Published on January 19, 2022

Eight outdoor activities to take advantage of longer winter days

As much as many Minnesotans love summer, we also manage to embrace winter―although the time we spend outdoors is significantly less. Spending just 20 minutes a day outdoors reduces stress, boosts energy and helps you sleep better, according to a study conducted in 2019 by the University of Michigan. As the days continue to get longer, take advantage of the extra daylight by getting outside and enjoying some outdoor activities.

Minnesotans don’t get nearly the recommended amount of vitamin D in the winter months, which is when we need it the most, as vitamin D aids in fighting off infections. Stepping out to enjoy these activities can help reduce your stress while increasing your vitamin D levels. A win-win!

Here are a few nearby ideas:

  1. Cross-country skiing at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. The Arboretum maintains eight miles of ski trails that meander along 1,200-plus acres of woodland, prairie and open fields. Visit the Arboretum’s website to check for the latest trail conditions. https://www.arboretum.umn.edu/
  2. Kicksledding at the Lowry Nature Center in Victoria. Kicksledding is a great alternative to cross-country skiing for those who prefer a little more stability on snow or ice. Kicksleds were first used in Scandinavian countries. Learn more about their history and rent a kicksled at the Lowry Nature Center on frozen Crosby Lake. https://www.threeriversparks.org/location/lowry-nature-center
  3. Snowshoeing at the Ney Nature Center part of the Le Sueur County Park in Henderson. Snowshoe through the 446-acre park during the day or enjoy a peaceful winter night snowshoeing by candlelight. Visit their website for candlelight snowshoeing dates. https://neycenter.org/
  4. Dog sledding at Baylor Regional Park in Norwood Young America. Glide through candlelit trails on a dogsled―a fun outing for the whole family. Visit their website for dates. https://www.co.carver.mn.us/
  5. Fat-tire biking on the Dakota Rail Regional Trail. Fat-tire biking is a great way to extend the biking season into the winter. These bikes have thick tires that are designed for riding in rough terrain, like snow. The Dakota Rail Regional Trail is a paved trail that runs 25 miles from New Germany to Wayzata.
  6. Sledding at Lake Waconia Regional Park. The park features an 80-foot sledding hill with two runs; one run is smooth and straight while the other is more rugged and undulating. Bring your own sled and be prepared to walk up the hill on the designated trail.
  7. Ice-skating outdoors at several city sites including Hickory Park in Belle Plaine, the Le Sueur outdoor skating rink or at one of the six Chanhassen rinks open to the public this winter. Check each city’s website for locations and updates.
  8. Ice fishing on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Howard Lake, Waverly Lake and Lake Waconia all offer great ice fishing spots for walleye, northern and crappies. Always fish with a buddy and remember to check for thin ice.

No matter which way you choose to enjoy winter in Minnesota, be safe. The cold puts extra strain on your heart so take it slow and easy. Stay weather aware and know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.