The Top 10 Winter Attractions in the Willmar Lakes Area
Planning a visit to the Willmar Lakes Area during the winter months and wondering what there is to do? Well, we’re here to help!
We’re happy to answer any of your questions regarding Kandiyohi County and we’d love to help make your visit a memorable one. So for starters, let’s go over the top must-see attractions during the winter months in our area!
One of Minnesota’s top 20 attractions, Sibley State Park is the perfect place for enjoying your favorite outdoor winter activities! Enjoy 8 miles of cross country ski trails that range from intermediate to challenging with lots of ups and downs. The trail is double tracked and predominantly a one-way loop. If you enjoy skate-skiing, there’s 2.5 miles of trails from the park office to Mt. Tom for a spectacular winter panoramic view of the area. Snowmobilers will love the 6 miles of trails throughout the park and the fact that they connect to the extensive county trail system including the Glacial Lakes State Trail. People of all ages can enjoy sledding on the big sledding hill near the Interpretive Center as well as snowshoeing anywhere in the park, except on groomed trails. Contact the park office ahead of time to rent snowshoes. Sibley State Park is also the gateway to fishing on Lake Andrew in the winter. Anglers will enjoy excellent crappie fishing, as well as the occasional walleye and northern pike.
Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center (PWELC) is a regional center for environmental education, outdoor recreation and team building for people of all ages. Prairie Woods maintains approximately 10km of trails over rolling glacial terrain, through woods, and prairies, near ponds and wetlands. The trail network covers much of PWELC’s 500 acres so not only will you get to enjoy your favorite winter activities, but you’ll also get to see the beauty of nature and some of the winter creatures. Call at least 24 hours in advance to rent equipment such as fat tire bikes, cross country skis, snowshoes and kicksleds for a minimal fee. They now have 4 different sizes of fat tire bikes and 3 different sizes of helmets, which means they can accommodate almost anyone.
One of the most popular snowmobile trails in the area is the Glacial Lakes State Trail. The 22-mile trail is groomed for winter snowmobile use between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. In Stearns County, snowmobile use is allowed on signed sections only. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers will love that it connects to Sibley State Park via three miles of paved shoulder along County Road 148. The trail also connects with many miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the Kandiyohi County grant-in-aid trail system. The many towns along the trail provide access points, rest stops, and a variety of delicious restaurants to trail users. Contact us if you’d like a winter trail map.
If you have your own winter outdoor gear, plan a trip to Robbins Island Regional Park. Enjoy snowshoeing or cross country skiing along the many trails throughout the park. Or bring a sled and take on the snowy hills for a fun afternoon of sledding. Robbins Island is located between Willmar and Foot lakes, which are both great destinations for those that love to ice fish. Bring your own fish house or rent one from Green Lake Rentals, Diamond Lake Resort or Green Lake Enterprises! After purchasing your fishing permit, head out on the lake with your fish house, ice auger, a fishing pole and some bait. Bring along a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate (and of course some snacks) and enjoy some quality time with friends or family. All you have to do is wait for a tug on your line to catch a walleye, northern pike, crappie or sunfish all while staying nice and warm. If you’re traveling between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you’ll definitely want to stop by Robbins Island to see the Celebrate the Light of the World Christmas light display. Explore the park and admire the lights from the comfort of your car while driving through the park.
Green Lake is not only a popular summer attraction, but also a winter one! As the ice freezes over, anglers from around the region enjoy ice fishing for crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, sunfish, and walleye. This large lake is also popular for many snowmobile races including the Sno Skippers Speed Runs and Central Minnesota Pond Racing. From early January through the first few weeks of February, Spicer hosts their annual WinterFest Celebration. Events usually include a pond hockey tournament, kids ice fishing derby, Frozen 5K Run/Walk, Polar Plunge, Fire On Ice Dance, fireworks over the very popular Spicer ice castle, and much more! This is definitely on the ‘must-see list’ if you’re visiting during this time period.
Take in one of the amazing performances by our talented community members at The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar. This precious pocket of talent is one of the area’s finest live performing arts theatres and developing regional art centers. Providing cultural and artistic entertainment for the public, their productions include plays, recitals, orchestral opportunities, and drama. The Barn is a regional theatre, growing from its original roots of a community theater to a theater that draws locally and beyond a 60-mile radius. For over 55 years The Barn Theatre has offered a wide range of theatrical productions to this area. They usually host six productions with two of them during the winter months. Make sure to check out upcoming productions on our Events Calendar.
The Little Theatre is owned and operated by a non-profit organization, the Crow River Players, Inc. They pride themselves in bringing quality, affordable, live entertainment to the community. They are dedicated to providing a creative space for all persons or organizations who would like to use the theater for the creation and presentation of artistic works. The Little Theatre now offers specialty cocktails for event nights like Open Mic and Live DJ Dance Parties in addition to stage shows and performances! Check out the Events Calendar to see what theatrical productions, concerts or special events they have planned for your entertainment!
History lovers will enjoy the unique history of Kandiyohi County! The museum complex consists of six buildings: the main museum and research library, District #18 Schoolhouse, Engine #2523, Sperry House, Grandpa’s Shed and an agriculture building all with their own piece of history to tell. The main museum contains an exhibit area and research library. The main entry is the former Kandiyohi Great Northern Railway railroad station depot. The exhibit area features different displays: Civil War, Willmar 8, transportation, railroad and other exhibits that relate to Kandiyohi County history. During the month of December, the Great Northern Locomotive 2523 is decorated with Christmas lights and can be toured whenever you like. The Sperry House is a Victorian farmhouse that showcases a glimpse into turn of the century life in Kandiyohi County and is decorated for Christmas in the month of December. Call to schedule your guided tour of the Sperry House.
No one can visit the Willmar Lakes Area without stopping at the most delicious chocolate store in West Central Minnesota! The story of Dwight Barnes and how he started Mr. B’s Chocolates at the age of 56 is a unique and interesting tale that involves him apprenticing with the world-renowned chocolatier Hans Burie in Belgium. The new owner of Mr. B’s Chocolates continues Barnes’ legacy and technique of creating the most delicious chocolates by importing raw chocolate from Belgium, importing cocoa butter from France, using dairy cream and butter from Minnesota, and making homemade marzipan. In addition to all your nostalgic favorites – truffles, caramels, fruit creams, and the like – Mr. B’s chocolatiers hand paint few-of-a-kind masterpieces that go from small farm animals, dinosaurs, and roses all the way to the intercut champagne bottles, Thanksgiving turkeys and three-dimensional Christmas trees! And of course, no chocolate shopping experience is complete without a free sample of the chocolate!
The Willmar Lakes Area is home to two amazing breweries: Foxhole Brewhouse and Goat Ridge Brewing Co. Both of which host live music and other fun events throughout the year. Foxhole Brewhouse, located in downtown Willmar, is a great place to get fresh, flavorful handcrafted beer. With eleven beers on tap, you’ll be sure to find something you love. Check out their expansive list of craft beers on tap, what’s tapping soon, and what they’ve had in the past on their website. Goat Ridge Brewing Co. is located in downtown New London along the beautiful Crow River. Inside you’ll find nine unfiltered craft beers on tap, as well as cold-press coffee and house-made sodas. They’ve even added an artisan pizza kitchen to pair perfectly with their beverages. Make sure one of these (or both of them) are on your itinerary the next time you’re in the Willmar Lakes Area!
There’s probably no way you can enjoy these amazing attractions in one visit, let alone a weekend. So plan a week long stay or multiple visits to make sure you’re able to explore these must-see winter attractions in the Willmar Lakes Area. By the way, we’ve only listed the most popular attractions in the area. Make sure to check out all of the Things to Do in Kandiyohi County by exploring our website further.
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