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By Tom Carlson

Every month we take a deep dive into the story of one awesome sauna business from our Public Sauna Map. We call this the Public Sauna of the Month feature. Wherever you may travel, we hope the Public Sauna of the Month feature and the Public Sauna Map help you find good heat, steam, and community.

But this month we couldn’t narrow it down to just one public sauna.

Rather, this Public Sauna of the Month is a 19-way tie among all the amazing sauna experiences we know of in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I recently visited Minneapolis, hoping to include a little sweating within my itinerary. The trip evolved into an all -out sauna geek-a-thon. And I’m recommending you, sauna-loving reader, do it too. Take a pilgrimage to the epicenter of the US’ current saunaquake.

Superior Sauna and Steam’s Minneapolis Retail Location, home of The Yard, a small semi-permanent sauna village.

I’m aware of no hotbed of sauna activity in the Americas like what’s happening in the Twin Cities. So when Glenn refers to the region as the Sauna Capital of North America he’s not just blowing smoke. From the Great Northern Sauna Village featured in a recent Sauna Talk episode to mobile and fixed sauna businesses to sauna and sauna accessory manufacturers to hotels that feature awesome saunas and guided experiences, MSP is truly at the center of a movement (and I think Glenn is a bigger factor in that than he’ll admit. But that’s another story.)

My trip

Shortly after getting to town I joined Glenn for a few rounds in his backyard sauna. Glenn also invited Darin Mays, owner of Urban Wing. We had a great visit, some of which you may hear on an upcoming episode of Sauna Talk launching very soon.

Afterward, I enjoyed dinner with a couple friends I hadn’t seen in a quarter century. They first surprised me by acting completely normal when I mentioned I had just come from a sauna. I expected the sort of reaction with which I’m more familiar: some mix of “that’s interesting” “that’s really different (or weird)” and often “not really my thing but you do you.” It was as if I had told them I enjoy listening to music or eating pizza – just a completely run-of-the-mill sort of activity. How strange. Then I learned they each have a sauna of their own! What are the chances? In Minneapolis, apparently pretty good.

My friend’s beautiful backyard sauna.

I had lots of ideas for the next few days but purposely avoided booking specific appointments until I arrived and got the lay of the land. This open itinerary served me well. One sauna and conversation let to another and by the time I headed home I had perspired in, or gotten a good look at, all these saunas:

Kirk, ready to host 612 Sauna Society’s evening sessions
The Forge, 612 Sauna Society’s mobile sauna

I did some Twin Cities tourism and ate memorable meals too, but you don’t care about any of that, do you? (Ok well, my top recommendations: walk Stone Arch Bridge from St. Anthony Main and check out Mill Ruins Park on the far end, drive the expansive parkway system by starting at Theodore Wirth Park (where you may find 612’s sauna parked) and going either way on the Theodore Wirth Parkway until you get sick of parkway (bonus points for making the full loop, called the Grand Rounds.) For eats: France 44 across the street from Sauna Strong has an amazing deli, the Reuben at Nighthawks blew my mind, Terzo provided memorable fine dining and Wise Acre a tasty true farm-to-table lunch.)

One of two traditional saunas at Sauna Strong

Your trip

Choose your own adventure. The area currently boasts 19 pins in our map (yeah, 19!) Top of my list for next time (at least at this point. There’s so much I don’t know and the MSP sauna market is very dynamic right now):

Many of the sessions at these purveyors of good heat sell out so book your most desired bench spaces in advance. But leave space in your trip itinerary too, especially if you’re not yet familiar with the area. And don’t forget to rehydrate, including restoring your electrolytes with mineral water, add-in powders, or Gatorade. It’s the key to keep sauna from wiping you out.

Sure the ultimate sauna pilgrimage would be Finland or a trip down the eastern shores of the Baltic sea. But if Europe’s not in the cards right now, give MSP a try. think you’ll be impressed.

Harrison, co-owner of Sauna Strong, showing me a chromotherapy mat (can’t say I’m a big believer quite yet, but it’s a good lighting effect!)
The Yard at Superior Sauna and Steam, featuring 4 saunas
View from a barrel sauna at Sauna Camp
Hey it’s me (right) with Glenn (left)
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2 thoughts on “A Trip to Sauna Central: MSP”

  1. Due partly to inspiration from SainaTimes my backyard sauna is under construction. A contractor is building the 8’ by 16’ shed off site. They will frame it up and complete the siding and roof. We will then relocate the sauna shed to our backyard where I will finish the inside on my own. I have ordered the small Kuuma sauna stove with the cedar kit and it will be ready this summer.

  2. Fantastic Lynn. It’s been said that 8’x16′ may be the new 8’x12′, and i’m not going to argue with this at all. It’s funny, as I look back, most all of the dozen or so projects in which I have applied my direct building hands have been in standard sized backyards. Here’s where we shoe horn, sacrifice the tomato plants, and find neglected corners in which to stake our claim.

    But if one has the space, 8’x16′ gives us the great advantage of more hang out space in the “third zone of sauna.” Why anyone would pay the better part of an annual wage for a backyard sauna without a cool down room (in our climate) is beyond my reasoning. As we know, magic happens when we allow our bodies to cool down slowly, gracefully, endorphin-ly.. And as a cold MN winter wind comes whipping down the backyard alley, wow, our cool down rooms can easily be voted as our second best piece of real estate on our land. (First being our hot room with kick ass Kuuma).

    More on this via the article “the holy trinity of a good cool down” Instagram worthy summary: cold water, nature, time.

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