Go Outside (No, Really!) This Winter: What to Do, Where to Go This January

Unless you were looking to lose a limb, last week was not the time to be outdoors in Minnesota. However, despite moments of polar vortexes and blizzards, winter in our state can be pretty fun. While many will retreat to the warmth of their homes, others will venture out in search of adventure, because even when the weather is unforgivable there's usually something enjoyable happening outside.

We've put together a collection of some of the events and businesses that offer entertainment regardless of the windchill (for the most part). This includes sporting events you can watch or partake in, creative community happenings, beer parties, and all kinds of crazy things involving ice. As a resource guide, we've also included some of the more outdoorsy listings that were included in the print edition of our Winter Guide.

Cheer on athletes at these sporting events:

Red Bull Crashed Ice

(Cathedral Hill, 6:45 p.m. Saturday, January 24)

It's one of the more terrifying sporting events out there. Each year, the Red Bull Crashed Ice tournament builds a giant, treacherous ski ramp on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. Athletes then race downhill at high speeds while avoiding obstacles, taking sharp turns, and trying not to crash into each other. It's a nail biter.

Image from last year's event

Image from last year's event

U.S. Pond Hockey Tournament

(Lake Nokomis, January 15-18)

Each year, amateur and former pro hockey players convene on Lake Nokomis to compete for the Golden Shovel. Divisions include rink rat (for beginners), cedar (intermediate), 40-plus, 50-plus, and women-only. Parking is free, and there are two family skating rinks for those who would like to practice their moves in between cheering for teams. The warming tent usually offers amenities like heat, hot chocolate, snacks, and beer, should you need a break from spectating.

Or join a sports club:

Bloomington Broomball League 3701 W. 90th St. (Tretbaugh Park), Bloomington;

Cities Sports Connection Winter leagues include broomball, basketball, touch football, indoor volleyball, and more. Men's, women's, and coed teams. 3725 Aldrich Ave. S., Minneapolis., 612.929.9009;

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Men's, women's, and coed winter sports include basketball, broomball, dodgeball, pond hockey, and volleyball. 2117 W. River Rd., Minneapolis., 612.230.6400;

St. Paul Curling Club Men's, women's, and coed leagues. 470 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651.224.7408;

Drink outdoors:

The Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival

(Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 3:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 24)


Image from last year's event

Image from last year's event

You don't need a patio and 75 degree weather to enjoy a pint. Drinking outside in winter is a time-honored tradition. The Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival allows you to experience the unique sensation of knowing that you're cold, but not caring because you are buzzed. This year's event happens at the Mighty Midway at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Here, you'll find over 100 brews to sample from, including selections from Lucid, Bells, Sociable Cider Werks, LynLake, Rush River, and Left Hand. Should you need to warm up, the heated Coliseum will be open, and soup and other warm treats will be available.

Get creative, strap on a helmet, and send yourself down a hill:

Powderhorn Sled Rally

(Powderhorn Park, 2-4 p.m. Saturday, January 31)

Of all the celebrations and festivals the winter brings, the Powderhorn Sled Rally is probably the most whimsical and laughter-inducing. Each year, folks create crazy sleds to send down a hill, yielding a variety of results. Some sleds instantly fall apart, some slowly make their way to the bottom, and some actually get going pretty fast. Regardless of what happens, it's a pretty feel-good time. You can sign up and attend art sled-making sessions (or create your own at home) at


Or go alpine skiing, snowboarding, or snow-tubing:

Afton Alps Featuring 50 runs, from easy to Black Diamond, plus four terrain parks. 6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, 651.436.5245;

Andes Tower Hills Featuring 15 runs, most at the intermediate and advanced levels. Also a half-pipe all-terrain snowboard park. 4505 Andes Rd. SW, Kensington, 320.965.2455;

Badlands Sno-Tubing Park Snowboarding and snow-tubing. 722 Kinney Rd., Hudson, WI, 715.386.1856;

Buck Hill Buck Hill offers ski runs of varying difficulty, plus the Surge Snowboard Park and a Learn to Ski and Snowboard program. 15400 Buck Hill Rd., Burnsville, 952.435.7174;

Coffee Mill Ski Area Featuring 12 runs and a vertical drop of 420 feet, plus two terrain parks. 99 Coulee Way (Hwy. 60 & 61), Wabasha, 651.565.2777;

Como Park Ski Center Ski and snowboarding. 1431 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul, 651.488.9673;

A fabulous sled from last year's event

A fabulous sled from last year's event

Elm Creek Park Reserve Tubing. 12400 James Deane Parkway., Maple Grove, 763.694.7894;

Green Acres Tubing. Open to the public Fri-Sun and some holidays. Call to schedule large groups during the week. 8989 55th St. N., Lake Elmo 651.770.6060;

Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area Offering both ski runs and snowboarding, with classes and rentals available. 8800 Chalet Rd., Bloomington, 763.694.7800;

Lutsen Mountains Lutsen boasts 95 runs, including some steep drops and a beginners' mountain. 445 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 218.663.7281;

Mount Kato Nineteen runs. For all skill levels. 20461 Hwy. 66, Mankato, 507.625.3363;

Mount La Crosse Ski and Snowboard Featuring 18 runs and a vertical drop of 516 feet. Snowboards welcome. With night skiing. Old Town Hall Rd. off Hwy. 35, LaCrosse, WI, 800.426.3665;


Spirit Mountain Spirit Mountain boasts a vertical drop of 700 feet. Its 22 runs range in difficulty, but most are for experienced skiers. Snowboarding at Big Air Terrain Park. 9500 Spirit Mountain Pl., Duluth, 800.642.6377;

Theodore Wirth Park Snowboarding and tubing. 1339 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Golden Valley, 763.522.4584;

Trapp Farm Park Tubing. 841 Wilderness Run Rd., Eagan, 651.675.5500;

Trollhaugen Featuring 24 runs for all skill levels of skiers, as well as four terrain parks. Snowboards welcome. Open until 3 a.m. every Friday night. 2232 100th Ave., Dresser, WI, 651.433.5141;

Welch Village Featuring 60 runs of varying difficulty, plus an unleashed terrain park. 26685 Cty. Rd. 7 Blvd., Welch, 651.258.4567;

Images from last year's events

Images from last year's events

Wild Mountain Ski Area All 26 runs are open to snowboarders, and a terrain garden with moguls is open to both skiers and boarders. 37200 Wild Mountain Rd., Taylors Falls, 651.465.6315;

Coming up: Amazing ice castles, fun festivals, nighttime events, more sports, and ice skating.[page]

Check out an amazing ice castle:

Frozen Ice Castle Narnia

(Miller Park, 8208 Eden Prairie Rd.), Eden Prairie; now through March... weather permitting)

The makers of last year's huge ice castle at Mall of America have returned, and this time they are creating a magical structure made of icicles in Miller Park. The structure includes hallways, tunnels, rooms, and more. During some hours, there will be special performances from fire artists, as well as princesses who will be dressing up like Frozen characters.  and

Compete, or just take in some pretty sites at the Luminary Loppet

Compete, or just take in some pretty sites at the Luminary Loppet

Choose your own adventure outdoors:

St. Paul Winter Carnival

(Various locations, January 22-February 1)

Many years ago, folks in the Twin Cities came together to celebrate winter, Minnesota hardiness, sports, and culture as a big f-u to an article that claimed the the state's winters were completely unbearable. The tradition has carried on over the years, as this 10-day festival offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Happenings include ice and snow sculpting  competitions, nighttime pedestrian parades, live music in the park, a giant snow slide, sporting events, and much more.

Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival


(Lake Harriet Bandshell; Saturday, January 17)

Each year, kite fanatics head over to Lake Harriet for a day of kite-flying. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own, or buy one on site, and take in lessons from experts who will be flying specialty kites high in the air. Other activities include carriage rides, a scavenger hunt, a bonfire with marshmallow roasting, and other family activities.

Do some low-key cross-country skiing:

City of the Lakes Loppet/The Luminary Loppet

(Various locations, though events are mostly in Uptown, January 30-February 1)

The all-outdoor festival features a variety of races that are fun to watch, or welcoming to compete in. There are races for cross-country skiers, winter-time bikers, dog sledders, and those who prefer skijoring. There are races for kids, for adults of varying skill levels, and for dogs. If you're looking for less competitive activities, Saturday's Luminary Loppet is a lovely nighttime experience, with lit ice sculptures, fire artists, hot chocolate stations, and more to discover while walking along Lake Calhoun and its neighboring lakes. There will also be a snow sculpting competition to take in, games, and a beer tent. 

Or go cross country skiing at one of these locations:

Afton Alps Ski Area 18 mi. of groomed trails. 6959 Peller Ave. S., Afton 651.436.5391;

Baker Park Reserve Ski Chalet 9.1 mi. of trackset. 2935 Park View Dr., Hamel 763.694.7660;

Battle Creek Regional Park 12.75K of classic ski and skate trails. 4K of trails are lit from dusk until 9 p.m. 2300 Upper Afton Rd., St. Paul, 651.748.2500;

Como Regional Park 5K of intermediate/advanced-level groomed classical and skate trails. 1.7K of trails are beginner-level and lit until 11 p.m. 1300 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul, 651.266.6400;

Fort Snelling State Park 12 mi. of groomed trails. 101 Lakeview Ave., St. Paul 612.725.2389;

French Regional Park 5.2 of trackset, some lighted until 10 p.m. 12605 Rockford Road, Plymouth 763.694.7750;

Gateway State Trail 9.7 mi. of groomed trails. (Ramsey and Washington Counties), St. Paul, 651.296.6157;

Highland Nine Hole Ski Area 3.5 K ski trail loop for beginner level and intermediate skiing, groomed for classic and skate. 1797 Edgcumbe Rd., St. Paul, 651.266.6400.

Hyland Lake Park Reserve 7.8 mi. of trails, 2.4 mi. lighted. 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, 763.694.7687;

Lebanon Hills Regional Park 24.2 mi. of trails. 860 Cliff Road (1 1/2 mi. east of Pilot Knob Rd. on Cliff Rd.), Eagan, 651.554.6530;

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge More than 13 miles of ungroomed trails along the Minnesota River. 3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, 952.854.5900;

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve 14.5K (9 mi.) of trails. 15501 Murphy Lake Blvd. (Cty. Rd. 75), Savage, 763.694.7777;

Phalen Golf Course 7K ski trail loop of mostly intermediate level skiing, groomed for classic and skate. 1615 Phalen Dr., St. Paul, 651.778.0413.

Theodore Wirth Park 25K trails groomed daily for both classical and skate skiing, connecting to 5 additional miles of groomed Chain of Lakes trails. 1339 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Golden Valley, 763.522.4584;

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 8.5 mi. of groomed trackset. 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska, 952.443.1400;

Go ice skating:

Wells Fargo Winter Skate

(Rice Park, through February 1)

We mentioned this annual event earlier this season, but the Wells Fargo Winter Skate is worth re-visiting here. The rink, located in downtown St. Paul, offers city views and nearby family-friendly happenings, including museums, bars, and restaurants. Added bonus: If you have a Wells Fargo checking or credit card, then you get free skate rental.

Other locations that offer outdoor skating:

Centennial Lakes Park 10-acre lake groomed daily, with a rink-side warming house and skate rental and ice sleds available. 7499 France Ave. S., Edina, 952.833.9580;

City of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation More than 30 outdoor rinks are maintained. 612.230.6475;

City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation Many city parks offer outdoor ice-skating. 651.266.6400;

Go all-out one weekend and go camping:

Afton State Park Park has 28 all-season backpack camping sites, and hiking and skiing trails. 6959 S. Peller Ave., Hastings, 651.436.5391;

Baker Park Reserve 200+ public campground and group campsites. Reservations: 763.559.6700. 2309 Baker Park Rd., Maple Plain, 763.694.7662;

Banning State Park Featuring 33 drive-in campsites, 11 electric, and 1 cabin. With canoeing, and trails for skiing, snowmobiling, and hiking. 61101 Banning Pk. Rd., Sandstone 320.245.2668;

Carver Park Reserve 57 campsites, many available year-round. Call, 763.559.6700 for camping information. 7200 Victoria Dr. (Lake Auburn Camground), Victoria, 763.694.1112;

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park 38 drive-in sites and 15 electric sites. 1615 Lindbergh Dr. S., Little Falls 320.616.2525;

Cleary Lake Regional Park Public campground; 1 group campsite year-round. Call, 763.559.6700 for information. 18106 Texas Ave., Prior Lake, 763.694.7777;

Lake Maria State Park Lake Maria features 3 heated log cabins; 2 group campsites; 17 backpack-in sites, available year-round. 11411 Clementa Ave. NW, Monticello, 763.878.2325;

Minnesota Valley State Recreational Area With hiking, horse trails. This park links Fort Snelling State Park with the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge. No reservations needed to camp. 19825 Park Blvd., Jordan, 952.492.6400;

Sakatah Lake State Park With hiking, biking. More than 60 drive-in and RV campsites, 14 with electricity. 50499 Sakatah Lake State Pk. Rd., Waterville 507.362.4438;

Temperance River State Park 52 drive-in and RV sites with electricity and 6 cart-in sites. 7620 W. Hwy. 61, Schroeder, MN. 55613 218.663.7476;

Tettegouche State Park More than 25 drive-in and RV sites, 13 cart-in sites, and 6 walk-in sites. Ten to 12 sites are available during winter. The park also features cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoe rentals, and a warming house. 5702 Hwy. 61, Silver Bay 218.226.6365;

Wild River State Park Drive-in and RV sites (34 with electricity), 7 backpack sites, 6 heated camping cabins with screened porches and electricity, and 1 guest house are located on 6,000 acres of state park. 39797 Park Tr., Center City, 651.583.2125;

William O'Brien State Park Featuring 120 drive-in sites, 77 electric. The park features trails for cross-country skiing, hiking, and bird-watching. 16821 N. O'Brien Tr., Marine-on-St. Croix, 651.433.0500;