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)Winter Festival

    La Farge, WI

    Visit the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for horse-drawn bobsled rides, guided snowshoe and ice-cave hikes, winter games, fat-tire bike demos and a sled-dog race and weight pull.


  • (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. 16 – 19)Icebox Days

    International Falls, MN

    In this far-north town, there will be smoosh races, frozen turkey bowling, a toilet-seat toss, boot hockey and fireworks. On Saturday, there's the annual Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run.

  • (Jan. 17 – 18)Bald Eagle Watching Days

    Prairie du Sac, WI

    This town along the Wisconsin River, next to a hydroelectric plant, offers guided bus tours, live birds of prey programs and kids' activities. At 1 p.m. Saturday, rehabilitated eagles will be released in VFW Park.

  • (Jan. 17 – 18)Winterfest

    Mackinaw City, MI

    In this town on the Mackinac Straits, there's a snow-sculpting competition, sleigh rides, a poker run and outhouse races.

  • (Jan. 17 – 26)Janboree

    Waukesha, WI

    The fest in this Milwaukee suburb includes Friday-night fireworks, ice sculpting, trolley rides, a penguin-egg hunt and tobogganing on the lighted run in Lowell Park. 

  • (Jan. 17 – 18)Silver Mine Ski Jumping Championships

    Eau Claire, WI

    Watch top skiers from North America and Europe compete at Silver Mine Hill.

  • (Jan. 17 – 19)Back to Hack Winter Festival

    Hackensack, MN

    The festival in this Brainerd Lakes town on the Paul Bunyan State Trail features snow sculpting, an ice-fishing contest, penguin plunge, kids' games and Saturday fireworks.

  • (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. 18 – 19)Bald Eagle Appreciation Days

    Keokuk, IA

    In this Mississippi River town, there's live-eagle presentations, Native American activities, demonstrations and viewing on the river.

  • (Jan. 18 – 20)Ice Fest

    Dubuque, IA

    The National Mississippi River Museum hosts this indoor-outdoor festival, which includes ice-harvest and ice-rescue demonstrations, snow sculpting, art projects and live animals, including Alaskan malamutes.

  • (Jan. 23 – Feb 2)Winter Carnival

    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.

    The Grande Day Parade is Jan. 25 and the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade Feb. 1, followed by fireworks.

  • (Jan. 23 – 26)Winter Games

    Lake Okoboji, IA

    This resort area in northwest Iowa will offer human sled races, flag football on ice, indoor golf, snowball drop, stein-holding, horse-drawn carriage rides, a Freeze Yer Fanny Bike Ride, keg toss and fireworks.

  • (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. 23 – 26)Winterfest

    Grand Haven, MI

    In this Lake Michigan town, there's a human sled race, cardboard sled race, luau and snow-angel contest.

  • (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. 24 – 26)Schnee Days

    Elkhart Lake, WI

    The Snow Days festival in this town in east-central Wisconsin includes a hunt for colored ice cubes, a pub crawl, dog sledding and a chili cook-off.

  • (Jan. 24 – 25)Lake Superior Ice Festival

    Superior, WI

    On Barker's Island, there's a snow slide, ice sculptures, pond hockey, bonfires, s'mores, ice racing, kids' activities and fireworks on Saturday.

  • (Jan. 24 – 26)Winterfest

    Stillwater, MN

    In this St. Croix River town, there will be a parka pub crawl, stein-holding and beard contests, axe-throwing, curling, ice carving, music, winter games, a Friday torchlight parade and Saturday fireworks.

    Venues include Lily Lake, Mulberry Point Harbor, Lift Bridge Brewery and the JX Event Venue downtown.

  • (Jan. 25)Winterfest

    Amana, IA

    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. 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 – 26)Norge Ski Jumping Tournament

    Fox River Grove, IL

    See some of the nation's best jumpers compete in this northwest Chicago suburb, which has produced several Olympians.

  • (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. 29 – Feb 2)Winterfest and U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship

    Lake Geneva, WI

    In this lake town, there's music, magic shows, a human sled-dog race, helicopter rides, ice bars and an ice castle, plus the snow-sculpting championship.

  • (Jan. 30 – Feb 2)Groundhog Days

    Woodstock, IL

    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 a.m. Sunday, Woodstock Willie will look for his shadow.

  • (Jan. 30 – Feb 1)Winter Dance Party

    Clear Lake, IA

    The Surf Ballroom marks the 61st anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours.

  • (Jan. 30 – Feb 2)City of Lakes Loppet

    Minneapolis, MN

    For recreational skiers, the highlight of this big cross-country ski festival is the Feb. 1 Luminary Loppet on Lake of the Isles, with glowing ice pillars and "ruins.'' Afterward, there's a tent party with music and beer.

    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 at the Trailhead in Theodore Wirth Park, location of most events.




  • (Jan. 30 – Feb 1)WinterFest

    Crosslake, MN

    In this Brainerd Lakes area, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, bonfires, ice car races, helicopter rides, Friday fireworks and Italian Outdoor Olympics.

  • (Jan. 31 – Feb 1)Snowflake Ski-Jumping Tournament

    Westby, WI

    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.

  • (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)Magical Ice Fest

    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.

  • (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)Madison Winter Festival

    Madison, WI

    The annual festival in Elver Park features cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing plus music, family games and ice and snow sculptures.

  • (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. 1)Knickerbocker Ice Festival

    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.

  • (Feb. 1)Frostival

    Moorhead, MN

    At the Hjemkomst Center, there's snow yoga, a snow-sculpture contest, games, a guided snowshoe hike, a marshmallow roast and free use of cross-country skis and snowshoes. 

  • (Feb. 2)Chinese Lunar New Year's Parade

    Chicago, IL

    Celebrate the Year of the Rat in Chinatown with a parade, marching bands, lion dancing and fireworks.

  • (Feb. 5 – 8)Winter Carnival

    Houghton, MI

    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.

  • (Feb. 5 – 9)Frozen River Film Festival

    Winona, MN

    This festival shows a large selection of documentaries specializing in adventure, extreme sports and environmental issues.

  • (Feb. 6 – 16)Winter Festival

    Ely, MN

    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.

  • (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)Hot Air Affair

    Hudson, WI

    There will be a Friday night torchlight parade and fireworks plus a craft fair, smoosh boarding, morning balloon launches and evening moon glows.

  • (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. 7 – 9)Sturgeon Spectacular

    Fond du Lac, WI

    Lake Winnebago is the setting for this celebration of giant fish. There will be a 6 p.m. Friday parade, ice carving and snow sculpting, a snowman-building contest, free dog-sled rides, bonfires and live music.

  • (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. 8 – 9)Eagle-watching festivals

    Around the region

    Town on rivers where eagles gather in winter offer live bird presentations, guided tours and cultural activities.

  • (Feb. 12 – 16)Michigan Ice Fest

    Munising, MI

    Watch ice-climbing demos, slide shows and professional climbers and take clinics for beginners at spectacular Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior.

  • (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. 14 – 16)Sky Circus on Ice

    Delavan, WI

    This free kite festival hosted by Lake Lawn Resort features flying lessons, a kite-making workshop, an aerial candy drop, a snow slide, indoor and outdoor kite-flying performances, a snow-carving class and snow and ice sculptures on Delavan Lake and downtown.

  • (Feb. 15 – 16)Pine Mountain Ski Jumping Tournament

    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.

  • (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)Fire & Ice

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    Ice and snow sculptors create pieces around town. There's a novice category for beginners.

  • (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. 15)Free Entrance Day at Minnesota state parks

    All state parks, MN

    Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks is free today, as well as April 25, June 13 and Nov. 27.

  • (Feb. 15 – 17)Free Weekend in Michigan state parks

    All state parks, MI

    There's no vehicle-entry fee in Michigan state parks on the holiday weekend, and Saturday and Sunday is Free Fishing Weekend.

    Several parks will be holding winter festivals, fishing derbies and candlelight ski and snowshoe evenings.

  • (Feb. 20 – 23)American Birkebeiner

    Hayward, WI

    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.


  • (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. 22 – 23)WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race

    Ely, MN

    There's a spaghetti feed Saturday and the race to Tower and back on Sunday, with a chance for spectators to mingle beforehand.

  • (Feb. 28 – 29)Grumpy Old Men Festival

    Wabasha, MN

    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.

  • (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)International Festival

    Madison, WI

    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.

  • (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)International Festival of Owls

    Houston, MN

    This southeast Minnesota town offers owl prowls, hooting contests, pellet dissection, live-owl programs and children's activities.

  • (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.

  • (Mar. 7)World's Longest Weenie Roast

    Cable, WI

    Lakewoods Resorts hosts this benefit on Lake Namekagon, which includes snowmobile speed runs, ice bowling, a weenie-eating contest and a frozen weenie polar plunge.

  • (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. 13 – 16)Oneota Film Festival

    Decorah, IA

    This free festival showcases documentary films and includes dance performances on the campus of Luther College.

  • (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.


  • (Nov. 27)Free Entrance Day to all Minnesota state parks

    All state parks, MN

    Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks is free today.