MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Best bets for the weekend

Follow up fireworks with bonfires and candlelight.

Skiers relax by the bonfire.

© Michigan DNR

The Christmas rush is over, and it's time to enjoy winter.

There's enough  snow for skiing, snowshoeing and tubing, and enough cold for ice castles in Stillwater, Minn., and the Wisconsin Dells.

Minnesota's North Shore reports good cross-country skiing, and all of the downhill areas are open. If you're an alpine beginner, learn to ski in Michigan, where a $35 lesson, rental, and lift package is good at 26 ski areas in January.

In the forests, you can ski or snowshoe by candlelight every weekend from now through February. This year, even Mackinac Island is hosting three Twilight Turtle Treks by lantern light.

If you haven't yet made plans for New Year's Eve, take a look at our 10 great ways to celebrate. But don't celebrate too hard. On New Year's Day, there are lots of naturalist-guided First Day Hikes: nine in Minnesota, 12 in Wisconsin and 26 in Iowa. Michigan is holding four Shoe Year's Hikes.

Then, think about summer. If you want a cheap beach vacation, reserve now in Michigan state parks, especially the very popular, 100 percent reservable parks with Lake Michigan beaches (there's a six-month window).

And did you know you can camp in Chicago suburbs? Reservations open Jan. 3 for cabins and campsites at forest preserves in Oak Forest, Palatine, Northbrook, Willow Springs and South Holland, which have rustic as well as heated and air-conditioned cabins plus climbing walls, free weekend programs and gear rental.

This will be our last newsletter. Remember, all the information you need is on the website, including the Events Calendar and the trip-planning page, where you can find stories by category or location. We keep everything updated.

Thanks for reading!  Beth and Torsten

Last updated on December 29, 2016