MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Looking for an excuse to get out and see Minnesota this winter? Then you might want to take part in a months-long, statewide scavenger hunt called “Checkpoint Minnesota.”

This is the second year of the hunt, which is put on by the state’s tourism promotion office, Explore Minnesota, and it kicks off on Thursday.

Officials say the hunt highlights iconic Minnesota destinations.

They range from International Wolf Center in Ely to Franconia Sculpture Park in Shafer.

“It’s Elm Creek, that’s where it’s at. We can go shred the nar, or we can go cross country skiing. There’s just a bunch of activities to do here,” 15-year-old Saxon Johnson said.

You simply register at CheckpointMN.com, then post a picture at each location with the Checkpoint Minnesota sign.

Jake Ferguson visited all of the sites during the inaugural year.

“Being able to get out and kind of see the state in the winter was really appealing to me. Plus, I’ll be honest, the prizes were fantastic,” Ferguson said.

The event runs through March 5, 2015, and there is more than $50,000 in prizes.

This year everyone who visits one checkpoint wins a prize.

Those prizes include winter gear, ski and snowboard packages, a fat bike and even a Ski-Doo snowmobile.

This year there are 12 checkpoints, up from last year’s 10. Hunters are supposed to travel to the destinations and take pictures of themselves by the blue checkpoint signs. Participants are also encouraged to post photos of their adventures on social media with the hashtag #OnlyinMN.

“The more checkpoints that they go to, the more prizes they earn. And along the way we want them to get out there and share the sparkling scenery using hashtag #OnlyinMN,” Alyssa Ebel with Explore Minnesota said.

Hunters will get points every time they “check in” at a new destination, and they can spend those points at the Checkpoint Minnesota prize page. (Check out the rules page here.)

As for the biggest prizes, everyone who registers for the hunt will be entered into a raffle drawing. But for those who visit checkpoints, they’ll earn three extra raffle tickets for each checkpoint they visit. So, if you visit all the checkpoints, your chances at winning the snowmobile are significantly higher.

“These are all things that can be found only in Minnesota,” Ebel said.

And that’s why Explore Minnesota is encouraging people to discover all the state has to offer.

This is not a race, so you can visit the checkpoints anytime during the next 12 weeks.

Here’s a list of this year’s destinations:

— International Wolf Center, Ely
— Giants Ridge Ski Area, Biwabik
— Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth
— Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park, Park Rapids
— Stickwork at College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, Collegeville
— Rice Park, Downtown St. Paul
— Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, Odessa
— Minneopa Falls in Minneopa State Park, Mankato
— Lake Lodge Recreation Center, Winona
— Elm Creek Park Reserve, Maple Grove
— Detroit Lakes City Beach, Detroit Lakes
— Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer

Also, there are roving checkpoints at certain winter events, such as the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (Jan. 15-18, Minneapolis) and the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival (Jan. 24, State Fairgrounds).

For more information, click here.

Jennifer Mayerle

Comments (4)