MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

10 great ways to celebrate Valentine's Day
Feed romance in the forest, at an ice castle and, of course, in chocolate shops.
Cheap winter getaways
Here are 20 places where a fun weekend away is easy on the wallet.
Snowshoeing in Minnesota
In the land of lakes, it's easy and fun to get off the beaten path.
Staying warm in winter
If you know what to wear, dealing with cold weather is a breeze.
The best in snow tubing
With their multiple lanes, conveyor lifts and snow-making, these aren't your grandma's hills.
Snowshoeing in Wisconsin
National forests, state parks and wildlife preserves roll out the white carpet for winter hikers.
Ski out the door
From cozy north-woods lodges, guests glide into a world of white.
Snowshoeing river canyons of the North Shore
In winter, ice creates scenic new routes for hikers.

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FastPlans/Goofy winter fun in Minneapolis

An art sled flies down the hill.

There's a lot going on in Minneapolis the next few weeks, thanks to a bunch of creative folks and sporty types who make it fun to be outdoors.

What to do: Ski in Wirth ParkSnowshoe on Minnehaha Creek.

Events to catch: Jan. 22, Kite Festival on Lake Harriet. Jan. 22-23 and 29-30 and Feb. 5-6, Art Shanty Projects on Lake Harriet. Jan, 29, Art Sled Rally in Powderhorn Park. Feb. 5-6, City of Lakes Loppet.

Details: For more, see Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis.

Past fast plans: Dubuque's views, Cocooning in a cozy cabin, Merry holidays in Minneapolis, Christmas in Chicago, Sampling in Iowa's Amanas

This weekend

Slide and ride on snow and ice.

The Arctic Avalanche in Waukesha.

Janboree in Waukesha, Wis. The fest in this Milwaukee suburb includes ice sculpting, Ojibwe snow-snake games, a penguin-egg hunt, a candlelight hike and tobogganing on the lighted run in Lowell Park. Through Jan. 23.

Lake Harriet Kite Festival in Minneapolis. In addition to kite-flying, this event on popular Lake Harriet includes horse-drawn wagon rides, kids' ice fishing, arts, music and roasted marshmallows. Check out the Art Shanty Projects, too. Jan. 22.

World Snow Sculpting Championship in Stillwater, Minn. Snow-sculpting teams from around the world will compete in Lowell Park. Jan. 18–23.

Winterfest in Amana, Iowa. Go on a beer and wine walk or compete in ham-throwing, log-sawing, wreath-tossing, the Amana Freezer Run/Walk or for the best beard. There will also be ice sculpting and chainsaw-carving. Jan. 22

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Best of winter

Here are dozens of ways to savor the chilly season.

A ski jumper in Westby.

There's a reason why winter is the favorite season of many photographers — it's gorgeous. 

You've seen this region's icicle-draped sea caves, volcanic Great Lakes waves and dancing northern lights on social media. Now get out there and enjoy the scenery yourselves.

Snowshoe up frozen river canyons, barrel through the woods behind a team of huskies and go to bock festivals at breweries. Learn to ice fish, track wolves and look for bald eagles.

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Ice playgrounds

Along rivers and lakes, it's fun to hang out with Jack Frost.

The Eben ice caves near Munising, Mich.

In winter, ice comes with the territory. You can curse it — or you can play with it.

Kids know how. Climbers and skaters know how. And photographers adore it.

Having fun with ice also is a good way to cope with a winter that drags on, endlessly, into April. 

That's when gigantic heaps of shards pile up on Lake Superior and ice storms create glistening tableaux that make photographers come running.

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Serious reservations

Here's a guide to the lodgings, campsites and permits you should nail down early.

Illgen Falls cabin.

In the Upper Midwest, travel can be competitive.

Many festivals are so big and so fun that everyone wants to go. If you do, too,  you'll have to act fast to stay ahead of the crowds. 

And sometimes, you also need to know when not to visit a certain area, so you can avoid sold-out hotels or sky-high rates.

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Ski or snowshoe by candlelight

On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.

Candlelight skiing in a state park.

If you do only one thing outdoors in winter, do it by candlelight.

Nothing is more magical than a forest full of flickering lights. I got hooked when I skied in Minnesota's Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.

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Cross-country skiing 101

There's no better way to enjoy the winter landscape, and anyone can do it.

Cross-country skiers.

The snow is back — a lot of it.

You can whine about it and hide indoors, or you can go out and have fun. Ever thought about cross-country skiing? That's fun.

If you haven't tried the sport, here's how to get started.

It does take a while to get good at it, but it's fun right from the beginning. 

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