Winter Adventure Day Trips in Minnesota

Day trips to satisfy your winter wanderlust on a budget and one tank of gas.

Credit: Bentleyville USA
Credit: Bentleyville USA

Written by Bridgette Outten

Bundle up and hit the road. These local winter wonderlands are full of adventure—and are less than a tank of gas away.

Bentleyville Tour of Lights
350 Harbor Dr.
(218) 740-3535

Why Go? Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" is a non-profit corporation that organizes a free annual family holiday light show complete with Santa, holiday music, and fire pits for roasting marshmallows. This year, the tour is returning to Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park through Dec. 28.

Insider Tip: Check out the parking map of the lot next to the park, but fees may vary. There is additional parking for $5 across the street at the Duluth Convention Center.

Must Do: Check out the 12-story Christmas tree covered with 50,000 LED lights. There's also the gotta-see Bentleyville Castle, Dinosaur Land, Rudolph’s Camp Grounds and a Thomas the Tank Engine display.

The Fine Print: Hours are Sunday - Thursday from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. and Friday - Saturday from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. Santa will visit with children every day until Dec. 23. Children 10 and younger will receive a Bentleyville Tour of Lights knit hat from Santa along with a bag of cookies. 

Winter Sports at Elm Creek Recreation Area 
12400 James Deane Pkwy.
Maple Grove 
(763) 694-7894

Why Go? If you’re ready to hit the slopes again—or for the first time—Elm Creek Recreation Area just may be the place to go.

Insider Tip: Hours will vary depending on the activity, so take a look at Elm Creek’s Facebook page to adjust your schedule accordingly. You also can get a two for one two-hour tubing pass on Wednesdays and Thursdays after 4 p.m., except during holiday hours.

Must Do: Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa in The Chalet.

The Fine Print: Fees will vary depending on age and activity. For example, tubing is $15 for a two-hour pass while children ages 6 and under cost $10 for a day of skiing and snowboarding and adults are $15. The season typically goes through mid-March, weather permitting. Hours for Elm Creek Chalet are 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Friday and 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. on weekend and holidays.

Snowshoe Along the St. Croix
39797 Park Trl.
Center City 
(651) 583-2125

Why Go? On this leisurely walk, you’ll learn about snow, birds and shivering for survival. The 1-mile trek is designed for ages 8 and up to explore the St. Croix River on snowshoes on Jan. 4.

Insider Tip: Guided walk and snowshoes are free but the program is limited to 30 people and registration is required by calling 651-583-2125. The program will be cancelled if temperature is predicted to be below 15 degrees or snow depth is inadequate.

Must Do: If you can't make it to this event, there are tons of other winter activities at Wild River Park.

The Fine Print: Do not rely on a GPS unit to find the park's main entrance. GPS units direct you to the geographic center of the park (Sunrise Landing area), not to the main park entrance. Consult a map or call the office at 651-583-2125 if you need additional driving directions. Also remember: a Minnesota State park vehicle permit is required of any vehicle entering the park. This permit can be purchased at the park entrance office for $5 per day or $25 per year.


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