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FastPlans/Madison for kids

Bucky the Badger at the State Capitol.

Madison is known as a college town, yet it's always putting on and fun festivals and events for children. It's the perfect place to take school-age kids for a weekend in winter.

What to do: Go to a free Kids in the Rotunda concert at the Overture Center on Saturdays. Take a free guided tour of the Capitol.

Tour the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Veterans Museum and Madison Children's Museum, all around Capitol Square. Visit Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Events to catch: Feb. 29, free International Festival at the Overture Center. March 7-8, Kids Expo.

Details: See Madison for all ages.

Skiing Minnesota's North Shore

Skiing through Palisade Valley.

On Minnesota's North Shore, spectacular scenery and superbly groomed trails make it a perfect place to ski and snowshoe.

Where to ski: For cross-country skiing, the Sugarbush system between Tofte and Lutsen, Norpine Trails between Lutsen and Cascade River State Park and Pincushion near Grand Marais. For alpine skiing, Lutsen Mountains.

Events to catch: Feb. 15, Pincushion Ski Festival and candlelight skis in Gooseberry Falls State Park and on the Sugarbush Trails.

Details: For more, see Skiing on the North Shore.

Fun around Ely

A skier passes Norberg Lake in Bear Head Lake State Park.

In winter, the wide open spaces around the northern Minnesota town of Ely are a playground for anyone who likes to move fast over snow.

What to do: Ski at Bear Head Lake State Park (pictured) or on the Hidden Valley trails. Snowshoe to the Hegman Lake pictographs (go free with Outward Bound Feb. 15) or on the hilly North Arm trails.

Visit the International Wolf Center. Mush a dog-sled team.

Events to catch:  Feb. 6-16, Winter Festival. Feb. 22-23, WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.

Details: For more, see Winter in Ely.

Winter Carnival in St. Paul

Ice sculptures in St. Paul.

In Minnesota's capital, the biggest festival of the year comes in the depths of winter, started in 1886 in response to a New York City reporter's gibe that St. Paul was "the Siberia of North America.''

Winter also is a good time to visit a museum or catch a play or concert in the compact downtown.

What to do: See a show at the Ordway Center on Rice Park, the Fitzgerald Theater or the History Theatre. Visit the Science Museum of Minnesota or Minnesota History Center.

Events to catch: Through Feb. 2, Winter Carnival.

Details: For more, see Sightseeing in St. Paul.

Tundra swans in Monticello

Trumpeter swans gather in Monticello.

The trumpeter swans have arrived in Monticello, Minn. From November through February, more than 2,000 trumpeter swans gather at a warm spot on the Mississippi River, just an hour west of the Twin Cities.

When to go: Jim Lawrence feeds the swans at 10:30 a.m. every day; get there early and watch them fly in.

What else to do: Shop at the nearby Albertville Premium Outlets. Ski, snowshoe or ice skate at nearby Lake Maria State Park.

Details: See Snow birds and Winter weekend in Monticello.