MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

The chocolate cure
When winter drags on, drown your sorrows with sweets.
The best in snow tubing
With their multiple lanes, conveyor lifts and snow-making, these aren't your grandma's hills.
Ski or snowshoe by candlelight
On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.
Where eagles land
Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.
Staying warm in winter
If you know what to wear, dealing with cold weather is a breeze.
Nights at the museum
Sleep with the fishes, wolves and dinosaurs at family slumber parties.
Serious reservations
Here's a guide to the lodgings, campsites and permits you should nail down now for travel in 2019.
Best of winter
Here are 25 great ways to savor the chilly season.
20 perfect cabins
They're in the woods, with views, vintage charm and modern luxuries (but maybe not all together).

Find us on Facebook

FastPlans/Madison for kids

Bucky the Badger at the State Capitol.

Madison is known as a college town, yet it's always putting on and fun festivals and events for children. It's the perfect place to take school-age kids for a weekend in winter.

What to do: Go to a free Kids in the Rotunda concert at the Overture Center on Saturdays. Take a free guided tour of the Capitol.

Tour the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Veterans Museum and Madison Children's Museum, all around Capitol Square. Visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens for a 2 p.m. Sunday concert ($2).

Events to catch: Feb. 23, free International Festival at the Overture Center. March 2-3, Kids Expo.

Details: See Madison for all ages.

Past fast plans: Fun around Ely, Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Goofy winter fun in Minneapolis, Fun and games in Wausau, Fun in Itasca

This weekend

Kiss a fish or race a minnow.

Kissing an eelpout in Walker.

International Eelpout Festival in Walker, Minn. This town on Leech Lake celebrates the famously ugly fish with mechanical bull riding, bikini ice fishing and a beer pong tournament. Feb. 21–24.

Grumpy Old Men Festival in Wabasha, Minn. There's always good eagle-viewing in this Mississippi River town, and during the festival, there will be an ice-fishing contest, polar plunge and minnow races. Feb. 22–23.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Prairie du Chien, Wis. Birding experts give programs, and volunteers man spotting scopes at the Wisconsin Travel Information Center, just off the bridge into town. Feb. 22–23.

International Festival in Madison. Dancers, musicians, storytellers and puppeteers representing traditions from around the world converge on the Overture Center for the Arts on State Street for this free festival. Feb. 23.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


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.

Read story and trip tips


Sugarbush safari

Running sap is cause for celebration in the maple forest.

Tapping a maple tree at Fort Snelling.

Even if it looks like winter outside, you can count on maple trees to know otherwise.

In late February, their sap starts to run, and that's "the sweet good-bye of winter,'' writes naturalist John Burroughs.

Indigenous people were first to tap trees, inserting hollow reeds, letting the sap drip into troughs and boiling it down over a wood fire. The process isn't much different today, except most people use metal taps, plastic tubing and buckets to catch the sap.

It's still a lot of work; it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. But most people think real maple syrup is worth the effort.

Read story and trip tips


Near escapes in Minnesota

Skiing or skyways? Here are 10 places for a great winter getaway.

Skiers on the Harmony-Preston Valley trail.

Before Valentine’s Day, and as winter drags on, everyone starts thinking about romantic getaways.

Well, we already have a story about romantic places to stay, and beyond that, who can say what romance is?

Especially since “romantic’’ often is code for “expensive.’’ We think romance has very little relationship to expenditure; we’ve found it in tents and camper cabins as well as luxurious inns. It’s everywhere, if you look for it.

Here are 10 great Minnesota getaways for everyone, whether you’re with your sweetie, your kids, your pals or just yourself.

Read story and trip tips


Wildlife reality show

Web cams open a window into lives of eagles, bears and other wild things.

An eagle nesting in the Twin Cities.

In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, a pair of nesting bald eagles have become an international phenomenon.

Not only do they have a constant stream of live video, but avid watchers are snatching the best episodes — capturing the many dramas that go on in and around the nest — and posting them on Youtube for everyone to enjoy. 

Read story and trip tips