You’re probably familiar with the famous Danish lifestyle trend of Hygge (pronounced “Hyoo-guh”); the Scandinavian term embraces feelings of coziness, happiness, and comfort by appreciating the simple things in life that bring joy. The word can mean many things, from chunky blankets to a peaceful snowshoe in the forest, and the term can also be used as a noun, verb, or adjective.
Before the concept of Hygge became an internet trend, Northern Minnesotans – with their strong Scandinavian culture and influence – have found ways to not only survive massive long, cold -30 below days but to find solace in nature’s beauty, comfort food, crackling fires, snuggly blankets, and cozy gatherings with friends. Check out our suggestions to find your Hygge in Lake County this winter.
1. Coffee & Hot Drinks
Danes drink a lot of coffee. I mean a lot of coffee. This and other warm drinks, like tea, hot chocolate, mochas, and cappuccinos, are considered a staple of Hygge in Denmark and Scandinavia. With less daylight and a chilly Lake Superior breeze, a steaming cup of joe can lift your mood. Additionally, go ahead and order that scone or big cookie- it’s totally Hygge to indulge.
You can get coffee just about anywhere in Lake County, but a few little shops hit the mark. Just off the beaten path in Two Harbors, Cedar Coffee Company creates delicious coffee drinks, such as your standard latte or an affogato – ice cream drowned in coffee. The bright and welcoming atmosphere presents tree-lined views into the woods, northern-inspired gifts, and local art.
They also serve breakfast and lunch daily, made from quality ingredients, and offer several vegetarian options. During winter, they frequently stoke wood fires outside for those coming off a fat-bike ride or a stroll with the dog. Snow-covered trees, a snapping fire, and sharing a warm beverage with friends create a very Hygge experience!
Other top picks in Two Harbors:
- White Pine Market
- Vanilla Bean
- Northshore Coffee House
- Larsmont Trading Post
- Louise’s Place Cafe + Pantry Provisions
One of the newest coffee shops in Lake County, Timber Coffee Company in Silver Bay, is serving up some tasty steamy drinks. They offer traditional coffee beverages, pie, and bakery goods – including house-made biscotti – and their customers rave about the Dirty Chai Latte. With a mix of fragrant spices, this creamy drink will give you all kinds of Hygge feelings.
2. Eat the Pie!
The North Shore pie obsession has been a long-standing tradition in Lake County and beyond. The perfect flaky crust warmed with a dollop of vanilla ice cream screams hygge! Most restaurants along the shore serve a variety of pies, from traditional fruit pies to specialty creations such as the Rustic’s Inn’s Lemon Angel and North Shore Berry Crumb to Betty’s Pie’s 5-Layer Chocolate Cream and Great Lakes Crunch. Lemon Wolf Cafe in Beaver Bay offers fresh desserts daily and is well-known for its Coconut Cream.
If you’re far away but need some North Shore hygge in your life, you’re in luck. Betty’s and the Rustic ship pies to many locations in the US.
Here’s where you can grab a slice in Lake County:
- Judy’s Cafe, Two Harbors
- Betty’s Pies, Two Harbors
- The Rustic Inn, Two Harbors
- Lemon Wolf Cafe, Beaver Bay
- Zup’s Kozy Bakery, Silver Bay
- Timber Coffee Co., Silver Bay
3. Wild Rice Anything
Minnesota may be known for its 10,000-plus lakes, but it’s equally recognized for its comfort food creations. As a culture that loves “meat and potatoes, “hotdishes” (or casseroles, as non-Minnesotans say), pot roasts and meatloaf, soups, and stews permeate northern kitchens from the fall into the spring. However, in Lake County, home kitchens, cafes, and restaurants use wild rice in just about anything. Its earthy flavor and chewy texture make the perfect breakfast porridge, bread, and, most notably, chicken wild rice soup. Most restaurants offer dishes featuring wild rice: here are a few of our favorite dishes that will bring you Hygge in every bite!
Wild Rice Porridge at Vanilla Bean
Porridge remains a common source of hygge in Denmark. The Vanilla Bean in Two Harbors makes a delectable wild rice porridge with wild rice, real maple syrup, fresh seasonal berries, and pecans simmered in heavy cream to perfection. It is served with toast or an English muffin.
Papa Wolf Omelet at Lemon Wolf Cafe
This to-die-for omelet gets loaded with mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, wild rice, ham, and bacon. The perfect hearty breakfast before cross-country skiing or a snowshoe.
Wild Rice Soup from Black Woods
Featured daily, the wild rice soup from Black Woods in Two Harbors hits the spot. It’s loaded with chicken and served with sweet homemade cornbread and honey butter. Soooo good! Black Woods has an entire menu section dedicated to comfort food, including hot turkey sandwiches, meatloaf, and mac & cheese.
Castle Danger Club on Cranberry Wild Rice Bread from Grand Superior Grille
All that you’d expect from a great club sandwich, but the cranberry wild rice bread give that extra amount of YUM!
Wild Rice Burger from McQuades Pub & Grille
Their house-made wild rice burger is prepared with caramelized onions, provolone cheese, local micro greens, and jalapeno ranch and served on a toasted brioche bun.
Chicken Wild Rice Pizza from Northshore Pizza Cafe
This pizza gets topped with homemade Alfredo sauce, garlic chicken, and wild rice. They highly recommend adding mushrooms and onions.
4. Connect With Nature
Enjoying the outdoors during winter fights seasonal depression and improves your well-being. So, we say, bundle up, get moving and release some Hygge endorphins!
There’s something magical about losing yourself in nature. So strap on some winter boots, snowshoes, or skis, head out to the wilderness, and soon you’ll experience inner peace. Feel your stress melt away as you focus on the sound of new snow crunching beneath your feet and watch your breath rhythmically move in and out.
Lake County offers endless options for outdoor activities near the North Shore and inland within the forest. No snowshoes? Luckily, several lodging establishments and state parks provide snowshoe rentals or free use for guests.
5. Bonfires & Candles
Lighting a fire instantly soothing effect on your mood. Whether you stoke a fire indoors, build a bonfire on Lake Superior Beach, or light a few candles before stepping into a hot bath. The warm flames – will surely create Hygge.
McQuade’s Pub & Grill in Two Harbors creates an inviting outdoor atmosphere with its large gas fire pit on the deck.
Rent a cabin in the winter to experience a relaxing retreat where you can build a fire indoors or outdoors, snowshoe or ski around the property, cook nourishing food, and gather in a woodsy, nature-surrounded space. Check vacation rentals in the area for availability.
These resorts in Lake County have nightly bonfires:
- Larsmont Cottages
- Grand Superior Lodge
- Superior Shores Resort (guests also receive a complimentary s’mores kit!)
6. Enjoy Things By Candlelight
One popular way to practice getting Hygge with it is to build yourself a cozy corner in your home. Think of a comfy chair, soft blankets, simple decor that’s your style, and scented candles. Instead of eating dinner as you normally would, incorporate a couple of candle-lit dinners each week or light a few candles around the living room before binging your favorite Netflix series.
Running low on glow? Stock up on quality candles made locally here in Lake County. You can find them in many gift shops along the shore or order online!
The Studio Candle Co creates 100 percent soy-wax candles that are hand-poured in northern Minnesota. They offer a variety of scents and seasonal collections. They also take great care to ensure the candles burn safely: They safety test each line of candles to confirm they won’t catch on fire – even if they are misused. We burn our tests with carbon build-up for 10+ hours to ensure that even if they are misused, they are safe for your home.
7. Gather With Friends & Family
Although there are cold winter days when you never feel like leaving the house, it’s important to spend time with the people you love and have a little fun. Take an afternoon on the weekend and head to a local pub to visit. Play some board games, such as cribbage – a Northern Minnesota tradition.
8. Comfy Clothes, Warm Socks & Cozy Blankets
Relaxing (or even working!) at home, it’s essential to slip into your cozies: leggings, those old sweats you can’t throw away, a warm hoodie, and wooly socks. And don’t fix your hair – a messy bun is preferred to achieve that perfect Hygge feeling.
9. Treat Yo’ Self to the Spa
Sometimes you just need self-care to relax, reduce stress, increase your immunity, and feel Hygge. Book a spa day by yourself or with your friends. Let it all go with an hour-long massage with hot stones or a full-spa session.
The Well North in Beaver Bay, a new spa in Lake County, promotes holistic wellness where you can come to find rest, rejuvenation, and healing. Each session includes Lake Superior hot rocks, hot towels, and aromatherapy in all of our treatments. They also offer a complimentary Epsom salt foot soak before your session to help you unwind & a gratis hot tea to-go upon departure so you can continue to experience the magic even once you’ve left.
Other great places to get a therapeutic massage in Lake County.
The Scandinavians knew how to embrace winter, and we’re all so grateful the Finnish folks invented the sauna! As northern Minnesotans, this is one of our favorite Hyggeig ways to feel warm and refreshed. When you get hot and steamy, it’s tradition to go outside and roll in the snow or jump in the lake. Don’t worry; it momentarily feels wonderful, and you soon run right back into the steam!
Not all of us are lucky enough to have a sauna at home. Fortunately, a handful of North Shore Resorts feature saunas on site:
- Larsmont Cottages in Two Harbors
- Superior Shores in Two Harbors
- Country Inn of Two Harbors
- Cove Point Lodge (Beaver Bay)
- Silver Rapids Lodge (Fall Lake Township near Ely)
- Crooked Lake Resort (Finland)
- Deer Ridge Resort (Fall Lake Township near Ely)
BONUS! 11. Get Creative
There’s no better time to dive into arts and crafts than the winter. A project to work on keeps your mind clear and gets your creative juices flowing, improving your mood. Make yourself a chunky-knit blanket, a new quilt, a winter beanie, or a warm scarf.
Lake County has two quilt shops: One Old Loon in Two Harbors and the Quilt Corner in Beaver Bay. You can find tons of material, patterns, tools, and helpful tips to get started quilting.
Playing with Yarn in Knife River sits 100 feet from the lake and sells a plentitude of yarn, patterns, and kits. They also offer knitting and crochet lessons to improve your craft.
We Wish You Much Happiness this Winter
Winter can be daunting; we know. But it doesn’t have to be miserable! We hope these tips on getting your Hygge on North-Shore style will keep you happy, cozy, and comfortable all season long!