Take a break from the ordinary and head to the great outdoors in Minnesota for a snowy mix of quirky, unique, exciting, and breath-taking winter thrills. From chasing Northern Lights, to improbable camp outs on frozen lakes, to roaring or swooshing through the wilderness, in Minnesota, winter means adventure.
Locals are expecting a super winter for visitors. In February the state throws open its icy arms to welcome fans to Super Bowl LII in the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Football fans will find plenty of thrills on the field as well as off in Minnesota.
Load up your snowmobile and broom and head north to Bemidji, Minnesota’s winter adventure capitol. The “First City on the Mississippi” is also knowns as the “Snowmobile Capital of the North” and “Curling Capital of USA.” Be welcomed to Bemidji by its most famous citizens, famed lumberjack Paul Bunyan and Babe, his Blue Ox. The statues stand proudly at the Bemidji Lake Tourist Information Center, where they have become the second most frequently photographed icons in the nation, according to the tourism office.
Bemidji is at the crossroads of Minnesota’s extensive trail system, with two major snow mobile -friendly trails intersecting there, according to Visit Bemidji. The Paul Bunyan Trail which originates at Lake Bemidji State Park, and runs 1,115 miles between Bemidji and Brainerd, and the Blue Ox Trail, running 110 miles north from Bemidji to International Falls, Winnipeg provide the opportunity for exhilarating adventure. Visit Bemidji challenges visitors to hone their snowmobile skills with rides across 1,000 frozen lakes along the Continental Divide, over bogs, beside rushing streams, up rolling hills, and through snow-draped forests. For tamer, scenic rides head to the Buena Vista Trail in Buena Vista State Forest, or head south on the Itasca and Becida Trails to Itasca State Park, site of the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
Catch the Olympics bug in Bemidji, with a trip to Bemidji Curling Club. Curling is the quirky shuffleboard-style game played on ice that has found a home in the Winter Olympics. Curious about the stones, brooms and all that yelling? Swing by the club to watch teams practice or catch a game. The club has a first-floor viewing area accessible to the public, as well as its upper level deck with a bar.
Upper Red Lake
At 228,000 acres, Red Lake is the largest lake within Minnesota and Upper Red Lake is one of the state’s most popular spots for ice fishing. In January and February, the surface of the lake often turns into a make-shift city, with “streets” lined with ice houses, and friends gathered together under impromptu street lights to share tales of world-class walleye, northern pike and crappie fishing.
True ice fishing fanatics come equipped with their own ice houses to lounge in comfort and fish through strategically placed holes in the floor, while those craving simpler times find an auger to make a hole, a fishing pole, and an upside down five-gallon bucket to sit on are enough for some winter bliss. Even novices can enjoy this Minnesota passion safely: Guides and gear are available for hire around Upper Red Lake and stay on the lake safely by renting an ice house from a trusted outfitter. Ice houses range from spartan day quarters, to heated, fully-outfitted sleeping cabins.
Lake Mille Lacs
For more ice fishing options – and more outdoor adventures — consider Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota’s third largest lake. Every weekend there’s a party somewhere on Lake Mille Lacs. Along with legendary ice fishing, the area features hundreds of miles of trails suitable for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. On a windy day, take a turn at Kite Boarding across the snow-covered lake. Lake Mille Lacs’ vast inland sea spans 132,500 acres holding up to 5,500 ice fishing houses during the winter. Groomed ice roads lead to the seasonal ice fishing villages, where visitors can rent ice houses for fishing or spearing.
The highlight of the Lake Mille Lacs ice fishing season is the International Eelpout Festival held in late February. The festival attracts a crowd of nearly 10,000 to tiny Walker, Minn., to celebrate the famously ugly bottom dwelling fish. According to festival organizers the International Eelpout Festival named one of the top “15 Weird Midwestern Festivals You Never knew Existed.”
For information about this year’s Eelpout Festival click here.
Mush for a memorable Minnesota day. Tiny Ely, population about 3,000, is home to more dog-sledding outfitters than anywhere else in the world. Whether you’re an experienced musher, or just a willing adventurer, Ely is the perfect place for a day gone to the dogs. Learn how to drive a team or just enjoy a ride in the sled in the dog-sledding capitol of the world.
Ely is about 150 miles from Duluth in Northern Minnesota and sits on the edge of the summer hotspot Boundary Waters Canoe area. In the winter, the hiking, canoeing, and fishing paradise becomes a winter wonderland. Along with dog-sledding, well-groomed trails are perfect for snowmobiling and snow shoeing. The town is also home to the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center
Visit Detroit Mountain, a non-profit center committed to promoting “sound environmental recreation and educational programming to develop the health and wellness of children, families and communities.” This four-season resort in the Detroit Lakes region, was a family owned resort for more than 50 years. When it closed its doors in 2004, residents banned together to figure out how to restore and revive the recreation area. Ten years of work and fundraising paid off when the Detroit Mountain Recreation area reopened. The revived park features a beautiful new lodge and redesigned mountain for skiing and snowboarding, as well as an all-new Scheels terrain park, tubing hill, and cross-country ski trails.
When you’re headed to the Detroit Lakes region, don’t forget your sleds. Becker County features more than 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.
You don’t have to go all the way to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. Cook County in northwestern Minnesota is the best place in the lower 48 to see nature’s spectacular light show. Cook County, Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior, is home to Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s tallest mountain, Grand Portage, the state’s tallest waterfall and an outstanding place for catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, and Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski resort in the Midwest. Outfitters in Grand Marais and Lutsen offer Northern Lights viewing packages and the Cook County visitors center offers do-it-yourself tips.
No matter which winter adventures you decide to take part in, make sure your winter toys are traveling in style and safety with a trip to M&G Trailer Sales and Service in Ramsey, Minnesota. At M &G you’ll find a full-line of snowmobile trailers and a top-notch service department to meet all your outdoor winter needs.