winter.

  • Snowshoe rentals
  • Outdoor skating rinks
  • Groomed cross-country ski trails
  • Dogsled rides
  • Illumination trails – walk, ski or snowshoe
  • Snow day – science experiments with snow
  • Dance in a box – daughter and dad dance at home
  • Phone calls and letters from Santa
  • A number of indoor games and activities (face masks required)

68. Things to drink in the winter: Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate is my favorite thing to drink in the winter. With or without marshmallows? With or without Bailey’s? Whichever you decide, take Caribou Coffee’s sage advice.

Fight the urge to remain indoors.
Life is short. Stay awake for it.

Caribou Coffee

69. Things to drink this winter: Enjoy a hot apple cider.

And make it fresh apple cider.

70. Things to drink this winter: Enjoy a hot butter rum.

Pretty much it. Hot. Butter. Rum. I think that’s what’s in it.

71. Things to drink this winter: Enjoy a Tom & Jerry.

Wait. What? The previous three beverages are self-explanatory. A Tom & Jerry is my husband’s family’s go-to Christmas drink. It’s essentially an eggnog batter with rum drink – a perfect thing to do in the winter.

72. Parades aren’t just for summer – fun holiday-themed parades in the winter.

Check for local holiday parades in your community. For example, the iconic Holidazzle in Minneapolis is a Twin Cities’ favorite every December. However, they did hibernate this winter.

73. Creative things to do on a winter day. Go on a scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are fun year-round; but this is a good way to get out of the house. You can create family-friendly hunts or scavenger hunts more appropriate for adults.

74. Fun things to do in the winter: Rent a party bus or a limo to see the Christmas lights – or at least maybe next year.

Renting a party bus is a warm and safe way to see Christmas lights. But you could do the same thing on your own in your own vehicle. Do some research and create your own self-guided tour where you live. See my related post: Best holiday lights and Christmas events in the Twin Cities.

75. Best things to do in the winter: Visit a tree farm.

A tree farm is a refreshing opportunity to walk through the evergreens and take nature in. And tree farms typically have a lot of other events going on during the holidays.

76. Fun family things to do this winter: Take a holiday train ride.

You can find a holiday train ride pretty much in any major city (Disney’s got the Polar Express, for example) and Minnesota’s got the Christmas Story Express. And many more in between. You’ll want to check with each event’s organizer to see if things are different for this holiday season due to the pandemic. I did read that the holiday train ride here in Minnesota is already sold out (and that they have social distancing and cleaning/sanitizing protocols in place).

77. Fun things to do this winter. Do some virtual Christmas caroling.

Christmas caroling is a fun tradition for neighbors and communities to get together outside for a little fun – even if off-key. Perhaps you could set up your own Zoom Christmas caroling event and invite others virtually where you can sing and/or listen in your comfortably warm house.

78. Free things to do this winter: Watch trees dance at night.

I am fascinated by trees. In fact, I have more than 2,000 images of trees on my phone right now. That’s because I recently completed hiking half of all Minnesota state parks as part of my Minnesota state park challenge. State parks have lots of trees and I haven’t met one I didn’t like.

One cool thing that I discovered last winter was how magical trees are at night. They take on an entirely different personality. And I’m not talking about trees out in the forest, but rather the ones right in my own front yard. Literally.

79. Best winter traditions: Make Christmas cookies and other holiday baking.

One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to bake and decorate Christmas cookies and bars. It’s also a great time to host a gingerbread house decorating contest.

80. Ski, walk or snowshoe at the Luminary Loppett (or other luminary events).

Interesting note from the Loppett Foundation website, which hosts a winter festival every year, “Loppett is a Scandinavian term which translates roughly to adventure over uncertain terrain.” Happy to see the City of Lakes Loppett Winter Festival – The Urban Ski Festival – will host events this winter Feb. 4-5, 2024.

The Luminary Loppett is just one of the several fun things to do this winter in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2023. You ski, walk or snowshoe on the Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis – surrounded by glowing ice luminaries. Sounds like this would be a perfect thing to do on a winter night.

81. Top things to do in the winter: Install a birdhouse or a birdfeeder.

Love seeing birds outside our deck during all the seasons especially during the winter – one of the top things to do. My husband has a Bird Buddy, which records birds eating at the birdfeeder. However, we do take in the battery in the winter when temps dip way below zero.

82. Top things to do in the winter: Take a self-guided tour of a historic area.
Rice Park Hallmark Channel Christmas Cam entrance at night St. Paul Minnesota

You can still get out and enjoy a walk even in the winter. It’s the perfect time to walk through a winter wonderland in historic neighborhoods or parks. See my related post: Prettiest street in the Twin Cities: The historic and beautiful Summit Ave.

83. Things to do this winter: Take a brewery tour or get a growler to go or make your own beer.

Purchase a pub pas and take a local brewery tour. Visiting a tap room or purchasing a growler to go is a great way to support local and small businesses this winter.

84. A classic thing to do in the winter: Rediscover the joy of board games.

Although many of us probably rediscovered the joy of board games and puzzles early on during the pandemic, winter is still a good time to pick it up again.

What are your favorite board games to play in the winter? I love them all (except for Risk). One of our favorites is the classic Monopoly board game. And we discovered a new generational trivia game – Mind the Gap. You team up and compete against other generations. It’s a lot of fun.

85. Another classic thing to do this winter: Puzzles
Puzzle box of Canal Park in Duluth Minnesota

We rediscovered the joy and challenge of puzzles early in 2020 – so plan to continue putting together puzzles this winter as a fun thing to do. I received this fun puzzle of Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota (one of my favorite places on the North Shore) as a Christmas present from my son.

86. Free things to do in the winter: Check out some books or magazines from the library.

I still use my library card. Do you? The library is a great place to spend a winter day or evening.

87. Things to do in the winter. Attend a performing arts event.
A Christmas Carol Scrooge ornament Guthrie Theater

We love seeing A Christmas Carol live at The Guthrie Center in Minneapolis every holiday. Check your community theaters for events scheduled throughout the winter.

The Twin Cities in Minnesota offers a cool smARTpass web-based arts outreach program that’s available exclusively to metro public library cardholders in good standing. You can reserve free or discounted admissions to art experiences in the Twin Cities.

88. Best events to attend in the winter: A ski race or snowboarding competition.

Look for competitions in your area as ski races and snowboarding competitions are fun things to do in the winter. Of course, this may be a future thing to do in the winter as most places are avoiding large-scale crowds.

89. Things to do in the winter: Take a church or cathedral tour.
St. Paul Cathedral Minnesota

Touring a church or cathedral is inspirational any time of the year, but especially love visiting during the holidays. Pictured is the Cathedral of Saint Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota. They typically offer weekday tours at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (except holy days and civic holiday); however, they have temporarily discontinued the tours during the pandemic.

90. New things to try this winter: Learn how to knit, crochet, quilt, or needlepoint.

Cold? Learn how to knit, crochet, or quilt for those cold winter nights. My award-winning grandmother was a pro when it came to quilting and needlepointing. I tied a few quilts back in the day with her and my great aunts and great grandmother. I have several quilt blocks that my grandmother was working on when she passed away. Maybe I’ll take up needlepointing and finish the quilt blocks this winter.

Whew! That’s a lot of fun and interesting things to do this winter!

That’s a lot of winter activity. Now I have no excuse. I will embrace this season with these 90 best things to do in the winter!

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Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. Such fun ideas! I want to visit an ice bar and see how maple syrup is bottled. From Christmas lights to snow activities, you should be busy all winter long. I need to visit up north during winter sometime!

  2. Great long list of activities. Still haven’t been snow shoeing. Love a movie binge when it’s -55 outside. Love dog mushing too. Sugar in snow? Never heard of it but hubby loves maple syrup. May need to try it!

  3. Wow, what a list!! There are some great things on this list. I am going to be like Karen and try to embrace the winter. I am hoping for a nice mild season. We shall see 🙂 Thank you for all the ideas!

  4. Great list! I love that a lot of these don’t cost much or are free. One thing I do for my kids is plan a deep winter “summer day.” I crank up the heat, have the kids wear summer clothes, serve lemonade and hot dogs on paper plates and listen to beach music.

  5. I’m with you. I’m not really a fan of winter, especially when the extreme cold hits. This is a great list of things to do during the winter. I will have to see how many of them I can do this winter.

  6. Love this list! Thank you! I’ve only lived in Minnesota a short time but I love that there is so much to do in every season! Your list makes me feel better about winter :).

  7. Karen, I LOVE this super thorough list!! I can’t even imagine setting my thermostat to 63 in the winter!! I would FREEZE!! I keep mine on 72 and still sit under an electric blanket! Such a great list of fabulous activities!

  8. Woah! This is quite the list. Living in so cal I can’t do a lot of these but still plenty I can! Ice skating is a cool way to actually see ice for Christmas 😝

  9. You’ve got some great ideas in here! I’m always struggling with things to do in the winter since all my son wants to do is be outside. I’ll definitely have to remember some of these.

  10. Yeees Karen, you have soooo many fun ideas!

    I used to hate winter (I am not very good at coping with the cold) but since we moved to Canada I have started to loved these kinds of activities. Now I am a huge fan of skiing, snowshoeing and keeping going out for walks even in the cold weather…

    1. Thanks! I loved my dayhikes this past summer and fall so am hoping snowshoeing or even walking the trails will nourish my soul (and sanity).

    2. We have some family in Lakeville and I understand now why they come visit us (in southern Arizona) every winter, lol! This is very thorough and I even got some ideas for our mild winters!

      1. What a small world! I love to book a vacation someplace warm every winter also…there are truly some days when we cannot go outside.

    1. I am not a fan of winter either. But I’ve decided to suck it up and accept that I need to embrace it. These top things to do in winter should help.

  11. Holy cow! Just when I thought you’d thought of everything, I scrolled down to find even more awesome things to do in Winter. These are really great ideas. I’m always down for learning to make a new comfort food recipe, but now I’m planning to get some tools to teach my grandson how to build a snow fort this Winter!

    1. Thank you so much! And so happy these fun things to do in the winter inspired you! Enjoy building the snow fort with your grandson! I need to find some DIY tools to make that ice bar! Ha!

  12. Sign me up for meditating at the aquarium! I am always at a loss for things to do in the winter… summer loving gal here! This a fantastic list to help me get through the frigid temps headed my way. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much! Snow excuse for me to embrace winter this year – and I have no choice since my annual beach, book, beer vacation to Mexico is nixed.

  13. Thanks for sharing so many great ideas! A puzzle is such a simple idea yet something no one really does anymore. Great for quality time and just getting out of our routines.