MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 10, 2018) — Yes, Minnesotans really do love their winters — in fact, nearly 80 percent believe winter makes the state special, and nearly three-quarters say it makes them more resilient, according to a recent survey.1 Now, locals and visitors can raise their mittens to join in that celebration as The Great Northern Presented by Target returns from Jan. 25 – Feb. 4, 2018, with 10 days of events designed to get people outside, active, and enjoying everything Minneapolis and Saint Paul have to offer in winter.
The Great Northern brings together three longstanding winter festivals, including the City of Lakes Loppet, where cross-country skiers, speed skaters, and fat-tire cyclists race along the lakes; the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, where its spectacular Ice Palace, ice carvings and snow sculptures, ice bars, live music, and royalty bring a little myth and a lot of merriment to life; and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, where locals and players from around the world show off their skills on Lake Nokomis.
These three legacy events and founding partners are complemented by a host of free, fun, and adventurous original programming, including arts and culinary events with a uniquely Northern attitude.
“Winter is a defining characteristic of Minnesota, and we’re proud of it,” said John Munger, executive director of the Loppet Foundation and co-founder of The Great Northern. “The Great Northern is all about welcoming winter and proudly sharing our most cherished traditions with neighbors and newcomers. There is nowhere else in the country where you can cross-country ski or skijor a marathon course across lakes and right through the middle of a major metropolitan area,
or compete in the largest pond hockey tournament in the nation. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are perfectly situated for amazing outdoor adventures.”
There is no denying that winter in Minneapolis and Saint Paul is cold and, at times, it can take a little extra motivation to bundle up and get outside. But a bold spirit is a big part of embracing winter in the North, and that’s a trait that Minnesotans are particularly proud of in their state. Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents believe that people who experience the state’s winters have a better appreciation of the season’s outdoor activities and events. It is this kind of positive and adventurous spirit that The Great Northern’s co-founders wanted to encourage when they first joined forces in 2017.
“In Saint Paul and Minneapolis, we truly savor the winter. Whether you want to stroll through Rice Park amid a majestic, illuminated ice palace and ice carvings, or visit the Snow Park at the Fairgrounds to ride down a giant snow slide, dine on food from top chefs in beautiful outdoor settings, or simply sit around a bonfire and enjoy your favorite Minnesota brew, there’s something for everyone,” said Deb Schaber, president and CEO of the Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation, and co-founder of The Great Northern. “Our collaborative celebration across Saint Paul and Minneapolis is all about embracing a more positive winter mindset. Winter is our season.”
Here are a few of The Great Northern’s signature events ahead:
Thursday, Jan. 25 - Saturday, Feb. 10
Saint Paul Winter Carnival: Winter Carnival Ice Palace Presented by Spire Credit Union
Going all the way back to the first Ice Palace in 1886, the towering palaces have been an awe-inspiring feature of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival for decades. This year, an incredible 70-foot tall structure will shine over Rice Park for all 17 days of Carnival activities. Ice sculptures, live music, food, an ice bar, and a variety of other programming make historic Rice Park a lively and can’t-miss destination for outdoor fun.
More than four dozen events and new attractions have been planned. Most events are FREE, open to the public, and will take place in downtown Saint Paul, near Rice Park and the Landmark Center, as well as at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Time: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Location: Rice Park, Saint Paul
Tickets: Free; food and beverage available for purchase
Friday, Jan. 26 – Sunday, Jan. 28
U.S. Pond Hockey Championships: Tournament Play
Since 2006, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships has given hockey enthusiasts a premier resource for experiencing hockey the way nature intended. The nation’s premier outdoor pond hockey tournament reunites players with their youth and friends over a three-day weekend. The event is uniquely Minnesotan, and 100 percent hockey.
Time: Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis
Tickets: Free; food and beverage available for purchase
Monday, Jan. 29
Saint Paul Chef’s Experience
Saint Paul and Minneapolis chefs Adam Eaton (Saint Dinette) and Thomas Boemer (Corner Table and Revival) will join forces again to delight guests with an outdoor feast in the St. Paul Farmers Market in Lowertown. New this year, James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee and Shane Oporto of OCTO Fishbar will join the outdoor celebration featuring sweet and savory soul-warming dishes from the fire kitchen, outdoor games, ice sculptures with MN Pure & Clear, music from The Current DJ Jade, and featured beers in partnership with The Growler.
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Location: St. Paul Farmer’s Market
Tickets: $45 general admission and $125 VIP; Buy tickets here
Tuesday, Jan. 30
FrogFest, Frogtown Curling Club, Saint Paul
Get hands-on with curling at FrogFest: throw a rock, sweep a stone, walk on the pebbled ice. Facility tours, a taste of the rules/etiquette/strategy of curling, and an opportunity to socialize and meet new people will all be part of this new event. Enjoy a delicious winter menu from executive chefs/owners Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse of Pajarito.
Time: 3-8 p.m.
Location: Frogtown Curling Club, Saint Paul
Tickets: Free/open house; food and beverage available for purchase
Wednesday, Jan. 31
Surly’s Ultimate Winter Feast
Surly has teamed up with The Great Northern and Mucci’s Italian, 612 Sauna Society, and Minneapolis Kubb League to provide an authentic Bold North night under the winter moon. Guests will gather around grills and fires to enjoy warm food and cold beer while exploring the beer garden to check out two of Minnesota’s favorite pastimes and listen to some classic tunes spun on vinyl by DJ Brian Engel.
Time: 5-8 p.m.
Location: Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis
Tickets: $35 (Tickets are only required for the food and beverage portion of the evening. Guests may attend the event without buying a ticket.) Buy tickets here.
Saturday, Feb. 3
The Luminary Loppet is an annual tradition in Minneapolis that brings people together to experience the wonder of winter in Minnesota with 1,200 candlelit luminaries. This celebration features many spectacles including an ice pyramid, fire dancers, an enchanted forest, and much more.
From ski races to a snow sculpture contest to the famous Luminary Loppet, the City of Lakes Loppet (Jan. 27- Feb. 4) provides a multitude of opportunities for people to get outside and celebrate winter.
Time: 6-10 p.m.
Location: Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis
Tickets: $26 adult rate and $14 youth rate - 16 and under (through Jan. 23). Buy tickets here.
For more information about The Great Northern and its partnering organizations and to sign up for updates, visit TheGreatNorthernFestival.com. Connect with The Great Northern on Facebook and Instagram @TheGreatNorthernFestival, and on Twitter @GreatNorthern.