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7 of the Top Things to Do in the Winter in Detroit Lakes

Winter weather has never kept Minnesota’s Detroit Lakes residents from having fun. In fact, this town of approximately 9,000 people near the Canadian border is full of seasonal outdoor activities like snowmobiling trails and ice fishing, cross country or Alpine skiing, and some of the area’s best-groomed Nordic ski trails. The question isn’t what you can do in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, during the winter; the question is if you have the time to explore it all during a single trip. Here’s a look at seven of the top things to do during the winter in Detroit Lakes, MN.



1. Play in the snow.

When snow blankets lakes, forests, fields and the wildlife viewing areas around Detroit Lakes, it pays to talk to the locals for the best tips on how to manage the weather, says Jay Richards, who grooms ski trails at Maplelag Resort. They can tell you what you need to know in terms of hydration and fuel, and they can point you in the right direction in terms of taking a lesson in Nordic or Alpine skiing.

Richards says Maplelag Resort is known for the quality of its cross-country trails, setting it apart from other ski areas. “Trails are groomed almost daily during the winter, providing the best conditions possible,” he says. “Not only are there cross-country skiing opportunities, but snowshoeing, fat biking, ice skating, sledding and ice fishing are available.”

Another popular place to play in the snow is the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area, which opened in November 2014 with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as well as the Landslide Tubing Park, featuring the Midwest’s largest tubing hill. You can rent a fat bike at DMRA, too. At Ice Cracking Lodge, enjoy groomed snowmobiling trails—part of a system encompassing 250 snowmobiling miles throughout this area.



2. Get out on the ice.

Whether you’ve previously ice fished or you’re trying this winter sport for the first time, Outlet Recreation can provide Ice Castle fish houses on Detroit Lake. There’s an ice fish house available when staying at Lakecrest Resort too, as well as four winter-worthy cabins.

If you love ice skating, head for Peoples Park, where there are three skating rinks, a warming house and free skates to rent. “They’re available for everyone to use, first-come-first-served,” says Brad Green, Detroit Lakes Public Works Director. “We have two indoor rinks that we also offer for open skating.”




3. Ride a horse-drawn sleigh or a dog-powered sled.

Sleigh rides are very popular here, and J&F Stables is the place to go for an authentic, fun experience. “Sleigh rides are about an hour long and they cost $200 for a group of 10,” says owner Johanne Pardiac. The route is generally through the woods, but can be customized to include some time on local roads, too. Pardiac recommends calling in advance to reserve a sleigh ride; Saturdays and Sundays are generally open for rides, but weekdays require more advanced notice. 

Detroit Lakes visitors also can enjoy dogsled rides with Eddy Streeper, a British Columbia transplant to Minnesota and a lifelong dogsled racer who has competed in Canada, Alaska, and throughout North America. With advanced reservations, he gives people 3 1/2-mile rides on a dog sled when there’s enough snow on the ground.



4. Enjoy a winter festival.

Polar Fest is a 12-day event each February, featuring a spectacular weekend fireworks display, as well as The Polar Putt, plus loads of food, drink, and outdoor sports. Join a tubing race, dance the night away, enjoy a spaghetti feed or try the Polar Fest Plunge. Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center hosts a Freeze Your Buns 5K Run and Ice Tee Golf, too.


5. Eat, drink and be merry.

Plenty of restaurants, brew pubs, and bar and grills in Detroit Lakes can satisfy your foodie cravings. At Brew Ales & Eats Detroit Lakes, savor a big sandwich alongside craft beer or a unique cocktail. On the beautiful beach on Detroit Lake, Lakeside Tavern/Tavern Brewery pairs a warm and friendly feel with burgers and pizza at the town’s first brew pub, while Spanky’s Stone Hearth serves fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks and scratch martinis, with views of Rose Lake and two roaring fireplaces. 

Kelsey Miller works for Lakelife Hospitality, which owns Long Bridge Bar, Grill and Marina, Hotel Shoreham Bar & Bistro & Pizzeria, The Fireside and Zorbaz at the Beach, which hosts a Winterfezt event too. “Zorbaz has a winter drink list, live music on Saturdays, and outdoor patio areas with torches, if guests want to brave the elements,” she says. “The Fireside has various wine and whiskey tastings and a cozy atmosphere to keep guests warm in the winter, with a great lake view. Long Bridge Bar, Grill and Marina has a great view of Big Detroit Lake with lakeside gas available for snowmobilers.”

The Historic Holmes Theatre is especially busy in the winter, hosting everything from Broadway shows to tribute concerts to live shows by popular singer/songwriters. “It’s an 800-seat performing arts center, attached to the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center, which has a large fitness [area] and aquatics center plus a giant indoor play structure called ‘The Backyard,’ says Executive Director Amy Stoller Stearns.


6. Shop Detroit Lakes.

When you’re ready to play indoors, the downtown area is full of stores, including Norby’s Department Store—a favorite stop offering menswear, plus children’s clothing as well as women’s clothing, accessories and cosmetics. You also can stroll the newly redone Washington Avenue, which has red-paver crosswalks and street decorations inviting you to explore three new women’s clothing boutiques, a downtown mall, coffee shops and specialty stores.



7. Sleep and relax.

Enjoy comfortable, amenity-rich lodging here, too. Detroit Lakes’ newest hotel, Best Western Premier - The Lodge on Lake Detroit, is eco-friendly with room choices including family suites with kitchens, or renewal spa suites featuring aromatherapy whirlpools and fireplaces. A full-service, on-site spa pampers guests. At the picturesque Holiday Inn on the Lake, guests appreciate the indoor pool or sauna, the full-service menu at Ice House Restaurant and live music at Beach Bar & Grill.


To create your perfect winter experience, in Detroit Lakes, MN, visit