Half an hour north of Milwaukee, Cedarburg is the kind of shopping destination every big city likes to have nearby.
The quiet old Yankee mill town on Cedar Creek features a historic district full of restored storefronts, a winery, an artists guild, a cultural center, festivals and lots of shops.
Events to catch: Dec. 15, Festive Friday Eve.
Details: For more, see Jolly Cedarburg.
Past fast plans: Christmas in Chicago, Christmas in Milwaukee, Merry holidays in Minneapolis, Merry holidays in Minneapolis, Sampling in the Amanas
Spirit of Christmas Past in Green Bay, Wis. At this large complex of frontier buildings, listen to choirs, make orange pomanders, learn 19th-century dances, visit with St. Nick and go on a horse-drawn wagon ride. Dec. 16.
Christkindlmarket in Naperville, Ill. This market at the historic Naperville Settlement includes visits from the Christkind and dance performances. Dec. 1421.
Festive Friday Eve in Cedarburg, Wis. Cedar Creek Settlement features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider. Dec. 15.
Holidazzle in Minneapolis. This downtown holiday village in Loring Park features free admission, with entertainment that includes ice-skating, holiday movies and band and choir concerts. Dec. 1417.
For more, see our Events Calendar.
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.
So when ponds in southern Canada and North Dakota start to ice over in October, the swans fly down to feast on arrowhead tubers and wild celery along the Mississippi before continuing east.
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.
If you want a good way to greet the new year, plan a great getaway.
The traditional plan is to look around for a party or show. Pretty much any big hotel will have a New Years celebration with party hats, loud music and cocktails.
But you also can hike by candlelight, go for a sleigh ride or watch a torchlight parade on a ski slope.
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 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.
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.