MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

The chocolate cure
When winter drags on, drown your sorrows with sweets.
Ski or snowshoe by candlelight
On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.
Where eagles land
Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.
Staying warm in winter
If you know what to wear, dealing with cold weather is a breeze.
Nights at the museum
Sleep with the fishes, wolves and dinosaurs at family slumber parties.
Fun in the fast lane
Need speed? Here's where to ski or snowboard in the Upper Midwest.
Best of winter
Here are 25 great ways to savor the chilly season.
20 perfect cabins
They're in the woods, with views, vintage charm and modern luxuries (but maybe not all together).

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FastPlans/Fun around Ely

A skier passes Norberg Lake in Bear Head Lake State Park.

In winter, the wide open spaces around the northern Minnesota town of Ely are a playground for anyone who likes to move fast over snow.

What to do: Ski at Bear Head Lake State Park (pictured) or on the Hidden Valley trails. Snowshoe to the Hegman Lake pictographs (go free with Outward Bound Feb. 16) or on the hilly North Arm trails.

Visit the International Wolf Center. Mush a dog-sled team.

Events to catch:  Feb. 7-17, Winter Festival. Feb. 23-24, WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.

Details: For more, see Winter in Ely.

Past fast plans: Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Goofy winter fun in Minneapolis, Fun and games in Wausau, Fun in Itasca, Tundra swans in Monticello

This weekend

Watch beds race or kites fly.

Show kites at Clear Lake's Color the Wind.

Winter Festival in Cedarburg, Wis. This festival just north of Milwaukee features bed races, ice-carving, a dog weight pull competition, an egg hunt for kids and a parade at 1 p.m. Saturday. Feb. 16–17.

Color the Wind Kite Festival in Clear Lake, Iowa. This town in north-central Iowa draws kiters from eight states for its festival, the largest in the Midwest, and stunt fliers will perform routines choreographed to music. Feb. 16.

Fire & Ice in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Ice and snow sculptors create pieces around town. There's a novice category for beginners. Feb. 16.

Book Across the Bay from Ashland to Washburn, Wis. Ski or snowshoe across Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay on a 10-kilometer route lined by ice luminaries. If you're not too fast, fireworks will fill the sky as you're approaching Washburn; a bonfire, chili feed and blues music follow. Feb. 16.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


Serious reservations

Here's a guide to the lodgings, campsites and permits you should nail down now for travel in 2019.

Canoeing in the Boundary Waters.

In the Upper Midwest, travel can be competitive.

Many festivals are so big and so fun that everyone wants to go. If you do, too,  you'll have to act fast to stay ahead of the crowds. 

And sometimes, you also need to know when not to visit a certain area, so you can avoid sold-out hotels or sky-high rates.

Read story and trip tips


Ice playgrounds

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

The Eben ice caves near Munising, Mich.

In winter, ice comes with the territory. You can curse it — or you can play with it.

Kids know how. Climbers and skaters know how. And photographers adore it.

Having fun with ice also is a good way to cope with a winter that drags on, endlessly, into April.

That's when gigantic heaps of shards pile up on Lake Superior and ice storms create glistening tableaux that make photographers come running.

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Near escapes in Minnesota

Skiing or skyways? Here are 10 places for a great winter getaway.

Skiers on the Harmony-Preston Valley trail.

Before Valentine’s Day, and as winter drags on, everyone starts thinking about romantic getaways.

Well, we already have a story about romantic places to stay, and beyond that, who can say what romance is?

Especially since “romantic’’ often is code for “expensive.’’ We think romance has very little relationship to expenditure; we’ve found it in tents and camper cabins as well as luxurious inns. It’s everywhere, if you look for it.

Here are 10 great Minnesota getaways for everyone, whether you’re with your sweetie, your kids, your pals or just yourself.

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Wildlife reality show

Web cams open a window into lives of eagles, bears and other wild things.

An eagle nesting in the Twin Cities.

In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, a pair of nesting bald eagles have become an international phenomenon.

Not only do they have a constant stream of live video, but avid watchers are snatching the best episodes — capturing the many dramas that go on in and around the nest — and posting them on Youtube for everyone to enjoy. 

Read story and trip tips