By Dave Feist
While it’s true that many hardy Minnesotan’s head to the Southern part of the US this time of year to avoid the harsh winter elements, there are still so many of us that just LOVE a Minnesota winter! There is nothing like a fresh blanket of snow, that crisp cold air, and the ‘deafening’ quietness that can accompany a fresh MN morning in January.
I will admit, I don’t have a huge love of shoveling sidewalks or driveways, digging out my vehicle after a winter event, or walking straight into that -20 windchill to get into the next warm building. But that’s the price you pay to live here and it’s well worth it if you take the time to enjoy all that our area has to offer, even in the ‘frigid tundra’ of central MN!
There are so many activities we enjoy this time of year, one of which being ice fishing. If you have never ice fished before, or don’t have your own ice house, contact Green Lake Rentals in Spicer along the north shore of Green Lake
A photo of the 2019 ice castle in Spicer.
and they’ll help you out. While you are in the area, enjoy the kick off celebration of the annual Spicer Winterfest on January 18th. Watch the lighting ceremony of the ice castle at 5:30p.m., followed by a beautiful fireworks display. Then enjoy the Fire on Ice dance with the Dam Jammers starting at 7:00p.m. under a tent (yes, there are sides and heaters) and have some libations and a good time in the process. Even if you can’t make it that night, the ice castle will stay up as long as the weather permits, which also provides a great photo opportunity if you’re in the area. There are many additional activities to enjoy during the two-week stretch following the start of Spicer’s Winterfest. Rather than list them all, follow this link for details.
Other fans of winter in Minnesota enjoy cross country skiing or snow shoeing. If you want to give either a try, contact our friends at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and they’ll get you set up with some rental equipment.
Enjoy an afternoon of kicksledding at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center.
They also have kick sleds for rent, which are Scandinavian sleds that look like a dog-less dog sled. Grab onto the handles and stand on the rail as you push off with your foot and give someone a ride along the frozen trails or lakes.
And then you have those that enjoy snowmobiling, and I happen to be one of these people. To me, the smell of freshly burning snowmobile exhaust as you gear up and wait for your snowmobile to warm up is one of my favorite smells. We have some wonderful trails in our area, sort of a best kept secret, with a wonderful mix of wide open, wooded and hilly trails. I still remember my first 30-minute ride in this area where I went from Long Lake through Hawick and back, which took me through woods, farm land, and a hilly wooded area that reminded me of the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota. The trails in our area throw a nice mix of terrain and scenery as you may wind around a corner and find yourself on a lake, cutting through some woods, shooting across a flat prairie or looking out over acres of woods.
The Willmar Lakes Area has many scenic trails to offer snowmobilers.
You could tie in a visit to Spicer to check out the Winterfest activities and unload at the Hampton Inn, which is located just two blocks away from the center of the Winterfest activities and right across the road from a popular snowmobile trail system. If you’re arriving in Kandiyohi County from the south, enjoy a relaxing stay in one of the many beautiful hotels in Willmar including the Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn Express, Country Inn & Suites (which also boasts a water slide that your kids will love on the weekends) and the Super 8. Grab a bite to eat at either Ruff’s Wings and Sports Bar or Green Mill Restaurant along Highway 12 and then unload at the trail head down the road.
If you want to put some miles on and explore on your snowmobile, throw your bags on and make it a multiple day trip. Our trails link to several others, so you could find yourself in Alexandria in a day of riding or head straight North on MN Trail 37 and you’ll find that trail links you all the way to the true ‘up North’ of Minnesota!
In any case, while I know some of us get cabin fever in the winter, don’t be shy and come on out to our area! There is always something to do and so many options for great food, a great beverage, and great times!