Get out there: Free winter fun in the Twin Cities

Double decker couch
Participants in the 2015 Art Sled Rally rode a double-decker Lego couch down an icy hillside in Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

Snow and cold have finally arrived throughout Minnesota. Here are some free ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Free skating continues in downtown St. Paul at WinterSkate through Feb. 6. The warming hut offers skate rentals and hot chocolate. On certain days, skaters can take free lessons from figure skating pros and skate with Minnesota Wild players. Outdoor skating rinks will open everywhere when there's a steady stretch of cold.

There are lots of opportunities for candlelight skiing, snowshoeing and hikes in Minnesota state parks from New Year's Eve through Feb. 27. Short trails will be lit with lanterns or luminaria, with opportunities to warm up by campfires.

Learn to ice fish, cross-county ski and snowshoe for free at Winter 4Play MSP, a celebration of winter fun at Snelling Lake Beach in Fort Snelling State Park on Jan. 9. The fun lasts from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Bonfires, hot chocolate, s'mores, skijoring and flamenco dancing are also planned.

The annual Ice Box Days is happening in International Falls on Jan. 14 through 17. The Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run takes place on Jan. 16. The race has never been cancelled because of extreme cold in 32 years, but was shortened in 1981 when the temperature fell to 28 degrees below zero.

Learn about animal tracks on a family snowshoe hike at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 23 from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. The Bloomington hike is recommended for families with children ages 8 and up. Snowshoes are free.

The St. Paul Winter Carnival has been going on since 1886 and there are a ton of free parades, contests and other outdoor events taking place Jan. 28 -Feb. 15.

Warm weather delayed the start of the 2016 Labatt Blue U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, but the big outdoor tournament is scheduled to happen Jan. 28 through Jan. 31 on Lake Nokomis.

The annual Art Sled Rally happens at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis on Jan. 30. Participants build and decorate elaborate cardboard sleds for one or more riders. Last year's sleds included a double-decker Lego couch, Chinese terracotta warriors, a snow snake, a narwhal and a giant birthday cake.

The Art Shanties will be out on White Bear Lake this year. On Saturdays, from Feb. 6 until Feb. 28, the public can check out the collection of themed ice houses built by artists. This year's shanties include an AstroLounge Shanty, an Under the Lake/Sound Chamber Shanty, a Data Lab Shanty and a Dancy Shanty.

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