During the holidays, this glittering city pulses with excitement. The Christkindlmarket turns Daley Plaza into a Old World town square, skaters pirouette at Millennium Park and shoppers cruise the Magnificent Mile.
What to do: Visit the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Ice skate at Millennium Park. Go to a holiday show (check HotTix for half-price tickets). Shop on the Magnificent Mile. See "Christmas Around the World'' at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Details: For more, see Chicago at Christmas.
Past fast plans: Milwaukee holidays, Merry in Minneapolis, Shopping in Madison, Gales of November, Late fall in Red Wing
European Christmas Market in St. Paul. This market at Union Depot features choirs, dancers, warm mulled wine, European-inspired food and artisan goods. The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train arrives at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 9. Dec. 811.
Christkindlmarket in Naperville, Ill. The Chicago Christkindlmarket has a satellite at the historic Naperville Settlement, featuring visits from the Christkind, dance concerts and a children's lantern parade on Kinder Tag, Dec. 11. Dec. 811.
An Old World Christmas in Eagle, Wis. At this complex of pioneer homesteads, meet Father Christmas, stroll from historic houses to shops, sample ethnic foods and make old-fashioned crafts. Dec. 1011.
Folkways of the Holidays in Shakopee, Minn. This living-history museum offers horse-drawn trolley rides, tours of 19th-century homes given by costumed interpreters and concerts by folk musicians and ethnic dancers. Dec. 1011.
For more, see our Events Calendar.
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.
There's no use hiding from winter it lasts too long, and eventually that living room will get old.
Many of the tourist spots we love to visit in summer work hard to lure us back when it's cold, offering festivals with lots of fun in the snow, plus bonfires and chili feeds to warm us up afterward.
For an exciting spectator event, watch the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth or the Crashed Ice extreme skating in St. Paul.
If you've always wanted to see the Winter Olympics, see the next best thing at ski-jumping competitions in Westby, Wis., or Iron Mountain, Mich.
For your own fun in the snow, go to Winter Festival in Madison or the Winter Festival at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, in the coulees to the west.
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.
Women get an especially good shake at Becoming an Outdoorswomen weekends in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Here are some great budget adventures in 2017.
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.
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. You'll find more overnight deals at environmental centers and hostels. And most of the fun skiing, snowshoeing, bird-watching, festival-attending is free.
You also can snowshoe from a yurt in the Upper Peninsula, hit the museums in Chicago and track wolves in Wisconsin.
Two centuries ago, Minnesota and Wisconsin were ripe for the picking.
Iron ore lay under forests of tall white pine, fertile farmland lay under prairie grasses, and rivers teeming with beaver led to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.
It all turned into money when ambitious men arrived, gathering up the goodies like kids on Halloween. They logged, they mined, they traded and they shipped.
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