The holidays are over, winter looms ahead — but never fear. Minnesotans don’t easily give up on the idea of finding something to celebrate.
The annual Wells Fargo WinterSkate in Rice Park is open daily through Feb. 7; check the website for hours, special events, and weather cancellations. Enjoy one of winter’s most charming rituals in one of the Twin Cities’ most charming locations. Ice skate rental available for $4 on a first-come, first-served basis (free for Wells Fargo customers).
You might not think about kites in January, but you should. The Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival takes place on January 16th. This is a hugely fun event. Beautiful, elaborate kites are flown, but newbies can get tips from the experts and buy inexpensive kits on the spot. Or bring your own. Or just watch the others while enjoying toasted marshmallows and ice-fishing demos.
International Falls revels in winter during its annual Icebox Days Jan. 14-17. The good people up on the Canadian border show that they have extreme stamina for the cold with this festival, including the “Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard” 5k and 10k runs, snow creations, a chili cook-off, turkey bowling, and lighted snowshoe hikes in Voyageurs National Park.
Not to be outdone, the Willmar Lakes area has its annual Winterfest begins on Jan. 23 and runs for several weekends, including a giant ice structure and slide, horse and buggy rides, snowmobile runs, fish fries, fishing tournaments, Frozen 5K, Polar Plunge, and fireworks.
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza takes place on Jan. 23 this year. The prizes? $150k worth, including a truck and an ATV. The goal? The biggest fish. The best part? Proceeds go to more than 50 local charities, with this year’s primary charity being the Confidence Learning Center. Oh—and no, they don’t sell beer on the ice. Just so you know. There’s also a Youth Ice Olympics that day.
The North West Company Fur Post historic site hosts a Winter Frolic on Jan. 23, with snowshoeing, a try at the Ojibwe game of snow snake, curling, or simply enjoying hot cocoa by a blazing fire.
The St. Paul Winter Carnival kicks off Jan. 28 and lasts through Feb. 7. Take that, you stupid New York reporters of the late 1800’s; Minnesota is not “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in the winter.” And with that, a cherished annual festival was created. Coronations, ice-carving contests, snow-block building, snow sculptures, a lavish torchlight parade, hockey tournaments, a 5k and half-marathon, maybe even snow soccer. Don’t be a wimp.
The Frostival event takes place Jan. 29-31 and comes with the awesome tagline, “North of Normal.” It’s always good to have some attitude for a winter festival. This event comes with all kinds of snow-based tournaments, including kickball, softball, disc golf and golf, as well as “snowga” (snow + yoga), a polar plunge, a bike race, and lots of activities for the young ones.
The Duluth Scottish Heritage Association sponsors the annual Robert Burns’ Night Dinner, this year taking place on Jan. 30. Dinner, poetic revelry, traditional music and dancing. No mention of whether or not haggis is on the menu. Reservations required.
The annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will start on Jan. 31The running of this race commemorates, as always, the life of John Beargrease, Chippewa native who delivered mail by dog sled along the frozen North Shore in the late 1800s. It’s the longest race in the lower 48, and acts as a qualifying run for Alaska’s Iditarod. Several days of events surround the actual race, which starts on Jan. 30.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.