MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Fast Plans / Where to go now

FastPlans/Merry holidays in Minneapolis

The State Theatre on Hennepin in Minneapolis.

In downtown Minneapolis, holiday festivities stretch from Loring Park to the Hennepin Theatre District, Nicollet Mall and the riverfront.

Events to catch: Nov. 24-Dec. 24, free Holidazzle village in Loring Park, with fireworks on opening day and Saturdays.

What to do: See "A Christmas Carol'' at the Guthrie. See a Christmas play or ballet in the Hennepin Theatre District.

Nightlife: The Dakota music club at Nicollet and 10th schedules many holiday shows.

Details: See A jolly holiday in Minneapolis.

Sampling in the Amanas

Pouring fruit wines in Amana.

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.

What to do: Shop and sample wines. Tour the Amana Heritage Museum on Saturdays. See "A Christmas Carol'' at the Old Creamery Theatre Company.

Events to catch: Dec. 1-3, Prelude to Christmas.

Information: For more, see Truly Amana and Eating in the Amana Colonies.

Shopping in Madison

A window of the Chocolaterian Cafe.

There's always excitement in the air on and around Madison's State Street, but especially in November, when the holidays are on the horizon.

Where to shop: State Street has great museum gift shops, and Monroe Street, which heads south from Camp Randall stadium, also has fun shops and places to eat.

Shopping events: Nov. 11-12, Winter Art Fair Off the Square at Monona Terrace. Nov. 18-19, Art & Gift Fair at the Overture Center. Dec. 9, Holiday Glow on Monroe

Nightlife: See a concert, play, ballet or touring show at the Overture Center on State Street.

Details: For more, see Shopping in Madison.

Gales of November

Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota's North Shore.

Early November is a dangerous time on the Great Lakes. In 1913, a storm called the White Hurricane killed 250 people and destroyed 19 ships between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10. In 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in near hurricane-force winds on Nov. 10.

Events to catch: Nov. 10, Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Beacon Lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse. Nov. 10-11, Lake Superior Storm Festival in Grand Marais.

What to do: Visit the free Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center in Duluth. Watch ore boats coming and going. Visit sites of shipwrecks along the shore.

Where to watch waves: Canal Park or Kitchi-Gammi Park in Duluth, Stoney Point on old Minnesota 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors, Sugarloaf Cove near Schroeder and Tofte Town Park in Tofte.

Details: For more, see Gales of November.

Late fall in Red Wing

Barn Bluff frames Red Wing on the Mississippi.

Red Wing has a charmed location — in an elbow of the Mississippi River, in the shadow of boxy Barn Bluff and only an hour south of the Twin Cities. It's a favorite fall destination.

What to do: Hike up Barn Bluff.  Catch a concert or play at the Sheldon Theatre.  Sample wine at Falconer Vineyards. See the World's Largest Boot at the Red Wing Shoe Store & Museum.

Events to catch: Oct. 27, "Rocky Horror Picture Show'' at the Sheldon. Oct. 28, Trunk or Treat at Bay Point Park. Through Oct. 31, Pumpkins at the Depot.

Details: See Roaming in Red Wing.