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.
People who think Iowa is flat are in for a surprise when they visit Dubuque, a Mississippi port built on seven hills.
Events to catch: Jan. 16-17, Ice Fest at the River Museum.
Details: See Destination Dubuque.
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.
Where to stay: The rate for the Itasca Suites is reduced to $105.
During the holidays, this glittering city pulses with excitement. Skaters glide in Maggie Daley Park and shoppers cruise the Magnificent Mile.
What to do: Ice skate on the ribbon in Maggie Daley Park. See the sculptures in Millennium Park. See "Christmas Around the World'' at the Museum of Science and Industry. See the ZooLights display at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of several light shows. Shop on the Magnificent Mile.
This year, reserve everything in advance.
Details: For more, see Chicago at Christmas.
Once upon a time, people in Iowa's Amana Colonies lived simply. Now, people go there to indulge.
These tidy, once-communal villages in east-central Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, are famous for their family-style restaurants, wineries, brewery and shops. During the holiday season, tourists descend on the villages to buy gifts quilts, pottery, chocolates.
Events to catch: Dec. 4-6, Prelude to Christmas.