Ice Castles

If you are looking for more outdoor winter activities……look no further than the Ice Castles in Stillwater!
Opened on January 5th, the castle is located in downtown Stillwater in Lowell Park along the riverfront.
Follow the glacial blue hues of the icicles and wind the crushed ice walk ways to find an incredible winter wonderland!The very first Ice Castle was built in Alpine, Utah and has since grown to 6 cities.
Each of the Ice Castles weighs about 25,000,000 pounds with about 10′ thick walls.
You can expect icy archways, frozen fountains, tunnels and ice slides.
During the day, see the the princesses from Frozen and at night, experience the light shows and fire performances!
You can also see the #onlyinMN marquee!
Perfect for a day or night trip…
…just don’t forget to grab your camera!

The Bentleyville Tour of Lights

The Bentleyville Tour of Lights should be a winter tradition for everyone! What better way to get into the holiday spirit than strolling through America’s largest, free, walk-through lighting display?
Bentleyville, in Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park, features more than 4 million lights across 20-acres off the shores of Lake Superior.
Enter by way of the majestic Bentleyville Castle door and follow the holiday music floating through the air.
Hot chocolate and cookie from Bentleyville’s Cookie House in hand, you can find your way through lighted tunnels simulating those that run I-35 underneath city parks.
The pathways take you through different districts of Bentleyville-Duluth including the municipal golf courses, the aerial lift bridge, Enger Park, the Tall Ships festival, and Lester Park.
There are so many displays including Nativity, Support our Troops, First Responders, Vikings, Dinosaur Land, Rudolph’s Campgrounds, 12 Days of Christmas, Gingerbread Man, Frosty Fairways, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Island of Misfit Toys and my personal favorite, TWO Paul Bunyan and Babe tributes!
The magnum opus of Bentleyville is the animated 12-story steel Christmas tree and ball which is covered with over 150,000 sparkling LED lights.
Adorned with an illuminated #OnlyInMN sign, the tree rises to more than twice the height of New York City’s famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree!
How did it come to be, you may ask?
Nathan Bentley first decorated his home with lights in Esko, Minnesota in 2001.
He added more and more eventually Bentley’s house was known as “the house with all of the lights in Esko.”
One of Bentley’s friends eventually started referring to his house as Bentleyville (a play on words from Dr. Seuss’s “Whoville.”).
In 2004, the Bentley’s moved from Esko to Cloquet, Minnesota.
“Bentleyville” grew very quickly and within a few years, outgrew the Bentley home.
In the fall of 2008, the Duluth City Mayor asked Bentley if he would bring Bentleyville to Bayfront Park.
It opened in 2009 to over 150,000 visitors and has gained immense popularity every since.
The Tour of Lights runs from November 18 to December 26, 2017.
It is also the official drop-off location for new unwrapped toys and nonperishable food items for the Duluth Salvation Army.
If you are headed there, bring your donations, dress warm, and don’t forget your camera!

Union Depot’s 5th Annual Holiday Bake Sale

My absolute, most-favorite event of the year is the Union Depot’s Annual Holiday Bake Sale. Hosting the top Twin Cities bakeries for 5 years in a row, it certainly doesn’t disappoint! More than just a bake sale, it includes all kinds of events like baking and cooking demonstrations and musical performances. This year, there was even a holiday cake walk sponsored by The Germanic American Institute! Every year I buy so many baked goods that I can barely hold my camera, let alone walk back to my car! I tend to get very “involved” when baked goods are offered. My camera is covered in frosting, and rightfully so. I fell in love with Groundswell’s Ugly Sweater Cookies, The Buttered Tin’s Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees and Grandma’s Gourmets Dilly Beans.
Featured Bakeries and Vendors: North Mallow, Heavenly Treats, Potter’s Pasties, Bread Art, Curly Girlz Candy, Nikkolette’s Macarons, Cookie Cart, T-Rex Cookie Company, Something Sweet by Maddie Lu, Sarah Jane’s Bakery, St. George Greek Orthodox Church, The Buttered Tin, Ink Sweets, Groundswell Midway, Black Dog Cafe, Groveland Confections, ALMA, MinneCookies, The Sweet Retreat, Mademoiselle Miel, Germanic American Institute, Antoinette’s Little Bakeshop, Amy’s classic Confections, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Jamazing, Double Take Salsa, Patti’s Granola, Grandma’s Gourmets, Panache, Blue Heron Soap Company, Wild Country Maple Products, and Vom Fass.

Check out past years here: 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. I HIGHLY recommend adding the Bake Sale to your yearly holiday traditions.

Pheasant Hunting / Wounded Warriors Guide Service

The 7th Annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include some pheasant hunting. Not a hunter or gun owner myself, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by experts and enthusiasts alike. I had never been hunting before, but grew up around the practice.

Luckily, over the course of the weekend, I had the honor of spending a great deal of time with the Wounded Warriors Guide Service, who were gracious enough to let me follow. They are a unique, Minnesota-based organization that provides outdoor recreational activities for disabled veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Founded by veterans, for veterans, to honor their sacrifices and service, WWGS began in Bemidji, MN and since then have expanded to Grand Forks, and Mankato.

When I first met WWGS, I immediately found kinship. Welcoming and wholehearted, they let me join in on their comradery, game pursuit and process. Taking part gave me a deep appreciation for the practice and those that lawfully participate in it. It was also an incredible way to stand alongside and take in the beauty of some of the most orphic places in southern Minnesota.

Read more about the Wounded Warriors Guide Service here.

Read more about the 7th Annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener here.