St. Paul, MN
See ice sculptures in Rice Park and snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds, go down the snow slide, compete in a jigsaw-puzzle contest, take a free fire-truck ride and watch barstool ski races and lawn-mower races.
Family Day is Feb. 3 at the Landmark Center, and there are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Jan. 25, Grande Day Jan. 27 and Vulcan Victory Torchlight Feb. 10, followed by fireworks.
The free festival on Nicollet Mall, between 6th and 12th streets, features concerts, ice sculptures, a life-size snow globe for photos and drum and dance presentations every day at 5 p.m.
There's also an 800-foot zip line across the Mississippi River. Online tickets sold out in less than 36 hours, but some walk-up tickets will be available.
Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $22 at brunch or lunch and $33-$44 at dinner.
For recreational skiers, the highlight of this big cross-country ski festival is the Feb. 3 Luminary Loppet on Lake of the Isles, with glowing ice pillars and "ruins.'' Afterward, there's a tent party with music.
There are also classical and free-style races, ski games for children, a snow-sculpture contest and orienteering, ice-cycle, speedskating, snowshoeing and skijoring races, plus a beer garden and vendor village.
Clear Lake, IA
The Surf Ballroom marks the 59th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours.
Lake Geneva, WI
Watch artists shape snow into whimsical shapes, and vote on the best ones. There's also music, a human sled-dog race, children's entertainment and helicopter rides.
In this Brainerd Lakes area, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, bonfires, ice car races, helicopter rides, Friday fireworks and Italian Outdoor Olympics.
The 1993 movie "Groundhog Day'' was filmed in this town an hour northwest of Chicago, and it celebrates with storytelling, family games and tours of movie sites, including the 1889 Opera House, where actor Bill Murray jumped from the belfry. At 7:07 a.m. Friday, Woodstock Willie will look for his shadow.
There's a best-beard contest, snow sculpting, an arts market, fat-tire bike demos and a ride, Ely Folk School classes and a free snowshoe hike to the Hegman Petroglyphs.
At the top of a hill that's the equivalent of a 41-story skyscraper, watch jumpers fly by at 55 mph. It's fun to watch because the jump is built onto the side of a coulee, and spectators can climb it and watch from the top. There are hot drinks and food at the bottom.
Lake Mills, WI
This town east of Madison holds a fish toss, snowball-eating contest, dad-sled race, chili cook-off and Iceberg Open golf tournament. There's ice carving and ice wine, too.
This southern Minnesota city offers a a cardboard sled race Jan. 28; sleigh rides, art activities, frozen turkey bowling and minigolf Feb. 3; and, on the last weekend, a polar plunge, softball, candlelight ski, snow games and downtown ice bars.
Watch four races over two days and get in some skiing and snowshoeing on the side.
Fish Creek, WI
This Door County village lets loose with events that include a toilet-seat throw, pie tin toss, bean-bag cannon shoot, smoosh racing and an ugly-sweater contest. There are also free trolley rides, ice carving, a fiddle contest, a snowshoe dance and fireworks.
South Haven, MI
There's an ice-carving competition in this Lake Michigan town, plus wagon rides, synchronized skating and a chili cook-off.
St. Joseph, MI
Watch the pros carve sculptures in this Lake Michigan town. There's also entertainment, a scavenger hunt and magic and crafts for kids.
This village near Waupaca offers ice carving, a lutefisk dinner, ski and snowshoe races and ski jumping.
Mount Horeb, WI
The festival in this town just west of Madison features such events as turkey bowling, a snowman-building contest, kick sledding, a spelling bee and a vintage snowmobile show and ride.
This annual festival in West Duluth's Quarry Park features such events as a free ice-climbing clinic for youths 12 and older, beginner and intermediate clinics for adult climbers, a fat-bike intro and presentations on mountain climbing. There's also a disc-golf course.
The festival in this north-central Iowa town features snowmobile rides, ice races, snow kickball and a treasure mountain for kids.
This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.
The annual festival in Elver Park features cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing plus music, family games and ice and snow sculptures.
Around the region
Town on rivers where eagles gather in winter offer live bird presentations, guided tours and cultural activities.
This festival shows a large selection of documentaries specializing in adventure, extreme sports and environmental issues.
This snow fest at Michigan Tech University includes a human dog-sled race, snow volleyball and a tug of war and ends with a torchlight parade and fireworks at Mont Ripley ski hill.
Detroit Lakes, MN
Over two weekends, this festival features an ice palace, a snow angels competition, tubing night, an appearance by polar explorer Ann Bancroft and such events as a snowman build, fishing derby, wildlife tracking, fat-tire bike races and fireworks.
Iron Mountain, MI
This Upper Peninsula town on the Wisconsin border is where the international jumpers go; it's a stop on the Continental Cup circuit.
This car show at McCormick Place is the largest in the nation and third-largest in the world.
Watch ice-climbing demos and slide shows and take clinics for beginners at spectacular Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior.
The weekend starts with a Friday-night polka party in Ashland. On Saturday night, 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.
Listen to programs and go on field trips to see such boreal species as evening grosbeak, northern hawk owl, gray jay and particularly snowy owls. Register early for this festival northwest of Duluth.
Clear Lake, IA
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.
Sturgeon Bay, WI
Ice and snow sculptors create pieces around town. There's a novice category for beginners.
In this small town north of Cable, watch people careen down a hill on decorated bar stools, then stay for the chili feed.
Des Moines, IA
It's all about bacon at this festival at the Iowa Event Center, with sampling and demos followed by a concert by Smash Mouth.
This town on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers a soup cook-off and polar plunge as well as such events as ice art, sled races and ice bowling.
On the snowy northeast edge of Wisconsin, go on horse-drawn sleigh rides and see such events as recliner racing, ice bowling, dog-sled dashing, snowshoe baseball and snow sculpting.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Watch the wacky races in this Lake Superior town, "the final plop on the eastern Upper Peninsula outhouse circuit.'' They're at 2 p.m.
In its 44th year, 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.
It's fun just to wander (or drive) around Leech Lake during this event, which includes mechanical bull riding, bikini ice fishing and a beer pong tournament. Be sure to have some 'pout nuggets, which are as tasty as the fish is ugly.
Watch the "Greatest Show on Snow,'' with races of all distances for all ages and abilities plus a ski expo, snowshoe hike, skijoring and vintage ski.
On Saturday, watch the world's best skiers on the 51-kilometer marathon (55 kilometers for classic skiers).
On Sunday, there's a ski-gear and fat-bike demo and an event for girls 8-18.
Prairie du Chien, WI
Birding experts give programs, and volunteers man spotting scopes at the Wisconsin Travel Information Center, just off the bridge into town. There will also be children's activities and an Effigy Mounds Winter Film Festival.
There's always good eagle-viewing in this Mississippi River town, and during the festival, there will be an ice-fishing contest, polar plunge and minnow races.
This Madison-area brewery celebrates with the Running of the Blondes 1K race, a fish throw, music, costumes and, of course, beer. Tickets sell out, so buy early.
Dancers, musicians, storytellers and puppeteers representing traditions from around the world converge on the Overture Center for the Arts on State Street for this free festival. There's also food and a global bazaar.
Around the region
There's nothing better than skiing (or snowshoeing or hiking) through a twinkling forest or across a luminary-lined lake. There's usually a bonfire and hot chocolate to enjoy afterward.
In this town just east of Grand Haven, there's a parade of decorated outhouses, races and a decorated toilet seat contest, auction and chili cookoff.
In this little town, not far from Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, there will be potty-pushing contests for kids and adults, a best fur-hat contest and lots of craft beer.
Celebrate the Year of the Dog in Chinatown with a parade, marching bands, lion dancing and fireworks.