(Illustrations by Kevin Cannon, Special to the Star Tribune)

With untold numbers of football fans coming to the “Bold North” for the big game, the Twin Cities is working to show the country what Minnesota is all about. Outdoor concerts, sleigh rides, ice sculptures and snowmobile stunts are part of the pageantry. But what might you do if you’re looking for an authentic taste of the North — the type of thing an everyday Minnesotan might do on a chilly winter day?

We’ve pulled together five local outdoor excursions, along with après fare, which give a glimpse into why people choose to live on this frozen tundra. Maybe you’ll even decide to pull on your snow pants and fur bomber hat and head out into the great outdoors. We like to say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.”

Cross-country ski: Theodore Wirth Park

In partnership with The Loppet Foundation, the park offers more than 20 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and 700 acres of urban forest with stunning views of downtown Minneapolis. There also is rental equipment. Take part in the Loppet’s annual City of Lakes Loppet Festival, which runs Saturday through Feb. 4 and includes races and more. Or, avoid the crowds and check out the Three Rivers Parks trail systems. (loppet.org, threeriversparks.org)

Pro tip: “Learn the basics first with an introductory lesson from Loppet ski coaches. They’ll teach you the ABCs of cross-country [skiing] like weight transfer, balance, rhythm, and efficiency of movement. Once you’ve got your flow, the trails await you! ” — Alora Jones, communications and marketing manager, The Loppet Foundation

Après: Utepils Brewing

Located a stone’s throw from Theodore Wirth Park, Utepils’ 1,800-square-foot taproom provides the perfect locale to rehydrate after a good ski. Their European-style beers — think pilsner, Kolsch, Bavarian hefeweizen, and Belgian IPA — paired with a variety of food truck eats can’t be beat. (utepilsbrewing.com)


Fatbike: Minnehaha Creek

While fat bikes can roll over just about any terrain, a favorite of local winter fat bike enthusiasts is the frozen Minnehaha Creek. When the conditions are right, you can ride much of the creek from Lake Harriet all the way to Minnehaha Falls. Rentals are available at the Angry Catfish bike shop, which is just a couple blocks off the creek. (minneapolisparks.org)

Pro tip: “A good way to spend an hour or three would be to swing down to the shop and grab a Cabin Vibes: a double-double shot iced latte shaken with maple syrup and orange bitters. Then, grab a rental fat bike and check out the frozen Minnehaha Falls. If it’s been cold enough, you’ll be able to cruise right down the creek itself until you hit Lake Harriet, also ridable. From here we usually like to grab some pizza at Hello Pizza, Pizzaria Lola or Red Wagon. Fatbikes are slow rollin’, so by the time you roll back you’ll probably be ready to stop next door to our shop at Buster’s [on 28th Avenue] for a burger and a pint to refuel.” — Josh Klauck, Angry Catfish shop owner

Après: Angry Catfish Bicycle and Coffee Bar

In addition to selling and renting bikes, this establishment peddles phenomenal coffee, along with to-die-for pastries from the nearby A Baker’s Wife. What’s more, this cozy setting offers a great before-and-after ride home base. (angrycatfishbicycle.com)


Ice skate: Lake of the Isles

While the Minneapolis parks maintain skating rinks all over the city, Lake of the Isles presents one of the most picturesque settings. With separate rinks for ice skating and hockey, there’s something for every member of the family. (minneapolisparks.org/icerinks)

Pro tip: “Ice skating at Isles is an especially fun activity for park visitors of all ages. Bring your own skates or use a pair of free loaner skates available in the warming house on a first-come, first-served basis. Make sure to dress for the weather. Dressing in layers is always good advice. Wear warm socks — I like wool — and make sure you have a hat and mittens or gloves to keep your ears and hands warm. The Lake of the Isles warming house is open weekdays from 3-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday. In all, the park board maintains 43 skating, hockey or broomball rinks across 24 different parks.” — Jennifer Ringold, deputy superintendent, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Après: Burch Restaurant — After getting in your checks and pirouettes, head a few blocks east to Burch Restaurant. With a pizza bar in the basement featuring wood-fired varieties, as well as other tasty bites from the oven and an impressive wine list, you won’t be disappointed. (burchrestaurant.com)


Ice fishing: Lake Nokomis

Every winter you’ll see hardy folks out on Lake Nokomis taking part in a true Minnesota pastime: ice fishing. With the assistance of hand-powered, gas, or electric augers, these anglers drill holes in the ice to fish through. If you can get your hands on an icehouse, you might even decide to hunker down for a good while and enjoy the cool Minnesota air. (bit.ly/nokoinfo)

Pro tip: Good fishing areas can be found in the northwest and southeast parts of Lake Nokomis, said Mario Travaline, a specialist in the West Metro Area Fisheries office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Walleye are above-average during the most-recent lake survey. The lake also holds black and white crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch, he said. “Location, depth, tackle, and bait is determined by target species and this changes from early to late winter due to changing temperature and ice cover. Information on guide services can be found at exploreminnesota.com. A few words of caution though: It requires much more gear than open-water shore fishing. Layers of clothing and a well-insulated and waterproof pair of boots are strongly recommended, as well as some type of studded additional traction to prevent slipping,” said Travaline. He also urged caution about ice safety: No ice is considered 100 percent regardless of depth, and a minimum of 4 inches is required to consider walking on.

Après: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

What could be better than craft beers and warm eats after a long day on a frozen lake? Just a couple miles north of Nokomis is Northbound, which has a full-service menu and on-site craft brewery in a casual setting. If you’re feeling inspired, you may even want to order the fish and chips. (northboundbrewpub.com)


Snowshoe: Fort Snelling State Park

Not only is snowshoeing a great form of exercise, it’s highly accessible — if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Best of all, snowshoes keep you from sinking deep into the snow, so you can tromp around areas of the park you might otherwise miss. Located in the heart of the Twin Cities, Fort Snelling sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers and contains stunning views and plenty of wildlife. Rentals and snowshoeing activities are available at the park office. (bit.ly/snellingpark)

Pro tip: “When you’re planning your snowshoe adventure, you’ll want to dress in layers. Layers trap warm air to keep you comfortable. Your top layer should be waterproof, so that when you’re kicking up snow or you fall down you’re not getting wet. I like to bring a backpack so that I can remove a layer or two if and when I get warm. Once you’re on the trail, you’ll need to keep in mind that your feet are twice as big as they are without snowshoes. Be sure to take your time and practice turning and walking in a small area before you hit the trails. If you do fall down, not to worry, sort your feet out while you’re on your back or side and then roll back over. Once you’re right-side up, give your bindings a quick check and make sure they haven’t come loose.” — Krista Jensen, lead park naturalist

Après: Matt’s Bar and Grill

After burning plenty of calories out snowshoeing, you’ll really feel like you deserve a basket of fries and a Jucy Lucy, a molten cheese-filled burger. Matt’s Bar is a sinfully delicious Minneapolis staple that is not to be missed. (mattsbar.com)


Mackenzie Lobby Havey is a freelance writer from Minneapolis.