The Great Northern: How The Twin Cities Celebrate Winter

Why the hell would anyone want to travel to Minneapolis or Saint Paul in the winter? Finally, there’s a really good reason: A new annual cold-weather event that embraces Minnesota’s most prized asset—the great outdoors.

BLK WLF Photography
OF 9

It’s no secret that Minneapolis and Saint Paul get a bad wrap for their brutal winters. What seems to be a well-kept secret, however, is that Minnesota does cold better than any place else. To prove this point to uninitiated skeptics, the first-annual The Great Northern event took to the cities’ parks, lakes, trails, restaurants, breweries—everywhere, really—to show off the spirit of the North over the course of ten days spanning late January into early February. (What is the North, you ask? Read about it here.)

It should come as a surprise to no one who has spent a haute second in Minneapolis that The Great Northern is the brainchild of North campaign founder Eric Dayton, the proprietor of the James Beard award-winning restaurant The Bachelor Farmer, the underground cocktail den Marvel Bar, and the Departures-approved Askov Finlayson men’s shop. The unofficial mayor of Minneapolis (who also happens to be the son of the official governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton), Eric had an idea: If he could get three of the cities’ beloved winter traditions—the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, and the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival—to coordinate their schedules, and then throw in some additional fancy programming (like, say, shutting down a street in downtown Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood and serving a 100-person dinner outside, complete with 12 bonfires, Faribault wool blankets, and hand-warmers), he’d have a bit of a North-style South by Southwest on his hands.

Thus, The Great Northern was born, thanks in large part to Target sponsoring it. Herewith, a small sampling of just how the Twin Cities’s new annual event got winter right. Expect the festivities to be even bigger and better in 2018, just in time for the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. 

For more information, visit thegreatnorthernfestival.com.