MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Great holiday festivals
In November and December, check out Santa, Scrooge and shopping markets.
Ghosts of the Great Lakes
Centuries of tragedy on ship and shore leave haunting memories.
Greatest hits of the Ice Age
In Wisconsin, the best walking trails are gifts from the glaciers.
15 great late-fall getaways
It's the mellowest time of the year, when hotel rates drop with the leaves.
30 classic fall hikes
For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.
Homes for the holidays
For Christmas tours, historic mansions up the ante on opulence.
15 great fall drives
Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.
Power shopping in southwest Wisconsin
On a late-fall foray, six bargain hunters find treasure amid scenery.

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FastPlans/Shopping in Madison

A window of the Chocolaterian Cafe.

There's always excitement in the air on and around Madison's State Street, but especially in November, when the holidays are on the horizon.

Where to shop: State Street has great museum gift shops, and Monroe Street, which heads south from Camp Randall stadium, also has fun shops and places to eat.

Shopping events: Nov. 17-18, Art & Gift Fair at the Overture Center. Dec. 1, Holiday Glow on Monroe

Nightlife: See a concert, play, ballet or touring show at the Overture Center on State Street.

Details: For more, see Shopping in Madison.

Past fast plans: The Gales of November, Exploring Northfield, Late fall in Red Wing, Halloween in Chicago, Fall hikes at Devil's Lake

This weekend

Holiday Folk Fair in West Allis.

Holiday Folk Fair International in West Allis, Wis. More than 50 ethnic groups showcase their cultures with music, dance, food and crafts. Nov. 16–18.

Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis. The expo at the Midwest Mountaineering store on the West Bank includes dozens of speakers and seminars about skiing, sled-dog racing and ice-climbing as well as year-round adventures. Nov. 16–18.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade in Chicago.  There will be music and family activities on Michigan Avenue, with a lighted parade Saturday from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, where fireworks over the Chicago River will follow. Nov. 16-17.

Christkindlmarket Milwaukee in Milwaukee. The Chicago Christkindlmarket expands with this open-air, German-style market in the plaza outside Fiserve Forum arena. Nov. 17–Dec. 24.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

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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Wings over the Mississippi

Tundra-swan watchers have a honkin' good time during the November migration.

The view from Buena Vista Park.

In the sloughs of the Upper Mississippi, birds of a feather flock together.

Bird-watchers, especially. On chilly days in late fall, they crowd onto wooden platforms to watch tundra swans paddling around sloughs of the Mississippi River.

This big bird needs a lot of fuel for its flight from the Arctic Circle to the marshes of Chesapeake Bay.

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On the wine trail

In November, taste the fruits of the harvest on winery road trips.

Wine tasting at a vineyard.

As fall winds down on forest trails, the season is just gearing up on wine trails, where groups of wineries invite folks to take a little drive, sample the wares and maybe take home a few bottles.

Since wineries tend to be in very scenic areas, that’s not such a bad idea. And in November, many offer special events to put buyers in the holiday spirit.

Here are wine trails in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan that have planned events in 2018.

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November girlfriend getaways

In the slow season, women head out to have fun with their friends.

Horseback riding in autumn.

In November, women make a break for it.

As men sit in deer stands or watch football games on TV, women hit the road with their friends. They shop, visit spas, sip wine, take cooking classes and see musicals their husbands or boyfriends don't want to see.

For women, November is a great month. Not only do they have a good excuse to get away with their friends, but they can get a head start on shopping for Christmas.

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