Sometimes it can feel like COVID-19 restrictions have us frozen in place, especially when many of the traditional things we look forward to each year are on hold.

As the colder months arrive, the idea of hunkering down indoors for the long winter might make you shiver. But here’s the good news: There are still lots of outdoor activities to enjoy across Minnesota and Wisconsin this season so you can stay active, while staying safe during COVID-19.

Whether you’re looking for ideas for yourself or your family, check out this list of safe winter activities and consider adding some plans to that dusty calendar.

Get outside with Explore Minnesota and Travel Wisconsin

With life-as-usual on pause, there’s no better time to explore new areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin while enjoying the great outdoors. Stick to your old favorites or try things you may have never considered, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snow biking. Many parks offer easy and affordable equipment rentals, and some even offer lessons.

And of course we can always rely on our Midwestern classics, like sledding, building a snowman, ice skating, snowmobiling or ice fishing.

Check out Explore Minnesota and Travel Wisconsin to find some outdoor activities that sound exciting to you.

Nature Illuminated by the Minnesota Zoo

This winter, take an extraordinary journey through the animal kingdom in a drive-thru experience like no other. The Minnesota Zoo brings us Nature Illuminated, a brand new outdoor exhibit featuring magical light work, giant art installations and captivating sound narration. Ride along as the zoo spotlights some of the world’s most charming and endangered animals, and learn how we must all do our part to help save our planet and its amazing wildlife.

Dates: Dec 3 – Jan 17, 2021
Cost: $25-$60 per vehicle, depending on day and membership
Location: Apple Valley, MN

GLOW Holiday Festival by the Minnesota State Fair

Minnesotans were crushed when the Minnesota State Fair, one of our most cherished events of the summer, was cancelled due to COVID-19. But the universe is giving us a second chance this year with the GLOW Holiday Festival!

The Great Minnesota Holiday Get-Together is a must-see winter attraction featuring a dozen stops and over one million lights. Located at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, take a festive, one-mile drive through illuminated trees and icicles, art installations, a jolly gingerbread house, a drive-thru food court and more.

Dates: Nov 19 – Jan 3, 2021
Cost: $46 per vehicle
Location: St. Paul, MN

Duluth’s Bentleyville "Tour of Lights"

Located on the shores of Lake Superior, make special memories this year as you take a drive-thru tour under the glow of over 5 million lights in a 20-acre park. And while some Bentleyville standbys like bonfires, popcorn and hot cocoa won’t be available this year, children 10 and under will still receive a free knit hat and packaged bag of cookies upon entry.

Dates: Nov 21 – Dec 27, 2020
Cost: $10 per vehicle
Location: Duluth, MN

Hudson’s Buena Vista: A Stroll in the Park

Celebrate the magic of thousands of lights in Hudson’s Lakefront Park along the St. Croix River. Take a stroll in the park and embrace your inner child as you marvel at the holiday light creations.

If staying in your car with a warm drink is more your style, consider taking a drive alongside Lakefront Park or down the festively lit streets of historic downtown Hudson.

Dates: Through January 30, 2021
Cost: Free
Location: Hudson, WI

Explore Eagle Eye Farm

Have you ever wanted to meet an alpaca? Are you curious what determines the color of a chicken egg? Eagle Eye Farm in River Falls offers fun and educational farm tours by private appointment.

Enjoy this safe winter activity that gives you the opportunity to meet friendly farm animals like sheep, llamas, pigs, miniature highland cattle and chickens. During these 60- to 90-minute experiences, you’ll be with one of their very knowledgeable staff members who will tell you all about the animals and allow you to get up close and personal with many of them.

Dates: Thursdays – Sundays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Cost: $10 per person, children under 2 are free
Location: River Falls, WI

Hudson Hot Air Affair

Hudson Hot Air Affair is a unique, family friendly event that celebrates hot air ballooning. Balloons are scheduled to launch in the morning and afternoon on Saturday, and once in the morning on Sunday. Watch as colorful balloons fill the sky during the daytime or light up the night. And bring your camera – you won’t want to miss this!

*This event is tentative, based on public health precautions and weather conditions. Check the website for updates.

Dates: Feb 5, 2021 - Feb 7, 2021
Cost: Free
Location: Hudson, WI

Don’t let COVID-19 freeze your fun

Staying active is important for both our physical health and our mental health, especially during this time of uncertainty and change.

And while it can be easy to dwell on COVID-19 restrictions and the activities we’re missing out on, this year is a unique opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life and make special memories along the way.