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FastPlans/Fun in Bayfield

Polar plunge during Winter Festival.

When snow covers the Bayfield Peninsula, attention turns from Lake Superior to the hills. That's where there are miles of trails for skiing, snowshoeing, mushing and sledding.

What to do: Ski downhill at Mount Ashwabay. Ski and snowmobile at Mount Valhalla. Go on a dog-sled trip. Hike the blufftop Lakeshore Trail above the ice caves near Cornucopia.

Events to catch: March 3-5, Winter Festival.

Details: For more, see Bayfield in winter.

Gunflint prime time

Skiers glide on trails along the Gunflint's Flour Lake.

On Minnesota's Gunflint Trail, this is prime time. Resist the urge to wait for spring and head north for the best cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling of the season.

What to do: Ski 200 kilometers of superbly groomed trails into April. Snowshoe into the Boundary Waters and on trails. Go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Learn how to mush sled dogs.

Events to catch: March 12, Dog Days of Winter Fun from the Trail Center.

Details: For more, see Winter on Minnesota's Gunflint Trail.

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 for a 2 p.m. Sunday concert ($2).

Events to catch: Feb. 18-19, Winter Festival in Elver Park. Feb. 25, free International Festival at the Overture Center.

Details: See Madison for all ages.

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 on the east edge of town. Snowshoe to the Hegman Lake pictographs (go free with Outward Bound Feb. 11) or on the hilly North Arm trails.

Visit the North American Bear Center or the International Wolf Center. Mush a dog-sled team.

Events to catch: Through Feb. 12, Winter Festival. Feb. 25-26, WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race.

Details: For more, see Winter in Ely.

St. Paul carnival

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. 5, Winter Carnival. Feb. 3-4, Crashed Ice World Championship.

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