Danny and Sophie Strauss met as kids at a summer camp in Ely where they were introduced to Finnish sauna culture, plunging into an icy lake after sweating in a 1930s wood-fired sauna.

Now, as Minnesota has become the epicenter of a growing sauna revival, the Denver couple decided to try to re-create Camp du Nord's North Woods sauna experience in the Twin Cities. This winter, they set up 10 saunas along the shores of Lake Minnewashta in Excelsior for their Sauna Camp.

"It's taken off," said Danny Strauss, 32, who left a corporate career to launch the initiative with his wife, 29, who owns a video production company. "Being outside, no phones, in a sauna feeling good, doing something hard and challenging together, it's all just an environment that's ... really conducive to connecting and letting go."

The thermal movement has heated up across Minnesota, tapping into the growing emphasis on wellness. Since 612 Sauna, a Minneapolis co-op, started in 2016, new saunas have opened up from Grand Marais to Golden Valley, offering everything from floating Lake Superior saunas to an urban pop-up sauna village.

There are more than 20 sauna (pronounced SOW-nah) businesses across the state by so-called "sauna-preneurs" who sell saunas, offer deliveries for pop-up backyard saunas or host public reservations. Not all efforts have survived; one homeowner's backyard sauna in Golden Valley closed last fall.

Sauna culture in Minnesota has gradually gone from fringe to mainstream in the three decades that Glenn Auerbach, 60, of Minneapolis has been sweating in saunas, starting in his own backyard before writing a book and founding the online Sauna Times. He's watched as stuffy, windowless gym saunas have given way to scenic cedar saunas with Instagrammable views and high-quality stoves.

"We've come to a tipping point," he said. "And that's a remarkable change. It's nice that Minnesota … is the origin, much like you could say the Northwest is for great brewing. They make great hops out there and we make great heat here."

John Pederson, who founded 612 Sauna, said that post-pandemic, people are craving social interactions, joining communal sauna sessions (swimsuits required) to connect with one another over the therapeutic heat followed by a dip in a cold tub or lake. For people who can't afford to install a sauna, the public sessions provide easy access to the ancient tradition.

"It's really picked up in the last year," said Pederson, whose Minneapolis sauna company recently merged with Superior Sauna & Steam. "Sauna hits a really unique niche in our society."

Strauss and his wife‚ who both have Minnesota ties, were inspired by the sauna culture here and on travels to Finland and Sweden. But with air quality restrictions and manmade reservoirs, Denver didn't have the same vibe as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where Minnesotans have been sweating in saunas for generations thanks to the state's Finnish and Scandinavian roots.

Plus, sisu — the Finnish concept for grit or tenacity — is embodied by Minnesotans, like those who embrace cold therapy, taking daily dips in the lakes no matter the temperature.

"Here, it's that sense of mental fortitude, like 'Let's brave the winter,'" Strauss said.

The couple returned to Minnesota for the season to open Sauna Camp in December, with 10 wood-fired saunas, including a 24-person cedar barrel sauna that's the largest in the country. The saunas are stationed at Camp Fire Minnesota, a nonprofit with 103 acres in Excelsior (3300 Tanadoona Drive).

"It's magical at night," Strauss said. "The whole forest is lit up."

Visitors can take a cold plunge in holes sawed out of the frozen lake and lounge by fire pits between sauna sessions. To book, go to saunacampminnesota.com. Sauna Camp will be available until April 28, when the couple plan to take the saunas on the road, possibly to California and Colorado, before returning to Minnesota next winter.

"People have been coming out in masses," he said. "We hope to have sauna camps in many different states in the next two to three years ... creating these small sauna villages in different locations around the country."

Here's a sampling of some of the other public sauna experiences in the Twin Cities:


Saunable is stationed at the expansive Lebanon Hills Regional Park most weekends through the end of April. The 75-minute public sessions mostly take place on Schulze Beach (860 Cliff Road) at Dakota County's largest park. saunable.com

Golden Valley

Pucón Massage has operated Atacama Sauna outside its building for five years at 810 Lilac Drive N. It's available for private sessions until April and again next fall and winter. pucon-massage.com.


Soak up sauna sessions with downtown skyline views and a rooftop heated pool through Superior Sauna & Steam's Thermaculture Events, which put on guided sauna sessions at both the Hewing Hotel in the North Loop and the Canopy by Hilton in the Mill District. Thermaculture Events also hosts public sauna sessions in the Kingfield neighborhood at 4355 Nicollet Av. S. https://thermaculture.events

As it does every winter, 612 Sauna is hosting public sessions at Theodore Wirth Regional Park through March. 612saunasociety.com. Nearby, Little Ember Co. is deploying two saunas to Cedar Lake from March 28 to April 28. littleemberco.com

Spring Park

After sweating in a wood-fired sauna, you can walk down a long dock to — as Prince would say — purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. After testing out the sauna last year, Back Channel Brewing Co. set up a mobile sauna from Shakopee-based Voyageur Saunas in its parking lot next to the Twin Cities' largest lake last fall. Up to six people can book 90-minute sessions at backchannelbrewing.com.

Brewery owner Josh Leddy expects it will become a year-round amenity. "It's a nice bit of scenery," he said. "We feel it's the most unique experience around."


For three years, St. Croix Sauna has been set up at Aamodt's Apple Orchard, which also has hard cider. The private 75-minute sauna sessions can be reserved for two to eight people. stcroixsauna.com