Winter Is Coming

Sorry to all the readers for the tired Game of Thrones reference, but I couldn’t help myself. That said, there may be at least a tiny grain of wisdom to be plucked from this less-than-funny (possibly nerdy) reference. Indeed, Jon Snow, the Lannister clan, Daenerys, and the rest all have reason to fear the coming winter – [spoiler alert] there’s an army of angry zombies on the loose trying to turn everyone that’s living into angry zombies! And they have a zombie dragon! Although we as Minnesotans have our own reasons to gripe about the coming winter – arranging child care and coordinating activities for children on breaks from school, shoveling snow, hosting family for holidays, trying desperately to get feeling back in our fingers – all is not lost.

It is my position that winter can and should, at least to some extent, be embraced as opposed to lamented. Sure, the quintessential mid-winter trip to someplace tropical might be in order, but while here, why not take advantage of some of fun opportunities that the chilly weather and holiday season provides? Below I have put together a short list of activities to help you to take winter back.

Take in a show: Feeling the need for a date night? Or perhaps you’re seeking an enriching experience for the kids? During the holiday season, many of the quality nearby venues run holiday-themed shows to help you get into the holiday spirit. If you’re looking for a night on the town, the Guthrie Theater puts on their annual rendition of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, which runs from mid-November through the end of December. Staying a bit closer to home, the Chanhassen Dinner Theater has a plethora of holiday programs throughout the season. Eden Prairie’s own performing arts high school, PiM, is putting on “A Strange & Wondrous Winter Spectacular” that is sure to be fantastic. If comedy is your thing, The Brave New Workshop in Downtown Minneapolis is the place to go. Every year, the fine cast of the Brave New Workshop puts together a hilarious new holiday – and oftentimes uniquely Minnesotan – themed improv show for the season. These shows tend to sell out quick, so get your tickets.

Go to Stillwater: Regardless of the season, Stillwater, MN is a great destination for a day trip or an easy overnight stay. In my humble opinion, however, winter is when Stillwater really shines. With scenic views of the St. Croix river and no shortage of cozy cafes, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and shops dotting its main street, it is very easy to spend a day or two (there are a number of B&Bs located in town) eating, drinking, and shopping your way through town. One shop in particular, Käthe Wohlfahrt of America, does a particularly excellent job at getting one in the holiday spirit. As the store’s website notes, Käthe Wohlfahrt is dedicated to the sale of “high-quality Christmas items handcrafted in Germany.” It’s an excellent place to pick up that keepsake ornament for the tree or just peruse to get yourself into holiday-mode.

Get outside: One thing that I have learned since relocating from Southern California to Minnesota the better part of 10 years ago is that peoples’ relationship to the cold and their willingness to be outside in it falls on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have the “outdoor winter enthusiasts” and on the other end, you have the “give me warm or give me death” population. I, as I presume most others, fall somewhere in the middle. My idea of fun does not include sitting on a frozen lake in -10° weather swaddled in a thick down jumpsuit. However, there is something both fun and nostalgic about getting out and being active on a cold (not too cold) winter day. Embracing the numerous outdoor activity options that Eden Prairie and the surrounding communities provide is an excellent way to stay healthy and keep the kids from bouncing off the walls of your home. Moreover, a lot of these activities can be done on the cheap. With nothing but a winter coat, snow pants, and boots, you can go for a hike along the trails of one of the numerous nature preserves or wooded areas in the area. As the name suggests, Eden Prairie’s Staring Lake Sledding Hill and Ski Trails offer opportunities for sledding and cross-country skiing.

Then there’s skating. Maybe it’s the transplant in me, but I still think the idea of ambulating atop a frozen body of water is a pretty cool concept. Having only learned to skate a couple years ago (my now 5-year-old son wanted to learn, so I decided to try too), it has quickly become one of my favorite inexpensive, outside activities to do during the winter. While some of the public rinks have rentals, a pair of serviceable used skates can be had for $15 to $30 and will save you the time and effort of going through the rental process.

Hopefully, this article was at least a little bit helpful and possibly inspires a few folks to embrace the weather that accompanies the holiday season. Take winter back!