Favorites for Winter

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

Where eagles land
Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.

Dog days of winter
Deep in Superior National Forest, novice mushers tag along with some huskies.

The best in snow tubing
With their multiple lanes, conveyor lifts and snow-making, these aren't your grandma's hills.

Wildlife reality show
Web cams open a window into the lives of bald eagles.

Snowshoeing in Minnesota
In the land of lakes, it's easy and fun to get off the beaten path.

White gold in the Porkies
In the Upper Peninsula, a wilderness park rewards those who love snow.

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

Owls, owls, everywhere

Influxes of magnificent birds have birders from around the nation hurrying north.

In the north woods, irruptions of owls make birders ecstatic.

When food is scarce in far-north forests, owls fly south to look for it, many along the shores of Lake Superior.

I don't have the patience to look for birds. But when they come right to me . . . who can resist?

First it was the boreal owl in St. Croix State Park. We didn't realize how unusual it is to see an alert, curious boreal owl that far south and during the day — they're nocturnal — till we were hiking in Duluth and followed a stream of people to a red pine, where a balled-up boreal owl was sleeping on a high branch.

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The coolest days of winter

Ditch the indoors for one of these great festivals in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

There's no use hiding from winter — it lasts too long, and eventually, that living room gets old.

Many of the tourist spots we love to visit in summer work hard to lure us back when it's cold, offering festivals with lots of fun in the snow, plus bonfires and chili feeds to warm us up afterward.

For an exciting spectator event, watch the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth.

If you've always wanted to see the Winter Olympics, see the next best thing at ski-jumping competitions in Westby, Wis., or Iron Mountain, Mich.

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Snowshoeing river canyons of the North Shore

In winter, ice creates scenic new routes for hikers.

On Minnesota's North Shore, winter opens new avenues for explorers.

Miles of hiking trails already follow the gorges of rivers that flow into Lake Superior. But why hike the trails when you can hike on the river itself?

A frozen river takes you straight into the scenery — the slot canyons of the Onion, the steep red cliffs of the Devil Track, the waterfalls of the Baptism.

Snowshoeing up the rivers of the North Shore is not particularly dangerous if you have any sense at all. And yet, it's not without excitement.

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Best of winter

Here are dozens of ways to savor the chilly season.

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.

Or be like the Finns, Danes and Norwegians, who regularly land on top of the World Happiness Report. In winter, they enjoy hygge — the cozy well-being felt by lighting candles, sitting in front of crackling fires and having warm drinks with friends. Try that yourselves, or go to the Hygge Festival in Grand Marais in February.

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10 great ways to celebrate Valentine's Day

Feed romance in the forest, at an ice castle and, of course, in chocolate shops.

Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year, so on the weekend before, you ought to be ready to treat your swain or sweetheart to something fun.

It doesn't have to be an expensive dinner by candlelight with a fancy box of artisan chocolates . . . it could also be a hike by lantern or candlelight, with s'mores made over a fire.

Romance isn't what you buy; it's what you bring with you.

Here are some great and not particularly expensive ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in 2023.

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Ski or snowshoe by candlelight

In the winter, follow twinkling lights through snowy forests in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.

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.

A fat blue moon hung in the sky, sparkling hoarfrost made twigs as nubby as reindeer antlers and more than 400 glowing bags gave the forest a fairy-tale aura.

That was especially memorable, but so was every other time: on the Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie, past the cascading ice of the Blue Wall; on Chequamegon Bay, with fireworks bursting ahead; along the shore of Lake Bemidji, with city lights twinkling on the horizon.

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Inn retreats

If you don't like the weather, spend a weekend where everything is under one roof.

In winter, not everyone wants to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Many people would rather enjoy down comforters, hot toddies and a massage. Many people don't even want to look at snow and ice.

And that's possible at many inns and resorts. Some include a spa or dinner theater, others shops and restaurants, and a few offer a whole weekend's worth of entertainment under one roof.

In Duluth, the Fitger's complex includes a hotel, restaurants, day spa, shops, nightclub and a brewpub with live music.

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Lodgings in Minnesota state parks

If you don't have a cabin of your own, Minnesota has one you can borrow.

If you don't have a cabin of your own, Minnesota has one you can borrow.

Some really are cabins, but others are houses, complete with two-car garages, like the one at Bear Head Lake State Park, previously occupied by the park manager.

Some were private houses that have been renovated, like the Illgen Falls Cabin in Tettegouche State Park.

There's something for everyone in Itasca State Park: rooms in a historic lodge, classic cabins, motel-style rooms and modern suites with cable and air conditioning.

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