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: A merry holiday in Milwaukee, Sampling in Iowa's Amanas, Shopping in Madison, The Gales of November, Exploring Northfield
Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth. Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations and enjoy popcorn, roasted marshmallows, cookies and hot chocolate. Everything is free, but bring one or more non-perishable food items (and/or cash) to donate. Through Dec. 26.
Holidazzle in Minneapolis. The free entertainment includes ice-skating, holiday movies and band and choir concerts. There are fireworks at 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Dec. 1316.
An Old World Christmas in Eagle, Wis. At this fun event at Old World Wisconsin, you'll meet Father Christmas, stroll from historic houses to shops, sample ethnic foods and make old-fashioned crafts. Dec. 1516.
Christkindlmarket in Naperville, Ill. The Chicago Christkindlmarket has a satellite market at the historic Naperville Settlement, with visits from the Christkind, dance performances and a children's lantern parade on Kinder Tag. Dec. 1324.
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.
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.
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.
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.