MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Homes for the holidays
For Christmas tours, historic mansions up the ante on opulence.
Chicago at Christmas
During the holidays, this glittering, festive town becomes the City of Broad Smiles.
Where eagles land
Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.
20 great shopping towns
Few shoppers can resist these Shangri-Las of spending.
Classic Minnesota lodges
The passage of time burnishes the appeal of historic lake resorts.
Owls, owls, everywhere
Influxes of magnificent birds have birders hurrying up north.
Snowshoeing in Minnesota
In the land of lakes, it's easy and fun to get off the beaten path.
Near escapes in Wisconsin
Water parks or waterfalls? Here are 10 places to go for a great winter getaway.

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FastPlans/Shopping in Cedarburg

Cedar Creek Winery.

Half an hour north of Milwaukee, Cedarburg is the kind of shopping destination every big city likes to have nearby.

The quiet old Yankee mill town on Cedar Creek features a historic district full of restored storefronts, a winery, an artists guild, a cultural center, festivals and lots of shops.

What to do: Shop for gifts or antiques along Washington Avenue or at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 stone woolen mill. Sample wine at Cedar Creek Winery.

Events to catch: Dec. 15, Festive Friday Eve.

Details: For more, see Jolly Cedarburg.

Past fast plans: Christmas in Chicago, Christmas in Milwaukee, Merry holidays in Minneapolis, Merry holidays in Minneapolis, Sampling in the Amanas

This weekend

Have a jolly frontier holiday.

Heritage Hill Christmas in Green Bay.

Spirit of Christmas Past in Green Bay, Wis. At this large complex of frontier buildings, listen to choirs, make orange pomanders, learn 19th-century dances, visit with St. Nick and go on a horse-drawn wagon ride. Dec. 16.

Christkindlmarket in Naperville, Ill. This market at the historic Naperville Settlement includes visits from the Christkind and dance performances. Dec. 14–21.

Festive Friday Eve in Cedarburg, Wis. Cedar Creek Settlement features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider. Dec. 15.

Holidazzle in Minneapolis. This downtown holiday village in Loring Park features free admission, with entertainment that includes ice-skating, holiday movies and band and choir concerts. Dec. 14–17.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Wings over the Mississippi

Tundra-swan watchers have a honkin' good time during the November migration.

The view from Buena Vista Park.

In the sloughs of the Upper Mississippi, birds of a feather flock together.

Bird-watchers, especially. On chilly days in late fall, they crowd onto wooden platforms to watch tundra swans paddling around sloughs of the Mississippi River.

This big bird needs a lot of fuel for its flight from the Arctic Circle to the marshes of Chesapeake Bay.

So when ponds in southern Canada and North Dakota start to ice over in October, the swans fly down to feast on arrowhead tubers and wild celery along the Mississippi before continuing east.

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Cheap winter getaways

Here are 20 places where a fun weekend away is easy on the wallet.

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

In the Upper Midwest, finding a good deal is a sport second only to football.

Some of us need a bargain. Some of us just like them. But we all need to get away occasionally, especially when cabin fever strikes in winter.

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10 great ways to celebrate New Year's

You can put on a party hat or be festive in the forest.

Horse-drawn carriage in Chicago.

If you want a good way to greet the new year, plan a great getaway.

The traditional plan is to look around for a party or show. Pretty much any big hotel will have a New Year’s celebration with party hats, loud music and cocktails.

But you also can hike by candlelight, go for a sleigh ride or watch a torchlight parade on a ski slope.

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Best of winter

Here are 20 great 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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Winter adventure on a budget

At non-profit lodges, you can go to the dogs, or wolves, at bargain prices.

High ropes course at Wolf Ridge.

In winter, it's hard to find a lodge getaway that fits every budget.

Lodges that offer skiing on groomed trails, wood-fired saunas and home-cooked meals aren't cheap.

But if you'd like to try those things — and be greeted by a plate of warm chocolate-chip cookies afterward — you have a friend in environmental learning centers.

These non-profit centers are the low-cost Club Meds of the north woods, offering all-inclusive weekend packages that include lodgings, meals and winter fun — cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, even wolf-tracking and sled-dog mushing.

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Old World Christmas markets

Local versions of the traditional German Christkindlmarkt are a hit during the holidays.

Drinking Gluehwein at a Christkindlmarkt.

For 500 years, Germans have done their holiday shopping at open-air Christmas markets in town squares.

Named for the Christ child, the markets traditionally start on the first Sunday of Advent, with shoppers warming up with hot spiced wine while browsing at garland-draped timber kiosks.

It's a tradition worth importing, and that's what Chicago did in 1996 with its Christkindlmarket, where two-thirds of the vendors come from Germany.

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