MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Winter festivals 2021


  • (Jan. 8 – 10)Vintage World Championship Snowmobile Derby

    Eagle River, WI

    Vintage snowmobiles race in this northeast Wisconsin town.

  • (Jan. 15 – 24)Janboree

    Waukesha, WI

    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.

  • (Jan. 16)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. 

    This year, the festival is virtual, with some live programs and some pre-recorded.

  • (Jan. 16 – 17)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.

    This year, all indoor activities will be virtual.

  • (Jan. 16 – 17)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. 16 – 17)Ice Fest

    Dubuque, IA

    The National Mississippi River Museum hosts this indoor-outdoor festival, which includes ice-harvest and ice-rescue demonstrations, snow sculpting, a live-raptor program and youth ice fishing.

  • (Jan. 16 – 17)Wisconsin Free Fishing Weekend

    All over the state, WI

    No license is needed for fishing in Wisconsin or on its side of the Mississippi River and lakes Superior and Michigan.

  • (Jan. 16 – 18)Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend

    All of Minnesota, MN

    Take a kid younger than 16 spear- or ice-fishing this holiday weekend, and you can fish for free.

  • (Jan. 23)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. 23)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. 28 – Feb 7)Winter Carnival

    St. Paul, MN

    The feature this year is a drive-through ice- and snow-sculpture park at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Tickets are $20 per vehicle, $35 for theme packages, and available only in advance.

    There will also be three scavenger hunts, pop-up outdoor concerts, ice-fishing, softball and puzzle tournaments and Frozen Family Fun Night.

  • (Jan. 28 – 31)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. 29 – 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 trivia and tours of movie sites, including the 1889 Opera House, where actor Bill Murray jumped from the belfry. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Woodstock Willie will look for his shadow.

  • (Jan. 29 – 31)Schnee Days

    Elkhart Lake, WI

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

  • (Jan. 29 – 30)Lake Superior Ice Festival

    Superior, WI

    On Barker's Island, there's a snow slide, ice carving, Kubb games, disc golf, ice racing, kids' activities and fireworks on Saturday.

  • (Jan. 29 – 31)Fire & Ice Winter Social

    Stillwater, MN

    In this St. Croix river town, there will be hot-air balloons, an ice-cream social, ice sculptures, music, bags and pond-hockey tournaments and a beer tent.

  • (Jan. 30 – 31)City of Lakes Loppet

    Minneapolis, MN

    For recreational skiers, the highlight of this big cross-country ski festival are the nightly Luminary Loppets on Lake of the Isles, with glowing ice pillars and "ruins.'' 

    There are also classical and free-style races, orienteering, fat-tire, snowshoeing and skijoring races in Theodore Wirth Park, location of most events.




  • (Jan. 30 – 31)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. 30)Frostival

    Moorhead, MN

    The first Saturday, there will be a birding festival, cardboard-sled races, a Hunger Games-themed snowball fight and a skate social.

    Events on the second Saturday include snow-sculpture and disc-golf competitions, games, snowga and free ski and snowshoe rentals.

  • (Jan. 31)John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

    Duluth, MN

    From Duluth, marathon mushers travel to to Grand Portage and mid-distance racers to Tofte.

    Spectators are not allowed this year but can follow the race at WDIO.com or MushingMidwest.com.



  • (Feb. 3 – 7)Winterfest and U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship

    Lake Geneva, WI

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

  • (Feb. 3 – 6)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. 4 – 14)Winter Festival

    Ely, MN

    There's snow sculpting, an arts walk and Ely Folk School classes. Much of the festival also can be enjoyed virtually.

  • (Feb. 4 – 6)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.

  • (Feb. 5 – 6)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.

  • (Feb. 5 – 7)Hot Air Affair

    Hudson, WI

    There will be geocaching, bird-watching, a fat-tire bike race, a corn-hole tournament and drive-through moon glows.

    Other events will be virtual.

  • (Feb. 5 – 6)Knickerbocker Ice Festival

    Lake Mills, WI

    The festival in this town east of Madison includes such events as 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. 5 – 7)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.

  • (Feb. 5 – 7)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.

  • (Feb. 6 – 7)Winterfest Sled Dog Race

    Merrill, WI

    More than 100 mushers compete, and there will also be skijoring, children's and celebrity races.

  • (Feb. 10 – 14)Frozen River Film Festival

    Winona, MN

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

    This year is mostly virtual.

  • (Feb. 12 – 14)Polar Fest

    Detroit Lakes, MN

    This festival features such events as ice golf on Friday, a Freeze Your Buns run on Saturday and, on Sunday, a snowshoe hike in Tamarac Wildlife Refuge and kite-flying with professional giant-kite flyers, kite decorating and prizes for amateurs.


  • (Feb. 12 – 13)Fire & Ice

    Sturgeon Bay, WI

    Ice and snow sculptors create pieces around town. There's a novice category for beginners. On Friday, there will be a candlelight ski/hike at Big Creek Nature Preserve, and on Saturday, there will be fireworks.

  • (Feb. 12 – 14)Sturgeon Spectacular

    Fond du Lac, WI

    Lake Winnebago is the setting for this celebration of giant fish. There will be ice carving and snow sculpting, a snowman-building contest, bonfires and live music.

  • (Feb. 13)Free Entrance Day at Minnesota state parks

    All state parks, MN

    Entrance to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas is free today, as well as April 24, June 12 and Nov. 26.

  • (Feb. 13 – 14)Free Weekend in Michigan state parks

    All state parks, MI

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

    Check events listings for fishing derbies and candlelight ski and snowshoe evenings.

  • (Feb. 13 – 14)Grand Marais Winter Carnival

    Grand Marais, MI

    On the east end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, this Lake Superior town offers a poker run, a snowman contest, cardboard-sled races, dog-sled rides and music.

  • (Feb. 13)Ice Lantern Festival

    Mineral Point, WI

    See ice lanterns created by artists and students in this arty southwest Wisconsin town and visit the cupcake/cookie/hot chocolate bar as well as the ice bar.

  • (Feb. 20 – 21)Silver Mine Ski Jumping Championships

    Eau Claire, WI

    Watch top skiers from North America and Europe compete at Silver Mine Hill, above the Chippewa River on the southwest edge of town.

  • (Feb. 21)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. 21)Chinese Lunar New Year's Parade

    Chicago, IL

    Celebrate the Year of the Ox in Chinatown with a parade, marching bands and lion dancing. It starts at 1 p.m. at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue.

  • (Feb. 24 – 28)American Birkebeiner

    Hayward, WI

    The "Greatest Show on Snow'' includes races of all distances for all ages and abilities plus skijoring and vintage ski.

    In 2021, racers also are skiing virtual races wherever they live.


  • (Feb. 25 – 28)Winterfest

    Stillwater, MN

    In this St. Croix River town, there will be a parka pub crawl, ice maze, stein-holding and beard contests, axe-throwing, ice carving, ice bowling, a snow labyrinth, bubble-wrap races, an ice-cream social and a fire and ice bar.

    Moved from January.


  • (Feb. 26 – 28)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. 27 – Mar 5)Virtual 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. 

    This year, the festival is virtual.

  • (Feb. 27)Chili Ice Walk

    Racine, WI

    Between noon and 4 p.m., walk downtown to see ice sculpting, sample chili from eight restaurants and go on a scavenger hunt in shop windows.


  • (Mar. 5 – 7)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. 5 – 6)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. 19 – Apr 4)Restaurant Week

    Chicago, IL

    Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $25 at brunch or lunch and $39 or $55 at dinner.

  • (Mar. 27 – 28)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.

    This year, it's offering a different online program each weekend to families, $10, free to members.