The holidays are over and winter is now in full swing. The bitter cold seems less intense under the mid-day sun and the wind comes and goes leaving moments of stillness in between. The temps are low (or below zero) and daylight is short. But up north, we don’t let this slow us down. In fact, we embrace the cold. Not just because we’ve built up a tolerance to frigid air, but because staying active keeps the winter blues away and gives us a special, rare glimpse into nature’s stark beauty that comes only in the deepest part of winter.
What are the secrets to a perfect winter day? We’re glad you asked. Here’s how we’d spend every precious moment of daylight in our beautiful corner of Voyageurs National Park.
Through the years, suffering the cold has become a sort of challenge that we celebrate. It’s a challenge that many accept excitedly and many more accept begrudgingly. For instance, do you remember the ice bucket challenge where you dump a bucket of ice over a friend (or victim) for charity? Or the various snowball fights you had as a child or maybe still have, because who ever really grows out of wanting to play in the snow? We take stock in knowing that we’ve embraced the cold and we’re always a little rosier and prouder for doing so. It goes beyond our backyard though, with communities around the country celebrating winter’s beauty and coming together to make something magical, memorable, and fulfilling. It’s not just that we’re trying to beat the cold, but find a reason to make something meaningful because of it. In Leavenworth, Washington, they celebrate winter with the Bavarian Icefest which includes outdoor games, treats, and a stroll down a stunning street adorned with holiday lights. In our neighbor state of Wisconsin, they celebrate Winter Fest with art, music, and various family events and friendly competitions.
In International Falls, we have our own winter celebrations and, not to brag, but we’ve become quite famous for them. With several national news stations and big-name writers coming to check out Icebox Days and watch runners shiver through the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run, we proudly own the “Icebox of the Nation” nickname. You’ll be hard pressed to find a colder place in the US than International Falls, MN, on any given day in January. But it’s just that challenge that we accept gladly as we prepare to celebrate the 40th Annual Icebox Days Winter Festival.
If you’re ready to celebrate the cold with us, there’s a plethora of activities to choose from in order to stay warm, and most importantly, have fun in January. To help you get organized, here are a few suggestions to make the most out of your festival weekend:
Want to see what Icebox Days from years past looked like? Read on from our blog here.
Think back to some of your most fond Christmas memories. Can you recall what you got for presents? It’s tough. But if asked to recall who you spent Christmas with and the fun activities you did together, well that’s usually a little easier. The best Christmas memories might include familiar flavors like that honey glazed ham your mom makes every year and familiar sounds like that song your brother sings around the soft light of the Christmas tree. Some of the best Christmas memories come from unplugging, disconnecting, and recharging. In the border waters, that’s the easy part.
Today, families are looking for more meaningful ways to connect beyond the harsh, cold electronic screens that occupy most of our precious time. Christmas is a great time to press pause, lift your head up from your phone, and take in the splendor of the beauty that surrounds you and the presence of the people you hold closest to your heart.
Now, we might be biased, but we think one of the best places to spend Christmas is up north. Can we let you in on a little secret? We’ve figured out a recipe to slow down time. Or at least our perception of it. And we’re sharing that recipe with you.
Step 1: Plan your trip and holiday meals. If food is an important part of your family’s tradition, plan to pack and bring along the ingredients you need to make those heirloom dishes. Check with your resort or lodge prior to booking to be sure they have the right equipment to prepare and cook your meals, too. Preparation will take the headache and stress out of cooking when you are there. If you’re planning to cook up your fresh catch of fish from your ice fishing venture, plan a backup meal in case the big one gets away.
Step 2: Make a list of activities for everyone in your party. If moving past gifts and onto more meaningful experiences is on your agenda, here are a few activities to include:
Step 3: Unplug. Turn off your phone and enjoy your surroundings and present company. Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give is your undivided attention. Plus, that is how memories are made. It’s the holiday season and it’s a time to reflect, honor, and cherish the gifts you’ve been given.