MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Winter festivals 2020


  • (Jan. 1)Cool Fool Kite Festival

    Milwaukee, WI

    In addition to kite-flying, there will be ice sculptures, ice-carving lessons and free hot chocolate, coffee and snacks in the lakefront Veterans Park.

  • (Jan. 1)New Year's Day Parade

    Egg Harbor, WI

    Welcome the new year with a 1 p.m. parade. Everyone is welcome to march.

  • (Jan. 1)First Day Hikes

    State parks, IA

    To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iowa state parks, 49 parks will hold guided First Day Hikes. Many also will offer hot drinks and snacks.

  • (Jan. 2 – 5)Breezy Point Ice Fest

    Breezy Point, MN

    This Brainerd Lakes resort village celebrates with horse-drawn sleigh rides, an ice slide, snow golf and ice fishing.

  • (Jan. 4)Bald Eagle Watch

    Clinton, IA

    Two Mississippi River towns host this event, with live-eagle and nature programs at Iowa's Clinton Community College and free bus service to Lock & Dam 13 in Fulton, Ill.

  • (Jan. 10 – 12)Bald Eagle Days

    Rock Island, IL

    At the Quad Cities Expo Center, there's an environmental fair, with flying demonstrations by eagles, hawks and owls and many other events.

  • (Jan. 11)Sleigh & Cutter Rally

    Ashland, WI

    Antique sleighs and drivers in 19th-century costumes gather at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and offer rides.

  • (Jan. 11)SISU Ski Fest

    Ironwood, MI

    This Finnish fest includes a ski expo, free kids' ski, 5K Fun Ski, 15km and 30km ski races, a free after-party at the Historic Ironwood Theatre and a free fat-bike demo on scenic bluffs and along the Montreal River.

  • (Jan. 11 – 12)Gunflint Mail Run sled-dog race

    Gunflint Trail, MN

    Mushers travel two legs of 50 miles, starting and ending at the Trail Center Lodge on the Central Gunflint Trail.

  • (Jan. 11)Winter Trails Day

    Minneapolis, MN

    Play outdoors on the beach at Fort Snelling State Park, near the airport. Try such sports as snowshoeing, skiing, skijoring, ice-fishing, quinzee-building, ice-sculpting and more.

    It's free and hosted by the Mississippi Park Connection and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and a vehicle sticker is required.

  • (Jan. 17 – 18)Heikki Lunta Winter Festival

    Negaunee, MI

    This town just west of Marquette pays tribute to the Finnish snow god with a Friday-evening parade, fat-tire bike race and, on Saturday, ski-jumping, luging open to the public and Yooper Feats of Strength, including toast-eating, human foosball and turkey bowling, followed by a bonfire, fireworks and music.

  • (Jan. 18 – 19)Art Shanty Projects

    Minneapolis, MN

    Frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.



  • (Jan. 18)Bald Eagle Watch

    Dubuque, IA

    Live-eagle programs and free trolley rides from the Grand River Center downtown to the National Mississippi River Museum and Lock & Dam 11.

  • (Jan. 18)Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest

    Madison, WI

    A celebration of Wisconsin's greatest products at Alliant Energy Center, with plenty to sample. Tickets sell out, so buy early.

  • (Jan. 23 – 26)Celebration of the Lakes

    Chisago Lakes, MN

    This festival north of the Twin Cities includes snowmobile races, fat biking, an ice-fishing tournament, sled-dog rides and a free ice-fishing clinic for kids.

    Activities are on North Center Lake in Center City and in Chisago City, Lindstrom and Shafer.

  • (Jan. 24 – Feb 9)Restaurant Week

    Chicago, IL

    Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $24 at brunch or lunch and $36 or $48 at dinner.

  • (Jan. 25)Art Sled Rally

    Minneapolis, MN

    Watch sledders or ride down a decorated hill at Powderhorn Park in your own wacky sled, which you can make at home or at free workshops at Powderhorn Park Community Center. There's also live music and hot chocolate.

  • (Jan. 25 – 26)Eagle Watch Weekend

    Utica, IL

    There will be eagle viewing and family activities at Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center, Starved Rock Lodge and, across the river, the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Trolleys connect the three venues.

  • (Jan. 25)Heikinpaiva

    Hancock, MI

    The winter festival in this Finnish town on the Keweenaw Peninsula features kicksled races, a Tori market, a wife-carrying contest, a polar bear dive and an 11  a.m. parade.

  • (Jan. 25)Lake Harriet Kite Festival

    Minneapolis, MN

    In addition to kite-flying, this event on popular Lake Harriet includes horse-drawn wagon rides, kids' ice fishing, arts, music and roasted marshmallows.

  • (Jan. 25)Winter Fest

    Wausau, WI

    On the 400 Block downtown, there will be a snow slide, ice carving, ice skating, dog weight-pulling, horse-drawn wagon rides, fat-tire bike demos and a mac-and-cheese contest.

    The nordic-skiing competition of the Badger Winter Games also is being held in the Wausau area.

  • (Jan. 26)John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

    Duluth, MN

    From Billy's Bar, watch the start of the marathon to Grand Portage and the start of the mid-distance race to Lutsen Mountains.


  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 2)Winter Festival

    Fish Creek, WI

    This Door County village lets loose with such events as 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.

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 2)Ice Breaker

    South Haven, MI

    There's an ice-carving competition in this Lake Michigan town, plus wagon rides, synchronized skating and a chili cook-off.

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 2)Iola Winter Carnival

    Iola, WI

    This village near Waupaca offers ice carving, a lutefisk dinner, ski and snowshoe races and ski jumping.

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 2)Scandihoovian Winter Festival

    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.

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 2)Duluth Ice & Mixed Fest

    Duluth, MN

    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.


  • (Feb. 1 – 2)Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

    Bayfield, WI

    Watch four races over two days and get in some skiing and snowshoeing on the side.

  • (Feb. 6 – 8)SocialICE

    Rochester, MN

    At Peace Plaza downtown, five ice bars each offer a different theme and signature drink, with ice sculptures illuminated by lights and nightly DJ entertainment. On Saturday afternoon, there's a FAM JAM for families.

  • (Feb. 7 – 9)Polar Fest

    Detroit Lakes, MN

    Over two weekends, this festival features such events as a snow angels competition, tubing night, snowman build, fishing derby, wildlife tracking, fat-tire bike races and fireworks.


  • (Feb. 7 – 8)Banbury Art Crawl

    Eau Claire, WI

    Visit more than 100 artists at studios in the Building 13 art complex. Many will give demonstrations. There will be also music, food and art projects for children.

  • (Feb. 8 – 17)Auto Show

    Chicago, IL

    This car show at McCormick Place is the largest in the nation and third-largest in the world.

  • (Feb. 8)Jack Frost Fest

    Spooner, WI

    There's turkey bowling, minnow races, an antique snowmobile show and a fat-bike ride in this western Wisconsin town.

  • (Feb. 14 – 16)Sax Zim Bog Festival of Birds

    Meadowlands, MN

    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.

  • (Feb. 15)Book Across the Bay

    Ashland/Washburn, WI

    The weekend starts with a Friday-night 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.

  • (Feb. 15)Color the Wind Kite Festival

    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.

  • (Feb. 15)Barstool Races

    Drummond, WI

    In this small town north of Cable, watch people careen down a hill on decorated bar stools, then stay for the chili feed.

  • (Feb. 15)Northwoods Blizzard Blast

    Conover, WI

    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.

  • (Feb. 22)Bockfest at Capital Brewery

    Middleton, WI

    This Madison-area brewery celebrates with the Running of the Blondes 1K race, a fish throw, music, costumes and, of course, beer. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1 and sell out fast. 

  • (Feb. 28 – 29)Bald Eagle Appreciation Days

    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.

  • (Feb. 29 – Mar 1)Artigras

    Green Bay, WI

    This fine arts festival in KI Convention Center includes artist demonstrations, children's activities, dance, jazz and classical music.

  • (Feb. 29)Trenary Outhouse Classic

    Trenary, MI

    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.


  • (Mar. 6 – 8)Winter Festival

    Bayfield, WI

    The Lake Superior festival features fat-bike tours, a poker run, a candlelight walk, polar plunge and penguin-egg hunt.

  • (Mar. 7)Bock Fest

    New Ulm, MN

    There's a parade of mythical Germanic characters, a hunt for billy-goat heads on the Schell Brewery grounds and beyond and a big party afterward with beer, live music and a bonfire.

    It's canceled in 2021.

  • (Mar. 7)Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival

    Des Moines, IA

    It's all about bacon at this festival at the Horizon Event Center, with sampling and demos. 

  • (Mar. 7)Dog Days of Winter

    Gunflint Trail, MN

    In the Central Gunflint, the Trail Center is hosting a sled-dog derby, skijoring races, a bonfire and maple cones.

  • (Mar. 14)Leech Lake Frostfest

    Walker, MN

    This town on Leech Lake offers fat-bike demos, dog-sled rides, a snow-golf course, lumberjack races, children's games and craft beer.

  • (Mar. 21 – 22)Soar With Eagles

    Wabasha, MN

    The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi.


  • (Dec. 12)Burlington Ice Festival

    Burlington, WI

    Ice carvers compete in Wehmhoff Square Park in the Wisconsin Ice Carving Competition. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides, live reindeer, visits with Santa and bonfires with s'mores.