8 Nostalgic 90’s Adventure Movies To Watch with Your Kids

Get geared up for adventure season with these nostalgic 90’s movies chalk full of wild adventures and survival situations. True cinematic adventures!

On these dreary, wet spring days when it’s too yucky to play outside; grab your favorite snack and pop in an old adventure movie to watch with your kids. Any one of these thrilling nostalgia filled titles will have you amped up for adventure season.

Fly Away Home

This is a tragic story turned heartwarming. 13 year old, Amy, lives with her mother in New Zealand when a horrific accident lands her reunited with her father in Canada. While Amy adjusts to her new circumstances, her inventor/artist father tries to help her along but to no avail. Amy happens upon a nest of Canadian goose eggs. Father and daughter bond over their attempt to rescue these birds from living a captive life.

If you can get passed the first tear jerking 5 minutes, this is a great wholesome father/daughter movie. I enjoyed it growing up and I appreciate it in a new light as a parent with my own kids.

Iron Will

Young musher, Will Stoneman, enters a dogsled race with his late fathers dog, Gus, in an attempt to save his family farm. Will bonds with Gus as they both mourn his fathers death over the course of the race. All odds are against the inexperienced musher and fellow racers are of no help. Will and Gus face many challenges along their trail, from dangerous terrain to villainous racers. Catching the eye of a news reporter gains Will some fame and gives America new hope as the country watches as this young man race to save what he holds dear.

Wild America

Two brothers, Marty and Mark, work hard to break free of the fate their father has set for them, working in his business. They set off to film wild, endangered animals before they disappear. Their little brother, Marshall, stows away in the van to join them on their journey. These boys face many dangerous encounters from the Louisiana swamps to the Rocky Mountains. The best part about this film is that it’s based on the story of a real wildlife videographer. This is the tale of Marty Stoffer, the wildlife videographer who created the series “Wild America.”

This cinematic adventure was one of my favorites growing up and has been my daughters favorite on this list so far, too. There is something freeing about this movie. These boys experience America as she was when there were fewer restriction and the land was more wild.


Following their fathers tragic plane crash, two teen siblings head into the Alaskan wilderness on a rescue mission. Their hope is to find their father, a bush pilot, before it’s too late. The two need to work together to find their father amid their own struggles. It’s a heartwarming tale of siblings working together for the love of their father.

We didn’t have this movie growing up, but our neighbor did. I remember borrowing this video over and over. We had a very kind neighbor with an extensive movie collection. Yes, most were VHS! Thanks Jill!

Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog

A boy and his dog brave the coastal Canadian wilderness after a raging storm causes them to fall overboard from his fathers boat. The pair must rely on one another to find food, shelter and survive the brutal environment in hopes that a rescue crew will find them.

This is a great movie to introduce to your kids if you’re trying to drive home the importance of basic survival skills. All adventuring kids should have some outdoor survival practice.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Oh my goodness, grab the tissues! Even if you’re not a dog person, this movie will hit you right in the feelings. This wholesome movie follows the journey of two dogs, Shadow and Chance, and their kitty cat companion, Sassy as they search for their way home after fleeing their pet sitter’s ranch. The crew traverses mountains, battles a raging river and wards off wild animals, all in their search for their family.

This was absolutely one of my favorite movies growing up. While on a road trip, our kids were playing this movie in the back seat. I wasn’t even watching it, but when I heard Shadow come over that hill, I reached for the tissues. If you’ve seen this one, you know exactly the moment I mean. Moving on, these words on my screen are beginning to blur. I need to go hug my dog.

George of the Jungle

Okay, who doesn’t love a good Brendan Frasier movie? Haven’t watched a moving staring him that I didn’t like. George of the Jungle is an adventure comedy about a man who grew up in the jungle, was raised by apes. Ursula (not a sea witch), enters the picture while on safari and is saved by George, both from a lion and an unworthy fiancé.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Okay, this one actually came out in 2008, but it still needs to be on the list. Another great action packed adventure movie starring Brendan Frasier. An uncle and nephew journey to the center of the earth (obviously, duh) in search of their brother/father and discover the truth of what happened to him.

Tips to Make the Most of the Last Winter Hiking Days with Kids

Winter hiking days are coming to a close. Now is the time to get out and enjoy the winter scenery on warmer days. Here are some tips for keeping the winter hiking season going.

March is here! Spring is within reach, we can almost smell it. Most Minnesotans rejoice, I am included in this bunch… A little bit. There is a small part of me that feels the sadness of an ending season. Am I the only one? I hope not.

With the snow melting away and the ice fading, we can still make the most of our last days of winter hiking. In some ways, this is the best of winter hiking. There are some things to consider before hitting the trail on these slushy days.

Hooray for Sunlight

Having more sunlight at the end of the day is what we Midwesterners long for all winter. When it is finally here, everybody has a serotonin boost. Woohoo! With this sunlight comes more time to be outside after work and school, especially when daylight savings time hits. I think we all have mixed feelings on that subject. This new found light in our days is so thrilling, we’ll all be running for our hiking shoes. Pump the breaks!

When that sun starts to set, it sets hard. When the earth shifts and graces us with that glowing energy, we can get so caught up in getting outside that we forget that it will fade into evening just like any other day. Check the time that the sun sets before you leave the house. Choose a trail that will allow for the amount of daylight that you have left. It’s always a good idea to keep a flashlight in your hiking pack. My daughter and I both carry one, and I have a headlamp in my first aid kit.

Warming Temperatures

With that sweet sunshine comes the warming temps, yay! I like this time of year for hiking because you can still see winters beauty and get the younger kids out enjoying it longer. Staying warm during winter hiking is all about trapping air with layers. Those layers really come into play this time of year. Why? You can peal them off!

I actually do the opposite when I hike in March. I start my hike with fewer layers than I end with. The reason being is that I usually start my hikes midday or later. So I’m starting at peak temp for the day. If the hike starts at 3pm and I’m wearing all of my layers at the beginning, the sweat pour right away. What does sweat do in the winter? Freezes, even in March. To prevent this, I start with near base layers and add as the sun starts to fade. Don’t wait until you are cold to add a layer. Try to anticipate about when you’ll need your next layer before you get a chill. With this method, I don’t get cold and I don’t sweat.

Spring Slush

Those warm temperatures that we just talked about sound phenomenal, the downfall: slush, mush, and mud. It’s true; spring is messy. It’s worth the mess to get out there and soak in the vitamin D. Wearing the proper gear and being prepared alleviate the headache of messy kids on the trail.

Lets talk boots. Don’t put those winter boots away just yet. I know everyone seems to rave about those darn rubber rain boots. Don’t. Do. It. They never fit properly, they fall off in sticky mud, and easily get filled with mush and muddy water with their loose tops. Unless your kids have Bogs, waterproof winter boots is the way to go. It’s not THAT warm yet, the winter boots will keep your kids’ feet warm and dry as they traverse the slush of spring. It’ll also save money not having to purchase multiple pairs of footwear for a season that is really short-lived.

Snow pants are still a must, at least in the beginning of March. I know it’s nice but those snow pants protect the under layers from becoming soaked. It’s actually quite comfortable to end up in a t-shirt and snow pants during a hike or outdoor play in the snow. It’s a Midwestern thing. We see it all the time here in the transition season.

Snacks and Cocoa

While the spring air warms, there can still be a bit of a bite to it. Don’t forget to pack the cocoa and a thermos of hot water. A cocoa break is always appreciated on a cool winter or spring day. Heck, I even drink it in the summer.

Always pack snacks, no matter what time of year. The perk of spring snacking is that it’s not so hot that chocolate will melt and not so cold that snacks won’t freeze. It’s perfect, you can bring chocolate chip granola bars and apple sauces! Here are some Trail Snack Ideas if you’re feeling stumped on what to bring.

Snow Consistency

March snow is, hands down, the best snowman or snowball snow. It sticks together well and breaks apart easily. Perfect for snowball fights for a little trail fun. Hiding behind trees and logs is faster than building a fortress in the woods. Be sure to pelt your kids with snow, it’s great fun!

Extra Gear

All that slush and mush has the power to soak straight through any child’s glove or mitten. I don’t care what it’s made of, they will get wet on a “warm” March day. Pack extra gloves. If you want to be really prepared, having a pair of dry shoes and socks in the car for the ride home can be a real game changer at the end of your hike and help you end on a high note especially if you have a long drive home.

Cozy Camper Cabins: Weekend Getaway at Jay Cooke State Park

Cozy up in these rustic little cabins scattered about the Minnesota State Parks. The perfect getaway spot for couples or families seeking a secluded winter experience in the woods.

A stay in a Camper Cabin was on my Winter Bucket List this year. Jay Cooke really delivered on the winter wonderland/cozy cabin feel for the weekend. Not knowing what to expect for our first Camper Cabin stay, we were truly impressed with this experience and will absolutely be seeking out more adventures like this one from our State Parks in Minnesota.


Our choice of park was Jay Cooke State Park. 29 of the 66 state parks in Minnesota have camper cabins. Not all are available year round, this excellent map from the DNR website shows which parks have camper cabins specific to the time of year. With all of these locations to choose from, you’re bound to find one at a park that suits your family and the adventure you’re looking for. The DNR website is an amazing resource and has a map of all parks offering cabins here.

We landed on Jay Cooke for two reasons. First, I was a little late in the game to reserve a cabin and most were take already. Jay Cooke had just one cabin left. Second, the close proximity to Duluth for the Cold Front Winter Festival and site seeing along Lake Superior. For more on Jay Cooke in the winter check out our Winter at Jay Cooke post.

Campground Winter Accommodations

Majority of the campground accommodations are shutdown for the winter, including water, showers, and restrooms. There are still a few things available in the area for winter campers and cabin guests.

Frost Proof Spigot: The park provides a frost proof spigot for water that is available for cooking and drinking water year round. This is close to the cabins and campsites that remains open for the winter.

Vault Style Toilets: These ‘restrooms’ remain open year-round. They are surprisingly more pungent in the winter than in the summer. I would image the reason for this is the lack of microorganisms breaking down the waste. Toilet paper is available and not lacking in supply in the restrooms.

**Warning: Vault style toilets in winter are chilly on the buns. If you’re camping with kids, use the restroom first to save their little buns from a frosty shock.

Inside Gabbro Cabin

We stayed in the Gabbro Cabin. This cabin sleeps 6 people comfortably. There are two sets of bunks. A single sleeper on the top bunk with a double on the bottom. The mattresses are surprisingly comfortable. Bring your own bedding, the mattresses do not have sheets on them. We brought our sleeping bags, worked like a charm and made it feel more like camping.

The cabin contains a small breakfast nook. It works great for meals, organizing the daypack and play cards late at night.


Cooking is not allowed inside the cabin. That’s no problem as there is a nicely placed picnic table outside that works great for a cooking surface. It’s perfectly level for a camp stove. We made our morning coffee outside and enjoyed our thermal mugs of liquid energy inside the cabin.


Firewood can be purchased at the Park Office upon check-in. They also have fire starters available. I recommend purchasing two of these fire starters as the wood takes a bit of effort to catch. We had a heck of a time getting the kiln dried wood to start, as usual. Thankfully, I had a fire starter in my Winter Emergency Kit that I keep in my vehicle. Collecting firewood from around the campground area is not allowed.

Fire rings are not shoveled out by the park service. If you intent to have a campfire during your stay in the winter, plan to bring a shovel to clear the snow.

**S’mores Tip: Eat your s’more fast or you’ll be holding it over the fire to thaw the chocolate before you’re finished.


The cabins at Jay Cooke have electricity and heat. Our cabin was kept at a comfortable 65 degrees during our stay, though it is requested that campers turn the temperature down to 60 when leaving camp.

Clean Up

A simple clean up is the responsibility of cabin guests. The park doesn’t ask for much from the campers. A broom and shovel are in the porch for guest use. Clean up is a snap as there are boot mats and rugs inside the cabins.

  • Wipe down surfaces.
  • Sweep cabin floor (mops available at park office if needed).
  • Pack out trash, larger trash bins are located inside the campground.

What to Bring

Sleeping Bags/Pillows: The cabin is equipped with bunks and mattresses but campers will need to supply their own bedding.

Camp Stove/Cookware: There is no kitchen inside the cabin. Plan to cook just as you would for outdoor camping or bring along food that doesn’t require cooking.

Eating Utensils/Dishes: No kitchen also means no utensils or dishes. Treat this just like a camping situation and bring your own dishes for making meals, eating, and cleaning up.

Headlamp: The vault toilet is conveniently close but it lacks light. Our stay was during a full moon so the path to the restroom was well lit. Inside the shack, it was quite dim and a headlight was required at night.

Cards/Games: It gets dark early in the winter. Bring some cards or other family favorites for entertainment inside the cabin at night. My daughter whooped my butt several times in Uno. Good times.

Water Jug & Dispenser: There is a spigot available, this one is not essential. But it sure does make things easier. I love having this along on all trips that we’ll be having the vehicle along or nearby. It’s great for filling water bottles and cooking at camp.

Shovel: If you are intending to have a campfire, bring a small shovel to dig out the fire ring. There was a shovel in the cabin porch, but it wasn’t the right shovel for the job.

Add this winter adventure to your Winter Bucket List and experience the snowy wonderland of the Minnesota State Parks.

Winter at Jay Cooke State Park

Frozen falls, swinging bridge, and endless adventure awaits at Jay Cooke State Park. Ski, snowshoe, or hike your way to amazing views at this wintery woodland.

State Parks in the Minnesota summer buzz with activity from visitors seeking natural wonders. The magic of these parks doesn’t stop with the snowfall. The snow gives way to a new adventure and a quiet park to be explored. With crowds dispersed for the season, Jay Cooke can be appreciated more fully for it’s wintery beauty.

Quick Review: 9/10 Jay Cooke is not lacking in whimsical winter views. Well packed trails and clear signage is obvious evidence of the hard work the park rangers put in at Jay Cooke.

Swinging Bridge

The majority of the parks trails kick off at the parks main draw, the swinging bridge. The bridge allows winter travelers to cross the aggressive St. Louis river that roars beneath the ice below. The incomplete ice gives glimpses of the strong current of root beer colored waters that flow to Lake Superior.

Snow Covered Falls

During the spring and summer the flow over the rocks is thunderous and intimidating. Some points of the year, depending on rain fall and time of year, the waterflow slows. In the winter months the ice takes hold on much of the falls, leaving sparse sections of water to be seen through the snow and ice. Snow accumulates over the icy rocks giving a calmer atmosphere around the river. Take time to appreciate the calm that winter brings.


The trails at Jay Cooke are well maintained and well marked. I was thoroughly impressed with how well the park rangers here keep up with trail maintenance. Not only are the trails marked for direction but also for usage type. No mistaking which method of travel is to be used on a given trail at this park.

Snowshoe/Hike: While Jay Cooke has no lack of trails in it’s territory, there is but four trails designated for hiking and snowshoeing. The trails still cover a vast nine miles of winter hiking. Two trails embark from the visitor’s center leading either around the campground or across the swinging bridge, then west along the St. Louis River. The other two trails require a drive to another parking area, one of which connects to the Superior Hiking trail.

**If hiking with small children, the paths are not suitable for strollers and can be too narrow or steep for many carriers. We needed to carry our 3 year old over some of the rougher areas, not a hinderance though.

Ski: This State Park is a cross country skier’s paradise. There are a total of 32 miles of ski trails in the park with a variety of levels. Closer to the visitors center there are easier trails. As one ventures farther away, the trails become increasingly difficult.

Fat-tire Biking: This is one of the few parks that allow for fat-tire biking. There are about 5 miles of trails designated for bikes, a section of which is shared with skiers.


Jay Cooke can accommodate a variety of different camping styles, everything from backpack “roughing it” to rustic cabins. During the winter, the camper cabins remain available for reservations as well as 12 campsites in the campground. The 12 sites and the cabin areas are plowed for the season. The showers and bathrooms are closed but there is one frost proof spigot for water and a vault style toilet nearby.

We stayed in one of the five available cabins during our stay at Jay Cooke. I highly recommend an overnight adventure in one of these cozy cabins. During the winter, the campground feels much more secluded and void of crowds. Our weekend getaway at the Jay Cooke Camper Cabins was a wonderful winter experience for us and our kids.

River Inn Visitors Center

The River Inn Visitor’s Center doubles as a nature center and warming house. From outside, the smoke coming from the chimney is quite inviting after a day of snowshoeing or skiing. Get toasty warm by the fireplace in the main area of the building or check out the informative nature displays. There are even some sensory displays for the kids.

Park Office & Store

Park passes and camp check-in can be obtained at the Park Office at the entrance of the park. Available inside is a variety of souvenirs, snacks, maps, camp items, firewood and starters. It’s worth a visit, especially if you’ve forgotten a piece of essential camping gear.

Minnesota Winter Bucket list Ideas

With a snowy blanket on the ground for half the year in this beautiful northern state, Minnesota knows how to make the most of this magical season. Here are some winter bucket list ideas to get you going on your winter adventure season.

With a snowy blanket on the ground for half the year in this beautiful northern state, Minnesota knows how to make the most of this magical season. Here are some winter bucket list ideas to get you going on your winter adventure season.

Winter Hike

Hiking doesn’t have to end when the snow falls. In fact, the onset of wintery weather brings out a whole new beauty to the great outdoors. There is a hush over the woods and a calmness not seen in the hustling of spring or summer. Strap on your snow boots or snowshoes and head out to your favorite trail to gain a new perspective.

Ice Castle

When the Midwest gives you ice, make a castle! This is such a fun way to embrace the cold for both kids and adults. Bundle up and head out to one of Minnesota’s iconic ice castles or take on the challenge of the Ice Maze in Eagan, MN.

Minnesota Ice Castles:

Visit a Frozen Waterfall

When the temperature drops in the winter it seems that even time freezes for the waterfalls of Minnesota. There is nothing more mesmerizing than seeing those cascading falls come to a standstill.

State Park Winter Waterfalls:

Candlelit Hike/Snowshoe/Ski

Illuminate your nights with an outdoor adventure by candle light. This is one of my favorite ways to experience the dark nights of the Minnesota winter. Bring hot cocoa and cookies to make it a romantic night with your sweetheart or a fun filled family night with the kids.

Check out “Embrace Dark Minnesota Nights” for more on candle light hikes in Minnesota.

Frozen Northshore Visit

Duluth is a popular destination from spring and summer vacationers to autumn leaf peepers. But in my winter-loving eyes, the best time to visit the North Shore is in the winter. Seeing that frozen sunrise over Lake Superior is unreal. Combining a North Shore visit with a frozen waterfall excursion makes for an adventure filled weekend and a perfect getaway.

Cozy Up in a Camper Cabin

Cozy up with your sweetheart or go on a winter overnight with the kids. Many of the State Parks in Minnesota have Camper Cabins equipped with electricity or woodstoves for heat. A fantastic way to experience the great wintery outdoors of Minnesota while staying nice and cozy in your own slice of cabin life.

Ski Resort

For those wishing to hit the slopes, Minnesota has numerous Ski Resorts strewn about the state from the northern reaches of Lutsen to the southern hills of Mankato. Make it a weekend getaway to resort of a daytrip nearby. Many resorts in Minnesota offer rentals for equipment and lessons if you sign up ahead of time.

Minnesota Ski Resorts

Snow Tubing

Not a ski or snowboard enthusiast? No problem! Snow tubing requires no skills whatsoever. Snow tubing is perfect for the thrill seeking kids (big and small, recommended age 4+). It requires no special equipment rentals, most tubing recreation areas have tubes available and are significantly less expensive than ski and snowboard rentals.

Finding the Frozen Hidden Falls at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Winter turns this quiet park into a winter wonderland complete with a frozen water fall. Find the Hidden Falls in under a blanket of ice on a winter hike or snowshoe adventure.

Winter has an amazing habit of turning beautiful waterfalls into unbelievable natural ice sculptures. Nerstrand has a splendid limestone falls at the heart of the “Big Woods.” Listen closely to hear the trickle of water hidden beneath the frozen falls.

Quick Review: 6/10 A lovely little park with a stunning waterfall view and gorgeous tall trees. I really liked the clear signage at this park.


Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is about an hour south of the Twin Cities, just outside of the small city of Nerstrand. Our route took us through Northfield, home of a Malt-O-Meal factory. It smelled like cereal in that town, delicious.


Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a petite rustic playground. Perfect to burn off that initial energy for little ones after a long car ride. There are swings, a train, and a swing bridge.

Hiking Trail

There are a total of 11 miles of hiking trails at Nerstand Big Woods but the hike to the falls is quite short, just half a mile. This is a perk when hiking with kids on a chilly winter day. If you have more time on a beautiful day, take advantage of the numerous loop trails where snowshoeing and skiing are permitted.

Fence/Rope Barriers

Along the way to the falls, you’ll notice there are several areas that have been roped off with signage deterring hikers from entering certain areas. This is because of a rare plant that only grows in this park and nowhere else in the world. It’s called the dwarf trout lily, a great reason to return in the spring and summer.


Boardwalks have been put in place along with the other barriers. Please stay on the boardwalks when on this section of trail. They keep the foot traffic off of the rare lily and other important plants in this area. The boardwalk also makes it easier to traverse the path down to the falls along rather steep hills.

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls isn’t quite as hidden as the name suggests. The falls is a short half mile hike from the parking area. The signs are very clear directing hikers to the main attraction of this park. Next to the falls is a set of stairs leading to the lower section of river where hikers can explore the bank and take in the magical view of this falls. In winter this solidified falls is like freezing time, but the trickle of living water can be heard beneath.

Crossing the Creek

Continuing on trail is no problem across Prairie Creek just before the falls. The trail leads over cement blocks to get to the other side. This was great fun for the kids to hop over and adds an exciting obstacle to the hike.

Park Activities

Hiking to the falls is not the only thing that this southern Minnesota park offers. There are plenty of activities to keep the nature enthusiast busy in this neck of the woods all year round.


  • Wildflower Observation


  • Hiking (11 miles)
  • Camping (Camper & Walk-in)- Reopening March 2023
  • Waterfall Viewing
  • Geocaching
  • Birding


  • Leaf Peeping


  • Winter hiking
  • Candle Light Hike (check events calendar)
  • Snowshoeing (rentals available $6)
  • Cross Country Ski (no groomed trails)
  • Snowmobile (4 miles)
  • Frozen Waterfall Viewing

Emergency Kit for Winter Driving

It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Be prepared for the winter season by putting together a Winter Emergency Kit for your vehicle.

Welcome Winter. Winter brings about some hazardous conditions that could put travelers in danger. Icy roads, snow drifts, bald tires, lack of all wheel drive. So many things to consider when traveling in the winter. Obviously, as a driver, use your best judgement on whether or not it’s safe to hit the road. No matter the road conditions, if you are in an area with snow and cold, an emergency kit should be in your trunk.

Every Minnesotan has an ice scraper in their vehicle, but there is more gear needed as a winter driver. I’ve compiled a list of items to include in your Emergency Winter Kit. When the need arises, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Absolute Essentials

Phone Charger & Phone ($varies)– Most everyone carries their phone with them. Keep your phone charged at all times, a dead phone is useless.

I once made an emergency call to my husband with only 8% battery left. My hand was crushed in a metal dog door handle and the jam. I was able to send off a picture of the drill bit needed to free my hand and my location before my phone died. I still don’t have full feeling in my middle finger. Had it take much longer, I’d likely be down a digit. He got to me in 10 minutes rather than hours after he would have realized I hadn’t returned at my usual time.

**Communicate** Let people know where you are going, when you get there and when you plan to return. Safety first!

First Aid Kit ($20)– A well stocked first aid kit can assist in simple sliver removals to major bleeds. Be sure to have a first aid manual in your kit. You may have the knowledge to use the equipment, but if you are the one in distress that knowledge doesn’t help you.

I learned my lesson on traveling without a first aid kit the hard way. While biking to a waterfall my dog, Xena, made a mistake causing me to flip over my handlebars on a gravel trail. The following day, I purchased and stocked a first aid kit to toss in my day-pack.

Jumper Cables ($15)– Extreme cold can kill a car battery. A set of jumper cables should be kept in every vehicle.

Spare Tire ($varies) & Tire Changing Kit ($50)– Having a spare tire in or under your vehicle is useless if you don’t have a portable jack and tire iron to accompany it. Don’t rely on passersby to have the tools you need. You may just find yourself on a seldomly traveled road with nothing but a tire that can’t be put on.

Small Shovel ($15)– Having a folding shovel in the car have help get you out of drifts and banks that have trapped you or another driver. In extreme emergencies, it can be used to dig a snow shelter.

Non-clumping Kitty Litter ($3)– Sometimes we just get stuck on ice or packed snow. It happens, sprinkling some kitty litter will help get traction for your tires and get you on your way.

Knife/Multitool ($10)– You never know when or for what you’ll need a knife. I’ve needed a knife in so many different situations. It’s just a good idea to always have one on hand, but in case you forget one, have one in your emergency kit.

Window Marker ($4)– These markers are great for letting others know that you need help, have already gotten help and leaving the date on your vehicle to let authorities know when this vehicle was left.

Gloves and Hat ($10)– Keep a pair of gloves and a hat in your kit. When a car repair becomes necessary, gloves rapidly become essential.

Gear To Consider

Rechargeable Spot Light ($22)– A spot light comes in handy with breakdowns that occur at night, giving you a light source to fix your vehicle. Batteries lose their juice quickly in cold weather, a rechargeable light can be powered off of the car battery.

Tire Patch Kit ($10)– Having a patch kit at your disposal can aid in repairing a tire rather than changing it. Speaking from experience, it’s much easier to fix the hole from a nail or screw than to change the whole darn thing. Keep in mind, you’ll need a lighter to be stored along with the kit to burn off the extra rubber from the tire plug.

Portable Tire Inflator ($23) and Pressure Gauge ($2)– As you can see, I’m putting a lot of emphasis on tire care. No tires, no travel. My portable tire inflator has been my most frequently used item of all of my roadside kit items.

Warming Packs ($5-10)– These will be greatly appreciated when stranded in cold temperatures or even returning to the vehicle after a cold winter ski adventure. Single use warming packs are a regular item I like to toss into my day pack as well, great for little kid fingers and toes.

Duffle Bag/Tote ($varies)– Not all vehicles come with a storage compartment. A simple tote or duffle bag will do the trick. I prefer the duffle as it’s easier to grab and carry in an emergency.

Extreme Situation Items

Road Flares ($8)– In blizzard and white out conditions, it’s difficult to spot a vehicle in the ditch, especially when you aren’t even sure where the road is. Best thing about these; the cold can’t drain the battery, there is no battery.

Blanket/Sleeping Bag ($10-50)– We have a small blanket for our kids for everyday use, it makes for a cozy ride in the car. For emergencies, we have a spare sleeping bag in the kit. If stranded in dangerous conditions it is imperative to keep the body warm to prevent hypothermia.

Full Change of Clothes ($varies)– Have a full change of winter clothes in a zip-lock bag for each person who regularly rides in your vehicle. If someone becomes wet for some reason, it is important to get them out of wet clothing and keep them dry.

Basic Tools ($varies)– Having a few tools like screwdrivers, small hammer, and a pliers are helpful in many situations.

Rope ($4)– Rope is such a versatile tool. It can be used for making splints on an sprained ankle, erecting a temporary shelter, making a bow sting for a fire starter, hanging a pot over a fire to melt snow for water. I keep a small coil of paracord in my kit. It’s light weight, strong, and compact.

Fire Starters ($2) & Waterproof Matches ($4)– Fire gives warmth and light. Being stranded in extreme temperatures might come down to how long you can keep yourself warm before help arrives. In remote areas, this can be longer. Having a way to create fire can be life saving. A couple of fire starters and water proof matches should be kept together. Finding wood to burn isn’t as hard as getting a fire started.

Candles ($5)– Candles are a more reliable source of light than flashlights. Batteries don’t last in extreme temperatures. Tea light candles work great for giving off light, be sure they come with a tin so wax doesn’t get on everything.

Hand Sanitizer ($3) & Toilet Paper ($1)– When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Keeping toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your vehicle is great year-round. Both of these can also help start fires. The alcohol in the sanitizer makes a surprisingly effective fire starter.

Snacks ($varies)– One way the body can keep itself warm is by digesting food. Keep high calorie snacks that don’t freeze or melt in your emergency kit.

Water Purifying Tablets ($9) & a Small Pot– Keeping water in your vehicle poses one single problem. It freezes. Water sources around you are also likely frozen. That leaves ice and snow unless you happen to be near a river that hasn’t frozen yet. Treating your water before drinking it will help keep you safe from parasites.

Free Printable available for your own personal use, be prepared and be safe!

Minnesota Lights: A Quick Guide to 7 Lights Displays

Glittering Lights and Cold Nights! Get in the Christmas spirit with these 7 spectacular lights displays in the great white north.

Glittering lights and Cold nights make for a magical experience in the great white north of Minnesota. Pull on your boots and zip up your coats, Minnesota is lit up and ready to celebrate the Christmas season with spectacular lights displays and festive activities!

Bentleyville USA

Of course we’ve all heard of Bentleyville here in Minnesota. Many families make a yearly tradition of visiting the walk-through lights display in Bayfront Festival Park, Duluth. A great addition to a weekend getaway to Duluth.

When: November 19th to December 23rd

Hours: Sun-Thurs. 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat. 5pm-10pm

Location: 700 Railroad Street, Duluth, MN 55802

Admission: Free admission, $10 for parking

Highlights: (All Free) Marshmallow roasting station, visit/pictures with Santa, hot cocoa & coffee, Cookies and popcorn, complimentary strollers

**To beat the crowds, hit this event midweek.

Glensheen Candlelight Tours

Soak in all of the Christmas magic this historic estate has to offer on this self-guided Glensheen Candlelight Tour. This tour includes the lower level, 1st floor, and 2nd floor of the festive Christmas mansion.

When: Fri & Sat November 25-December 17th, December 22nd, 23rd, & 26th-31st

Hours: 5pm-8pm

Location: Glensheen Mansion, 3300 London Road, Duluth, MN 55804

Admission: Adults $25, Children (6-17) $13, Children under 6 are free

Highlights: Informative signs throughout tour, downloadable app for information on the tour, admission includes Spirit of the Lights outdoor exhibit on the Glensheen grounds

**Do not bring your own flashlights

Lake Superior Zoo Lights

Experience the Lake Superior Zoo‘s twinkling lights and displays. An event the kids are sure to enjoy.

When: Friday-Sunday Evenings until December 31st

Hours: 5pm-8pm

Location: 7120 Freemont Street, Duluth, MN 55807

Admission: $5 per person, free parking (Ages 2 & under are free)

Highlights: Free s’mores, GIANT inflatable display, Santa & Grinch visits, hot cocoa at the Safari Café

Minnesota Arboretum

The Winter Lights at the Minnesota Arboretum is a whimsical outdoor winter experience. The summer loving flower enthusiasts will enjoy seeing the arboretum in this new light.

When: November 17th to January 1st

Hours: Dates and hours vary with numerous events and specials, investigate further here.

Location: 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska, MN 55318

Admission: Regardless of membership, all visitors must have a Winter Lights ticket

Highlights: S’mores kits available for purchase (includes 4 s’mores for $7), .75 mile stroll through visitor center grounds and gardens, warm up inside visitors center

Glow Holiday Festival

Venturing north isn’t the only way to get a full holiday experience. This massive display of lights will have your holiday spirit beaming! Now being held in the CHS Field in St. Paul, this display is bigger and better than ever.

When: November 22nd to January 1st

Hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm (last entry time at 8pm), Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm

Location: CHS Field 360 N. Broadway Street, St. Paul, MN 55101

Admission: Adult $20.75, Child(4-12) $12.75 (cashless event, purchase Tickets online)

Highlights: Giant Slide (extra cost), S’mores package available for purchase, enchanted forest, penguin playground, interactive northern lights display, Trolly ride

Celebrate the Light of the World

‘Tis the season of giving and the Willmar Celebrate the Light of the World event is all about giving back to the community. The drive through Christmas display is free for all but there is an opportunity to give a gift to four non-profit organizations; Salvation Army, Kandiyohi County Food Shelf, Habitat for Humanity, and United Way.

When: November 24th to December 31st

Hours: 5pm-10pm

Location: Robbins Island Regional Park, 945 US Business 71, Willmar, MN 56201

Admission: Free Event, Donations accepted for 4 non-profit organizations

Highlights: Drive-through lights display (great for take out Dinner and a show, one of our family traditions)

Sam’s Christmas Village, WI

Hop over the border for a whimsical Christmas experience at the popular Sam’s Christmas Village in Somerset, Wisconsin.

When: November 25th- January 1st

Drive-Through Only Days: Mon. & Tues. November 28th- December 13th ($15 per adult)

Hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm

Location: 710 Spring Street, Somerset, WI 54025

Admission: Adult $20, Child (3-10) $10, 2 & under are free, $10 Parking on-site (cash only for parking)

Highlights: 10 Million lights on display, Christmas Market Thurs-Sun nights, Visit Santa in Christmas Market, sledding hill, S’mores Cabins available for rent ($119+)

**Bonus: Friendly dogs are welcome on leash!

No Clutter Gifts for the Outdoorsy Minnesotan on Your List

Cut the clutter and give a gift of adventure, experience, and knowledge. Check out this list of no-clutter gifts.

Cut the clutter and give a gift that will be useful and appreciated. The season of giving is such a wonderful time and seeing the look on your loved one’s face is a wonderful experience. But the aftermath of gifting can leave a chore of finding space for the gifts received, not that they aren’t appreciated, but we can skip this step with the gifts listed here.

Adventure Gifts

Memberships to the MN Wolf/Bear Center– Have a wolf or bear lover on your list? They’ll love being part of to the Wolf or Bear Center community in Ely, MN.

**Be Aware: The Bear Center is only open from the end of April to the end of October as the bears are taking their seasonal nap.

**Hours are limited during the winter months at the Wolf Center, but the wolves are most active during this time. Worth a visit!

MN State Parks Pass/Gift Card– The gift that gives all year-round! Endless adventure for the entire year at the 66 Minnesota State Parks.

National Parks Pass– Same goes for the Nationals Parks. A wonderful gift for those who travel far and wide, especially the snow-birds heading south.

Vertical Endeavors Rock Climbing Lessons/Pass– With 6 locations in Minnesota this pass can be the start of a new adventure or passion. Classes, gear, and memberships are available here.

Ziplining Tickets– For the thrill seeker, adventure awaits with locations across the state. Check height and weight restrictions prior to investing in this gift. Many parks in the state are closed during the winter, so this may be a gift redeemable in the spring,

Ski/Snowboard or Snowtubing Pass– Keep your outdoorsman busy all winter long with a pass to their favorite winter sports joint. For those who love winter but aren’t into flying down the hill on a board, try out snow tubing.

Zoo Season Pass– There are several Zoo’s in Minnesota, some open all year long, some only part of the year.

MN Arboretum Pass– For a more mellow crowd, a Minnesota Arboretum Pass is a great gift those in the vicinity of the Twin Cities area. With each changing season, the arboretum if filled with a new beauty.

Knowledge Gaining Gifts

Outdoorsy Magazine Subscription– Yeah, yeah… I know, so much is read online. You’re reading this online right now… But your adventurer won’t always have wifi or cell service. Outdoors magazines are a great resource for learning new skills and about new adventures that you may not have thought of. Some examples of outdoors magazines include:

Adventure Book– Have an outdoorsman so into adventures that they read about adventures while they are between adventures? Get them a new book! Here are some ideas:

  • The Twenty-ninth Day by Alex Messenger
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Guide Book– A guide book to their favorite area or an area they’ve mentioned they’d like to explore. Even better, a guide book and map of their dream trip!

Road Atlas– For the Road-tripper, an Atlas is a rather practical gift. Relying on GPS alone is unrealistic and frankly, dangerous.

Consumable Gifts

Outfitter Gift Card– The list of Outfitters in Minnesota is endless, surely your adventurer has mentioned a favorite or a most frequented outfitter. A gift card to this location will ensure that they can acquire the gear they need for their next excursion.

Trail Snacks– Granola bars, power bars, trail mix, protein bites… find out your hikers favorite snacks for a trail snack basket.

Camp Desserts– There is a wide variety of freeze-dried or dehydrated food items on the market. Grab a couple of desserts for your favorite hiker. They’ll thank you later for a special treat after a strenuous hike. My daughters favorite so far has been a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich.

S’mores Basket– The s’more lover will be thrilled with a s’more basket! A variety of chocolates, grahams, and mallows with stylish roasting sticks… oh yes! This w

Boot Socks– Lets face it, socks take a beating on the trail. I can’t tell you how many socks I’ve burned through while hiking. Holes, holes, and more holes. Quality boot socks is a gift that keeps the hiker on the trail.

Color Packets for the Campfire– This is a new discovery for our family. This past year we came upon color changing packets for campfires and a local outfitter sells pinecones that change the flame color as well. Great for older kids and adults!

First Aid Kit– Great for an accident prone outdoorsman or the one who ventures past cell service regions. A compact and stocked first aid kit complete with a First Aid Guide, is the gift of preparedness.

Whatever gift you choose for your adventurer they’ll be sure to appreciate it! Happy shopping!

Embrace Dark Minnesota Nights: Candle light events in Minnesota

Experience Minnesota State Parks in a whole new light, or lack there of. Hike, snowshoe and ski at these evening winter adventures to give you a chance to see a different side of the wilderness.

Updated for the 2023 winter season

There is something truly enchanting about experiencing a wintery woods in the darkness. So many in the Midwest complain of the long, cold, dark winters. Then, there are those who embrace the darkness to see the glow of the snow under the moonlight. It brings out a different kind of beauty that is only witnessed by those willing to seek it.

I have compiled a list of events that take place around Minnesota to give you the opportunity to seek the beauty. Get out and enjoy a few before the winter melts away.

Illuminated Events

Twinkle Light Trail- Lake Itasca State Park- November 24th- March 15th (snow conditions vary). This event is not run on just one day of the season. The 3/4 mile trail near the Bear Paw Campground is lit for 3 months. This whimsical trail is available for hikers, snowshoers and skiers but the trail is not groomed for skis. The electric twinkle lights are illuminated from sundown to 10pm for your viewing and adventure.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Candle Light Events

Northern Minnesota

Itasca State Park- January 21st 5-7:30pm & February 18th 5:30-8pm While Itasca has it’s Twinkle Light Trail all season long, it also holds a lantern light event for snowshoers and skiers on a 3.5 mile round trip trail. At the visitors center, limited snowshoes and skis are available on a first come first serve basis. This is a bring your own supplies style event. This includes brining your own snowshoes/skies, snacks, hot cocoa, s’more supplies, hotdogs and roasting sticks. A fire will be available for warming up and roasting dogs & mallows.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park- February 4th 6pm-9:30pm The candle light trail will be between the Trail Center and the Interpretive Center. The trail is available to snowshoers, skiers and hikers. Trails will be packed but not groomed, ski conditions vary. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis at $6 per snowshoe pair and $10 per ski set. There will be a fire to warm you up after your wintery hike.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Lake Bemidji State Park- January 28th 6pm-8pm & February 11th 6pm-9pm Lake Bemidji State park will have 3 miles lit by candles for Cross Country Skiers. This is a cross country ski event on groomed trails, so a pass and skis are a must.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (daily $10, yearly $25)

Gooseberry Falls- February 18th 6pm-8:30pm Candles light the way along trails for skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing in Minnesota’s most popular state park. The trail begins at the visitors center with marshmallows and a fire at the Lady Slipper Amphitheater. After the hike there is hot cocoa and cookies back at the visitor’s center.

Central Minnesota

Afton State Park- February 4th 5-8pm A 3 mile loop hike lit by candlelight awaits at Afton State Park, just half an hour east of the Twin Cities. It is recommended to bring along ice cleats for boots. Dogs are welcome on leash, yay! Fire warming stations are placed at the beginning/end of the hike and at a halfway point.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Frontenac State Park- February 4th 6pm-8-pm Snowshoeing, skiing, or hiking at this candlelit trail event will have you in awe at this beautiful park. Campfires will greet you at either end of this trail along with a warming shelter equipped with a woodstove. Snowshoe rentals are available for $6 on a first come, first serve basis.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (daily $10, yearly $25)

Wild River State Park- February 11th 6pm-9pm For more miles of hiking, skiing or snowshoeing visit this park that’s an hour north of the Twin Cities. Five illuminated miles will be available for adventures and an oversized bonfire to warm up by. Skis and snowshoes are available for rent at the Trails Center and can be reserved ahead of time (651-257-0685).

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (daily $10, yearly $25)

Nerstand Big Woods State Park- January 28th 5:30pm-8:30pm Visit this little park about an hour south of the Twin Cities for a 3.5 mile hike, ski, or snowshoe by candle light. There will be a fire and snacks for warm up chilled hikers after they hit the trail. For more on our experience in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park follow the link.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Sibley State Park- January 21st 5pm-7pm A short .7 mile loop trail lit by lanterns can be hiked at this western MN state park. Warm up by the fire at the amphitheater, bring your own snacks and hot cocoa.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Fort Ridgley State Park- February 4th 5pm-8pm Bonfires and a candle lit trail will make for a magical wintery evening in the woods. The trail begins at the Parks Chalet and winds its way into the forest and prairie. The trail is set for snowshoers and hikers.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Lac Qui Parle State Park- February 4th 6:30pm-8pm This truly unique hiking event is unlike the other candle light hikes due to it’s use of ice in it’s luminary element. The illuminated ice leads down a 1 mile packed snow trail to a warming shelter where hot cocoa and s’mores are waiting to be enjoyed.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Southern Minnesota

Rice Lake State Park- February 4th 5pm-8pm This little park outside of Owatonna goes all out for it’s candle light event with bonfires, hot cocoa and treats. Snowshoe, ski, or hike the 1.5 mile trail or make it shorter with turn off points. A great little nighttime adventure with a shorter trail, perfect for kiddos.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Blue Mounds State Park- February 4th 6pm-8pm Blue Mounds offers a 3 mile hike in it’s beautiful southwest Minnesota park, near Luverne. Be sure to warm up after the hike in the picnic shelter with hot cocoa or settle in by the campfire.

Passes- Day Pass to enter Park ($7)

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park- February 11th 5:30pm-8:30pm A truly unique night time adventure at this southern MN park in Preston. Not only is the 1 mile trail lit by candles but there will be snowshoes available for free and telescopes for viewing the stars and planets. Warm up with hot cocoa and cookies by the fire after your hike.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Myre-Big Island State Park- February 16th 6pm-9pm Snowshoeing and hiking event at a very southern MN state park by candle light. The illuminated trail begins at the Picnic Grounds where a fire will be blazing to warm up hikers with warm beverages available.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Minneopa State Park- February 11th 5pm-8pm Gather at the Minneopa Campground to set out on a winter hike or snowshoe following the candles lighting the trail. The loop will take hikers along the Minneopa creek and gorge. This park is split into two locations. After the hike, a quick drive to the other side of the park bring hikers to the short trail leading Minneopas frozen water fall. For more on Minneopa, follow the link.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Items to bring along

Beverages: Nothing warms the family up after a chilly walk in the woods like a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Here is a tip; bring a thermos of hot water and hot cocoa packets for your travel mugs (no ceramic mugs, the contrasting temps with shatter them). Thermoses are hard to wash hot cocoa out of, mugs are easier to clean up. If hot chocolate isn’t your speed bring along some tea bags or a tightly sealed thermos of coffee or cider. You’ll be happy you have it at the end of your snow adventure.

S’mores Supplies: Many of the State Park events have a roaring fire ablaze at the end of the trail, this makes for a great opportunity for some s’more making. Not all parks have s’more supplies to accompany their toasty fires, doesn’t hurt to bring your own (don’t forget the roasting stick).

Headlamp: Though the trails are well lit with candles at these events, it’s not a bad idea to bring along a headlamp just in case. We’ve used headlamps for retying boots and fastening snowshoe/ski straps. It’s nice to have a backup light for emergencies.

Warm Gear: Dress for the weather! As night falls the temperature drops. The thermometer might read a different temperature by the end of your hike. Winter boots are a must, don’t try this in summer hiking shoes. Winter hiking boots and summer hiking boots are two very different kinds of footwear. Dressing for the weather should be second nature to most Minnesotans, but I still feel it necessary to mention.

Winter Sport Gear: Bringing your own skis and snowshoes will give you better odds of completing the activity that you have your heart set on. The only other determining factor would be snow conditions. Sometimes mother nature doesn’t always deliver the snow quantity or quality that we are hoping for. When we did our snowshoe hike at Minneopa State Park last year, we ended up leaving the snowshoes in the car, the conditions were better for boot hiking.