MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Cross-country skiing 101
There's no better way to enjoy the winter landscape, and anyone can do it.
Ski or snowshoe by candlelight
On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.
A chocolate tour of Madison
For people who want the best in bonbons, this town is a decadent destination.
Chicago at Christmas
During the holidays, this glittering, festive town becomes the City of Broad Smiles.
Cheap winter getaways
Here are 20 places where a fun weekend away is easy on the wallet.
Where eagles land
Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.
The coolest days of winter
Ditch the indoors for one of these great festivals.
10 great ways to celebrate New Year's
You can put on a party hat or be festive in the forest.

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FastPlans/Merry holidays in Minneapolis

Holidazzle in Minneapolis.

In downtown Minneapolis, holiday festivities stretch from Loring Park to the Hennepin Theatre District, Nicollet Mall and the riverfront.

Events to catch: Dec. 12-15 and 19-22, free Holidazzle market in Loring Park, with a Kids' Zone, concerts, ice-skating, a beer garden with games and Saturday fireworks.

What to do: See "A Christmas Carol'' at the Guthrie. See a Christmas play or ballet in the Hennepin Theatre District.

Nightlife: The Dakota music club at Nicollet and 10th schedules many holiday shows.

Details: See A jolly holiday in Minneapolis.

Past fast plans: Christmas in Chicago, Sampling in Iowa's Amanas, A merry holiday in Milwaukee, Shopping in Madison, The Gales of November

This weekend

Meet Father Christmas and Krampus.

A Krampus visits a Christmas market.

European Christmas Market in St. Paul. This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods. Krampuses will visit Friday night. Dec. 13–15.

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. 14.

An Old World Christmas in Eagle, Wis. At this fun event at Old World Wisconsin, a complex of pioneer homesteads next to Kettle Moraine State Forest west of Milwaukee, you'll meet Father Christmas, stroll from historic houses to shops, sample ethnic foods and make old-fashioned crafts. Dec. 14–15.

Holiday Kerstmarkt in Holland, Mich. This open-air European Christmas Market at the Eighth Street Market Place includes 18 timber booths offering Dutch imports, folk art, hand-knit apparel and other gifts. On Saturday, there will be sled-dog demos. Dec. 13–14.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Great places to snowshoe

In winter, the outdoors is wide open to those who walk on snow.

North Country Trail on the Black River.

Everyone likes to snowshoe. It's cheap, easy and you can do it anywhere. 

In winter, snowshoes are the bridge into the wild white yonder. They allow you get off the beaten path and to places that otherwise would be hard to explore — islands, overgrown woods, bogs and marshes.

In deep snow, the first person to break trail has to expend some serious effort. If you're the fourth or fifth person on the trail, though, that's just about right. 

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Going on a winter adventure

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.

Here are some great winter adventures in 2020

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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.

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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.

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