Family Fun Around Town This Winter

by | Dec 2023

Minnesota Ice Festival

Photo: Snack Media

Think outside the (gift) box when planning holiday experiences.

When visitors come to town over the holidays, hosts can be hard-pressed when it comes to planning “things to do.” And a similar situation can be had when adult children return home for the holidays. While the excitement of having full beds and occupied seats around the dining table rarely takes a dip, there can be times when a little infusion of fun out of the house is needed.

There are many opportunities throughout the Metro to take a little holiday time field trip. Let’s take a look at places to go and things to do that can put a whole lot of merry and happy in your holiday season. (We realize this is by no means a complete list. Hopefully, we can inspire you to discover new places.)

Exercising a bit of creativity is good for everyone’s soul. Visit the easily accessible art exhibits coordinated by the Eagan Art House at the Eagan Community Center, Wescott Library and Storefront Gallery at Twin Cities Premium Outlets.

Charcuterie boards continue to be an entertaining fixture. Learn what takes a board from good to “grate” with the help of The Grater Good, 13315 106th St., Norwood Young America; 952.334.3225;

The Grater Good Holiday Charcuterie Board

Photo: The Grater Good

Adventure seekers won’t be disappointed with downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing options at Buck Hill, 15400 Buck Hill Road, Burnsville; 952.435.7174;

If you’re hungry for a new culinary challenge, cooking classes can satisfy your hankering. Visit The Abundant Kitchen, 223 Water St., Excelsior; 952.401.3682;

Take in a concert or show at the Lakeville Arts Center, 20965 Holyoke Ave., Lakeville; 952.985.4640;

If you missed being a member of a winter Olympic team, play the part with a group curling experience at the Dakota Curling Club. Book a sheet of ice, which accommodates eight players, and the club provides the rocks, brooms, supports and sliders you need to get started, along with a dedicated instructor. Make sure to book in advance as space can be limited. 20775 Holt Ave., Lakeville; 952.479.0322;

Family Curling on Ice

Pexels/SHVETS production

Increase your knowledge of making spirits by dipping into a distillery, including J. Carver Distillery, 1320 Mill Lane, Waconia; 952.442.2433;

Want to escape? Find out how well your group thinks on its feet during a stop at Labyrinth Puzzle Rooms, 20730 Holyoke Ave., Lakeville; 612.666.0980;

Check out the public open skating schedule at the Eagan Civic Arena in preparation to carve ice with fellow skaters. Skate rental is available. 3870 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan; 651.675.5590;

Don’t leave out your furry guests. If you’re not the only one suffering from cabin fever, bring your four-legged friend to an indoor dog park like Brew Park Plymouth, 2605 Fernbrook Lane N. Suite J, Plymouth; 763.337.4433;

Happy Dog at Indoor Dog Park

Pexels/Matheus Bertelli

Bury the hatchet with an evening of axe throwing. A dedicated Axe Master will guide you through all the basics and game play. Minnesota Axe Eagan, 2055 Cliff Road, Eagan; 651.905.4927;

Tip: Each player needs to pick a name for the scoreboard—axe puns encouraged.

Please both the wine and the beer drinkers with Minnesota wine and beer served at one destination: Omni Winery & Taproom, 15701 Biscayne Ave., Rosemount; 763.286.2258;

Who doesn’t love a great holiday light show, especially from the warmth and comfort of your car? Check out the new Magic of Lights at Viking Lakes, 2685 Vikings Circle, Eagan;

Lose yourself in wintry fun by navigating an ice maze. Try your cold-weather orienteering skills at the Minnesota Ice Festival, featuring the Minnesota Ice Maze, 2645 Vikings Circle, Eagan; 612.254.8330;

How does this sound? Ice skate around a 10-acre “lake,” spread out among three ponds, which are connected by winding canals and gives a decidedly “unsuburban” vibe at Centennial Lakes Park, 7499 France Ave. S., Edina; 952.833.9580;

Test your collective courage without leaping out of an airplane during indoor skydiving at iFly, 12415 Wayzata Blvd. Suite 15, Minnetonka; 612.444.4359;

Tip: The photo ops alone are worth it.

Snowshoe through 11 miles of trails along more than 1,200 acres of woodland, prairie and open fields at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska; 612.624.2200;

Tip: Be sure to check about trail accessibility and equipment rental.

Who in your group is the holder of the most information (useless or otherwise) or is in constant pursuit of all things trivia? There are plenty of breweries and dining spots around the Metro that feature these questionable nights of fun.

Sip wine and savor the scenery during a wine tasting. Alexis Bailly Vineyard offers wine yurts, heated tents that accommodate up to six people. Pack a picnic or order food from the vineyard, and bring a game to play for an ultimate bonding experience. Alexis Bailly Vineyard, 18200 Kirby Ave. S., Hastings; 651.437.1413;

Tip: Yurt reservations are $25 for two hours, so make reservations in advance of your visit to secure your yurt.

Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Photo: Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Immerse yourself in the Westin Edina Galleria’s Winter Village. Throughout a three-month installation, the team offers weekly spirit and wine tastings, private dinners hosted by local chefs, and special activities through its Weekend Wonders program at 3201 Galleria, Edina; 952.567.5000;

Before you head out the door, be sure to check venues’ or activities’ availability. Scheduling can change after this issue’s publication.

It Takes Two

The holidays can bring stress to families when they gather, and this can include when adult children are welcomed into the household for a visit.

Family therapist Tai J. Mendenhall, Ph.D., LMFT., reminds parents that their children are now adults. “The manners in which they do any variety of things may be different than the ways that you would do things (e.g., cook, hang a towel in the bathroom or drive), but your job as a parent is no longer to guide, teach, discipline, etc., like it was when they were young,” he says. “Pick your battles, and remember that the visit is temporary. Enjoy time together—visiting, sharing, playing games, seeing shows, exchanging gifts, etc.”

Adult children also have some things to bear in mind. “Remember that your parents are still your parents, and that you are staying in their home,” Mendenhall says. “Respect that. Don’t change the thermostat without asking them if it’s OK first. Clean up after yourself. Engage with them in authentic conversations—not while you scroll through social media and watch TV.” And he reiterates the importance of picking battles, recognizing the visit won’t last forever, enjoying that time together and employing the age-old adage—don’t sweat the small stuff.

Keep ’em Guessing

Add a little excitement or mystery to your hosting duties. Rather than telling family members where the upcoming field trip will take them, make a game of it by offering clues. The first to guess the destination can be the first in line, get the primo seat or even receive a small treat associated with the activity.

More to the Story

One might assume that family bonding happens early in a child’s life, and no effort is required after a certain point, but it’s not that simple.

“Relationships require ongoing work, maintenance and nurturing,” says Mendenhall. “… the reality is that most relationships that fail do so because of neglect. We’re ‘too busy’ with other things to authentically nurture our relationships.”

In some households, family members stop engaging beyond routine interactions. There’s a risk that this can happen between family households. “We don’t call each other just to check in, say ‘Hi’ or just share something great that happened at our child’s school or in our work,” says Mendenhall, a professor at the University of Minnesota and medical family therapist with M Health Fairview. “We experience visits as a chore and distraction from the things that we really want to do.”

Mendenhall reminds that family bonding should continue to be tended to maintain healthy connections. “Early attachment processes between infants/children and their caretakers (parents, grandparents, etc.) continue throughout the life course,” he says. “Relationships change and evolve, of course, as parents and children go from parent/child relationships to more adult/adult relationships, and this takes effort.”

“Cultivating and maintaining connections across generations is key in continuing family legacies, stories and related narratives,” Mendenhall continues to say. “Closeness, support and sense of belonging are basic human needs—and most of us receive (and offer) these things within family contexts.”


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