18 Feb A Trail of Lights at the Luminary Loppet in Minneapolis
What’s a loppet you may be wondering? A loppet is a Scandinaian word for a long-distance cross-country ski event or a long endurance race over varied terrain.
Every year, the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival is held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event is dubbed “the urban cross country ski festival”, but it really is so much more than that. Events are held all weekend long and consist of cross country skiing, dog sledding, skijoring, biking, and speed skating. Some of the loppets are competitive while others are just for fun—you can participate in events such as a marathon race on skis, a non-competitive 10K ski race, relay races, navigation challenges, and so many more. In my opinion, one of the funniest ones is a crew ski where teams of six hop on two 25’ long skis together for head to head races. In addition to the races, some of the other events are snow sculpture contests, Kubb tournaments, fireworks, and a Surley beer garden.
The weekend is filled with events for both spectators and race participants. One of our favorites is the Luminary Loppet, which is a non-competitive event held on the frozen lake, Lake of the Isles. Typically, participants can ski, snowshoe or hike along the trail, but there wasn’t enough snow this year for anything other than hiking. So, we laced up our snow boots and set out in the dark towards the trail lined with flickering flames and icy sculptures.
Registration is required for the event, and it gets you access to the trail, hot chocolate, treats, the REI Luminary Party, and one free Surley beer. This year, adult ticket prices ranged from $17-$30 (children tickets started at $10) depending on your purchase date; if you register early, you will get a discount and prices increase in intervals until the event date. When you arrive at the trail during your designated start time, you need to pick up your glow stick from the registration desk—the glow stick is your “ticket” to the events on the ice. There are four registration desks along the trail, and you can start and finish at any one as long as you follow the path counterclockwise.
The trail is lined with 1,300 luminaries and it twists and turns its way around the lake. Following the path of lights, you will find several ice sculpture displays called the Enchanted Forest, Icecropolis, IceHenge, and the Ice Pyramid.
The Enchanted Forest is located in a patch of trees right on the shore of the lake. Lanterns dangle from the trees, luminaries light the path and ice sculptures are spaced throughout the forest. This section of the event is called the Community Garden, and it’s a place to house the small installations created by the community. If you are thinking about creating your own sculpture for the event, be sure to fill out an application form on the website first as they have limited space!
One of my favorite displays is the Icecropolis. The Icecropolis is a continuation of the luminary path, but instead of the small luminaries you will find everywhere else, the luminaries here are giant cylinder towers of varying heights.
IceHenge is based off the concept of creating a Stonehenge replica from ice. The tall, rectangular blocks of ice are situated in a circle, and you can explore them from every angle.
The Ice Pyramid is just that: a pyramid made of ice! Standing at around 7 feet or so tall, the pyramid is made of luminaries and appears to glow from the inside out.
In addition to the ice sculptures, there is a fire dancing show on the ice, as well. We stood and stared in amazement as the dancers twisted and twirled their flames in the darkness of the night. One of them even swallowed the flames!
There are also several stops along the trail that have bonfire pits, bean bag toss games, snacks and hot chocolate—all perfect ways to warm up on a chilly night. But, thankfully, we lucked out this year with a very moderate 31º F evening. We were able to spend a few hours outside without getting the slightest bit cold.
The REI Luminary Party is open for anyone to attend, and you will find live music, fire pits, beer, and food stands on the ice between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. Admission and one beer are included with your Luminary Loppet registration, or it is $10 for the standalone party ticket.
We had so much fun attending this event—it was a magical evening filled with warm treats, music, and paths lined with glowing lights. Even though the event is held in the dead of Minnesota winter, the Luminary Loppet is a great reason to get outside and embrace one of the aspects that makes our home state special.
Have you ever been to a loppet festival before?