Freeze the day at these events and celebrations.
Winter is here, and for us hearty Minnesotans that means taking advantage of the unique things to do across our beautiful state. Luckily, the East Metro plays host to endless winter opportunities fit for the entire family. Which of these activities will you and your family be embracing this winter season?
Don’t Get Lost!
Viking Lakes in Eagan is home to The Minnesota Ice Festival, which celebrated its inaugural season last year. This event features an ice maze, complete with nearly half a mile of twists and turns. The maze is created out of one million pounds of ice and also includes ice thrones, fire pits, hot beverages, treats, a scavenger hunt and more. Plus, keep an eye out for the Winter Skolstice event happening in early 2024 at Viking Lakes. 2645 Vikings Circle, Eagan; 612.524.8330; minnesotaicemaze.com
Hit the Slopes
Celebrating its 60th anniversary on December 21, Afton Alps features fun for the whole family. Skiers and snowboarders will revel in 300 skiable acres and more than 50 runs, plus 18 lifts and five chalets. First-time students may enjoy lessons offered at the slopes, and everyone can enjoy slopeside dining at Paul’s Pub, The Crest or any of the three chalets. 6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings; 651.436.5245; aftonalps.com
Lace Up Your Skates
Head to the Outdoor Pleasure Rink at M Health Fairview Sports Center, 4125 Radio Drive, for classic ice skating. The rink welcomes visitors at no charge during drop-in hours. (No hockey sticks or pucks are allowed.) Skate rental and sharpening are available at $6/pair. For a game of hockey, head to local parks, including Colby Lake Park, 9175 Valley Creek Road; Kargel Park, 9301 Tamarack Road; Ojibway Park, 2695 Ojibway Drive; and Shawnee Park, 6515 Scheel Drive. woodburymn.gov
“Ooh” and “Aah” Over the Lights
Travel north to St. Croix Falls for the annual Miracle at Big Rock Creek celebration—where the magic of Christmas is neverending. Stroll through the one-mile-long light tour, make a s’more, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, visit with Santa, go on a sleigh ride and so much more. 1674 WI-87, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin; 715.501.8172; miracleatbigrock.com
Shop ‘til You Drop
Get a taste of Germany at St. Paul’s European Christmas Market, open the last weekend of November and the first three weekends in December. Sip a warm glass of glühwein (spiced mulled wine), try a taste of European delicacy, shop at more than 60 handmade vendors and enjoy intercultural activities and entertainment. 240 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; stpaulchristmasmarket.org
See You on the Trails
Add a pair of snowshoes to your gift list—and get snowshoeing this winter. Lake Elmo Park Reserve hosts over 10 miles of multiuse trails available to snowshoers. (Along with nearly 14 miles of ski trails and five miles of snowmobile trails.) Snowshoe rentals are available. Although the Park Office Building is closed on December 25 and January 1, 2024, the park remains open to visitors. 1515 Keats Ave. N., Lake Elmo; 651.430.8370; co.washington.mn.us
Washington County offers several cross country skiing trails. Trails are located at: Big Marine Park Reserve, 17495 Manning Trail N., Marine on St. Croix; Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, 9653 Keats Ave. S., Cottage Grove; Lake Elmo Park Reserve, 1515 Keats Ave. N., Lake Elmo; Pine Point Regional Park, 11900 Norell Ave. N., Stillwater; and St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, 10191 St. Croix Trail S., Hastings. Skiers must purchase a Washington County Ski Pass online or at a pay station or park office. co.washington.mn.us
Spirit of Minnesota
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival started in 1886 to showcase how locals in the Twin Cities embrace the cold. Now, the 10-day festival—taking place in early 2024—draws over 250,000 visitors and includes snow sculpting, ice bars, food competitions, torchlight parades and more. 75 W. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651.223.7400; wintercarnival.com
Before you head out the door, be sure to check venues’ or activities’ availability. Scheduling can change after this issue’s publication.
More to the Story
All relationships, including those between child and parent, need continued engagement.
“Relationships require ongoing work, maintenance and nurturing,” says Tai J. Mendenhall, Ph.D., LMFT. “… the reality is that most relationships that fail do so because of neglect. We’re ‘too busy’ with other things to authentically nurture our relationships. We begin to take each other for granted.”
Mendenhall, a professor at the University of Minnesota and medical family therapist with M Health Fairview, reminds us that family bonding should continue to be tended to maintain healthy connections. “… Relationships change and evolve, of course, as parents and children go from parent/child relationships to more adult/adult relationships, and this takes effort. Spend time together. Call each other … Don’t take each other for granted.”
The holidays can also bring stress to families when they gather, and this can include when adult children are welcomed back into the household for a visit.
Mendenhall reminds parents that their children are now adults. “The manners in which they do any variety of things may be different than the ways that you would do things (e.g., cook, hang a towel in the bathroom, drive), but your job as a parent is no longer to guide, teach, discipline, etc., like it was when they were young,” he says. “Pick your battles, and remember that the visit is temporary. Enjoy time together—visiting, sharing, playing games, seeing shows, exchanging gifts, etc.”
Adult children also have some things to bear in mind. “Remember that your parents are still your parents, and that you are staying in their home,” Mendenhall says. And he reiterates the importance of picking battles, recognizing the visit won’t last forever, enjoying that time together and employing the age-old adage—don’t sweat the small stuff. —Renee Stewart-Hester