Minnesota Activities: 15 Sledding and Tubing Hills you don’t want to miss!

15 MINNESOTA HILLS FOR SLEDDING & SNOW TUBING

Sledding near Elbow Lake - Orr - photo by Laura Dekowski

Sledding near Orr / Laura Detowski

There’s something magical about riding down a hill on a sled or tube. Perhaps it’s the exhilarating feeling of sitting just above the ground and sailing down a snow-covered slope. Or maybe it’s the nostalgia adults experience as they give their kids a push or watch them trek up a hill, sled in tow. While Minnesota’s landscape is different from north to south and east to west, opportunities to ride sleds and tubes down snowy hills can be found in all regions of the state.

Some of the state’s best sledding and tubing options are well known to folks who live in the area—local gems, of sorts—while others can be found at state parks or on other public properties. Some of them are free to use but require sledders or tubers to provide their own equipment. At others, riders can rent equipment, hang onto tow ropes to get back to the top of the hill, and warm up in heated shelters. Keep in mind, too, that some hills offer both sledding and tubing, while others provide opportunities for one or the other.

Sledding and tubing are fun wintertime activities for adults and children alike that, in many cases, require little in the way of skills or equipment beyond what most people already have. Simply dress warmly, grab a sled or tube, and head out to the hills for a day of fun.

Below are some of Minnesota’s best options for sledding and tubing, broken down by region. But consider this list just a start–with a little legwork, you’ll likely be able to uncover even more close-to-home places to spend the day riding down a hill.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AREA

NORTHEAST

CENTRAL

SOUTHERN

NORTHWEST

  • J.A. Hughes Elementary School, Red Lake Falls
  • Bemis Hill, Warroad
  • Croviseir Park, Detroit Lakes
  • Buena Vista Ski Area   http://www.bvskiarea.com/tubingpark.html

A NOTE ABOUT SAFETY

Sledding and tubing for many children in Minnesota is almost a rite of passage, but there is some risk involved anytime someone takes a ride down a hill. That goes for people riding plastic sleds or saucers, rubber tubes or wooden toboggans. Following are some tips from Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to ensure sledding and tubing is done as safely as possible:

  • Adults should accompany children on sledding adventures–and ride down the hill with kids who are under 5 years old.
  • Wear a helmet to prevent against head injury and avoid items such as scarves that can get wrapped around objects. Wear waterproof clothing, and pack extra along if you plan to stay out for an extended period of time.
  • Pick hills that don’t have fences, streets, trees and water nearby. Ensure there’s a flat area at the bottom to stop.
  • Take turns going down a hill to avoid collisions.

Minnesota Holiday Spirit: Tis the Season!

Winter in Minnesota is the perfect time of year to get together with loved ones, embrace old traditions, or even start some new ones. Here are just five of the many ways to make the most of this special season.

GET IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

A hallmark of the holiday season in Germany and Austria, holiday markets—called Christkindlmarkts—have made their way to Minnesota. Holidazzle will take place in Loring Park again this year and will feature more than 40 vendors selling ornaments, candles and other handcrafted gifts, as well as mulled wine and brats. Other highlights include fireworks, Santa visits, holiday movie screenings and free ice skating. The destination is open Thursdays-Sundays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23 and is free to attend.

Holiday plays and performances are a tradition for many families this time of year. Festive favorites include “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Rochester Civic Theatre, a dozen iterations of “The Nutcracker,” from classic to hip-hop, and Christmas concerts by artists including Kat Perkins, Blind Boys of Alabama, Lorie Line and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

For light shows worth a drive, don’t miss Duluth’s Bentleyville Tour of Lights, the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato and the Trester Trolley Light Tours in Winona. New in 2016, “Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” is the first large-scale outdoor light display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

EXPLORE A NATURE CENTER

Great gray owl in Duluth; photo by Amanda Burcar-Annis

Photo by Amanda Burcar Annis

Many of Minnesota’s nature centers are open year-round, offering opportunities to interact with wildlife and the winter landscape. Owls are a big draw at the Agassiz Audubon Center near Thief River Falls, which documented dozens of snowy owl sightings last year in the surrounding Red River Valley.

At the International Owl Center in southeastern Minnesota, Alice the resident great horned owl is so popular that the International Festival of Owls in early March is held in conjunction with her hatch day.

Since nature centers are often surrounded by trails, they make a great starting point for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Options include the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault (skiing and snowmobiling), Maplewood Nature Center (snowshoeing) and Hartley Nature Center in Duluth (skiing).

CHECK OUT A MUSEUM

At the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul, “Mindbender Mansion” makes critical thinking and problem solving fun, and “A Beautiful Planet” is featured in the Omnitheater. Open until mid-January, the “Gridiron Glory” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center features the Vince Lombardi trophy and other artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While you’re downtown, be sure to stop by Rice Park to see the ice sculptures and live entertainment as part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Other museums worth a winter visit include the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, the recently reopened Spam Museum in Austin, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which recently debuted a new entrance and restaurant as part of its major renovation project.

WARM UP AT A WATER PARK

Family Cascade Bay Water Park 440x440.jpgWaterslides, lazy rivers and splash pads aren’t just for the summer months. Several Minnesota water parks can be found indoors, offering a tropical escape no matter the weather.

Paul Bunyan Water Park, inside Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter, features tube and body slides, a treehouse equipped with water cannons and an indoor/outdoor hot tub. At the Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark in Duluth, a vortex pool allows guests to swim with or against a fast-moving current.

There’s even a waterpark right by Mall of America, so you can take a dip after completing all your holiday shopping. Find more options, from Bloomington to Alexandria to Thief River Falls, on the water parks page.

GO MAPLE SYRUPING

A sure sign that spring is coming, maple syrup demonstrations and festivals start cropping up in March. On Maple Syrup Day, the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone hosts a pancake brunch as part of its syrup celebration. Or see how the sap is gathered and turned into syrup, and get a taste of the end result, at the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.

Many Minnesota state parks, including Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Whitewater near St. Charles and Lake Maria near Monticello, offer maple syrup programs. Nature centers and other parks, like the Three Rivers Park District in the metro area, also get in on the fun.

Minnesota Statewide Fishing Report 12-15-17

Minnesota Statewide Fishing Reports
INFO AS OF 12-15-17

Northeast Minnesota

International Falls – Rainy Lake & the Rainy River

As of Tuesday, Dec. 12, staff at Voyageurs National Park state that there is not enough ice to start staking trails. All park snowmobile and ski trails remain closed due to the lack of safe load-bearing ice. For the most up-to-date information on Voyageurs’ ice and trail conditions check Voyageurs National Park’s website. 800-325-5766; www.rainylake.org

Kabetogama

Ice conditions have been improving daily. Fortunately, the last snowstorm fell apart, allowing the ice to form rapidly without a blanket of snow. Portable fish houses are starting to appear near the Kabetogama Visitor Center area and in areas southeast towards Sphunge Island and Duck Bay. Anglers are reporting lots of success with jumbo perch and walleye. Foot travel and light machines are the best modes of travel at this time. Always check with the Park Service (Facebook and website page) for the most up-to-date ice conditions. Anglers are asked to only travel in areas that have been checked. Spear fishing has been exceptional, some say the best in years! Tom Cod Bay is producing numerous pike, along with many trophies. No one is going home disappointed. Anyone planning to fish the Tom Cod Bay area should give Sandy Point Resort a call for the most current reports. 800-524-9085; www.kabetogama.com

Duluth – Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters

Ice is beginning to stabilize. There are some decent ice conditions for walking and even a few areas where snowmobiles and ATVs can access the ice. As always, extreme caution must be taken when heading out. At this time, the ice cannot support vehicles. Ice on area lakes averages 5 to 12 inches thick depending on size of the lake and other factors. Most of the small to mid-size inland lakes have the thickest ice for ice fishing — the deeper lakes that hold a larger volume of water are lagging behind. The smaller lakes can be the most productive fishing lakes for fast action, whether it’s chasing tip-ups for northern pike, bass or the occasional walleye, or jigging for panfish. Anglers are having the most success when fishing the vegetation. Use small 1/32–ounce jigs tipped with a couple spikes or a wax worm for panfish and an occasional predatory fish. A nice set-up is a dead stick hole with a crappie minnow under a float about one-quarter off the bottom, and a jig stick hole nearby. Crappies seem to be most active at dusk, but a few are being taken throughout the day. Tip-ups are working well near shorelines in shallower waters. Northern pike and bass are fun to fish for during the day, with walleyes are showing up in the late afternoons and past dark. The ice on the St. Louis River is dangerous in many locations. While some anglers are starting to venture out onto the Duluth Harbor, the ice ranged from 1.5 to 4 inches at the time of the report. Just because you witness somebody walking on areas that look “sketchy” doesn’t mean that you should. For those that fish the river system, it is important to have the proper safety equipment and always check the ice often! No ice reports are available for Lake Superior. 800-438-5884; www.visitduluth.com

Grand Rapids

While all of the Grand Rapids area lakes have frozen over, many still do not have enough ice for vehicle travel. Fortunately, ice is building daily. Crappies and bluegills are active on several area lakes and panfishing will remain good throughout most of the winter. Walleye anglers are starting to move away from the breaklines near shore, venturing out to off shore locations and points – the sunken islands are generally the best bet. Early and late in the day are usually best for walleye, especially at the edges of the structure where walleye travel to feed. Sometimes the window of opportunity is an hour or so or just a few minutes can make a difference. Cloudy days can extend the period of time the walleye will feed. Having 2 to 3 rods rigged and ready to go can be key to getting bite. A ripping rapala, which is a slow falling bait with action and sound can be a stellar presentation when trying to attract a school of nearby walleye. Once visible on the electronics, drop a spoon tipped with a minnow head to get a hit — just a slight jiggling often does the trick. The best depths are anywhere from 8 to 20 feet depending on the lake. Big Cutfoot, Sand, Ruby, Long, Moose and Bowstring lakes are all good early season lakes. Most importantly, please use caution while enjoying the early season walleye bite. www.visitgrandrapids.com

Northwest Minnesota

Baudette – Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

Ice fishing is excellent on Lake of the Woods, however, ice conditions vary throughout the lake so anglers are asked to please work through a resort and use their ice roads which are checked daily. Lake trails are being staked by the resorts. Auger extensions may be necessary in some areas. Walleye and sauger are active, hitting almost anything with a shiner attached. Color does not seem to be a factor. Northern pike action remains great in back bays. On the Rainy River, ice stretches from shore to shore but it is unsafe for travel. At the Northwest Angle, the lake is frozen over with good ice in most areas, however, there are some areas with weak spots. ATV and snowmobile travel should only occur on designated and marked trails. The resorts are checking ice conditions often, marking trails, and now placing houses. There are 10 to 15 inches of ice where resorts are taking their guests, and fishing is reported to be excellent. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com

Bemidji

A week of cold temperatures has allowed good ice to develop. While most area lakes have 10 to 12 inches of solid ice, it is still extremely important to check conditions before venturing out. Walleye and perch are biting on Lake Bemidji, especially on the south end of the lake. Nice numbers of perch and a few walleye are being pulled from Lake Irving. Some nice bluegills are coming from Midge and Gull lakes. Grace Lake is kicking out some crappies, along with a few walleye. 800-458-2223; www.visitbemidji.com

Hackensack Area Lakes

Many anglers are accessing the ice on the small to medium-sized lakes. Some of the larger lakes also have fishable ice, but pockets of open water have just frozen over on Pine Mountain, Pleasant, Birch and Baby lakes. Anglers must be extremely careful on all area lakes due to inconsistent ice thickness from lake to lake, and often from one area to another on the same lake. Panfish action has been very good on the smaller area lakes. Crappies are hitting hard in the evening and sometimes during the day in depths of 14 to 18 feet of water. Sunfish have been active early in the day until early afternoon along the significant weed edges in 6 to 16 feet of water. Walleye reports are picking up now that more anglers are heading out. The best reports are coming from Birch, Baby and Leech lakes. Anglers having the most success are using rainbows and shiners on the deep weed edges. 800-279-6932; www.hackensackchamber.com

Detroit Lakes

The Detroit Lakes area had a good week of ice-making with consistent cold temperatures and very little snow. Ice on most pf the shallow basin lakes ranges from 9 to 14 inches thick. Most anglers continue to walk out, but some are using ATVs/UTVs. It will probably be another week to 10 days before vehicle traffic is an option. All fish species have been relating to the outside weed edges. Use small jigs tipped with plastics or wax worms for the panfish. For walleye, try vertical jigging baits tipped with a minnow head or half a minnow. Little Detroit Lake is producing some nice crappies and bluegills off the weed edges in 10 to 12 feet of water. The best technique is a small jig tipped with wax worms or spikes. Big Floyd Lake is giving up bluegills off the green weeds in 10 to 14 foot depths. Walleyes are active early and late in the day, hitting Swedish pimples with minnow heads in 12 to 17 feet of water on Melissa and Sallie lakes. Northern pike are active on many area lakes. As always, please check with a resort or bait shop for the most current ice conditions for the lake you intend to fish. 800-542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Otter Tail Area Lakes

While there is some good ice for ice fishing, there is also a lot of open water. Anglers are asked to use extreme caution, and plan ahead before heading out. Traveling by foot is very peaceful. Walleye anglers will want to head for areas that are best in late-May and early-June. Use a jigging spoon on one line, and hang a nice sucker or shiner on a set line for the most success. Northern pike should be near the walleye on many lakes this time of year. A sucker on a tip up or rattle reel can work wonders. They’re a lot of fun to catch on “hand” lines. For panfish, check out the mid-depth weed flats and holes in the lake’s basin. Keep an eye on the weather and shifting ice conditions if you’re going to head out on a lake this week. 800-423-4571; www.ottertailcountry.com

Alexandria Area Lakes

As of late last week, the ice on Alexandria area lakes was very inconsistent, ranging from 1 to 10 inches thick. It was so variable that while some anglers were already using wheel houses in some areas, there were lakes that had just frozen over. Overall, fishable ice could be found around the edges of most small- to medium-sized bodies of water. 800-245-2539; www.explorealex.com

Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs

There is 4 to 8 inches of ice in Isle Bay on Lake Mille Lacs, with nice numbers of northern pike and walleye being taken. Last weekend, three northern pike measured between 41 and 42 inches. Anglers will want to brush up on specific Lake Mille Lacs regulations for both species. Learn more at the DNR’s Mille Lacs Lake fishing regulations web page. 888-350-2692; www.millelacs.com

Traditional Minnesota Food; Transformation!

When you think of Minnesota food, you might think of a few classic staples: nutty wild rice, flaky walleye, and stick-to-your-guts hot dish. http://whitebirchresort.net

Change, of course, has arrived with a vengeance as a food revolution has swept the state, and tradition is increasingly seen as a platform for invention. Chefs around the state revel in adapting and sometimes completely transforming hidebound dishes, creating menus that riff playfully on familiar flavors and foods.

MPLS Dog

MPLS DOG AT UNCLE FRANKY’S, TWIN CITIES

Diners know the Chicago Dog and the Coney Island Dog but how about the MPLS Dog? Stop into Uncle Franky’s to enjoy this new creation. The MPLS Dog is an all beef hot dog topped with hot dish, a drizzle of ketchup, Cheese-Whiz and crispy tater tots. You can find the MPLS Dog at Uncle Franky’s in Minneapolis, Fridley and Plymouth.

GRAND VIEW LODGE DINING ROOM, NISSWA

Plunge into a venison wild rice meatloaf at the Grand View Lodge Dining Room if you’d like to experience an elevated take on a Midwestern classic. The venison and wild rice take you to the arboreal wilds, and the presentation and technique bring you back into the comfort of civilization.

PIGGY BLUE’S BAR-B-QUE, AUSTIN

SPAM takes center stage in Austin, Minnesota, home of the famous canned ham that fueled American troops through multiple wars (and became an intrinsic part of Hawaiian and Korean cultures in the process.) Stop by Piggy Blue’s Bar-B-Que for a Spam Town Po’ Boy or Spam Burger.

FITGER’S BREWHOUSE, DULUTH

Fitger’s is a food, drink and music hub of Duluth’s social scene, so it’s no surprise that they’ve got some inventive takes on local flavor. The brewpub’s smoked fish salad uses smoked trout from local smokehouse Northern Waters, wild rice and smoked dressing, and it brings a hearty does of flavor to the table.

If you’re up for something a bit more edgy, try the Northern Waters Smokehaus Whitefish Burger, where the locally caught fish is seasoned with breadcrumbs, eggs, mustard and spice, served on a ciabatta roll and finished with wasabi mayonnaise.

Blue Door Pub burger
Photo courtesy of The Blue Door Pub

THE BLUE DOOR PUB, ST. PAUL & MINNEAPOLIS

The humble cheese-stuffed hamburger known as the Jucy Lucy got its start in South Minneapolis taverns like Matt’s, Adrian’s and the 5-8 Club. But it has been taken to inventive heights by the team behind The Blue Door Pub in St. Paul, with a new location in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood.

The Blue Door’s menu swims with creative versions of the stuffed favorite, but the one that caught our eye was the Bangkok Blucy, stuffed with coconut milk-soaked mozzarella and topped with pickled carrots, cucumbers, red onion, and ginger with a side of curry for dunking.

THE BOATHOUSE, ELY

Craft beer has come to Minnesota’s vacation country in force, as evidenced by frontier brewpubs like the newly founded Boathouse in Ely. The Boathouse’s beer-battered walleye uses house-made craft beer and thereby managed to capture a good percentage of a successful fishing trip in each bite taken.

Alternately, take your walleye to Mexico via India with the brewpub’s fish taco, which features breaded strips of fish on naan bread with shredded cheddar and a side of broccoli slaw.

Cold?…Here’s 5 Hot Drinks for Winter Weather!

Hot Cocoa - Photo by Angelica King
Photo by Angelica King

After hitting the slopes, riding the trails or attending an outdoor festival in Minnesota this winter, sipping something warm will taste twice as delicious. Minnesotans are no strangers to creative hot beverages, and there are generally some tempting options to wrap your hands around no matter what part of the state you’re in. Here are five hot drinks to keep you warm this winter:

BOMBAY COCOA FROM GOLDEN FIG FINE FOODS, ST. PAUL

There’s nothing quite like a mug of hot cocoa when the mercury dips below freezing. And while the old-fashioned standard is a comforting favorite, there are shops around Minnesota playing with the beverage, updating it and tricking it out with some new features. Take, for example, St. Paul’s Golden Fig local foods store, where one of the house blends includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,and a host of other spices; it’s known as “Bombay Cocoa,” and it evokes chai tea with a chocolatey kick. A percentage of every bag sold goes to organizations that support women coffee growers in their country of origin, and the company sources its beans from female growers whenever possible.

CITY GIRL COFFEE FROM ALAKEF, DULUTH

Coffee is not merely coffee. Good coffees are often the product of great stories, like the one behind City Girl Coffee from Alakef. After taking over her family’s 25-year-old Duluth-based roasting company, Alakef owner Alyza Bohbot created City Girl as a sustainable coffee company dedicated to empowering women in the coffee industry. A percentage of every bag sold goes to organizations that support women coffee growers in their country of origin, and the company sources its beans from female growers whenever possible.

TOM AND JERRY, STATEWIDE

If you grew up drinking the hot cocktail known as a Tom and Jerry, you have some sense of why it’s a such a good friend to those of us living in northern states. And if you didn’t, it’s time to get acquainted with this slice of Upper Midwestern beverage culture. According to the Dictionary of International Food and Cooking Terms (Myra Waldo, 1967), a Tom and Jerry is “a hot frothy alcoholic drink made with beaten egg yolks, stiffly beaten egg whites, rum, sugar, boiling water, bourbon and spices, served in mugs with a sprinkling of nutmeg.” As per an authoritative story about the cocktail, “most modern aficionados replace the water with milk and the bourbon with brandy.”

You can buy Tom and Jerry mix at stores, but if you can’t find it, there’s a great recipe for the cocktail online.

CARDAMOM LATTE FROM ANELACE COFFEE, MINNEAPOLIS

Anelace Latte_Becca Dilley
Photo by Becca Dilley

There’s nothing like a finely crafted coffee drink, particularly when the weather goes polar on you. Anelace Coffee, on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, makes some of the most beautifully balanced and smooth coffee drinks in the state. The use of a bit of cardamom syrup gives this latte a Nordic-inspired wintry flavor that is incomparable when the snow starts to fly.

HOT CIDER, STATEWIDE

Minnesota is a great state for apples: The climate and soil are friendly to the fruit, and the University of Minnesota has done a great deal to ensure new and delicious varietals keep popping up in markets around the country. Most cafes will offer hot cider of some sort, particularly in the autumn through early winter months. And if you’re interested in something a bit stronger that still packs an apple punch, you can find ambitious artisan hard ciders from makers all over the state, including Milk and Honey Ciders (Cold Spring), Keepsake Cidery (Dundas) and Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery (Spring Valley).

Find Minnesota coffee shops and other places to sip in our Drink & Eat directory.

5-WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF A MINNESOTA WINTER

Winter in Minnesota is the perfect time of year to get together with loved ones, embrace old traditions, or even start some new ones. Here are just five of the many ways to make the most of this special season.

GET IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT

Bentleyville Tour of Lights

Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

A hallmark of the holiday season in Germany and Austria, holiday markets—called Christkindlmarkts—have made their way to Minnesota. Holidazzle will take place in Loring Park again this year and will feature more than 40 vendors selling ornaments, candles and other handcrafted gifts, as well as mulled wine and brats. Other highlights include fireworks, Santa visits, holiday movie screenings and free ice skating. The destination is open Thursdays-Sundays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 23 and is free to attend.

Holiday plays and performances are a tradition for many families this time of year. Festive favorites include “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Rochester Civic Theatre, a dozen iterations of “The Nutcracker,” from classic to hip-hop, and Christmas concerts by artists including Kat Perkins, Blind Boys of Alabama, Lorie Line and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

For light shows worth a drive, don’t miss Duluth’s Bentleyville Tour of Lights, the Kiwanis Holiday Lights in Mankato and the Trester Trolley Light Tours in Winona. New in 2016, “Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum” is the first large-scale outdoor light display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

EXPLORE A NATURE CENTER

Great gray owl in Duluth; photo by Amanda Burcar-Annis

Photo by Amanda Burcar Annis

Many of Minnesota’s nature centers are open year-round, offering opportunities to interact with wildlife and the winter landscape. Owls are a big draw at the Agassiz Audubon Center near Thief River Falls, which documented dozens of snowy owl sightings last year in the surrounding Red River Valley.

At the International Owl Center in southeastern Minnesota, Alice the resident great horned owl is so popular that the International Festival of Owls in early March is held in conjunction with her hatch day.

Since nature centers are often surrounded by trails, they make a great starting point for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Options include the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault (skiing and snowmobiling), Maplewood Nature Center (snowshoeing) and Hartley Nature Center in Duluth (skiing).

CHECK OUT A MUSEUM

At the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul, “Mindbender Mansion” makes critical thinking and problem solving fun, and “A Beautiful Planet” is featured in the Omnitheater. Open until mid-January, the “Gridiron Glory” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center features the Vince Lombardi trophy and other artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While you’re downtown, be sure to stop by Rice Park to see the ice sculptures and live entertainment as part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Other museums worth a winter visit include the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, the recently reopened Spam Museum in Austin, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which recently debuted a new entrance and restaurant as part of its major renovation project.

WARM UP AT A WATER PARK

Family Cascade Bay Water Park 440x440.jpgWaterslides, lazy rivers and splash pads aren’t just for the summer months. Several Minnesota water parks can be found indoors, offering a tropical escape no matter the weather.

Paul Bunyan Water Park, inside Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter, features tube and body slides, a treehouse equipped with water cannons and an indoor/outdoor hot tub. At the Edgewater Hotel & Waterpark in Duluth, a vortex pool allows guests to swim with or against a fast-moving current.

There’s even a waterpark right by Mall of America, so you can take a dip after completing all your holiday shopping. Find more options, from Bloomington to Alexandria to Thief River Falls, on the water parks page.

GO MAPLE SYRUPING

A sure sign that spring is coming, maple syrup demonstrations and festivals start cropping up in March. On Maple Syrup Day, the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone hosts a pancake brunch as part of its syrup celebration. Or see how the sap is gathered and turned into syrup, and get a taste of the end result, at the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes.

Many Minnesota state parks, including Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Whitewater near St. Charles and Lake Maria near Monticello, offer maple syrup programs. Nature centers and other parks, like the Three Rivers Park District in the metro area, also get in on the fun.

All signs point to a great deer season in Minnesota 2017

Ready for Deer Opener? Here’s the Deer Season outlook for 2017 whitebirchresort.net
BEMIDJI, Minn. — John Williams likes to use a pendulum analogy when talking about deer populations in northwest Minnesota, and right now, the pendulum is swinging from “not enough deer” to “too many deer” in several areas, the longtime wildlife manager says.

That should translate into good hunting opportunities when Minnesota’s firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4—a full six days before North Dakota’s deer gun season, which opens at noon Friday, Nov. 10.
“In some places, we do have some issues with too many deer already,” said Williams, Northwest Region wildlife supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji. “We’re going to have to keep our finger on that. That pendulum swings pretty fast when it’s in the middle of a swing like that, and I think we’re there in a couple of spots.”

One of those spots is Permit Area 241, Williams said, a large block of prime deer habitat that runs along U.S. Highway 10 from Detroit Lakes southeast to Staples and north to the Park Rapids area. The permit area is one of only a handful across the state to fall under the “Intensive” management designation, where hunters can purchase tags to take as many as three deer.
“It’s absolute classic deer habitat in that transition zone” from prairie to forest, Williams said.

On the grow

Another mild winter on top of the previous two mild winters largely has enabled deer populations to be at or near goal levels in most permit areas, DNR officials say—in turn moving the pendulum toward abundance.

Fawn production also was good this year, another indication of does coming through the winter in good health.

Almost without exception, deer limits in permit areas across northwest Minnesota are one level more liberal than last year, Williams said. Some permit areas moved from a designation of Lottery, which requires hunters to apply in advance to shoot an antlerless deer, to a Hunter Choice designation that allows a hunter to use one license to shoot either a buck or antlerless deer.

Other permit areas changed designations from Hunter Choice to Managed. In permit areas designated as Managed, hunters can take two deer through use of a regular license and a bonus antlerless permit. Permit areas that stayed in the Lottery designation this year may have more permits available than in previous years.

“People are expecting a good deer season, and I believe they’ll get one, too,” Williams said. “There are places (where) we might be in that area where we’re going to have to start pushing back and looking to drop deer toward goal as opposed to raising deer toward goal.”
In that context, managers will keep an eye on this year’s deer season, he said.
“If we have good weather, I’m anticipating a pretty doggone good statewide harvest,” Williams said. “I’m not going to stick my neck out and say how much, but I’m expecting to see a significant increase over what last year’s figure was. “And then we’ll have to see how the winter goes for what we might be suggesting for the coming year after this.” bemidjipioneer.com

DNR expects increase

In a news release, Paul Telander, DNR wildlife chief, said the department expects hunters will shoot about 200,000 whitetails by the time the state’s final deer season closes Sunday, Dec. 31.

Hunters last year shot 173,213 deer between the firearm, archery and muzzleloader seasons—well below the record harvest of 290,525 in 2003, but similar to the most recent 20-year average of 205,959, Telander said.

The firearms season is by far the most popular option for Minnesota deer hunters, and hunters last year purchased 372,645 firearms deer licenses and shot 144,470 deer for a success rate of 32 percent, the DNR said. About 61 percent of those deer were antlered bucks.

Before 2000, hunters shot more than 200,000 deer only four times between the three seasons, he said.

“The high harvests in the early 2000s occurred at a time when the over-riding harvest strategy was to reduce the deer population so it wouldn’t grow out of control, as had happened in certain eastern states, and to address certain environmental, economic and social concerns,” Telander said in the news release. “Deer harvests in excess of 225,000 occurred only once in the 1990s.

“Going further back, the harvests in the 1970s never topped 100,000. The harvests in the 1980s were under 150,000. Today, there’s growing discussion in the hunting community as to what’s a reasonable harvest target, and that’s a good conversation to have.”

One thing’s for sure: If the extended weather forecast holds, hunters in northwest Minnesota won’t encounter the balmy temperatures they experienced for last year’s firearms deer opener. According to Intellicast, the extended forecast in Bemidji calls for a high of 35 degrees and a 60 percent chance of light snow for Saturday’s opener.

Season dates

Here’s a look at dates for Minnesota’s firearms deer season. More Info: dnr.state.mn.us

• Nov. 4-19: 100 series permit areas.

• Nov. 4-12: 200 series permit areas.

• Nov. 4-12: 300 series Season A.

• Nov. 18-26: 300 series Season B.

THE THRILL OF THE HUNT:GEOCACHING

GEOCACHING: Fun for Everyone!
The equivalent of a modern-day treasure hunt, geocaching takes people to places they otherwise may never have gone. Joshua Johnson, for example, has followed his passion for geocaching–a location-based game in which participants navigate to hidden caches–by cliffs near Duluth and to parks all across Minnesota. He’s discovered waterfalls he never knew existed, happened upon interesting sculptures, and discovered some of the most beautiful scenery he’s ever laid eyes on.
http://www.exploreminnesota.com

“One of the biggest things that I love about geocaching is all the places that it brings you,” said Johnson, 40, who maintains a popular YouTube channel devoted to the hobby. “There are so many awesome and hidden treasures in our state. I get exposed to all these new and different places that I would never necessarily know about because somebody hid a geocache there.”

The basic concept behind geocaching is relatively simple: Participants use handheld global positioning system (GPS) devices or their smartphones to navigate to the latitude and longitude coordinates where other participants have hidden caches. Caches are listed on at geocaching.com/play, a popular geocaching website. Every cache includes one rating for how difficult it is to find, and another that describes the difficulty of the terrain on which the cache is hidden. The caches themselves are often waterproof containers that blend in with the surrounding landscape.

The easiest caches to locate might be in a small park and easy to see because they’re hanging from a tree. In other cases, the general location of caches is easy to find, but they might be disguised as rocks or sticks. And then there are the really tough ones: “I’ve found one that required me to rappel off the side of a cliff near Duluth,” said Johnson, who advises beginners to start with caches that have low difficulty ratings. “I had to have special equipment and go along with someone who knew what they were doing.”

Once geocachers locate a cache, they can take one of the trinkets that’s been left inside. The rule is they must leave something of equal or greater value for the next person. Generally speaking, however, it’s not about the object itself. “It’s all about the thrill of the hunt,” Johnson said. And some caches simply provide clues that players use to find another cache in the area.

While some caches are hidden on private land, the majority are on public land throughout the state. Every state park, for example, has at least one cache hidden within its boundaries. There also are 35 state parks where players can check out GPS units and receive more geocaching instruction. The DNR also offers a number of geocaching programs and events at state parks. Nearer the Twin Cities, the Three Rivers Park District also offers a robust geocaching program, as well as specific events related to the activity. There are caches hidden in Minnesota’s Chippewa and Superior national forests, and in city and county parks throughout the state.

YEAR-ROUND ACTIVITY
Geocaching can be done all year long and be easily combined with other activities. In the fall, it takes you into the woods among the leaves while they change color. In the winter, it can be combined with skiing or snowshoeing, or spend part of your time fishing or downhill skiing. In the spring and summer, it fits in well with fishing, hunting, or any family resort or camping vacation. whitebirchresort.net

Learning to Fatbike for fitness and fun as winter soon returns!

As the winter winds begin to shift and blow into our office, here in Minnesota, thoughts turn toward the snow covered trails. We are lucky here to enjoy a massive amount of trails that are designed for winter riding. But if you are like me and new to the whole Fatbiking thing, how do you get into it and what should you expect? whitebirchresort.net

The Fatbike
Fatbikes are more like normal mountain bikes than you may think. As an example, the only parts unique to most fat tired bikes are the crank, tires and wheels. Other than those things, all the other parts are interchangeable with you normal mountain bike. That being said, the parts that make a fat tired bike different are responsible for their namesake. The large wheels and tires give these fatbikes their flotation on soft surfaces like snow and sand. There are now several brands available at most price points so getting into the sport has never been easier. Plus many bike shops offer rental programs.

The Fatbike Ride
The best part about a fatbike is that it extends your season with an all new cycling experience. For the most part, when snow was falling, people were kept from riding. Now, with so many fat tired bike options, a thick layer of the white stuff simply means more riding for all! With 4”-5” wide tires and pressures as low as 4psi, a fatbike can easily navigate deep snow. The only issue you will run into is ice. An icy surface doesn’t really care how wide the tire is, it’s still slippery. Once a trail gets slick it’s best to either change your tires to studded versions, or install studs in your existing tires. With studs below you, the game is back on.

The Gear
I find the hardest part of fatbiking is dressing properly. I am no stranger to winter riding, but most of that has been commuting. Once I got off road, I found that I was chronically overdressed. Off road riding is slower than commuting, so there is less wind chill to contend with. Additionally, I find it is a higher effort (more calories spent) to fatbike than to commute. When winter riding make sure your feet and hands are warm with good gloves and winter shoes. I also find you should wear warm cycling clothes that will wick the moisture away and resist the urge to wear too much clothing.

Having Fun
The most fun part of riding a fatbike is experiencing an existing trail you may have used before, in a new way. With a fresh coat of snow on the ground, features that may normally be difficult get smoothed out and sections that are typically easy, can become difficult. That change in perspective gives all new life to trails that may have become old and commonplace to you. So get out there and try fatbiking this winter.

Minnesota:The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 vs. Weather for Halloween 2017

Here’s the weather forecast for our Halloween 2017..could it turn into The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 Local Weather Report whitebirchresort.net
… GUSTY WINDS AND LIGHT SNOW THURSDAY INTO THURSDAY NIGHT… NORTH WINDS GUSTING TO 40 TO 50 MPH ARE EXPECTED ALONG AND WEST OF THE RED RIVER VALLEY THURSDAY INTO THURSDAY EVENING. THESE STRONG WINDS WILL ALSO BRING DOWN COLDER AIR, ALLOWING THE LIGHT RAIN TO MIX WITH AND CHANGE TO LIGHT SNOW, ESPECIALLY THURSDAY AFTERNOON INTO THURSDAY EVENING. AT THIS POINT, IT APPEARS THAT MOST OF THE AREA CAN EXPECT A DUSTING TO AN INCH OR TWO OF SNOW DURING THIS TIME FRAME. THERE ARE OTHER IMPACTS TO CONSIDER AS WELL. WIND CHILL READINGS ARE EXPECTED TO DIP INTO THE SINGLE DIGITS ABOVE ZERO BY FRIDAY MORNING. GROUND TEMPERATURES WILL BE WARM INITIALLY, BUT AS AIR TEMPERATURES FALL THURSDAY NIGHT INTO FRIDAY MORNING, AND WITH THE CONTINUED GUSTY NORTH WINDS, ROADS COULD BECOME SLICK IN SPOTS. LIGHT SNOW FALLING WITH STRONG WINDS COULD ALSO RESULT IN LOW VISIBILITIES. STAY TUNED FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS SYSTEM OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS, BUT BE PREPARED.www.accuweather.com/en/us/blackduck-mn/56630/weather-warnings
The 1991 Halloween Storm Facts:
At the time, the 36.9″ of snow that fell at Duluth set the state record for storm total snowfall. That was surpassed in 1994.
Snow began in Duluth at about 1:00 pm on October 31st, and did not end until 1:00 pm on November 3rd, meaning that snow fell continuously on the city for about 72 hours.
Moderate to heavy snow fell in Duluth with as much as 2 inches per hour from about 11:00 am on November 1st to about 2:00 am on November 2nd – about 15 hours.
Blowing snow was reported in Duluth for 33 consecutive hours, starting at 2 PM on November 1st. Winds regularly gusted to between 30 and 40 MPH. Visibilities were frequently near zero. https://www.weather.gov/dlh/1991halloweenblizzard

The snowstorm that hit parts of the area starting around Halloween (October 31 – November 3) in 1991 was an impressive storm in many respects, and it is still remembered by many people across the Northland. In fact, this storm was set up, in part, by the weather patterns that caused the “Perfect Storm” that struck the East Coast of the United States, and was famously depicted in Sebastian Junger’s book. Moreover, the “Perfect Storm” was beginning to wind down in the Northeast on Halloween, around the same time that Minnesota was starting to see heavy snow creeping in. To have two exceptional storms impacting the continental United States at the same time is quite rare.

What Happened:
During the height of trick-or-treating- the storm began as rain, then changed quickly to freezing rain and before the evening was over, it was snowing. It continued to snow for two more days, with final totals of 36.5 inches at the Duluth Airport and 45 inches in Superior. A large area of more than 20 inches of snow covered most of the northwest quarter of Wisconsin from Bayfield to River Falls and near the eastern half of Minnesota. At times the snow fell at a rate of two inches per hour and was accompanied by thunder and lightning. In addtion, winds gusting to to 40 mph created huge snowdrifts and zero visibility.

The “Halloween Blizzard” was made possible by a strong Arctic cold front that surged south through the central United States several days prior. On October 28, 1991, temperatures in advance of the cold front were quite pleasant as high temperatures reached into the 70s from the Mid Mississippi River Valley south into North Texas, and into the 80s across much of central and southern Texas. Meanwhile, high temperatures did not crack 20 degrees across most of Montana and Wyoming.

The contrast between the two air masses was stark, and by the morning of October 29th, the cold front was already about halfway through Texas. At 6 AM CST, the temperature in Amarillo, TX had plummeted to 22 degrees with a stiff northerly breeze. Abilene, TX was reporting a temperature of 40, while Dallas came in at 64 – a 24 degree difference over about 180 miles. Meanwhile, morning lows were much more frigid to the north – in the single digits across Montana and Wyoming, and in the teens (with snow) in the Dakotas.

A broad upper level trough, or low pressure area was in place over the western US at this time, with one particular shortwave (a disturbance, or small area of low pressure aloft) lifting northeast through the Dakotas, and another digging to the southeast into the Intermountain West. By October 30th, the cold front had reached the Texas shoreline with the Gulf of Mexico, and stalled in that location. As the shortwave aloft rounded the base of the broad trough and approached the southern Plains, it aided the development of an area of surface low pressure along the sharp temperature gradient near the Texas Gulf Coast. The development of low pressure systems along coastal fronts in this fashion is relatively common in the cool season along the Texas Gulf Coast and along the Atlantic Seaboard near the Gulf Stream current.

From October 30th into the 31st, this low pressure system slowly became better organized over Texas, before it ejected north over the Mississippi River Valley. This trajectory of a low pressure track (almost due north from the western Gulf) is climatologically favorable to produce very heavy snowfall in the winter months because it allows copius amounts of moisture to surge north where they can interact with colder air. Cooler readings lingered at the very end of October across the Upper Midwest, and a re-inforcing shot of Arctic air was just beginning to push southeast through the western Canadian Provinces.

On November 1st, the surface low pressure moved north from western Illinois into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the minimum pressure fell about 24 millibars in 24 hours, indicative of rapid deepening and strengthening of the cyclone. This was when the heavier snow set in across the Northland, and winds became quite gusty – producing some blizzard conditions with visibilities at or below 1/4 mile at times. Snowfall rates occasionally peaked in the 1 to 2 inches per hour range.

The low pressure eventually became occluded, weakened, and then continued to dissipate as it pushed east across northern Ontario in subsequent days. When the storm had exited, it had taken quite a toll on the area. Almost every place received at least a foot of snow, with lower totals to the west of the International Falls, Grand Rapids, and Brainerd areas as they were further away from the low, and also east of the Ashland and Hayward areas where warmer air kept snow from accumulating as much. Snow drifts were as high as 6 to 10 feet in some areas, and a few spots saw businesses and schools closed for several days.

We Hope everyone has a Safe and Happy Halloween!
whitebirchresort.net