During the past few absolutely frigid weeks, aside from my now perfected quick ice-shuffle/walk darting back and forth across the parking lot to my car, the icy weather had me wondering once again why it is that we actively choose to reside in Minnesota. Frankly, you’re probably wondering the same thing. But before you book that Bahamas getaway, grab your puffy coat and your fuzziest socks to rediscover and experience some truly beautiful and cozy retreats right here in Minnesota.
Tucked away in Minnesota’s Northwoods lies one of the best winter playgrounds. Giants Ridge is made for the outdoors enthusiasts, experts and novices alike, with no shortage of activities including alpine skiing, nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowtubing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. You can truly show off your skills with 35 downhill ski runs and excellent terrain for the snowboarders. Though if you’re more like me and would rather not hurle yourself down a mountain, there’s 60 km of nordic ski trails and 115 miles of trails along the Mesabi Trail for hiking and fat tire biking. You can also take a slower pace and enjoy the tranquil beauty exploring the Superior National Forest before you settle in at the lodge to warm up and refuel for your next adventure.
If you don’t have time for a full weekend retreat, Minnehaha Falls is the place to visit. The 53-foot falls freeze into a spectacular icy blue wonderland during the winter. You can enjoy the view from the footbridge above the falls or from the overlook area near the pavillion. After the mandatory Instagram picture, be sure to wander through Minnehaha Regional Park enjoying the river overlooks and limestone bluffs peeking from under a blanket of snow. The paved trails throughout the park are maintained even during the winter months in case you forget your snowshoes at home.
It will feel like you’ve actually stepped into Narnia when you journey up to the Gunflint Trail near the Boundary Waters. With an average snowfall of 120 inches, there’s no doubt you will find the perfect winter activity with 400 km of groomed cross-country ski trails, 450 miles of snowmobile trails, and 1,000 acres for alpine skiing and snowboarding. Hike through the Superior National Forest and experience the natural beauty of the Superior Hiking Trail on snowshoes or dogsled. And after your adventure candlelight skiing on the Pincushion Ski Trail you can engage in the Hygge life (the Danish practice of creating joy and coziness) by relaxing next to the fire at the Gunflint Lodge or Bluefin Bay Resorts.
Perfect for all ages and experience, Wintergreen has mastered the ultimate dogsled adventure. You’ll become a musher learning the skills to command a crew of strikingly stunning and friendly Canadian Eskimo sled dogs who love nothing more than to pull the sled and be out in the snowy wilderness. You soon will come to know each dog’s quirks and personality and can help harness, feed, and care for the dogs though unfortunately you can’t take one home with you. Wintergreen’s dogsled packages range from lodge to lodge trips, camping trips, and more adventurous expeditions with the Arctic Trek where you’ll explore more remote locations, ski, and snowshoe in addition to dogsledding.
An unexpected destination, Hudson is a great getaway that feels like an escape but is only 30 minutes away from the Twin Cities. Get snug in one of Hudson’s charming B&Bs and explore the historic downtown filled with unique shops and restaurants. And if you’re in the mood for outdoor winter recreation you can explore Willow River State Park by hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing the trails being sure to stop and admire the lovely Willow Falls. Hudson also offers snowtubing at Badlands Sno-Park with six tubing slopes, illuminating them at night for tubing fun after dark. If you plan your retreat in January be sure to go to the Hudson Hot Air Affair from January 26-28th where you’ll watch hot air balloon launches, fireworks, a torchlight parade, peruse vendors, and enjoy delicious eats.