MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Serious reservations
Here's a guide to the lodgings, campsites and permits you should nail down now for travel in 2018.
The coolest days of winter
Ditch the indoors for one of these great festivals.
Best of winter
Here are 25 great ways to savor the chilly season.
The best in snow tubing
With their multiple lanes, conveyor lifts and snow-making, these aren't your grandma's hills.
20 perfect cabins
They're in the woods, with views, vintage charm and modern luxuries (but maybe not all together).
Walking on ice
Even when trails are slippery, you can grip the moment with a good pair of crampons.
Bargains for beginners
Free or cut-rate ski and snowboard packages make it easy to learn.
Owls, owls, everywhere
Influxes of magnificent birds have birders hurrying up north.

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FastPlans/Dubuque's views

Steeples and bridges dominate the view of Dubuque.

People who think Iowa is flat are in for a surprise when they visit Dubuque, a Mississippi port built on seven hills.

What to do: Visit the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.  Hike or snowshoe in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area. Ski downhill at nearby Sundown Mountain

Events to catch: Jan. 20, Bald Eagle Watch.

Details: See Destination Dubuque.

Past fast plans: Fun in Itasca, Tundra swans in Monticello, Cocooning in a cozy cabin, Shopping in Cedarburg, Christmas in Chicago

This weekend

Watch sculptors and crazy skaters.

The Crashed Ice course in St. Paul.

Crashed Ice World Championship in St. Paul. Red Bull Crashed Ice is returning with the extreme sport of high-speed ice-cross downhill skating from the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jan. 19–20.

Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis. This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics.  Jan. 20–21.

Silver Mine Ski Jumping Championships in Eau Claire, Wis. Watch top skiers from North America and Europe compete at Silver Mine Hill. Jan. 19–20.

Hunter Ice Festival in Niles, Mich. This festival in the southwest tip of the state features more than 150 ice sculptures and a competition. Jan. 19–21.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Where eagles land

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

An eagle looks for fish at the lock and dam in Genoa, Wis.

Eagles don't really have lovable personalities. But, man, are they fun to watch.

Those haughty pale eyes, that 6-foot wing span, those wicked talons and the flesh-shredding beak — eagles are just plain cool.

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Bacon bashes

If you fry it, they will come. Here's where to pig out around the region.

Baconfest in Chicago.

Have you ever had enough bacon?

If not, you can get your chance at a rasher of pork parties around the region. At Des Moines' Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival one year, a Nebraska woman put away 2½ pounds in less than five minutes.

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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.

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.

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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.

Old-fashioned winters — the kind with a lot of snow — are back.

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. We like to think of cross-country skiing as an express pass into the loveliest winter landscapes.

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