Are you looking for some fun things to do in Grand Forks, ND in winter? Then you are not alone!
I have traveled to Grand Forks last year in January, and the temperatures were insanely low. It was quite hard to find some fun things to do during that time of the year.
To make the trip a bit easier for you, I have created a list of things we enjoyed a lot during our time in Grand Forks in the winter. I have tried to assemble as many indoor activities as possible, so you can avoid some nasty frostbite.
Let’s hop in!
Table of Contents
- 1. See a hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena
- 2. See the Northern Lights
- 3. Grand Forks County Historical Society Myra Museum
- 4. See a sun halo
- 5. Splashers of the South Seas
- 6. North Dakota Museum of Art
- 7. Fire Hall Theatre
- 8. Grand Forks Town Square
- 9. Plain & Fancy Antique Mall
- 10. Lincoln Drive Park
- 11. Japanese Gardens
- 12. Veterans Memorial Park
- 13. Visit Downtown Grand Forks
- 14. University of North Dakota
- 15. Sample Varieties of Fine Wine At Grape Mill Vineyard & Winery
- 16. Half Brothers Brewing
- 17. Eat Fried Pickles
- 18. Widmans Candy Shop
- 19. Go to East Grand Forks
- 20. Flood Memorial Monument
- 21. Columbia Mall
- Events in Grand Forks in winter
- Where to eat in Grand Forks, ND
- Where to stay in Grand Forks, ND
- How to get around Grand Forks, ND
- Conclusion: 21 Fun Things to do in Grand Forks ND in Winter
“This page contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.”
1. See a hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena
For me, this is one of the coolest things to do in Grand Forks in winter. As an avid ice-hockey fan, I think this is a fun evening activity for young and old.
The Ralph Engelstad Arena is worth a visit, even for non-hockey fans. The arena is one of the top college hockey arenas in the world. Even the spectator seats are made from cherry wood and real leather.
2. See the Northern Lights
This came as an absolute surprise to us, but North Dakota is actually a prime spot for seeing the Northern Lights.
Watching the ribbons of green, blue, and yellow dance across the star-filled North Dakota sky is such a unique experience. During your visit, you can check the National Weather Service for Grand Forks for alerts.
Go about 20-30 miles outside of the town to avoid light pollution. If you go in winter, bring a winter emergency kit with you!
3. Grand Forks County Historical Society Myra Museum
The Grand Forks County Historical Society Myra Museum was constructed in 1976. The architecture of the house reflects the Gothic Revival style of the Campbell House.
The museum showcases the history of Grand Forks, it begins with the Ice Ages. You will learn about the settlement period and other interesting times for the region.
Visiting the Myra Museum is a great way to learn about the history and culture of Grand Forks, ND.
4. See a sun halo
Sun halos are a super magnificent occurrence you can see in Grand Forks in Winter. They are also known as 22-degree halos.
Sun halos can occur due to the sunlight refracting in millions of hexagonal ice crystals. The result is a beautiful halo around the sun.
I was able to witness this multiple times during my stay in Grand Forks, and I was completely enchanted.
5. Splashers of the South Seas
The Splashers of the South Seas waterpark is a fun destination for young and old. It is the largest indoor waterpark in North Dakota.
You can find it at the Canad Inns Destination Center Grand Forks. the Splasher’s of the South Seas offers a variety of different waterslides, tube rides, activity pools, and even a lazy river.
In my opinion, this is even more fun when the outside temperatures are below the freezing point. This makes it a perfect fun activity in Grand Forks in winter and is one of the best kid-friendly things to do in Grand Forks.
6. North Dakota Museum of Art
The North Dakota Museum of Art is one of the top FREE things to do in Grand Forks in winter. The museum is located on the university campus, which is a cool sight as well.
They have several nice artworks inside the museum. On the outside, you can find a couple of nice sculptures in their garden.
They have changing exhibitions of national, regional, and international artists. When I was there, they had a cool installation where you could throw balls at a chicken sculpture.
The Museum is one the most beloved tourist attractions in Grand Forks.
7. Fire Hall Theatre
The Grand Forks Fire Hall Theater is – as the name already suggests, a theatre in an old fire hall.
In this cool, historical spot they put on live shows, performances, and events. Check out their website to see what shows are currently happening – and be ready for a fun evening full of entertainment.
8. Grand Forks Town Square
The Grand Forks Town Square is the place to be in winter. I know it can be cold – but hear me out. They have a Santa’s village there every year!
Check out the sweetly decorated tree or buy something at one of the market stalls right next to it. As a Christmas lover – this is an amazing experience. This is one of the coolest things to do in Grand Forks in winter.
The Town Square is also the place where the Farmers Market takes place.
9. Plain & Fancy Antique Mall
The Plain & Fancy Antique Mall in Grand Forks is so much more than an antique store. Many people outright compare it with a museum – because there are so many hidden treasures in this store.
Thousands of antiques and collectibles are for sale at the Antique Mall. The prices are pretty fair, so why not buy an interesting souvenir in this store?
10. Lincoln Drive Park
Every year, the Grand Forks Park District association hosts winter fun activities at the Greenway and Lincoln Drive Park.
They offer a cross-country ski trail and a family pleasure skating rink. Also, there is a sledding and snowboarding hill, which is a whole lot of fun!
Check out the homepage of the Grand Forks Park District for Opening times and directions.
If you are really into winter sports, I also suggest checking out the Turtle River State Park.
11. Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Gardens in Grand Forks are always worth a visit, even in winter. When we visited the Gardens, they were covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, which offered a super wholesome picture. This is a sweet outdoor activity in Grand Forks.
There are a couple of interesting things to see in the Japanese Gardens. Especially the traditional Japanese lanterns were interesting to check out. They were gifted to Grand Forks by their sister city, Awano, as a token of friendship.
12. Veterans Memorial Park
The Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Forks was built as an outdoor gathering place for veterans, military members, families, and community members to honor the sacrifice of those who have served in the military.
The most interesting feature of the park is the five obelisks. Each one of them represents one branch of service in the military.
The Memorial Wall is very interesting as well. Make sure to stop by the Visitors Center for some historical information.
13. Visit Downtown Grand Forks
Downtown Grand Forks is also a fun place to visit. Parking is free, so you can stay nice and warm arriving in your car.
There are some cute, small boutiques Downtown that you will absolutely love. Younger people love Downtown Axe or the Escape Room Grand Forks.
If you want to take a break from all that exploring, check out Tea & Crepe for an afternoon snack.
14. University of North Dakota
The campus of the University in North Dakota is worth a visit. Whether you just check out the pretty architecture or visit the Center for Aerospace Sciences – it can be totally interesting to see.
15. Sample Varieties of Fine Wine At Grape Mill Vineyard & Winery
The Grape Mill Vineyard & Winery is located in East Grand Forks, but it is still worth a visit.
I absolutely love wine, especially participating in wine-tastings abroad. Plus, a bottle of local wine always makes for a nice souvenir.
16. Half Brothers Brewing
The Half Brothers Brewing Company is a great place in Grand Forks to sample some beer.
Their beer menu is quite special. Besides the classics, you can also find Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows beer, Wedding Wheat, and a Bully Brew Coffee Brown Ale.
They even have a quirky show with some merchandise and a beer shop, so you can bring your favorites home.
17. Eat Fried Pickles
Fried Pickles sound somewhat odd, I know. However, don’t know it until you’ve tried it.
Fried Pickles originate in the South of the US, but the people of North Dakota have a very special way of preparing them.
The pickle spears are wrapped in havarti-cheese and then dipped in batter. Lastly, the whole thing is fried and served with a sriracha dip.
You can try the best fried pickles at a restaurant called The Toasted Frog. Not only are the pickles really great, but they also serve amazing pizza and specialty beers.
18. Widmans Candy Shop
If you have a sweet tooth like me, you will absolutely love Widman’s Candy Shop.
The Widman family has owned this shop since 1885 (!), so it has been in their family for four generations. If someone knows how to make candy, it is the Widman family.
The interior is super cheerful and you can try lots of free samples. But the true highlight in the store are the famous “chippers”. Chippers are potato chips covered in chocolate. YUMMY!
19. Go to East Grand Forks
East Grand Forks is a town in Minnesota. Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are only separated by the Red River from each other.
You can quickly drive over the JFK Memorial bridge or the Sorlie Memorial Bridge and you will be in an entirely different state.
Both bridged look super pretty, especially at night.
20. Flood Memorial Monument
Visiting Memorials is always on top of my to-do list for every place we visit. I find it important to not only see the cheerful things but also learn about the hardships and difficulties of the town.
In 1997, the Great Flood hit Grand Forks. Since the city is so close to the Red River, floods are a common occurrence.
The Flood Memorial Monument was built to remind visitors of the power of nature.
21. Columbia Mall
Lastly, the Columbia Mall is the place to be for souvenir shopping.
There are a few nice stores in the mall where you can get everything you need. Plus, there is a great Mexican restaurant in the food court for some lunch.
Sadly, lots of stores were empty when we arrived after the pandemic. Hopefully, the place will be back to its former glory soon!
For more ideas on what to do in Greater Grand Forks in winter check out the Grand Forks Tourism Website.
Events in Grand Forks in winter
There are so many cool and fun events in Grand Forks in winter that you absolutely need to visit. Here are some of my favorite events:
Santas Village: Bring one non-perishable food item or toy per person as a donation and gain entry to the lovely Santas Village. You can sip a cup of hot cocoa, join the Breakfast with Santa or visit the Elf Academy!
Dates: usually end of November until Christmas
Location: 1300 S. Washington Street
Greenway Ski Day: This is a free winter event where you can try, among other things, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. The Greenway Ski Day is held annually in February.
Holiday Dazzle Festival of Lights: Held every year on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, including a lighted parade, caroling, cookie decorating and even fireworks!
Where to eat in Grand Forks, ND
While Grand Forks is a relatively small city, they have a surprising amount of great quality restaurants. Whether you are craving Thai food or the traditional North Dakota fried pickles – there is a great option for everyone. Here are my favorite best restaurants in Grand Forks, ND:
- The Toasted Frog (fried pickles, beer specialties, casual dining)
- Rhombus Guys Brewing (quirky restaurant, a big menu)
- Texas Roadhouse (fun and upbeat place, typical American cuisine)
- House of Punjab (Indian, family-owned)
- The Blue Moose Bar & Grill (American cuisine)
- Paradiso Mexican Restaurant (Mexican food, amazing service, and great cocktails)
- Sakura Japanese Steak House (Japanese, Sushi)
Where to stay in Grand Forks, ND
When picking your hotel for Grand Forks in the winter, you need to make sure it has a great spa. Trust me, there is nothing more satisfying than sliding into a hot tub after a day of freezing cold temperatures.
We have stayed at Springhill Suites by Marriott and we could have not been happier with the stay.
The personnel was extremely friendly and helpful. Every day we were surprised with a hearty and sweet breakfast buffet. From the breakfast hall, you have a lovely view of the snow-covered scenery.
The hotel has a spa with a hot tub and a swimming pool, as well as a gym. I have used both facilities almost daily and it was heaven!
The rooms are spacious and have a separate living area with a small office.
How to get around Grand Forks, ND
I suggest taking a rental car from the airport, we always book our rentals via DiscoverCars.
Parking is free in front of most hotels and attractions, so the car is a great way to get around the city.
Does Grand Forks have snow?
Yes, Grand Forks has a lot of snow. The seasonal snow period starts usually at the end of October and lasts until the end of April. The month with the most snow is December. On average there are 2.8 inches of snow in Grand Forks.
How often does it snow in Grand Forks North Dakota?
It snows quite a lot in Grand Forks North Dakota. The snow period of the year lasts for almost six months, from October 27 to April 24. It has a sliding 31-day snowfall of at least 1.0 inches.
How cold does it get in Grand Forks ND?
Grand Forks ND is one of the coldest cities in North America. The lowest temperature recorded in Grand Forks North Dakota was -43 °F. The coldest month in Grand Forks is January, with an average low of 0°F and a high of 17°F.
What is there to do in Grand Forks in the Winter?
There are many great fun activities in Grand Forks in Winter. Catch a hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, see the Northern Lights, participate in winter sports, Check out the Santas Village, see the Myra Museum, witness a sun halo, and many more amazing ideas.
Why is Grand Forks so cold?
Grand Forks, North Dakota is so cold because air masses from the polar region bring insanely cold and dry air to the city.
Conclusion: 21 Fun Things to do in Grand Forks ND in Winter
There are so many fun things to do in Grand Forks ND in winter, that it is hard to make a choice. The winters get incredibly cold, so I have mainly suggested indoor activities in this post.
Catching a hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena or an Art exhibition at the North Dakota Museum of Art is always a good idea. Winter sports lovers should check out the Greenway for some fun cross-country skiing and ice skating.
Culinary enthusiasts will be excited to try the famous Chippers or the North Dakota fried pickles.