Camping is such a great way to spend quality time with your kids. Then winter comes and you think you have to wait months for camping season to begin again. Not true! My girls and I have stayed at two excellent camper cabins this year that make year round camping doable, and most importantly very enjoyable!
The first camper cabin we checked out was at Whitetail Woods Regional Park in Farmington. We were beyond impressed. The cabins are gorgeous, cozy and perfect for a family night out. The down side of them being so impressive is that it can be hard to get a reservation to stay in them. That is one reason they are perfect for winter camping! The cabins have one set of bunk beds and two day beds and will sleep up to six. The only other furnishings inside the cabin are a large table and a small shelving unit to hold your things. The cabins do not have TVs or any other amenities. The essentials we brought included: snacks, bedding, a cd player, games, puzzles, books, coloring essentials and a night light. My daughter has the best night-light; we picked it up at a rock shop on the north shore. It is a hunk of pink Himalayan rock salt with a hole drilled in the bottom and light in it. The light it gives off is soothing and beautiful, and it added the perfect element to the camper cabin! I am only mentioning this because if your kids are used to sleeping with a night-light,you know that lighting can make or break the bedtime routine! So plan ahead and bring a light; there are plenty of electrical outlets in the cabin.
We went to Whitetail Woods the night before Christmas Eve. When I booked it I thought that I might be crazy for picking that night. I was hosting Christmas Eve dinner at my house, wouldn’t I have a ton to do?!?! Well it turned out to be the best decision I could have made, and I think that it will become a tradition. I was able to plan ahead and get the house cleaning and errand running done before that night, all that was left for Christmas Eve was to cook. Getting my little tornadoes of children out of the clean house for the night was the absolute right decision. It also gave us a night to decompress after all of the stress of getting ready for the holidays. We played games, did puzzles, drew pictures and the girls wrote their letters to Santa. The weather was horrible that night, windy and sleeting, but we were warm and cozy inside, and were able to spend quality time together before the real craziness of the holidays hit.
The parking lot is up the hill, as well as the bathrooms. (Yes, it’s disconnected from the camper cabins). With kids, that is always one of the issues of camping – the bathroom! I would consider Whitetail Woods to be luxury camping because the bathroom facility is large, clean and heated!
Each cabin comes with a wheelbarrow to use to haul your stuff to the cabin, which was really helpful. The other thing to keep in mind when camping at Whitetail Woods is that you have to check in at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan. That is also where you can buy firewood if you want to do a fire, and rent cross country skis or snowshoes. When you check out there is a drop box outside your cabin door so you don’t have to go back to Eagan to drop off the key.
We enjoyed it so much that three weeks later we checked out another camper cabin, at Minneopa State Park near Mankato. We loved it!! The cabin set up was similar, but this one had two sets of bunk beds with one of the lower beds being a full size so this cabin can sleep up to five. A small gas fireplace heated this cabin, which was functional and beautiful.
There are a couple park highlights at Minneopa not to be missed. The first is the waterfall. Minneopa is a Dakota word that means “water falling twice”. The waterfall is in the Minneopa creek and there is a small upper fall and a much larger lower fall. Waterfalls are spectacular in winter; I could have spent a lot longer being amazed by the icicles that formed around the falls but unfortunately the weekend that we were there was too cold for little kids!
So while our waterfall hike was pretty short, the next attraction can only be seen from your car so it was perfect in winter! A bison herd was introduced to Minneopa in 2015. Bison drive can be found on the road to the camper cabin. The road takes you through the prairie, and the day we were there the herd was hanging out at the very end of the road. We pulled over and watched them from the warmth of our car!
After that we headed 15 minutes from the park to Mankato for dinner. Camper cabins do not have kitchens and you are not supposed to bring any cooking devices into the cabin. Because the temp was so cold, I didn’t want to deal with trying to cook outside so we took the easy out and had dinner at a restaurant.
After dinner we spent a couple hours playing games and listening to music in the cabin. We were the only ones at the campground, the silence was refreshing!
Minneopa is a little more rustic than Whitetail woods. The bathroom is an outhouse, which is close to the cabin, but if you have never used an outhouse in sub zero weather you are in for a “real treat”! My girls were concerned their little rear ends were going to freeze right to the seat! With the right attitude though anything can be funny and that is one of the things that they will always remember from that trip.
In the morning my girls were already asking if we could go back this summer. They want to stay at the cabin again when the weather is warmer so we can explore more of the park. My plan when I booked the room was to take advantage of the snowshoe rental available, but with wind chills well below zero that wasn’t going to happen with little kids.
Camper cabins are a great option for winter camping with kids. I am so excited to keep checking out more camper cabins in Minnesota. sKIDaddlers has many more options listed so find one that interests you and get out there and camp in Minnesota in the winter!!
sKIDaddlers was started by 2 local Minnesota moms with a love for traveling and a knack for research. Learn more about us and what you can find on our site here.