29 Fun Winter Activities in the Twin Cities, Minnesota 
Minnesota turns into a winter wonderland during the colder months. Snow-covered trees, magical holiday lights, and an abundance of outdoor activities are at your fingertips.
Instead of just staying inside all day during the cold season, get out and take part in some of these fun things to do.
This is one of the best ways to make the most of the season and not be wishing that it were summer, stat!
I’ve compiled a list of the best winter activities in the Twin Cities for you to give a try this year.
Top Winter Activities in the Twin Cities
Below are some of the best things to do during the cold season in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area.
From Christmas celebration to embracing the snow, there is plenty of activities to stay busy.
1. Watch ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie is a beautiful theater in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis, located right on the Mississippi River.
What better way to kick off the holiday season than to enjoy a performance of the timeless holiday classic, ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the theater?
This show is put on every year at the Guthrie Theater and is such a classic Christmas tale that everyone will love it.
Stay bundled up inside the theater, sit back, and enjoy the show this winter!
2. Attend a Holiday Craft Fair
Around the holiday season, the Minneapolis and St. Paul area has an abundance of craft shows, art fairs, and pop-up boutiques.
Heading to St. Paul’s European Christmas Market is a great way to spend a day wrapping up your holiday shopping.
You’ll find a variety of locally made gifts, foods, and more from over 70 vendors, and many have free admission!
Another, found at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul is the Old Fashioned Holiday Bazaar features quality, unique, handcrafted items.
The Minneapolis Holiday Boutique is another where you can find decor, gifts, food, art, and more for sale.
Visiting these markets is a great way to finish up your Christmas shopping or get some fun holiday decor for your home.
3. Ski at One of the Many Resorts
Downhill skiing is a great activity to do this winter season!
There are plenty of places to ski around Minnesota that offer fantastic groomed hills and runs.
Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, you’ll find everything from easy to difficult runs to check out.
Afton Alps is just 40 minutes from Minneapolis, making it a perfect day trip!
Wild Mountain is another great choice in Taylors Falls with 25 different runs, overlooking the St. Croix River Valley.
A few more are Welch Village and Buck Hill, which are both a bit smaller.
4. Do the Polar Plunge
Jumping into ice-cold water in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter may not be everyone’s idea of a good time.
But, when it’s all for such a great cause… why not go for it?!
The Polar Plunge is a fundraiser for Special Olympics Minnesota.
Special Olympics is an organization working to create inclusion and encouragement for those with intellectual and physical disabilities.
It provides an opportunity for all people with disabilities to participate in a variety of individual and team sports.
People can raise money and then take the jump into the frigid waters of one of Minnesota’s lakes.
Not even some of the most extreme Minnesotans will dare to jump into the frigid lake waters in the winter!
And, by doing so, you’ve made an awesome donation to a great cause!
5. Tour the Magical Ice Castles
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be absolutely fascinated by Ice Castles in New Brighton.
Located only 15 minutes north of the heart of the cities, you’ll find a fantastic place for cold weather and winter fun.
Ice Castles is an event where professional ice artists create an experience using hundreds of thousands of icicles.
There are LED-lit sculptures, walkways, slides, and more to explore, making it one of the best things to do in Minneapolis in winter.
This amazing one-of-a-kind experience opens up depending on the weather conditions but typically is open for a few months in winter.
6. Play Pond Hockey on Lake Nokomis
Minnesota is known as ‘The State of Hockey,’ but the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships takes it a step further!
Each year, a number of “rinks” are set up on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, and are laid out for players to compete!
The goal of the event is for participants and attendees to enjoy hockey the way that it was intended to, in nature, on a lake.
The event happens each January and is a huge get-together for hockey lovers around the state.
Gather a group of friends and register for a few of the over 600 games that take place over a 3-day period.
7. See the Lights at the GLOW Holiday Festival
The Minnesota State Fairgrounds are now used for more than just the Great Minnesota Get-Together!
During the cold, snowy months, it becomes the Great Minnesota Holiday Get-Together!
Starting just after Thanksgiving and running until Christmas, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful holiday lights shows.
With over a million Christmas lights, a GLOW palace, and fantastic state fair food, you’ll never be bored here!
Plus, there are other fun things that you and the kiddos can take part in, making it one of the best winter activities in Minneapolis.
8. Visit the Frozen Minnehaha Falls
Minnehaha Falls is one of Minnesota’s most iconic waterfalls and becomes even more beautiful in the winter.
You would never guess that this magical place is right in the middle of the city!
In the summertime, Minnehaha Falls flows 53 feet down from the Minnehaha Creek. The lush greens fill the area with color.
In the wintertime, the falls freeze and create a magical-looking ice cavern.
Visiting the beautiful frozen falls is definitely a special experience and one that you won’t forget, as icicles form over the tall cliffs.
The falls viewing area is just a short walk from the parking lot, making it an easy walk for anyone.
9. Attend the St. Paul Winter Carnival
This fun, event takes place every February in a few locations around St. Paul in winter.
Gather the family and enjoy a variety of events including scavenger hunts, an ice fishing tournament, and a puzzle contest.
One of the best parts is the snow sculpture contest, in which you can check out tons of epic sculptures made of, you guessed it, snow.
During the carnival, there’s a race that you can take part in, called the Fire and Ice Run, in which all proceeds benefit the carnival.
Most of the events are free or low-cost, making it an affordable winter adventure. More information can be found here.
10. Ice Skate at the Central Park Skating Loop
Ice skating is one of the best winter activities in Minneapolis, and the Central Park Skating Loop in Maple Grove is a fantastic place to do it!
Some people enjoy getting out and clearing a space on a frozen lake to skate, while others prefer heading to an already-groomed ice skating rink.
The Central Park Skating Loop is the perfect thing to do in Minneapolis in winter for those who enjoy skating at a leisurely pace.
With no hockey pucks or sticks allowed, skaters won’t need to worry about that.
The loop is 810 feet long and 20 feet wide, perfect for grabbing your sweetheart and enjoying a nice day out together.
11. Ski at the Loppet Winter Festival
What started as just a small cross-country ski race has become one big festival in Minneapolis.
The City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival includes competitive and recreational cross-country ski events, a candlelit trail, and more.
Participants of all ages can partake in events such as a 37K Classic Ski Loppet, a 5K ski Loppet, and a Skijor Loppet.
The Luminary Loppet is a nice trail to walk, ski, or snowshoe across Lake of the Isles, which is lit by candlelight.
The proceeds from the Luminary Loppet benefit the Loppet Foundation, which aims to make year-round outdoor adventures in Minneapolis available for everyone.
12. Go Snow Tubing
What better way to get outside this winter and get your adrenaline pumping than to fly down a hill on a snow tube?!
There are many hills around the Twin Cities to spend an evening out snow tubing, which is the perfect activity for even the small kiddos in your family.
A popular spot for it is Theodore Wirth Park, where a tow rope operates on select days to bring tubers back to the top of the hill.
Green Acres is located about 25 minutes east of Minneapolis and also features a tow rope for easy access to the sliding hill.
And if you’re at Buck Hill or Wild Mountain for some skiing, then you might as well check out their snow-tubing hills while you’re at it!
13. Take a Trip to See the Kiwanis Holiday Lights
Bundle up your family and friends into a warm car and drive about 1 1/2 hours south of Minneapolis to Mankato to view some beautiful holiday lights at Sibley Park.
The Kiwanis Holiday Lights show is a free event that started in 2012, completely run by volunteers, collecting food for local food shelves.
The light show typically opens just after Thanksgiving with a fun, holiday-themed parade.
At the end of the parade, Santa will flip the switch to turn on almost 2 million LED Christmas lights, lighting up the park.
Visitors are able to either walk or drive through the lights display, as you listen to holiday tunes that are synced to the lights.
And on weekends, kids can visit with Santa and let him know their Christmas wishes.
14. Go Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is a classic winter activity here in Minnesota. There are hundreds of miles of groomed trails all over the state.
Getting out on the trails is a great way to enjoy Minnesota’s nature, and there are plenty of places to go in the Twin Cities.
Fort Snelling State Park has 12 miles of groomed trails for cross-country ski use. Some are multi-use trails and may be used for hiking as well.
One of the greatest locations in the park is Pike Island, where you will see the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers come together.
You will need to purchase a Great Minnesota Ski Pass to use most of the ski paths in the state.
Afton State Park offers 12 miles of groomed ski trails that are suited for beginners, intermediate, and advanced skiers.
The Lake Elmo Park Reserve has about 15 miles of groomed ski trails with about 5 miles of these trails being lit for night skiing!
15. Ice Fish on One of the 10,000 Lakes
Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But did you know that there are actually over 14,000 lakes?!
One fun way to visit these lakes this winter is to cast your pole for some ice fishing!
Whether you decide to go all out with an ice house and set up camp for the day, or you just walk a few steps onto the frozen lake and make do there, it’s all great fun!
There are so many different lakes that you can get out on including Lake Minnetonka, Lake Elmo, and Lake Pepin.
16. Try Your Hand at Hockey Stick Golf
The Chilly Open in Wayzata is a unique golf experience to give a try this winter.
Instead of golf clubs and golf balls, participants will use hockey sticks and tennis balls, while on a lake. What could be more Minnesotan?
Other activities during the Chilly Open include Snowga (yoga in the snow), and a chili cookoff.
Lake Minnetonka turns into an infinity skating loop for the day, so you’re able to experience skating on a lake.
The Wayzata Chili Cookoff has become a tradition over the past few years. Multiple local restaurants serve up their fantastic chilis and are judged by celebrity judges.
This event is definitely the most unique of all of the things to do in winter in the Twin Cities on this list!
17. Participate in a Local Race
Many local organizations hold 5 or 10K runs/walks throughout the year. And the cold weather here in Minnesota doesn’t stop that from happening in the winter!
I encourage you to be “that” family that does a race on a holiday! My family definitely is!
In St. Paul in winter, the Turkey Trot takes place on the morning of Thanksgiving, which is a fundraiser for food and toy drives.
The UGLY Sweater Dash is the perfect opportunity to show off your Christmas cheer with an ugly sweater.
And after the New Year hits, hold up those resolutions at the Resolution Run in Woodbury.
Cupid’s Undie Run is a fundraiser to find a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF), where participants are encouraged to run in their underwear (just keep it PG-13!).
18. Go Snow Tubing
A popular thing to do in Minneapolis in winter, especially if you have little ones, is to go snow tubing.
There are many places around the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas that have places for snow tubing, and it can be a great way to get outside and beat the cold.
Buck Hill is a popular place for it, offering 2-hour sessions, and the opportunity to even ride down the hill at night!
Another popular location for snow tubing is Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls, which is about an hour away from the center of the cities.
You can also head to Theodore Wirth Regional Park, where you can either walk up the stairs to get back to the top or use the tow rope for an additional cost.
19. Rent a Snowmobile for the Day
Most people will head up north to get that thrill of riding a snowmobile over a trail of freshly fallen snow.
But did you know that there are places around southern Minnesota that also rent out snowmobiles for you to enjoy?!
Minnesota Snowmobile Rentals (MSR) is located in Shakopee and offers a variety of rentals to choose from.
And not too far away, you’ll find miles and miles of trails to bring that rental out on!
The Scott-Carver Snowmobile Trails are a popular spot to get out this winter, and you can check out some of the trail maps here.
20. Take a Staycation
I totally understand that sometimes it just feels miserable to be cooped up in your house during winter in Minnesota.
So if you’re looking for some way to get out of the house without having to pack up and head out to an all-inclusive resort, book yourself a staycation!
This can seriously be as simple as booking a hotel or home that’s across town, just to get out and have some new scenery.
The beautiful Portland Place offers 3 bedrooms in a Victorian home that was built in 1900 with a balcony and gorgeous outdoor space.
Or, stay at this newly remodeled home near Minnehaha Falls with a full kitchen, a comfortable living room, and a large backyard.
21. Watch a Pro Sports Game
Minnesota is home to multiple professional sports teams from hockey to football to basketball.
And in the winter months, it can be a great idea to attend one of the games to still have fun while staying indoors and keeping warm.
The Minnesota Wild is definitely the most popular sports team to watch during the winter since they are a hockey team.
If you’re a big football fan, then consider buying a ticket to see the Minnesota Vikings before their season is over in January or February!
Lastly, during the winter in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves and Lynx basketball teams play and make for a great activity to do.
22. Grab Dinner Somewhere Delicious
The Twin Cities has a huge food scene, so finding somewhere delicious to grab dinner for the night isn’t tough.
From popular chain restaurants to local family-owned places, there is something that everyone in the family will enjoy.
Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse serves all-you-can-eat meat and a large salad bar, for those looking to be very full at the end of the day.
If you’re looking for one of Minneapolis’ most popular foods, check out Matt’s Bar for the famous Juicy Lucy.
One of my family’s favorites is Snuffy’s Malt Shop, where you can get burgers and of course, delicious malts!
Or maybe consider checking out one of the best places to grab a hot drink at some of Minneapolis’s coffeehouses.
23. Try Fat Tire Biking
Fat tire biking is a unique winter activity that isn’t as popular as some of the others.
But this means that you should definitely give it a try because you’ll be able to escape from some of the busyness of the city.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park has a variety of fat tire bike trails in Minneapolis that are also shared with snowshoers and hikers.
You can also find more than 10 miles of trails at Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve in Savage, which is also a great place to spot wildlife and birds!
Lebanon Hills also has single-track trails that stretch almost 12 miles over 3 loops which are great for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Free Activities in Minneapolis in Winter
Below you’ll find some of the best things to keep you busy during the winter months that won’t cost you any money.
So if you’re on a budget, these are going to be perfect for you!
24. Snowshoe on the Many Trails
Snowshoeing is a fairly easy and inexpensive activity for people of all ages and skill levels, and it can be done all over Minneapolis.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park has it all! Apart from great hiking, a snow tubing hill, and a sledding hill, they also have great trails for snowshoeing!
Snowshoeing along the Dalles of the St. Croix River is such a beautiful experience at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls.
Snowshoeing is allowed in all Minnesota state parks, except on trails that are specifically groomed for another activity.
25. Visit the Mall of America
With over 5 million square feet of shopping, the Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States.
Around Christmas time, there’s a variety of fun things to do at the Mall of America to celebrate the holidays, besides viewing the amazing decorations!
The mall is decorated beautifully for the holidays with trees, glitter, lights, and bulbs.
Santa comes to the Mall of America every year, usually in November and December, and is ready to listen to everyone’s wishes.
And of course, with over 520 stores, there’s bound to be a Black Friday deal for everyone at the Mall of America!
Plus, the mall is a great place to go to escape the cold of being outside.
26. Get in the Christmas Spirit at Holidazzle
There are many fun holiday-themed things to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul to help you get in the Christmas spirit!
The Holidazzle is one of those, held in Loring Park in downtown Minneapolis.
Enjoy trees lit up with fantastic, glimmering lights, ice skating, holiday music, and fireworks to end the night.
There are local small businesses with homemade products for sale, which are great gifts to bring home to wrap up and put under the tree.
27. Go Sledding
Sledding is another great opportunity to get outside this winter.
On average, Minneapolis gets nearly 50 inches of snowfall per year, which makes for great conditions to get out and slide down the hills.
A few locations that offer designated sledding hills include Theodore Wirth Regional Park, Columbia Golf Club, and Valley View Park.
Each of these sledding hills requires you to bring your own sled, tube, or toboggan.
Bring some friends out and race down one of these great hills this winter!
28. Visit the Weisman Art Museum
If you’re looking for something free to do in Minneapolis in winter but are hoping to stay inside, check out the Weisman Art Museum.
This museum is always free and allows guests to experience a very unique building that you certainly can’t miss when you see it.
Inside the museum, you’ll be able to see beautiful pieces of art that represent different cultural, social, and historical contexts.
Even just seeing the museum from the outside is quite impressive and gives you something fun to do for a while!
29. Go for a Hike
Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean that you can’t find somewhere to hike around southern Minnesota!
There are plenty of great places to still hit the trail and enjoy nature, even when it’s cold outside.
Whether it be around Theodore Wirth Regional Park, which has multi-use trails all around the park, or a bit further north at Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls.
You may also want to check out some of the trails around some of the state parks near Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Hiking as a winter activity in the Twin Cities is a great way to get out and take advantage of warmer days that we have, in between the cold ones.
What Can Kids Do in Minneapolis in Winter?
If you have little kiddos that are going to come along with you for some of these activities, you may be looking for the most kid-friendly activities.
Many of the things to do on this list are kid-friendly, but here is a list of my top recommendations:
- Go sledding or snow tubing at Theodore Wirth Regional Park
- Take a holiday light tour
- Visit the Mall of America for indoor fun
- Visit the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory or the Minnesota Zoo
- Watch a show at the Guthrie Theater
- Go snowshoeing as a family on the many trails
What is the Weather like in Minnesota During Winter?
While you’re planning on participating in one of these things to do in winter in the Twin Cities, you may be concerned about the weather.
We all know that Minnesota can get pretty cold!
The average temperatures in December, January, and February are between 10° F and 30° F.
These can fluctuate quite a bit, and oftentimes dip below 0° F. February is typically the coldest month of the year.
Minneapolis also gets an average snowfall of around 50 inches each year!
What to Wear in Winter
When you’re out exploring Minnesota this winter, it’s important to dress appropriately.
If you don’t do so, you’ll likely be cold and miserable. Plus, there is a risk of frostbite.
Now, this isn’t to scare you off from being outside! There are plenty of clothes out there to keep you warm. Layer, layer, LAYER!
Use this as a baseline for choosing what to wear and how to layer.
Where to Stay Near Minneapolis and St. Paul
When you’re ready to find somewhere to stay for the night, consider booking a stay at one of these hotels in the Twin Cities.
Graduate Minneapolis: The Graduate is a beautiful boutique hotel that is decorated in a very unique way. It’s located near the U of M and has multiple places to eat on-site.
Moxy Minneapolis: With a view of the US Bank Stadium, beautiful rooms, and pet-friendly rooms, the Moxy is a great place to stay.
Millennium Minneapolis: The Millennium in Minneapolis features an indoor pool and offers a restaurant and bar on-site.
There is plenty of things to do in Minneapolis in winter.
From holiday festivals to ice skating to sledding or just visiting the Mall of America, there are plenty of activities.
If you’re looking to stay inside, head to the MOA, go see a show at the Guthrie Theater, or
If you want to stay outdoors, go sledding, hit up a ski resort, or go to one of the holiday festivals such as Holidazzle.
Some of the best things to do in Minneapolis in December are visiting holiday markets, attending a show at the Guthrie Theater, seeing the holiday lights, or attending the Holidazzle festival.
Living in Minnesota in the winter can be really tough, but with the proper preparation, it can be great fun.
The main things are to not stay inside all the time and enjoy yourself, dress in layers, and connect with others to avoid those winter blues.
Wrap-Up on Winter Activities in the Twin Cities
Whether you’re a local looking for a night out, or a visitor planning a visit to the Twin Cities, there is something here for everyone!
Even in the winter, there are plenty of things to participate in, both indoors and outdoors.
These winter activities in the Twin Cities are all great fun for the entire family and are worth giving a try this year!