Winter Wonderland

Sarah Koller

Cozy up at the Uncommon Grounds Coffeehouse
Enveloped by the elegant framing of a renovated Victorian house and furnished with emerald booths from St. Paul Hotel’s L’Etoile Restaraunt, the Uncommon Grounds Coffeehouse discloses a traditional flair and praise-worthy desserts, mochas, and chai.

An alcove coffee bar of gold leaf and enamel woodwork backdrops a brass espresso machine, and exotic spices line the walls. Located in the heart of Uptown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue and open past midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, this coffeehouse specializes in family-recipe cheesecakes, white hot chocolate, and an endless array of coffee and tea.

This 130 year-old haven supports a wrap-around veranda for summer nights, and cozy sitting rooms to escape bitter winters. Perfect for a more intimate setting or casual banter, visitors are rarely disappointed.

The Depot Ice Rink
Located in Downtown Minneapolis, the Depot Ice Rink has all the amenities of a standard ice skating rink, without the consequences of unpredictable weather. Open weekends until 11 p.m. the indoor ice rink is the perfect spot for a date, a place to hang out with friends, or to bond with the family. For $8 you can be admitted into the rink, and for $7 more you can rent skates. The Depot has been rated in the top ten best ice rinks in the country by USA Today and MSNBC, so if you’re looking for a prestigious, fun skating experience right in the Twin Cities, head to The Depot Ice Rink.

Trade in Traditional Sleds for Tubes
Sledding–a seemingly innocent winter activity–lures you with promises of fun and exhilaration, only to leave you disappointed and irritated. For mere seconds of freedom sliding down a hill, you lose minutes hiking back up, leaving you sweaty, cold, and miserable. Instead, consider spending the day at a specially tailored tubing park where you can partake in all the thrill of riding on a tube, without the long treks and sore legs. Ski areas such as Buck Hill, Powder Ridge, Wild Mountain, and Afton Alps make tubing a more leisurely and exciting experience with several snow chutes to slide down and lifts to carry you and your tube back up the hill. Prices vary depending on the location, but most snow tubing destinations charge between $13-$16 for a 2 hour session.

St. Paul Winter Carnival
January 22 marks the start of the St. Paul Winter Carnival: a yearly festival held to celebrate the exciting side of Minnesota’s below-zero temperatures. In collaboration with the carnival, the Pioneer Press will present its annual treasure hunt tradition, publishing its first clue on January 18; if a person discovers the location of the medallion somewhere in St. Paul, he or she could win up to $10,000 this year. The famous ice-sculpting competition will commence the carnival in Rice Park, followed by a blues concert, a 5K and half-marathon race, parades, hockey tournaments, snow sculpture displays, ice-skating races, a cat show, a snow slide, and much more. With numerous activities to choose from running through February 1, the St. Paul Winter Carnival offers the perfect excuse to get outside of the house, drink some hot chocolate, and enjoy the glorious wonders of Minnesota’s winter.

Minneapolis Institute of Art
Outdoor activities are not the only things to do during the winter months in Minnesota; the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minneapolis’ Whittier neighborhood is featuring a new exhibit: “Public Places, Private Spaces,” which highlights contemporary Indian photography and video art.

Besides “Public Places, Private Spaces” (running through January 18, 2009), other highlighted exhibits include Master Photographs: the curatorial legacy of Carroll T. Hartwell (ending January 25), which is a photography exhibit that focuses on abstract but common photographs of architecture and American relics from past generations.

Upcoming exhibits at the MIA include “Jack Lenor Larsen on the Silk Road,” which features numerous hand-woven silk tapestries from around the world. This exhibit comes to the MIA on February 7, 2009. “Tom Arndt’s Minnesota” also comes to the MIA on February 21, 2009, and features photographs which chronicle everyday life in Minnesota. Arndt’s images document events such the Minnesota State Fair, as well as simple activities. Arndt started photographing in the early 1970s and this is the complete exhibit featured for the first time in a Minnesota arts museum.

All these exhibits, except for “Public Places, Private Spaces” which require the viewer to buy a ticket, are free and open to the general public. The MIA hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, extended hours Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The MIA is closed on Mondays.