Fun Winter Activities for the Whole Family

by | Dec 2023

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum outdoor trails.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum outdoor trails. Photo: Aldo Abelleira

Think out of the (gift) box when planning holiday experiences.

When guests come to town over the holidays, hosts can be hard-pressed when it comes to planning “things to do.” And a similar situation can be had when adult children return home for the holidays. While the excitement of having full beds and occupied seats around the dining table rarely takes a dip, there can be times when a little infusion of excitement and fun out of the house is needed.

There are many opportunities throughout the Metro to take a little holiday field trip. Let’s take a look at places to go and things to do that can put a whole lot of merry and happy in your holiday season. (We realize this is by no means a complete list. Hopefully, we can inspire you to discover new places.)


Exercising a bit of creativity is good for everyone’s soul. Visit the easily accessible art exhibits at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, 2240 N. Shore Drive, Wayzata; 952.473.7361;


Check out the public open skating schedule at the Plymouth Ice Center in preparation to carve ice with fellow skaters. 3650 Plymouth Blvd., Plymouth; 763.509.5260;

Plymouth Ice Center

Photo: Plymouth Ice Center


Charcuterie boards continue to be an entertaining fixture. Learn what takes a board from good to “grate” with the help of The Grater Good, 13315 106th St., Norwood Young America; 952.334.3225;

The Grater Good Charcuterie Board

Photo: Lucky Aspyn Photography


If you’re hungry for a new culinary challenge, cooking classes can satisfy your hankering. Visit The Abundant Kitchen, 223 Water St., Excelsior; 952.401.3682;


For those who want to get their Canadian on, try our northern neighbor’s other winter sport—Crokicurl, a hybrid of curling and the board game, Crokinole, where players flick small discs on an octagonal target to score points. Up your aim game at Central Park, 12000 Central Park Way, Maple Grove; 763.494.6474;

Crokicurl Rink

Photos: Maple Grove Parks and Recreation

note: The program received the 2022 award for innovative programing from the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association.


If you missed being a member of a winter Olympic team, play the part by taking group curling lessons at the Chaska Curling Center, 3210 Chaska Blvd., Chaska; 952.227.2475;

Tip: This is very popular, so you might have to book this for 2024.


Increase your knowledge of making spirits by dipping into a distillery, including J. Carver Distillery, 1320 Mill Lane, Waconia; 952.442.2433;


Don’t leave out your furry guests. If you’re not the only one suffering from cabin fever, bring your four-legged friend to an indoor dog park like Brew Park Plymouth, 2605 Fernbrook Lane. N. Suite J, Plymouth; 763.337.4433;


Embrace the Bold North with downhill and Nordic skiing, tubing and more thanks to incredible programming at the Three Rivers Park District, locations vary; 763.559.9000;

Tip: Be sure to check trail and hill accessibility and conditions and equipment rental.


Want to escape? Find out how well your group thinks on its feet during a stop at Breakout Games, 12369 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.300.6230;


Who doesn’t love a great holiday light show, especially from the warmth and comfort of your car? Check out the Magic of Lights at Viking Lakes, 2685 Vikings Circle, Eagan;


Lose yourself is wintry fun by navigating an ice maze. Try your cold-weather orienteering skills at the Minnesota Ice Maze, 2645 Vikings Circle, Eagan; 612.254.8330;

Minnesota Ice Maze

Photo: Minnesota Ice Maze


How does this sound? Ice skate around 10-acre “lake,” spread out among three ponds, which are connected by winding canals and give a decidedly “unsuburban” vibe at Centennial Lakes Parks, 7499 France Ave. S., Edina; 952.833.9580;


Test your collective courage without leaping out of an airplane during indoor skydiving at iFly, 12415 Wayzata Blvd. Suite 15, Minnetonka; 612.444.4359;


Photo: iFly

Tip: The photos ops alone are worth it.


Snowshoe through 11 miles of trails along more than 1,200 acres of woodland, prairie and open fields at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska; 612.624.2200;

Tip: Be sure to check on trail accessibility and equipment rental.


Who in your group is the holder of the most information (useless or otherwise) or is in constant pursuit of all things trivia? There are plenty of breweries and dining spots around the Metro that feature these questionable nights of fun.


Sip with a purpose during a wine tasting or tour of a local winery. Try Fountain Hill Winery & Vineyard, 731 County Road 30 SE, Delano;


Immerse yourself in the Westin Edina Galleria’s Winter Village. Throughout a three-month installation, the team offers weekly spirit and wine tastings, private dinners hosted by local chefs, special activities through its Weekend Wonders program at 3201 Galleria, Edina; 952.567.5000;

Westin Edina Galleria’s Winter Village

Photo: Lauren Engfer

Before you head out the door, be sure to check venues’ or activities’ availability. Scheduling can change after this issue’s publication.

Keep ’em Guessing

Add a little excitement or mystery to your hosting duties. Rather than telling family members where the upcoming field trip will take them, make a game of it by offering clues. The first to guess the destination can be the first in line, get the primo seat or even receive a small treat associated with the activity.

It Takes Two

The holidays can bring stress to families when they gather, and this can include when adult children are welcomed back into the household for a visit.

Tai J. Mendenhall, Ph.D., LMFT, 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. “Respect that. Don’t change the thermostat without asking them if it’s OK first. Clean up after yourself. Engage with them in authentic conversations—not while you scroll through social media and watch TV.” 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.

More to the Story

One might assume that family bonding happens early in a child’s life, and no more effort is required after a certain point. All relationships, including those between child and parent, need continued engagement.

“Relationships require ongoing work, maintenance and nurturing,” says Mendenhall. “… 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.”

In some households, family members stop engaging beyond routine interactions, which can include the ubiquitous queries of: How was your day? When will you be home? And the like. There’s a risk that this can happen between family households. “We don’t call each other just to check in, say ‘Hi’ or just share something great that happened at our child’s school or in our work,” says Mendenhall, a professor at the University of Minnesota and medical family therapist with M Health Fairview. “We experience visits as a chore and distraction from the things that we really want to do.”

Mendenhall reminds that family bonding should continue to be tended to maintain healthy connections. “Early attachment processes between infants/children and their caretakers (parents, grandparents, etc.) continue throughout the life course,” he says. “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. Have family Zoom calls every Sunday night for 30 minutes. Help each other with something around one of your respective homes. Don’t take each other for granted.”

“Cultivating and maintaining connections across generations is key in continuing family legacies, stories and related narratives,” Mendenhall continues to say. “Closeness, support and sense of belonging are basic human needs—and most of us receive (and offer) these things within family contexts.”


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