When it’s dark for 17 hours a day and the kind of cold that cuts straight through the soles of my Chuck Taylors, it’s tough to get motivated to do anything but sit on the sofa and read (and eat cookies…and brie). But the trick to beating the winter SADS is to get out of the damn house once in a while.
I do my best impersonation of a crazy person every morning when I make the decision to roll out of my warm bed and go for a run. Outside. This morning’s run was 9 degrees with a -9 degree wind chill. Yes, it sounds torturous and it kind of was for the first few minutes. But soon, my brain convinced my feet they were not going to freeze to the sidewalk and I started to relax and enjoy the only fresh air I’ll breathe all day.
Think about that for a minute. I go from breathing apartment air, to city bus air, to office tower air, back to city bus and apartment air. That’s a lot of stale air.
So, let me repeat – getting out is the key to surviving winter. Whether it’s for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks, here are some of my favorite escapes that help ward off cabin fever.
How to happily kill a few hours:
Breweries: Check out one of the many new or new-to-you breweries popping up all over the state of Minnesota. There are a lot to choose from – 118, at last count. My favorites are The Herkimer, Bauhaus and Dangerous Man in Minneapolis; Lake Monster and Bad Weather Brewing Co. in St. Paul; and Bent Paddle in Duluth. Exploring the personality of each taproom and its staff is as much fun as trying their beer.
Museums & Historical Sites: They’re not as stuffy as you think they are. You don’t have to pretend to ponder paintings or artwork that doesn’t make sense. Instead, tailor your experience to something that interests you.
Are you into movies? Then check out the Omnitheater at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Do you love architecture, history, or nosing around someone else’s mansion? Visit the Swedish American Institute, the Bakken Museum or the James J. Hill House. I personally love to pretend I live in these places and am graciously allowing everyone in as guests. Plus, the Swedish American Institute has a great gift shop and restaurant.
Don’t forget about the Minneapolis Institute of Art. First of all, general admission is free. Second, this place is huge and contains works from some of the greatest artists of all time. Take a day off of work and have the place to yourself. Feel superior to everyone stuck in an office all day.
Discover The Museum of Russian Art. Bite sized, but beautifully housed in an old church, this museum is worth a visit for its one-of-a-kind collection of Russian art. Plus, its gift shop has free cookies!
How to happily kill a few days:
A few years ago, Luke and I drove north to Bemidji to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Bemidji is a small resort town that gets crushed in the summertime by hordes of lake-goers and trail hikers. Every hotel, every B&B, every pancake house is overrun – but not in February. We pulled into town on a frigid Friday night, found a great little brewery (Bemidji Brewing), got a table at the best restaurant in town (Tutto Bene), hiked a section of old-growth forest in near solitude (The Lost Forty) and mugged with Paul and Babe without having to hustle anyone out of the frame.
This is the case for nearly any “resort town” in Minnesota. Some amenities and shops may be unavailable in the winter months, but you’ll still get to experience the vibe of the town under much more humane conditions. That is, if you dress properly for the weather.
How to happily kill a week or more:
Luke and I have a motto when it comes to traveling: “I want to be where the people aren’t,” as sung by Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” It’s terrible, but true. Who wants to leave a crowded, over-run city only to go vacation in a crowded, over-run resort area? No thank you. I’d rather visit places that are nearly impossible to navigate in their peak seasons, but are ghost towns in their shoulder and off-seasons. Now is a great time to visit some of the warm climate national parks.
Joshua Tree, CA
It gets cold in the desert at night, but the daytime highs are pleasantly in the 60s, 70’s, sometimes even the 80’s throughout the winter. Your tradeoff is having to wear a down vest while getting to explore Joshua Tree National Park without any crowds. Meaning, there will be no one around to witness to you hugging that Joshua Tree. Prices are really cheap on just about everything, too. We rented an adorable cabin in the desert for about $100 a night.
Many of the national parks located in colder, mountainous regions close their main access roads in the winter, so check ahead of time before heading out.
Hopefully these ideas will encourage you out of the house and into becoming a tourist in your own town this winter.