The Twin Cities is home to all four seasons and, as lifetime residents, we’ve enjoyed them all! Below is our list of the 35 Best Outdoor Winter Activities in Minneapolis, MN, our state’s largest city.
It includes everything from ice skating and cross country skiing to unique dining experiences and snow sculptures. You’re bound to find something that catch’s your attention!
And don’t worry, there are a couple of great indoor winter things to do in Minneapolis too that we’ve included at the end.
Winter Things to Do in Minneapolis – Events & Festivals
Minneapolis is home to a number of large events and festivals. One of our favorite outdoor winter activities is to attend the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships!
1. U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
One of our favorite outdoor winter activities in Minneapolis is the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. It is held each January on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. Get ready to see some of the best skaters in the country battling it out for all the glory!
2. Northeast Winter Market
Who says farmer’s markets are only for the summer? The Northeast Farmers Market holds a once-per-month Winter Market from on Sundays from November through April. With 86 vendors listed on their website, there is bound to be something for everyone!
3. The Great Northern Festival
The Great Northern Festival is held at the end of January and celebrates everything cold. It has everything from artistic performances and food and drink to outdoor activities and keynote speakers.
It is a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, so you’ll have a chance to warm up!
4. St. Paul Winter Carnival
Minneapolis purist may not like this one, but what list of Outdoor Winter Activities in Minneapolis is complete without the Saint Paul Winter Carnival?
You can enjoy their annual scavenger hunts, a month’s long ice fishing tournament, snow carvings, parades, and more. You can even participate in the outdoor Fire and Ice run!
Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul is a winter wonderland right in the middle of the carnival. It hosts the ice sculptures, Royal Throne, Ice Castle Sponsor Wall, Live Entertainment, Vendor booths, and more.
Other ends are held at the Minnesota State Fairgroundsor at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.
5. Lake Harriet Art Shanty Projects
The Art Shanty Projects on-ice program takes place on four weekends in January and February. Local artists build shanties and creative interactive experiences for all to enjoy. You can even go inside of may of these shanties to see the artist’s creations.
6. Minneapolis Winter Kite Festival
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board hosts the annual Minneapolis Winter Kite Festival on Lake Harriet in late January. Kits of all shapes, sizes, and colors are flown over the frozen lake. The even also includes a fun family festival with a kids’ DJ, S’mores, nature hikes, and yard games.
7. City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival
The City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival is one of the quintissential outdoor winter activities in Minneapolis. This two-day festival that includes cross-country Ski, fat bike, skijor, and snowshoe races and recreational touring events. There is also a Kubb Tournament and the Luminary Loppet.
The festival is put on by the Loppet Foundation, which is a huge supporter of winter activities in Minneapolis. There is fun for the whole family.
8. Luminary Loppet
Part of the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival, the Luminary Loppet a highlight of the festival. You will experience a candlelit trail lit with 1,200 luminaries and unique ice features, all in the heart of Uptown on Lake of the Isles.
You’ll also find refreshments like hot cocoa, s’mores, food trucks, Utepils Brewing beer, live music, and more.
9. Stifel Loppet Cup
The world’s best cross-country athletes come to Minneapolis for the Stifel Loppet Cup, officially called the Coop Fis Cross Country World Cup. It is held at Theodore Wirth Regional Park.
The event brought the world’s best skiers to the United States for the first time in over 20 years!
10. Winter Beer Dabbler
Looking for beer? Look no further. The Winter Beer Dabbler is the beer drinker’s winter paradise!
Try beers from well over 100 local breweries, cider makers, and winemakers.
Winter Things to Do in Minneapolis – Outdoor Activities
Looking to get outside and burn off some energy? There are a tone of great outdoor winter activities in Minneapolis that will get you moving. From ice skating to skiing, the Twin Cities has it all.
12. Chain of Lakes Ice Skating
A winter experience is not complete without ice skating. The ice trails on Lake of the Isles are a fun experience and are great for beginners as well.
You can skate on the lake or the ice rink. And don’t worry, there is a warming house! You can also rent skates.
13. Snow Tubing at Theo Wirth Park
Theodore Wirth Park has everything, including an exciting Snow Tubing Hill! It is designed for kids of all ages and has an operating tow-rope which brings tubers back to the top of the hill. As they say, “you bring the warm clothes, we provide the rest.”
14. Cross Country Skiing
Minneapolis is home to many cross-country ski trails. Theodore Wirth Park is the cross-country skiing mecca. Other options include the Chain of Lakes Ski Trail, Columbia Ski Trail, Columbia Golf Course, and Hiawatha Ski Trail.
If you are OK heading over to St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park and Como Park are good options.
15. Ice Fishing
Minneapolis is home to a number of excellent ice fishing lakes. Lake Nokomis, Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska, and the Mississippi River are all great options.
Many are listed in our 35+ Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Minnesota post.
16. Minneapolis Ski Jumping Club
Ever wanted to see skiers launch themselves off of an Olympic style jump? Then this is your chance! You can see elite athletes, Olympians, and the National Ski Team in action at the Minneapolis Ski Club. You could even try it yourselves if you had the nerve!
17. Downhill Skiing at Hyland Hills Ski Area
Hyland Hills Ski Area is located south of Minneapolis in Bloomington at Hyland Lake Park Reserve. With over 14 ski runs and a bunny hill, it’s perfect for families. They even have a terrain park for the more adventurous skiers and snowboarders.
18. Sledding at a City Park
Many parks in Minneapolis have sledding hills. The best are Theo Wirth Park, Valley View Park in Golden Valley, and Colombia Golf Club in Northeast Minneapolis. All offer a variety of outdoor winter activities in Minneapolis in addition to sledding.
19. Snow Kiting
Coaches from the Lakawa School pf Kiteboarding can lend you a kite and get you up and gliding in no time. They offer lesson snow kiting, kite surfing, windsurfing, kite-foiling, and more!
Snowmobiling is a fun way to explore Minnesota at a faster pace than skiing or snowshoeing. There are plenty of rental options available to suite any need or budget.
21. Dog Sledding
Ever wanted to try dog sledding? It is one of the most exciting outdoor winter activities in Minneapolis for adults and kids alike! You can often find opportunities to give it a try on lakes around Minneapolis. Our favorite is Sled Dog Sundays at Birch’s On the Lake, which is just west of Minneapolis.
It is kid friendly and includes a brunch buffet and a ride with a team of Siberian Huskies from Silent Run Adventures.
22. Minneapolis Polar Plunge
Looking for a real thrill? Try a polar plunge! There is nothing more exhilirating that jumping into a frozen lake and coming out to tell the story!
23. Sauna and Cold Plunge
We love a good Sauna and cold plung. Sauna Camps on Lake Minnetonka has brought this experience to the masses. They host open hours and group events.
24. Winter Zip Line Tour
This will take you outside of Minneapolis, but it’s worth it. Kerfoot Canopy Tour was voted a Top 3 U.S. Aerial Adventure Park for two years in a row.
Enjoy a zip line tour or an insanely large high ropes course.
Winter Things to Do in Minneapolis – Hiking and Walking
Sometimes it’s nice to slow things down and go just walk. Minneapolis is home to miles and miles of trails. Below are a few of the more unique spots to stretch your legs in the Twin Cities area.
25. Snow Shoeing
Snowshoeing is an easy-to-learn activity that is fun for everyone. Theodore Wirth Park, Columbia Golf Club, and Hiawatha Golf Course are great spots. Theo With and Hiawatha offer snowshoe rentals.
26. Ice Castles
There is nothing cooler, no pun intended, than exploring winter ice castles. The MN Winter Ice Castles are located in Maple Grove, which is a short drive north of Minneapolis.
There are ice slides, a frosty bar, caverns, tunnels, and more. This is a very kid-friendly event!
27. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Looking for a less well known outdoor winter activity in Minneapolis? Then check out the Winter Lights at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. This 0.57 mile walking trail is illuminated with winter lights and outdoor light displays.
Cold? Warm up by the fire and get a s’mores kit for a tasty treat.
28. Minnehaha Falls Hike
Minnehaha Falls is not the only winter hiking destination in Minneapolis. But it is arguably the best once the waterfall freezes over.
The hike to the falls is short. If you are looking for more, you can hike all the way down to Fort Snelling State Park and connect up with their trails. Minneapolis is home to a number of waterfalls that freeze over int he winter.
29. Minnesota Ice Maze
The Minnesota Ice Festival celebrates all things ice. One of the highlights is their ice maze. It is beautifully lit up and a real challenge. If you make it to the middle you can climb the tower for beautiful views all around.
30. Ride a Horse Drawn Carriage
The Hitching Company offers horse-drawn carriage tours in Minneapolis. They have a couple of options, including a ride along the Stone Arch Bridge, a tour through the North Loop, and a City Lights on the River Tour.
Winter Things to Do in Minneapolis – Indoors
Finally, sometimes it’s just too cold to go outside! For that Minneapol and St. Paul have plenty of winter things to do indoors. From sporting events to zoos, there is something for all ages.
31. Target Center Winter Events
The Target Center is home to the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team and hosts a number of other events throughout the winter season.
32. Target Field Winter Events
Target Field hosts a number of things to do in the winter. One of our favorite events is TwinsFest, where more than 40 current and former Twins players and coaches host a two-day Twins Baseball-focused extravaganza.
33. Winter at the Walker Art Center
The Walker Art Center, located next to downtown Minneapolis, offers a indoor and outdoor winter exprience. You can explore the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on snowshoes provided by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Outdoor Adventure.
Once you are ready to warm up you can visit the Walker Library or wander through one of the galleries filled with the work of world-renowned artists.
34. Como Park Zoo and Conservancy
Como Park Zoo and Conservancy is technically indoors, but you feel like you’re in nature. Enjoy walking through the zoo or their many exhibits, including the Blaze Sparky Show, Zookeeper Talk, Gardener Chat, and Gorilla Program.
35. Nordic Village at Riva Terrace
Check out this seasonal dining experience. You’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the Swiss Alps. The Four Seasons hosts a Nordic Village dining experience eon their fourth-floor rooftop restaurant. Enjoy a warm drink and an intimate four-course meal in your own private mini-cabin.
36. Northrup King Nights
While not entirely outdoors, Northrup King Nights is a really cool chance to explore four floors of art all in one building. You’ll find everything from beautiful art to fine boutiques and unique local businesses.
37. Winter Warm-up at US Bank Stadium
While not technically outside, the Winter Warm-up is a chance to visit US bank Stadium on non-game days. Like they used to do at the old Metrodome, they open the upper and main concourses up for inline skating and indoor running.
38. Winter Events at the Xcel EnergyCenter
There is nothing better than an exciting game of Hockey on a cold January Day. So when in doubt, we head on over to the Xcel Center and watch the MN Wild in action.
39. Mall of America
Mall of American and Nickelodeon Universe are a great place to warm up during the colder months. You can shop to your hearts content! Or if shopping isn’t your thing, Mall of America is home to a number of fun restaurants, an amusement park, underground aquarium, and so much more.
40. American Swedish Institute
The American Swedish Institute hosts a number of events and exhibitions throughout the winter months. Stop by to learn more about Swedish American heritage or to grab a little snack at their cafe.
Looking for another great city to visit in the winter? Then check out St. Louis, MO!