As below-freezing temps and deep snows approach us, you may be wondering what to do in the Twin Cities area after the holiday season is over. Well, the cold and the snow don’t stop Minnesotans from having fun! You’ll be surprised at the number of winter festivals, events and activities taking place all season long. So get out and celebrate winter like only Minnesotans can: wearing your long johns!
In the fall of 1885, several East coast newspaper correspondents visited Saint Paul. They returned home to report that Minnesota was another Siberia, unfit for human habitation. A group of business owners understandably took umbrage with this assessment, and retaliated by creating a wintertime festival. They wanted the festival to showcase the beauty of Minnesota winters. The famed Saint Paul Winter Carnival held its first festival in 1886. This longtime tradition remains the oldest winter festival in the U.S., predating the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years.
January 26 to February 5
The jewel of Twin Cities winter events is the “Coolest Celebration on Earth,” the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, now in its 137th year.
Managed and produced by the Saint Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation, the Winter Carnival brings 11 days of family-friendly events and community pride to Saint Paul and the Twin Cities metro area. Dozens of free events are designed to entertain those of all ages. Most events take place in downtown Saint Paul, in and around Rice Park and Landmark Center, as well as at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Signature Events include:
Scavenger Hunts, where the winner of the hunt gets to participate in the Torchlight Parade on February 4, 2023.
A month+ long fishing tournament launching January 1st and running through February 5, 2023. Prizes will be awarded in several categories.
The 38th annual Saint Paul Winter Carnival Fire & Ice Run. Runners and walkers have the opportunity to participate in the NoK (pay to not run or walk—just enjoy the Vulcan’s Snow Park!) the 5K, 10K, 15K or 20K PLUS a Kid’s Run. The runners and walkers will spend some time with the Winter Carnival’s own Fire & Ice: the Vulcan Krewe and the Royal Family.
The King Boreas Grande Day Parade is a daytime procession down West 7th Street featuring dozens of bands, floats and, of course, the newly crowned King Boreas and his Royal Family, ending in Rice Park.
Vulcan Snow Park on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is SNOW much fun! Activities and events include a snow maze, a snow mountain play area, Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Competition and snow sculpture viewing. Please visit mnsnowpark.com for complete information about Vulcan Snow Park.
Vulcanus Rex will use his wily ways to light up the streets of downtown Saint Paul for the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade, Presented by Xcel Energy. The evening parade route starts at 5th and Wacouta, travels westbound down 5th Street to Washington St to 4th St and ends at St. Peter by Rice Park. After the parade, follow Vulcanus and his Krewe to the library steps for the ever-dramatic Overthrow of Boreas. The production will be followed by a fantastic fireworks show.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Come howl at the moon during these special snowshoe-after-dark events at the Arboretum. It’s thought that January’s full moon came to be known as the Wolf Moon because wolves were more likely to be heard howling at this time of the year.
In honor of the Wolf Moon, Bob Ebsen with the Wildlife Science Center will be presenting on his team’s ongoing work with Minnesota gray wolves in the MacMillan Auditorium from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
All evening long, a self-guided snowshoe path along Wood Duck Pond will be groomed and lit with tealights for everyone to enjoy. Along the way, warm up around one of the multiple bonfires in the Frog Hollow parking lot and roast a marshmallow.
Full Moon Hike Schedule
January 18 to January 23
Stillwater will host the 2023 World Snow Sculpting Championship competition sanctioned by the Association Internationale de Sculpture sur Neige et Glace based in Finland. Teams from around the world will travel to Stillwater to create amazing snow sculptures while competing for prize money and the title of the World Champion. This will be a judged event. Fun for the whole family includes social events, activities, ceremonies, and the people’s choice award.
Note: This event is weather dependent. Watch the website and social media for updates.
Weekends, January 21 to February 12
Get your snowsuits ready! Art Shanty Projects is a four-weekend winter art festival on frozen Lake Harriet in the Twin Cities. Artists create temporary structures and interactive, engaging art experiences and performances. Art Shanties transforms a barren, frozen lake into a vibrant, colorful winter village. It’s a unique event, one I can only imagine taking place in the Twin Cities, with our vibrant art scene, our many lakes, and our cold cold winter. Be sure to visit, it will warm your heart!
January 19 to January 29
Did you know Minnesota is the Pond Hockey capital of the world? An event that has been going on for 18 years, the annual outdoor hockey tournament is held on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. Hundreds of teams formed from NHL legends, high school greats, and neighborhood stars compete for the Golden Shovel.
The USPHC has become an annual pilgrimage for thousands. With the goal of celebrating the joy of hockey “the way nature intended,” on an outdoor ice rink, players have the opportunity to reunite with their youth and friends. The champions do not win prizes, but go down in history with their names etched into the Golden Shovel. The Shovel is a symbol of the lifelong love and passion for the purity of this outdoor game.
January 7 to March 12
Dates and hours are weather dependent. Closed on Tuesdays.
Long Lake Regional Park
1500 Old Highway 8
New Brighton, MN
Imagination, exploration, and magic awaits at Ice Castles. Escape into a world of ice caves, frozen waterfalls, and glaciers formed into archways, caverns and tunnels. Time is limited, but memories last forever. Make them magical: freeze time!
Ice Slides: Squeal with delight as you race down one of the exhilarating ice slides. Designed for people of all ages.
Caverns and Archways: Explore ice caverns and get lost in a frozen maze where wonder awaits around every turn.
Polar Pub: Belly up to a frosty ice bar and order a winter-themed alcoholic beverage. Enjoy it while you chill out in the coolest place in town.
Crawl Tunnels: Squeeze through passageways just large enough for children and adults who are adventurous enough to crawl.
Ice Sculptures: Tucked away throughout the cascades of ice, discover elaborate, world-class ice sculptures hand-carved by a local artist.
Lantern Passage: Surrounded by thousands of lights, your magical journey continues along the passage after you exit.
Does all this winter fun have you thinking of moving to Minneapolis?
Top photo of the 1992 Winter Carnival Ice Palace courtesy St. Paul Pioneer Press, Valicia Boudry.