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Minnesota's The Great Northern Festival

A 10-day celebration of winter fun in the Twin Cities

by Evan Orensten
on 31 January 2017

With average temperatures well below freezing during January and February, neither of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota may not seem like an ideal vacation destination. And yet, this couldn't be further from the truth as The Great Northern Festival, in its debut year, is out to prove. Through 10 days of outdoor programming—with everything from an ice sculpture carnival to art exhibitions and food and drink adventures—the festival, on now, is attempting to highlight experiences beyond traditional snow-sports. While the US Pond Hockey Championships, City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival and the 130-year-old Saint Paul Winter Carnival, are three pre-existing events now affiliated with the overall celebration, there's much more at play. Of course, this is an exciting development for residents, but based on what's taken place so far, it seems worthy of consideration for future travelers.

Many great Minnesota organizations have united, and Target (which was founded in and remains based in Minneapolis) is a key partner. The city's retail hot spot Askov Finlayson's founder Eric Dayton spearheaded the event's organization. In addition to leveraging the aforementioned programs (and others like the Frozen Film Festival) standouts include food and drink thanks to Minneapolis resident and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern and Northern Spark. There will be a five-course outdoor dinner and a bar in the middle of frozen Lake Nokomis, as well as events at Dayton's own Bachelor Farmer restaurant.

Dayton's idea is a simple one; instead of complaining about Twin City winters he wants people to embrace them and to celebrate the physical beauty of the cities all year round. The Great Northern Festival is running now through 5 February 2017 with programming across both cities. You can view the full schedule online.

Images courtesy of The Great Northern

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