MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Staying warm in winter
If you know what to wear, dealing with cold weather is a breeze.
Inn retreats
If you don't like the weather, spend a weekend where everything is under one roof.
Homes for the holidays
For Christmas tours, historic mansions up the ante on opulence.
Fun in the fast lane
Need speed? Here's where to ski or snowboard in the Upper Midwest.
Milwaukee at Christmas
During the holidays, this city shimmers like Cinderella.
Owls, owls, everywhere
Influxes of magnificent birds have birders hurrying up north.
A jolly holiday in Minneapolis
Christmas draws tourists and locals alike into the lively heart of the city.
Great winter festivals
Enjoy the chilly season with snow sculptures, ice castles, sleigh rides and lots of hot chocolate.

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FastPlans/Christmas in Chicago

Christmas shopping in Chicago.

During the holidays, this glittering city pulses with excitement. Skaters glide in Maggie Daley Park and shoppers cruise the Magnificent Mile. 

What to doIce skate on the ribbon in Maggie Daley Park. Go to Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier. See "Christmas Around the World'' at the Museum of Science and Industry. See the ZooLights display at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of several light shows. Shop on the Magnificent Mile.

Christmas markets: Through Dec. 24, Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza. Through Dec. 31, Christkindlmarket at Wrigleyville.

Details: For more, see Chicago at Christmas.

Past fast plans: Sampling in Iowa's Amanas, A merry holiday in Milwaukee, Escape to the Dells, Shopping in Madison, Halloween in Chicago

This weekend

See twinkle lights and chiseled ice.

A festival ice sculpture.

Night of the Luminaria in Galena, Ill. More than 5,000 candle-lit luminaria line the streets of this historic town and 30 windows become animated. Dec. 11.

Burlington Ice Festival in Burlington, Wis. Ice carvers compete in Wehmhoff Square Park in the Wisconsin Ice Carving Competition, with the sculptures lit at dusk. There will also be a Kris Kringle Market, music, reindeer and wagon rides. Dec. 11-12.

Christkindli Market in New Glarus, Wis. This new outdoor market downtown features decorated mini-chalets, food and music. Dec. 10–12.

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville in Chicago. This North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors. Nov. 19–Dec. 24.

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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20 great shopping towns

Few shoppers can resist these Shangri-Las of spending.

Shops on High Street in Mineral Point.

Some people may guess that lakes or bicycle trails are the chief attraction for travelers in the Upper Midwest. Other might say museums, state parks or stadiums.

Wrong, wrong and wrong. The No. 1 attraction in travel is . . . shops.

Shopping is sightseeing for a lot of people. On vacation, they shop not as they would at the local mall, but as if had all the time in the world to browse, stroll and sample.

As, in fact, they do. Legions of weekend hobby shoppers have fueled the rise of such boutique towns as Stillwater in Minnesota, Cedarburg in Wisconsin and Galena in Illinois.

Here are more than 20 towns where you'll find great shopping and sightseeing, ranked from good to greatest, and holiday events in 2021.

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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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Cheap winter getaways

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

Candlelight skiing in a state park.

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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