Winter Survival Guide

Not flying south for the winter? Don’t feel bad—or even cold. Here are 28 reasons why Minnesota’s coolest months are actually the hottest, offering the year’s best opportunities for arts, adventure, and inspiration.

Get Out


Party Arty

February 13

Preview party for Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton
The season’s most star-studded affair, and not just because of the hip crowd that frequents these popular parties at the Walker Art Center. The exhibit, by Elizabeth Peyton, features drawings and paintings of pop-culture icons and their tabloid equivalents across the pond, from Kurt Cobain to Princes William and Harry. Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-375-7600,

Play in the Snow

December 6

This small-town winter festival in Biwabik features the usual crafts, cakes, and candies as well as Christmas carols in the park, a lighting ceremony, and fireworks. But no other celebration is so near the Giants Ridge Snow and Ski Resort, ranked No. 1 in Minnesota by SKI magazine, with 35 downhill runs, miles of cross-country trails, a luxurious lodge, and spa facilities. Ski all day and head into town at night for the festivities. Biwabik, 218-865-4183,

Hit the Ice

January 17 to February 14

The art Shanty Projects
Ice shanties are great—if you’re into ice fishing. Or, in this case, art. Working with the Soap Factory gallery, artists create funky variations on the Grumpy Old Men theme in this temporary colony on Medicine Lake. Call it an ice crawl: karaoke in one shanty, others hosting music and dance performances—even yoga. And, of course, the colorful, artistically designed architecture that makes these shanties anything but shacks. Medicine Lake, Plymouth; visit

Meet the Party Animals

February 14 to 16

Minnesota zoo’s Tropical Beach Party
Step out of the cold and into the tropics without leaving Minnesota. Calypso music, zookeeper talks, the state’s largest indoor sandbox, and plenty of humidity help melt the winter chill as the zoo’s Tropics Trail is transformed into an exotic paradise. Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952-431-9200,

Stay Cool

January 22 to February 1

St. Paul Winter Carnival
If we’re all going to freeze, we might as well have fun doing it—that’s essentially the rationale for St. Paul’s annual Winter Carnival. And all the usual highlights are back, including ice sculptures, coronations with Klondike Kate and the Vulcan Krewe, the torchlight parade, the Frozen 5K race, and—many people’s favorite—free ice-skating outside Landmark Center. Visit or call the St. Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation at 651-223-4700.


Jazz Up Your Dinner

Want some crab legs with that crooning? There are more restaurants around town with live jazz than you might imagine, each as different as the mood you’re in.

Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
As the best-known jazz venue in town, the Dakota continues to serve up such big names as Ahmad Jamal and the Bad Plus, alongside award-winning cuisine. 1010 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-332-1010,

Café Maude
The hip Café Maude has the best of the local cutting-edge cats playing against the clink of cocktail glasses. 5411 Penn Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-822-5411,

Cavé Vin
The quietest and classiest of the bunch, Cavé Vin pairs French fare with live jazz on Wednesdays, featuring such smooth vocalists as Rhonda Laurie. 5555 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-922-0100,

This suburban spot at the Galleria offers Friday night jazz with top local talent and no cover charge. 3520 W. 70th St., Edina, 952-697-6000,

Cue at the Guthrie
This über-stylish hot spot has perhaps the best backdrop for weekend jazz with its high glass walls and riverfront location. Dinner is accompanied by light jazz but after the kitchen closes, the lounge starts swinging. 806 S. Second St., Minneapolis, 612-225-6499,

Artists’ Quarter
Owned and operated by musicians, this Greenwich Villagesque venue is the most intimate, strictly jazz locale in town, offering a mix of out-of-town guests and regular local performers, such as Kenny Horst on drums and Pete Whitman on saxophone. And if you want something to eat with your entertainment, it’s a little-known fact that you can order in from the nearby Wild Tymes Bar & Grill or Great Waters Brewery. 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-292-1359,

Get Smart


Learn to Tango

First week of every month

Four seasons’ Tango lessons
No need to hit Buenos Aires when tango lessons are easily accessible at Four Seasons Dance Studio. Sign up for one class or more, with new classes starting the first week of each month. Practice classes between lessons are just $2 on Tuesdays. 1637 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-342-0902,

Learn to Figure Skate

Beginning January 10

Sportquest Skating academy
Unless you’re 8, you may have to put those dreams of being the next Olympic figure-skating champion on ice. But it’s not too late to go from clutz to triple lutz. At the Parade Ice Garden, the SportQuest Skating Academy offers a range of 10-week learn-to-skate classes for tiny tots and adults alike, instructing you in everything from salchows to toe loops to simply staying on your feet. 600 Kenwood Pkwy., Minneapolis, 612-207-5046,

Learn to Make Sushi

January 17, 26, and February 14

Cooks of Crocus Hill and Kitchen Window
Love sushi but didn’t think you could make it without formal training and a month in Japan? With the right teacher, learning to turn raw fish into exotic delicacies may be easier than you think. Both Cooks of Crocus Hill and Kitchen Window offer enough instruction to have you hosting your own sushi party in no time, with chefs on hand to ensure you get it. Cooks’ “Crash Course in Sushi,” with chef Jonathan Kaye, is offered at the 50th and France and Grand Avenue locations and gives you an overview; Kitchen Window’s “Sushi for Beginners” class is three hours of the need-to-know basics. Cooks of Crocus Hill, 877 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-228-1333, and 3925 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-285-1903,; Kitchen Window, 3001 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-824-4417,

Learn to Snowboard

Beginning January 4

Women’s College at Afton Alps

Stop wondering what all those crazy kids are up to on the peaks while you’re weaving your way downhill on two slabs of pine. And do it without the snotty bro ’tude: Take the five-week Women’s College snowboard program, for ladies only, at Afton Alps and learn to board with the big dogs. 6600 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, 651-436-5245,

Learn to Ice Climb

December 20 to March 14

Vertical Endeavors’ Ice Experience
Why sit and stare at a frozen waterfall when you can climb it instead? At the new Minnesota Ice Park in Sandstone’s Robinson Quarry Park, about an hour north of St. Paul, Vertical Endeavors offers ice-climbing lessons a couple Saturdays a month. Soon you’ll be swinging ice axes and clambering up cascades like a polar explorer. Robinson Quarry Park, Sandstone, 651-776-1430,

Learn to Throw a Pot

January 4 to March 1

Northern Clay Center
Memories of Ghost notwithstanding, you know what you could create with a little clay and a wheel—a mess, probably. Which is where the instructors at the Northern Clay Center come in. They won’t hold your hand Patrick Swayze–style, but they’ll certainly guide you through the basics. 2424 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-339-8007,

Learn to Draw a Nude

January 5 to February 23

Minnetonka Center for the Arts
Ever watched one of those artsy flicks where a cadre of bohemians are cooly drawing a model on a pedestal? Where exactly does one go to do such a thing? In the Twin Cities, head to the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, where a “Life Drawing” course will take you through the fundamentals of technique, composition, proportion, and, ahem, general anatomy. 2240 North Shore Dr., Wayzata, 952-473-7361,



Throw a Cool Party

Step 1: Call the cheese whiz
Known to all as “Patrick the Cheese Guy,” Patrick Moore became the Twin Cities’ first grocery-store cheesemonger when he built the specialty section at Lunds in 1997. These days he makes house calls to teach you and your friends the who, what, where, and whey of great cheeses.

Step 2: Choose your cheese

Classes range from “America the Beautiful,” an overview of American artisanal cheese, to more internationally flavored explorations of cheese from Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

Step 3: Take a cheesy trip
Also on Patrick’s tasting menu: road-trips to dairies in Minnesota and Wisconsin where you can sample blue cheese straight from the cave, warm ricotta off the vat, and fresh gouda. Call Patrick Moore at 612-377-2717 or visit

Get Civilized



Devilishly Good

January 24 to 31

What’s warmer than, well, hell? Faust is the lustful philosopher who sells his soul to the devil in order to regain his youth and win young Marguerite in this take on Goethe’s classic tragedy about the limits of human knowledge. This Minnesota Opera performance is the first for the group in more than a decade. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 612-333-6669,

Santa Claws

December 12 and 13

Eartha Kitt
Sultry and glamorous as ever, the original Catwoman turned cabaret chanteuse performs “Santa Baby” and other holiday favorites with the Minnesota Orchestra. Meow. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-371-5656,
* SHOW CANCELLED. Diahann Carroll will perform instead.

Top of the Pops

January 15 to 25

Bernstein Festival
Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra host this tribute to Leonard Bernstein, including selections from his popular musical scores along with more obscure material. Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, hosts the final concert, featuring tunes from West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-371-5656,

Opera Cubed

December 12 and 13

The Making of Americans
Based on Gertrude Stein’s so-called cubist novel, this new opera is the winter’s most literary musical performance. Stein’s idiosyncratic history of her family is filled out by a multimedia array of videos, singers (including local opera favorite Bradley Greenwald), and several ensembles, such as Zeitgeist and the New York–based JACK string quartet playing hurdy-gurdies, scrap-yard percussion, and other unusual instruments. Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-375-7600,

Tropical Storm

January 11

Ballet Hispanico: Palladium Nights
The New York–based Ballet Hispanico gets things shaking with the mambo, cha cha, and other smooth moves in their re-creation of the famous Palladium Ballroom, which popularized Latin music in the 1950s. Backed by an Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble, this is sensual escapism at its overheated best. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 651-224-4222

Holed Up

January 9 to February 1

The Ice Fishing Play
A once-peaceful ice-fishing trip becomes laden with annoying family members—and two missionaries warning about doomsday—in Kevin Kling’s quirky tale. A classic Minnesota author, a classic Minnesota theme, and you don’t have to sit on a frozen lake to enjoy it. Look for a post-show discussion with Kling on January 18. Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, 612-333-3010,

Classical Mass

January 8 to 30

International Chamber Orchestra Festival
Searching for the biggest cultural bang for your buck? The International Chamber Orchestra Festival offers nearly a dozen concerts for $80—Handel, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and less familiar music performed by five of the finest chamber orchestras from around the world. Multiple Twin Cities venues; call 651-291-1144 or visit for tickets and information.

Moving Pictures

January 21 to 25

Frozen River Film Festival
This movie showcase, about planetary engagement and activism, ups the educational ante with such intriguing speakers between screenings as the peripatetic John Francis, a.k.a. the Planetwalker, who swore off motorized transport for 22 years. Hear what he learned (or at least check out the calluses) from his wanderings across North and South America. Winona State University, Winona, 480-522-7940,

Off the Walls

February 22 to May 3

Noble Dreams and Simple Pleasures: American Masterworks from Minnesota collectors
Ever wondered what treasures are tucked away in the manses of our own fine state? For the first time, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts presents 85 works by renowned artists—from Winslow Homer to John Singer Sargent—on loan from the halls of Minnesota’s greatest art collectors. 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-870-3131,