Minnesota celebrates The Great Northern from Jan. 26 to Feb. 5

U.S Pond Hockey Championship Rinks at Sunrise

U.S Pond Hockey Championship Rinks at Sunrise / Photo courtesy The Great Northern

Winter, to many Americans, is something to be endured indoors. Minnesotans, however, have proven for more than a century that the cold, snow-blanketed winter months are best enjoyed outdoors.

In 1885, a report by traveling newspaper correspondents from the East Coast stating that Minnesota, in general, was another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in winter, led to the creation of what has become the longest-running winter festival in the nation—the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Since 1886, Minnesotans’ drive to curb cabin fever has given birth to other annual traditions and events that bring Minnesotans outside. In 2002, the first City of Lakes Loppet, an urban cross-country ski race, is held in Minneapolis and draws 800 racers. In 2006, the first-ever U.S. Pond Hockey Championships drew nearly 120 teams of pond hockey players from across the nation to Minneapolis to play on 25 rinks. In 2009, the first ever Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival, a craft beer sampling event, was hosted in St. Paul’s Mears Park. The event has grown to host more than 150 breweries from around the nation and is attended by more than 8,500 hardy souls. The Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival is now held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

This January, these popular individual events are gathered under the banner of The Great Northern, a 10-day collaborative festival founded by event. In addition to keystone winter events like City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, the Great Northern is also creating a series of outdoor dining events throughout the 10 day affair, including a happy hour in historic Rice Park, an outdoor dinner in the North Loop, a bar in the middle of Lake Nokomis, outdoor dinners around Minneapolis and St. Paul in partnership with local top chefs.

The three signature dinners include a Surly beer garden gathering featuring an outdoor sauna, a sumptuous candlelit North Loop dinner led by chefs from The Bachelor Farmer and Spoon and Stable, and a St. Paul feast from the minds behind Revival, Saint Dinette, and Corner Table.

“The seasonality of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is what drew me back home. The cold, the snow, all of it shapes our story in the kitchen,” said Gavin Kaysen, executive chef and owner of Spoon and Stable. “When the snow falls, we share meals that warm the soul. These collaborative dinners reflect the spirit of The Great Northern, and they offer something for everyone to enjoy.”

This is what we believe. Raise a mitten if you’re in! #thegreatnorthern

A photo posted by The Great Northern (@thegreatnorthernfestival) on

The Great Northern Events Schedule:

Thursday, January 26–Sunday, February 5

Saint Paul Winter Carnival
A St. Paul Winter tradition since 1886, this winter festival is known as the “Coolest Celebration on Earth.” Bundle up and enjoy a plethora of fun activities with the family, such as parades, coronations, ice and snow carvings, the medallion hunt, a giant snow slide, and so much more. Check out Rice Park, for it will be the epicenter of events.

Times and locations of events vary. Learn more at www.wintercarnival.com.


Thursday, January 26–Sunday, January 29

12th Annual Labatt Blue U.S. Pond Hockey Championships Powered by SportsEngine
Hockey. The way nature intended. Outdoors in the crisp winter air, skate blades gliding on the fresh ice below, with the sounds of clacking sticks and the smell of grilling bratwurst filling the air. We can almost taste the Labatt Blue now.

Reunite with your friends over a weekend when time can stand still and we can all be kids for three days. The champions will go down in history with their names etched into the Golden Shovel, a symbol of our lifelong love and passion for the purity of this outdoor game.

Time: Thursday, 5–9pm; Friday, 7am–10pm; Saturday, 7am–7:30pm; Sunday, 7am–6pm
Location: Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis


Friday, January 27–Sunday, January 29

Hard Rock Café and Labatt Blue Blue Zone at the U.S. Pond Hockey Tournament
Fans and players at the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships can kickback at the Hard Rock Café, which is open each day during the three-day event. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Also, make sure to stop by the Labatt Blue Blue Zone, voted one of the ‘World’s Best Hockey Bars,’ for games and entertainment.

Time: Friday, 10am–6pm; Saturday, 10am–6pm; Sunday, 10am–5:30pm
Location: Lake Nokomis
Tickets: Free, food and beverage available for purchase


Monday, January 30

A Winter Table from The Bachelor Farmer, Spoon and Stable, and Meritage
In Minneapolis’ bustling North Loop neighborhood, The Bachelor Farmer’s Paul Berglund and Spoon and Stable’s Gavin Kaysen will present an elegant outdoor experience. North First Street between the two restaurants will be closed and dramatically transformed to make room for a luminary-strewn table set for 100, flanked by warming bonfires. Guests will enjoy a four-course ode to the experience of eating outdoors and the beauty of Minnesota winters. They’ll be treated to icy seafood towers from Russell Klein of Meritage in St. Paul, wine and cocktail pairings throughout dinner, custom Faribault Woolen Mill blankets, and handmade s’mores kits.

Date: Monday, January 30 at 5:30pm
Location: North First Street in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis
Tickets: $395 (incl. all tax, gratuity, valet and beverage pairings), to purchase, visit: TheBachelorFarmer.com


Tuesday, January 31

Saint Paul Winter Carnival Frozen Family Fun Night
Frozen Family Fun Night is aimed at families to enjoy all the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has to offer. Featuring live music from Koo Koo Kanga Roo, billed as “the Beastie Boys meet Sesame Street,” this comedic dance-pop duo will bring an interactive dance party to Rice Park. Other activities include a visit from the Saint Paul Mounted Police, Winter Carnival Junior Royalty, Elsa & Anna, food trucks and more.

Time: 5–8pm
Location: Rice Park
Tickets: Free, food and beverage available for purchase


Saint Paul Chef’s Experience from Saint Dinette, Revival, and Corner Table
Join Chef Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and Revival, and Chef Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette for a French Canadian-inspired, outdoor winter feast. These lauded chefs will personally tend to open flames as they serve up a selection of sweet and savory, soul-warming dishes, all under the awnings of the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market. Guests will enjoy skewered meats, smoked fish, toasted bread, warm maple syrup, and more. Master minds Tim Niver, Laurel Elm, and Nick Rancone will also craft chilled, warm, and spiked beverages, available a la carte, to add to a beautiful evening of dining and imbibing in the Lowertown neighborhood of Saint Paul.

Time: 6–9pm
Location: Saint Paul Farmers Market
Tickets: $30 (incl. entry, tax and food), to purchase, visit: EventBrite.com/TheGreatNorthern


Wednesday, February 1

Ice to Spice Boca Chica Restaurante y Cantina and El Burrito Mercado Present Cinco Night in Rice Park
Cinco de Mayo takes over Rice Park, enjoy authentic tamales, elotes and jalapeno eating contest! Live music from Mariachi Jalisco, playing the sound of the heart and soul of Mexico, and West Side Band, rockin’ the West Side for 35 years.

Time: 5–8pm
Location: Saint Paul Winter Carnival, Rice Park
Tickets: Free, food and beverage available for purchase


Surly Kraftskivan from Brewer’s Table and Heirloom, featuring 612 Sauna Society
The Swedish “Kraftskivan” party, traditionally held in summer, is getting The Great Northern treatment as Surly’s Executive Chef Jorge Guzman and his Brewer’s Table team join forces with Wyatt Evans of Saint Paul’s Heirloom, flipping the script to host a wintery outdoor Kraftskivan crayfish party at Surly Brewing Co. Revelers will also enjoy smoked sturgeon, other Scandinavian delicacies, and brewery innovations from Surly Brewing, and can experience the debut of the nation’s first community-owned mobile sauna, courtesy of 612 Sauna Society. Grab some crayfish and then sweat it out in a sauna-on-wheels in the Surly beer garden.

Time: 6–9pm
Location: Surly Brewing Co. Beer Garden
Tickets: Free, food and beverage available for purchase


Thursday, February 2

“Not Your Father’s” Happy Hour
Get a head start on the weekend, grab some friends and join us in Rice Park for happy hour. Enjoy a Not Your Father’s Root Beer or Ginger Ale, beer or glass of wine. St. Paul’s own Black Market BBQ will be serving up Not Your Father’s Root Beer glazed ribs and live music from White Iron Band.

Time: 5–8pm
Location: Saint Paul Winter Carnival, Rice Park
Tickets: Free, food and beverage available for purchase


Friday, February 3–Sunday, February 5

City of Lakes Loppet
Bundle up and get ready for a winter wonderland of seasonal sports with the City of Lakes Loppet. The three-day festival provides an array of races to partake in, including speed skating, ski sprints, snowshoeing, fat tire races, and skijoring (or simply put–dog sledding). There are racing events offered for all ages and ski levels, from the pro speedster to the first-time kiddo. Other happenings include the kubb tourney, which is a Swedish lawn game, and a snow sculpture contest. Don’t forget to check out the popular Luminary Loppet, a picturesque nighttime ski/snowshoe/walk around Lake of the Isles, lit with hundreds upon hundreds of luminaries. After your trek, enjoy a seriously “cool” party at the REI Luminary Party, featuring live music, dancing, glowing ice sculptures, and a Surly beer garden to whet your whistle.

Time: Friday, 4–9pm; Saturday, 7am–10pm; Sunday, 8am–4pm
Tickets: Registration fees for races and games; free for spectators. Learn more at www.loppet.org/events/cityoflakesloppet/.


Surly Beer Garden & Food Trucks
Fans and participants can enjoy a Surly Beer and grab a bite to eat from a selection of local food trucks in the Loppet Village during the three-day City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival.

Time: Friday, 5–9pm; Saturday 10am–6pm; Sunday, 10am–4pm
Location: Loppet Village Area
Tickets: Free festival, food and beverage available for purchase


Saturday, February 4

The 8th Annual Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival
With craft beer from 150 breweries, live music, gourmet meat and cheese showcase from Lunds and Byerlys, local food trucks, and a flurry of winter activities. Minnesota’s biggest outdoor beer festival is an annual tradition not to be missed. Held as an official Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the Beer Dabbler is a true celebration of winter in Minnesota.

Time: 2:30–6:30pm
Location: Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Tickets: 21+ event, to purchase tickets, visit: BeerDabbler.com


Post-Luminary Party
Luminary Loppet participants displaying their glow stick can enjoy a live outdoor concert, with Surly beer and a selection of local food trucks.

Time: 7–10pm
Location: Lagoon between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles
Tickets: Concert/Party is free for Luminary Loppet participants displaying their glow stick, $10 for everyone else. Food and beverage available for purchase. More Information.


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