Favorites for Winter

In search of Christmas past
At Old World Wisconsin, pioneers party like it's 1899.

Ice playgrounds
Along rivers and lakes, it's fun to hang out with Jack Frost.

Milwaukee at Christmas
During the holidays, this city shimmers like Cinderella.

Relishing winter in Duluth
In this sporty town, you can ski and then see a ballet or Broadway show, all within city limits.

Quiet time on Minnesota's North Shore
Late fall is marked by stark beauty, cheaper stays and the gales of November.

Four seasons of Grand Marais
On Minnesota's North Shore, this photogenic village always is ready for its close-up.

Street of dreams
On St. Paul's Summit Avenue, imposing mansions are remnants of the Gilded Age.

Old World Christmas markets

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

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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Chicago at Christmas

During the holidays, this glittering, festive town becomes the City of Broad Smiles.

Visiting Chicago during the holidays, I'm always bowled over by how merry everyone is.

Can it be . . . Chicago Nice? It's either that or pixie dust.

Chicago is an exciting place to be any time, but at Christmas, it pulls out the stops. The Magnificent Mile sparkles. Ice skaters do pirouettes in Millennium Park. There are free concerts everywhere.

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Best of winter

Here are dozens of ways to savor the chilly season.

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

In the Upper Midwest, few shoppers can resist these Shangri-Las of spending.

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.

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Cheap winter getaways

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

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.

The easiest way to save is to round up a group of friends and rent a guesthouse in a state park. After that, most of the fun — skiing, snowshoeing, bird-watching, festival-attending — is free.

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Where eagles land

Winter is anything but slow at the big birds' favorite gathering spots in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

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.

Everything about them is larger than life, right down to their nests, which are so big and sturdy that bears sometimes climb into them to hibernate.

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