Top Things to Do in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the Winter

St. Paul Winter Carnival

Darrin Johnson

For most Americans, spending the winter months in the Twin Cities might seem daunting, but for the resilient residents of Minneapolis-St. Paul, it's a grand opportunity to go ice skating or ice fishing outside, sled in the snow, strap on some skis, or hurl snowballs. On top of all the winter fun you can have on your own, there are also festivals with live music, events, and hockey games to attend. If you'd rather stay warm and enjoy the winter indoors, there are many other fun things you can do in Minneapolis-St. Paul to make this time of year special as well. Here's how to make the most of your time in this winter wonderland of a city.

01 of 20

Go Shopping at Ingebretsen's Nordic Marketplace

Ingebretsen's Nordic Marketplace

Ingebretsen's Nordic Marketplace

Ingebretsen's Nordic Marketplace—which first opened as the Model Meat Market in 1921 and later expanded to include a butcher shop, deli, needlework store, and classroom—has been the area's go-to spot for Scandinavian fare, food, and crafts for more than 100 years. Hailing from Norway, the family-owned shop features all sorts of Scandinavian breads, cheeses, jams, candies, cookies, spices, canned fish, beverages, and other traditional veggie mixes, as well as a selection books and arts and crafts supplies, perfect if you're in the mood to try a little knitting, stitching, or painting during your time in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

1601 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407, USA
Phone +1 612-729-9333
02 of 20

Explore the Como Park Zoo and Conservancy

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Exactly halfway between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Como Park Zoo and Conservancy is a great place to unwind among the animals, stroll through colorful gardens, admire sculptures and other works of art, and if the mood strikes, go for a ride on Cafesjian’s Carousel, a historic antique carousel featuring 68 hand-carved horses, 18 original paintings, and a restored Wurlitzer 153-band organ. The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden, Lily Pond, Water Gardens, and Sunken Garden are particularly striking, while the Zoo offers a glimpse at lions, tigers, and other interesting creatures from all over the world.

1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN 55103, USA
Phone +1 651-487-8201
03 of 20

Give Snow Tubing a Try

Snow tubing near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

The Loppet Foundation

If you've never experienced the sheer adrenaline rush of sliding down a giant hill of snow on top of an inner tube, it's time to try snow tubing, which, thankfully, is a popular past time in these parts. The Tubing Hill, operated by the Loppet Foundation and located behind the trailhead at Theodore Wirth Regional Park, is open on weekends during the winter and features a tow rope so you don't even have to lug your tube up the hill. Children must be at least 44 inches tall to ride and it goes without saying that you should dress warm and have as much fun as you can within the two-hour timeframe the pass allows.

Other popular snow tubing areas in Minneapolis-St. Paul include Trapp Farm Park, Buck Hill, Green Acres Recreation Area, and Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.

2117 West River Rd N, Minneapolis, MN 55422, USA
Phone +1 612-230-6400
04 of 20

Explore Ice Castles Up Close

Ice Castles

Ice Castles

Typically open from January through March and located in Long Lake Regional Park about 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Ice Castles Minnesota gives guests the unique chance to explore castles made of more than 20 million pounds of ice. Roughly 12,000 ice crystals are grown each day, keeping the ice castle art installations in tip top shape, allowing visitors to get lost in the ice maze, discover the wonder of ice caverns, crawl through tunnels made of ice, and race down ice slides. A great winter attraction for kids, families, couples, and young-at-heart adults of all ages, the attraction, created in 2011 and now present in five states, is also a popular spot for proposals since you can rent out private arctic alcoves for special events.

1500 Old Hwy 8, New Brighton, MN 55112, USA
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05 of 20

Go Cross-Country Skiing Along Local Trails

Cross country skiing at Lebanon Hills

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Fans of cross-country skiing can enjoy trails in many parks and gardens throughout the Twin Cities. In Minneapolis, Theodore Wirth Park is home to 15.5 miles of trails from beginner-level to advanced, plus a 1.25-mile lighted trail for evening skiing. Nearby, the Columbia Golf Course also offers several miles of trails. In St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park has 12 miles of scenic trails with river views, while Como Park is home to some of the best trails in the Metro area. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, located near the University of Minnesota, is a beautiful place to ski, as is Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, about 25 minutes away.

If you're not one to get out on skis yourself, you might still enjoy the City of Lakes Loppet, a cross-country skiing festival, with races and a torchlit event through Minneapolis that typically takes place in late January or early February.

2117 West River Rd N, Minneapolis, MN 55422, USA
Phone +1 612-230-6400
06 of 20

Try Your Hand at Ice Fishing

Ice fishing

 Tod Baker / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Those who want to try ice fishing can join a group on the ice at a resort or hire a guide. It's also a simple activity to do on your own if you've got a fishing pole, a license, and something to cut a hole in the ice. Near Minneapolis, Lake Nokomis, Lake Harriet, and Fort Snelling State Park are popular places to participate in this underrated sport.

Every winter, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hosts "Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend," an event that lets area residents fish or spear fish free of charge and without a license as long as they're accompanied by a child age 15 or under. Participating state parks provide all the gear and coach families through everything from drilling holes to preventing them from freezing over.

101 Snelling Lake Rd, St Paul, MN 55111, USA
Phone +1 612-279-3550
07 of 20

Have Fun at the Wintertime Festival

St. Paul Winter Carnival

Darrin Johnson

The Winter Carnival, held in St. Paul in late January and early February, is a major annual event featuring ice and snow sculptures, traditional Minnesotan foods, and a grand parade through downtown St. Paul. Usually, there are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade, the Grand Day Parade, and the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade, as well as other events like an ice fishing tournament and a drive-thru ice sculpture park. Most festivities are free, open to the public, and happen in downtown Saint Paul near Rice Park and Landmark Center or at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Holidazzle is a Loring Park tradition and you can expect a Minneapolis-centric experience that includes plenty of well-known local businesses and products. This special event, which draws in many to see the lights and listen to seasonal music, typically runs from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Enjoy prepared food and beverages, packaged food, merchandise, free music, and other festive and family friendly entertainment fit for all ages.

75 W 5th St, St Paul, MN 55102, USA
Phone +1 651-223-7400
08 of 20

Check Out the Area's Booming Beer Scene

Inside of Summit Brewing Company

TripSavvy / Chris Bacarella 

While the Great Lakes region has long been a major player for American beers, Minneapolis is quickly gaining prominence as one of the best cities in the U.S. to find a great, small-batch brew. From brewpubs to beer halls, more restaurants are choosing to fill their taps with only small-batch, locally brewed beers. If you're looking to sample the Minneapolis-St. Paul craft beer scene, stop by the Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul or the Surly Brewery Co. in nearby Brooklyn Center.

910 Montreal Cir, St Paul, MN 55102, USA
Phone +1 651-265-7800
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09 of 20

Take the Kids to the Children's Museum

Exterior of the Minnesota Children's Museum

TripSavvy / Chris Bacarella 

When it's just too cold for the kids to spend a lot of time outdoors, the Minnesota Children's Museum offers a wonderful interactive environment in downtown St. Paul that's dedicated to entertaining and educating kids up to 10 years old. With exhibits where little ones can play with building blocks, create their own art masterpieces, splash and play with a water table, experience an immersive shipwreck, climb a 40-foot catwalk, slide down slides, and reenact real-life situations in a pretend post office, fire station, and farmers market, there's plenty to keep them busy for a few hours.

10 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102, USA
Phone +1 651-225-6000
10 of 20

Walk the Minneapolis Skyway System

Minneapolis Skyways

Jim Winstead / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The good news is you don't always have to brave the cold to get from building to building in this city, as long as you stay in a downtown hotel with access to the Minneapolis Skyway System. You'll be connected to corporate offices, bars, restaurants, bakeries, hotels, government services, retail, gyms, grocery stores, liquor stores, banks, doctors, dentists, masseurs, pharmacies, hair and nail salons, dry cleaners, live theaters, three pro sports facilities, a church, and art exhibits, among other metropolitan businesses and attractions along 9.5 miles of pathways that connect 80 blocks. Note that the Skyway System does have closing hours, so check the schedule and plan accordingly.

Minneapolis, MN 55402, USA
Phone +1 612-520-1234
11 of 20

Go See a Game

Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets

David Sherman / Getty Images 

Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to both professional sports teams and popular collegiate sports, like basketball, football, baseball, ice hockey, and soccer. The Twin Cities have been an epicenter of the U.S. stadium-and-arena boom, constructing five major sports facilities since 1990, all located in the easily walkable downtown area. The newest is Allianz Field, a 20,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium located in St. Paul about halfway between the two downtowns.

600 N 1st Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403, USA
Phone +1 612-673-1300
12 of 20

Tour the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Inside the Minneapolis Institute of Art

TripSavvy / Johnny Nguyen 

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) features a collection of more than 90,000 works of art spanning six continents and 5,000 years. The museum's many departments include Arts of Africa and the Americas; Contemporary Art; Chinese, South, and Southeast Asian Art; Decorative Arts; Japanese and Korean Art; and Photography, among others. Keep an eye out for pieces by Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Best of all, admission is free.

2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA
Phone +1 888-642-2787
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13 of 20

See Icy Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls frozen in winter


Fernanda Silva Borges / EyeEm 

Minnehaha Falls is a 53-foot tall waterfall located in Minnehaha Regional Park about 10 minutes from downtown—Minnehaha Creek flows through Minneapolis, plunging over an unexpected precipice along the way, creating the falls. This is one of the city's most popular parks in the summer and worth a visit in the winter​ when you can see the falls frozen into a dramatic wall of ice.

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA
14 of 20

Go See a Show at First Avenue

First Avenue

 First Avenue

First Avenue is a Minneapolis icon. Once the downtown Minneapolis Greyhound bus depot, the building was renovated to become a live music venue that has seen performances by Prince and Lizzo, among other great artists. Musicians representing all genres of music play here and even if you're not going to a show, don't miss the chance to snap a photo with the wall of stars painted outside the building.

701 N 1st Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403, USA
Phone +1 612-338-8388
15 of 20

Savor a Juicy Lucy

Juicy Lucy hamburger.
Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

When you visit Minneapolis, one of the first things everyone will insist you try is the Juicy Lucy Burger, a tasty regional treat where burgers are cooked with the cheese inside the patty, causing delicious molten cheese to ooze out of every bite. The Juicy Lucy was invented sometime in the 1950s by either the 5-8 Club, or Matt's Bar, depending on whom you ask. The two bars in south Minneapolis have a rivalry going about who invented the iconic burger, so the best thing to do is try both and decide for yourself which has the culinary credentials to be the official home of the Juicy Lucy.

5800 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417-2648, USA
Phone +1 612-823-5858
16 of 20

Shop at Mall of America

Inside the Mall of America

TripSavvy / Robyn Correll 

Located 15 minutes south of the city, Bloomington is home to the biggest shopping mall in the whole country—Mall of America. Here you'll find hundreds of shops and restaurants, as you would expect, but also surprising attractions like a theme park, an aquarium, and a wedding chapel. It's easy to spend all day here and because Minnesota has no sales tax on clothing, the mall makes a popular destination for out-of-state travelers who will often stock up on a whole season's wardrobe before flying home.

60 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425, USA
Phone +1 952-883-8800
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17 of 20

Go Sledding in a City Park

Sledding in St. Paul Minnesota

Richard Hamilton Smith / Getty Images

In this snow-loving part of the country, you can trust that the locals know all the best sledding spots in town. The city parks of St. Paul have more hills than Minneapolis, with 15 designated sledding spots to the two in Minneapolis (Columbia Park Golf Course and Theodore Wirth Regional Park). If you want the biggest thrills, Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul has a very steep hill that's sure to enthrall brave sledders.

2300 Upper Afton Rd, Maplewood, MN 55119, USA
Phone +1 651-748-2500
18 of 20

Watch the Pond Hockey Championships

 US Pond Hockey Championship

 US Pond Hockey Championship

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are held at Minneapolis' Lake Nokomis every year in late January, bringing thousands of players and fans together for ​a weekend of fun and fierce competition. In the past, the event has drawn out up to 300 teams and has welcomed players of all ages and skill levels each year—just in case you want to get a team together.

Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA
19 of 20

Go Back in Time at the Mill City Museum

Bisquick exhibit at the Mill City Museum

 Mill City Museum

Minneapolis was originally a mill town, first processing timber before becoming the largest flour-producing city in the nation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You can see a glimpse of that period at the Mill City Museum, located on the bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The Minnesota Historical Society took charge of the remains of the building after it burned and a museum was built inside, making it one of the most authentic places to learn about the history of Minneapolis.

704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA
Phone +1 612-341-7555
20 of 20

Ride in a Horse-Drawn Carriage

Horse and carriage going across a bridge

 The Hitching Company

There is nothing that completes a magical winter day, especially a romantic one, like a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snow. Check out The Hitching Company, which offers a one-hour Mississippi River Grand Carriage Tour or a half-hour Mississippi River Carriage Tour. Both tours take you by famous are landmarks like the skyline and Nicollet Island so you can bundle up and enjoy the sights as you embark on your horse-drawn adventure through the streets of Minneapolis.

925 N 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1040, USA
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Top Things to Do in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the Winter