6 Fun Twin Cities Winter Activities to Stay Warm During the Cold Months

Updated December 28, 2022
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Nothing can quite beat a Twin Cities summer! Temperatures stay mildly warm, the humidity never gets too high, and there are enough trails and brunch spots to go around. Fall comes around, and Minneapolis and St. Paul explode with color. The bluffs of Lilydale have never looked so beautiful. 

There’s no doubt that the summery seasons are a delight to experience in the Twin Cities. But with the record earliest snowfall set on September 26, winters in Minnesota can be painstakingly long. 

Here are six Twin Cities winter activities that are sure to keep you busy (and cozy) throughout the whole winter. 

minneapolis skyline at sunset with snow dusting the rooftops

Twin Cities Winter Activities in Minneapolis

1. American Swedish Institute

No one does cozy winter like the Swedes. The American Swedish Institute (ASI) is a historic mansion turned Scandinavian cultural center. In addition to specialized programs and lectures, ASI offers broader events highlighting Scandinavian and Swedish traditions, such as “Swedish Drinking Songs,” “Lutfisk Dinner,” and the ever-popular “Julmarknad Handcraft Market and Festival.”

2. Saunas

If you’ve used a sauna before, you know that it’s a spa-like experience. Bring a room-temperature water bottle to stay hydrated, then spend a few sessions sweating it out in a coal or wood-heated saunaThe Hewing Hotel offers a sauna (and spa) experience and is located in the North Loop, only three minutes away from major apartment communities like The Palmer. Or rent somewhere where you can toast up without leaving your community, like Be @ Axon Green in South Uptown. 

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3. Art Shanty Projects

Sometimes the best way to beat the cold is to join it. If you’re willing to brave 30-60 minutes in the cold, venture out to the annual Art Shanty Projects on Lake Harriet. The shanties are inspired by ice fishing traditions and designed for the general public to interact with the house-like structures. The designs are different each year, so the best way to understand this unique experience is to attend!

St. Paul skyline with snow dusting the rooftops

Twin Cities Winter Activities in Saint Paul

1. Saint Paul Winter Carnival

You can find any activity to suit your fancy at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. The carnival features city-wide scavenger hunts, ice fishing tournaments, an involved kids and family day, and even a royal coronation! The 2023 Saint Paul Winter Carnival runs from January 26, 2023 through February 5, 2023. 

2. Snowshoeing at Afton State Park

If you’re ready to try outdoor winter activities but aren’t enthralled by the adrenaline rush of skiing or ice skating, snowshoeing is an easy intro. Afton State Park is located just a short 25 minutes outside of downtown St. Paul and journeys along the St. Croix River for a scenic trail experience. Snowshoes can be rented for $6 per day, and the sport is known to be accessible for a wide variety of participants. 

3. European Christmas Market

If you choose not to mark the European Christmas Market on your calendar, look out; you may experience a serious case of FOMO. This holiday event featuring small open-air markets from a variety of European countries (Germany, Austria, etc.) is free to attend and historically located at Union Depot. Come home with handmade gifts for your loved ones or with the lingering taste of Glühwein (spiced mulled wine) after participating in these traditional St. Paul festivities. 

snowshoe for one of the many twin cities winter activities

Though winters are long, Minnesotans are known for getting outdoors and conquering the frigid conditions with fun. These activities barely scratch the surface of Twin Cities winter activities. What favorite Twin Cities winter activities did we miss? 

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