Minnesotans essentially have two choices during the long winter months -- attack or surrender.
For many, the latter option is more appealing: Hole up on your couch for four months, hot beverage at your side and Grandma's candy-striped afghan snug around you as you run through the entire Netflix movie catalog.
But if you worry about coming down with cabin fever, go ahead and embrace the season on its own terms. As long as you're wearing the right clothing (and enough of it), Minnesota in winter can be a beautiful and exciting place -- and not just from behind your living room window.
The more snow there is to work with, the bigger the range of possibilities; some of the activities listed below may be somewhat problematic in browner years such as the one we've been experiencing. Even then, an outdoor trek can be invigorating and a lot of fun. And when you return home, that mug of hot chocolate will never taste better.
Here are some ways to beat the winter doldrums in the north metro area and beyond:
SNOW: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Want to downhill or cross-country ski? Fly down a hill on a tube? Try snowboarding? The Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area has it all, with a chalet to warm up in as well. If you're a newbie, lessons are available. It's part of the Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, and is part of the Three Rivers Park District.
More info: www.threeriversparks.org or 763-694-7894.
SNOW DAY EVENT
Come play in the snow at Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes. The Anoka County Parks and Recreation Department's 12th annual Snow Day on Jan. 28 is free and open to the public. Try snowshoeing, ice fishing, kick sledding, cross-country skiing, winter crafts or observe live animals.
More info: 651-429-8007.
SKI BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
The beautiful ski trails at Chominix Golf Course in Lino Lakes and Bunker Hills Regional Park in Coon Rapids look great under a full moon. And after skiing, how about a little dinner while gathered around the fireplace? Register online for the Feb. 10 event at Chominix and/or the March 9 evening of skiing at Bunker Hills. Fees are $12 for adults, $8 for youth, with an additional charge for ski rentals.
More info: www.anokacountyparks.com or call 651-429-8007.
SEE THE PARKS ON SNOWSHOES
A great way to trek into the less-traveled sections of Coon Rapids Dam and Bunker Hills Regional Parks in Coon Rapids is by showshoe. Pre-register for a snowshoeing program for all ages. The fee is $7 for adults, $5 for youth.
More info: www.anokacountyparks.com or 651-429-8007.
How cool are snow and ice when you're a pre-schooler? Anoka County is offering a program for 2- to 5-year-olds interested in playing and building in the snow. Kids must be accompanied by adults. The fee for this Jan. 13 event at the Wargo Nature Center is $3 per child and $3 per adult. Preregistraiton is required.
More info: www.anokacountyparks.com or 651-429-8007.
Snowshoeing for beginners
No matter how cold you get, the trek ends with hot chocolate by the fire. In a program aimed at families, learn the basics of snowshoeing then go an a hike through the forests of Baker Park with a naturalist. They'll even provide the equipment. It's one of many outdoor activities available through the Three Rivers Park District. The next family class is Jan. 16 at 2 p.m.
More info: www.threeriversparks.org or 651-429-8007.
Did Ann Bancroft or Will Steger ever inspire in you a desire to ride across the tundra behind a team of sled dogs? If so, you don't have to go far to learn how to do it. Points Unknown, about 30 miles west of Minneapolis in Watertown, offers training and trips for rookies or experienced mushers. If you stay local, you'll learn how to work with the dogs, then ride across Oake Lake. If you are confident enough, you can even take a turn on the runners yourself.
More info: www.points-unknown.com or 952-955-3883.
GO FLY A KITE
If you think kite-flying is a summer sport, think again. The 11th annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival will be held Jan. 14, from noon to 4 p.m. Bring your own kite or buy an inexpensive one at the lake that day. Other activities include ice fishing, horse-drawn wagon rides and a marshmallow roast. The festival is held at the north end of the lake, near the bandshell. Admission is free.
Whether you cross-country ski, snowshoe or just walk, the Luminary Loppet is an amazing site, with thousands of ice luminarias lining a trail around Lake of the Isles. Other events: an enchanted forest, fire spinners (think juggling with fire), hot chocolate, cookie stations and bonfires. A post-luminary Loppet party is limited to paid participants. The Luminary Loppet is part of the City of Lakes Loppet, which runs Feb. 4-5. The Luminary Loppet is the evening of Feb. 4.
More info: www.cityoflakesloppet.com.
SKATING ON A CITY LAKE
With the skyline of Minneapolis in the background and stately homes all around, Lake of the Isles is a picturesque place to skate. Besides a large open skating area, it has a rink for pick-up hockey games. The rink is on the northern part of the lake, at 26th and E. Lake of the Isles Parkway. A warming house is on-site as well, and the rinks are lighted at night. Skating is free.
More info: www.minneapolisparks.org.