With an assist from the recent cold snap, the annual cold climate festival is freezing over the Twin Cities soon, and many of its food, beverage and entertainment-related events are taking place in downtown Minneapolis.

During this year’s Great Northern festival, downtown venues will host four multi-course dinners led by top chefs, two concerts, two movie screenings and an intimate conversation with a renowned pianist.

Plus, a 100-foot ice bar will span an entire block on the northern end of Nicollet Mall, right outside of the newish RBC Gateway building, for over a week.

The Great Northern celebrates our cold, creative winters through 10 days of programming intended to invigorate mind and body and to serve as a call to action to protect the season that makes our home unique. More than 50 events are scheduled between Jan. 25 and Feb. 4 across Minneapolis and St. Paul.


A communal dinner titled Seven Stories features chefs Erik Anderson (Barndiva), Sean Sherman (Owamni), Zoë François (Zoë Bakes), Karyn Tomlinson (Myriel), Sameh Wadi (World Street Kitchen), Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods), and Steven Brown (Tilia, St. Genevieve, Giulia). It will be held on Jan. 26 at Hotel Emery. Tickets are $500 per person.

Sam Kass, a former White House chef, collaborates with celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern and Tullibee executive chef Marque Collins on The Last Supper on Jan. 28 at the Hewing Hotel. Tickets are $285.

For the K’óoben pop-up on Jan. 30 at Glass House, the K’óoben (Mayan for “kitchen” or “stove”) food collective invites guest chefs “to explore their immigrant experiences that shaped them and the Minnesota influences that define them today.” Featured chefs include Gustavo Romero (Oro by Nixta), Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen, Vinai), José Alarcón (previously Centro, Vivir), Peter Bian and Linda Cao (Saturday Dumpling Co.), and Baaska Tegshbileg (Real Wasabi, Cobble Social House). Tickets are $100.

Members of the Four Seasons culinary team – chefs Gavin Kaysen, Thony Yang, Martin Morelli and Eddy Dhenin – team up with Swedish chef and Team USA culinary director Sebastian Gibrand on a Scandinavian menu and an interactive, indoor/outdoor culinary experience for A Winter’s Table on Feb. 1 at Mara. Tickets are $295.

Movies and music

The Main Cinema is screening Estonian director Anna Hints’ Sundance-winning documentary “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” on Jan. 27, as well as a Twin Cities PBS documentary on hockey legend Henry Boucha called “The Electric Indian” on Jan. 31. Tickets are $15.

Berlin, a new jazz club in the North Loop, hosts an intimate conversation between Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson and Minneapolis drummer and composer Dave King on Jan. 29, before it officially opens in February. Tickets are free but sold out; however, there’s a wait list. Ólafsson then performs J.S. Bach’s iconic “Goldberg Variations” on Jan. 30 and 31 at St. Paul’s Ordway Concert Hall.

Broken Ice: Indigenous Sonic Salve from the North brings northern Indigenous bands and performers, including headliner Ya Tseen, to First Avenue’s main stage on Feb. 1, with a Nativ Bowl pop-up from chef Brian Yazzie of Intertribal Foodways. Tickets are $30.

Led by conductor Tito Muñoz, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Detroit-based Sphinx Virtuosi share the stage at Orchestra Hall in a program featuring Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Abels’ “Global Warming,” Astor Piazzolla’s “Winter and Summer,” Carlos Simon’s “Breathe,” and Angélica Negrón’s “Marejada.” Daily performances on Feb. 1-3. Tickets are $25-$69.

Photo of a previous Minnesota Ice bar by Jayme Halbritter

Ice bar

Minnesota Ice is building the frozen cocktail bar on Nicollet Avenue between Washington Avenue and Third Street near the Four Seasons, located within the RBC Gateway building.

The ice bar is free to enter and open to the public Jan. 26-28 and Jan. 31-Feb. 4.

Drink ticket prices are $5 for kids beverages and beer, $10 for non-alcoholic craft cocktails, and $15 for regular craft cocktails.

The Great Northern enlisted Adam Witherspoon, former Four Seasons beverage director, to lead the ice bar. He tapped his network to assemble a stacked roster of guest bartenders from local bars, restaurants and distilleries. A few of them even helm downtown watering holes.

“Really, it's about displaying the whole color swatch of Minneapolis beverage people,” Witherspoon told Downtown Voices.

The ice bar will serve cocktail creations from the guest bartenders, a core menu crafted by Witherspoon, and non-alcoholic options from Dry Wit and 3LECHE.

Here are more details on when the ice bar is open and who you can find behind it:

  • Friday, Jan. 26: Open from 4-7 p.m., with Jesse Held from Earl Giles Distillery and Nate Beske of Four Seasons Minneapolis Hotel and Mara
  • Saturday, Jan. 27: Open from 2-6 p.m., with Bridgit Loeffelholz from Dampfwerk
  • Sunday, Jan. 28: Open from 12-4 p.m., with Megan Luedtke from Porzana
  • Wednesday, Jan. 31: Open from 4-7 p.m., with Caribou Coffee (National Hot Chocolate Day)
  • Thursday, Feb. 1: Open from 4-7 p.m., with Jesse Held from Earl Giles Distillery and Ellen Vaagen from Vikre
  • Friday, Feb. 2: Open from 4-7 p.m., with Jesse Held from Earl Giles Distillery and Jon Olson from Libation Project
  • Saturday, Feb. 3: Open from 2-6 p.m., with Jeff Sedenstricker from Steady Pour and Marco Zappia from 3LECHE
  • Sunday, Feb. 4: Open from 12-4 p.m., Robb Jones and Tyler Klienow from Meteor

Because it’s Minnesota, and it’s been an especially wild winter, hours are subject to change depending on weather conditions.

During the days that the ice bar is open, Metro Transit is offering free rides downtown on bus and light rail lines. Passes can be downloaded for a specific day via The Great Northern Ice Bar page.