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FastPlans/Eagle River fun

Feeding the chickadees on the Anvil Lake Trail.

There's plenty of snow around the northeast Wisconsin town of Eagle River, where beautifully groomed trails draw legions of skiers and snowmobilers.

What to do: See the ice castle. Go skiing and snowshoeing on the many trails. Anvil Lake, where chickadees eat out of skiers' hands (pictured), is a favorite. Go on a snowmobiling tour with Decker's Sno-Venture.

Events to catch: Jan. 19-22, World Championship Snowmobile Derby

Details: For more, see Winter in Eagle River.

Dubuque's views

Steeples and bridges dominate the view of Dubuque.

People who think Iowa is flat are in for a surprise when they visit Dubuque, a Mississippi port built on seven hills.

What to do: Visit the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.  Hike or snowshoe in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area. Ski downhill at nearby Sundown Mountain. Visit Jubeck New World Brewing taproom.

Events to catch: Jan. 21, Bald Eagle Watch.

Details: For more, read Destination Dubuque.

Itasca in winter

Skiers on the trails in Itasca State Park

In summer, tourists from all over the world make a beeline for Minnesota's Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River starts its run for the Gulf.

But in the winter, it's very quiet . . . and very serene. It's a great time to see the park's beautiful old-growth pines under a cloak of snow.

What to do: Ski on 28 miles of trails. Snowshoe on five trails (or anywhere). Ice fish on Itasca Lake. See historical exhibits at the visitors center.

Events to catch: Jan. 7, lantern-lit snowshoeing and Music Under the Pines.

Where to stay: The rate for the Itasca Suites is reduced to $105. Near the headwaters, Mississippi Headwaters Hostel is very inexpensive.

Details: For more, see Itasca in winter and The people's park.

Swans in Monticello

Trumpeter swans gather in Monticello.

The trumpeter swans have arrived in Monticello. 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.

Shops of Cedarburg

Cedar Creek Winery.

Half an hour north of Milwaukee, Cedarburg is the kind of shopping destination every big city likes to have nearby.

The quiet old Yankee mill town on Cedar Creek features a historic district full of restored storefronts, a winery, an artists guild, a cultural center, festivals and lots of opportunities to shop.

What to do: Shop for gifts or antiques along Washington Avenue or at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 stone woolen mill. Sample wine at Cedar Creek Winery (pictured). Visit the decorated Kuhefuss House Museum.

Details: For more, see Jolly Cedarburg.