MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Great winter festivals
Enjoy the chilly season with snow sculptures, ice castles, sleigh rides and lots of hot chocolate.
White gold in the Porkies
In the Upper Peninsula, a wilderness park rewards those who love snow.
Looking for bald eagles
In winter, the cold forces the birds to go where they're easier to see.
Bayfield in winter
When snow covers this scenic Wisconsin peninsula, everyone heads for the hills.
Near escapes in Wisconsin
Water parks or waterfalls? Here are 10 places to go for a great winter getaway.
Great places to snowshoe
In winter, the outdoors is wide open to those who walk on snow.
The best in snow tubing
With their multiple lanes, conveyor lifts and snow-making, these aren't your grandma's hills.
Cross-country in Duluth
When snow falls, skiers fly onto a splendid system of groomed trails.

Find us on Facebook

FastPlans/Tundra swans in Monticello

Trumpeter swans gather in Monticello.

The trumpeter swans have arrived in Monticello, Minn. From November through February, more than 2,000 trumpeter swans gather at a warm spot on the Mississippi River, just an hour west of the Twin Cities.

When to go: Jim Lawrence feeds the swans at 10:30 a.m. every day; get there early and watch them fly in.

What else to do: Shop at the nearby Albertville Premium Outlets. Ski, snowshoe or ice skate at nearby Lake Maria State Park.

Details: See Snow birds and Winter weekend in Monticello.

Past fast plans: Dubuque's views, Fun in Itasca, Christmas in Chicago, Sampling in Iowa's Amanas, Cocooning in a cozy cabin

This weekend

Toss a ham and sample schnitzel.

Ham-Put contest during Winterfest.

Winterfest in Amana, Iowa. Go on a wine walk or scavenger hunt or compete in ham-throwing, log-sawing, wreath-tossing, the Amana Freezer Run/Walk, snowshoeing or for the best beard. There will be ice sculptures, storytelling and schnitzel-sampling, too. Jan. 23.

Winterfest in Mackinaw City, Mich. In this town on the Mackinac Straits, there's a snow-sculpting competition, sleigh rides, a poker run and outhouse races. Jan. 23.

Frostival in Moorhead, Minn. The first Saturday, there will be a birding festival, cardboard-sled races and a skate social. Jan. 23.

Janboree in Waukesha, Wis. The fest in this Milwaukee suburb includes Friday-night fireworks, ice sculpting, Ojibwe snow-snake games, ice bocce, a penguin-egg hunt and tobogganing on the lighted run in Lowell Park. Through Jan. 24.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Best of winter

Here are dozens of ways to savor the chilly season.

A ski jumper in Westby.

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.

Read story and trip tips

Cross-country skiing 101

There's no better way to enjoy the winter landscape, and anyone can do it.

Cross-country skiers.

The snow is back — a lot of it.

You can whine about it and hide indoors, or you can go out and have fun. Ever thought about cross-country skiing? That's fun.

If you haven't tried the sport, here's how to get started.

It does take a while to get good at it, but it's fun right from the beginning. 

Read story and trip tips

Serious reservations

Here's a guide to the lodgings, campsites and permits you should nail down early.

Illgen Falls cabin.

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

Ski or snowshoe by candlelight

On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.

Candlelight skiing in a state park.

If you do only one thing outdoors in winter, do it by candlelight.

Nothing is more magical than a forest full of flickering lights. I got hooked when I skied in Minnesota's Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.

A fat blue moon hung in the sky, sparkling hoarfrost made twigs as nubby as reindeer antlers and more than 400 glowing bags gave the forest a fairy-tale aura.

Read story and trip tips

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.

Read story and trip tips

Staying warm in winter

If you know what to wear, dealing with cold weather is a breeze.

The ultimate in winter clothing.

In this chilly region, smart men are on to Victoria's Secret.

Shopping at the mall, they breeze right by the silk nighties, the gold bracelets, the dainty perfumes. Because what Victoria secretly wants for Christmas are SmartWool undies, a goose-down parka and moosehide mukluks.

Read story and trip tips