MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Toasting St. Pat
Celebrate the holiday with parades, parties, pub crawls or a stay in an Irish inn.
A chocolate tour of Madison
For people who want the best in bonbons, this town is a decadent destination.
Sugarbush safari
Running sap is cause for celebration in the maple forest.
Ice playgrounds
Along rivers and lakes, it's fun to hang out with Jack Frost.
Best brew fests
Quaff craft beer to your heart's content at these tasting parties.
Spring bird festivals
After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.
Ski or snowshoe by candlelight
On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.
Owls, owls, everywhere
Influxes of magnificent birds have birders hurrying up north.

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FastPlans/Chinese New Year in Chicago

Dragons in a Chinatown parade.

If you have cabin fever and need a change of scene, head for Chicago.

Winter is high season for the performing arts, but hotel rates are low. And it's the best time of the year to visit Chinatown.

Events to catch: Feb. 25, Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown. March 3, Chinese New Year Lantern Festival.

What else to do: Go on a Chicago Food Planet food tour of Chinatown. See a Broadway play in the Loop theater district. Go to one of the famous museums (in winter, many have free days).

Details: See Cheap Chicago and other Chicago stories.

Past fast plans: Madison for kids, Fun around Ely, Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Goofy winter fun in Minneapolis, Dubuque's views

This weekend

Kiss a fish or dance with lions.

Kissing an eelpout in Walker.

International Eelpout Festival in Walker, Minn. It's fun just to wander (or drive) around Leech Lake during this event, which includes mechanical bull riding, bikini ice fishing and a beer pong tournament. Feb. 22–25.

Chinese Lunar New Year's Parade in Chicago. Celebrate the Year of the Dog in Chinatown with a parade, marching bands, lion dancing and fireworks. Feb. 25.

Bockfest at Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wis. This Madison-area brewery celebrates with the Running of the Blondes 1K race, a fish throw, music, costumes and, of course, beer. Feb. 24.

International Festival in Madison. Dancers, musicians, storytellers and puppeteers representing traditions from around the world converge on the Overture Center for the Arts on State Street for this free festival. There's also food and a global bazaar. Feb. 24.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


Where eagles land

Near winter gathering spots, towns capitalize on the birds' popularity by throwing festivals.

An eagle looks for fish at the lock and dam in Genoa, Wis.

Eagles don't really have lovable personalities. But, man, are they fun to watch.

Those haughty pale eyes, that 6-foot wing span, those wicked talons and the flesh-shredding beak — eagles are just plain cool.

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Cheap spring getaways

Here are 20 places where a fun weekend won't break the budget.

A bicyclist pedals on the Root River State Trail.

After a long winter, everyone deserves a spring getaway.

On a budget? No problem. Spring is the best time to find deals, and often the weather is stellar.

Along the Mississippi in Minnesota, join a warbler weekend at a retreat center.  In northeast Iowa, go on a beginning backpacking trip. In Chicago, stay at one of three hostels during Craft Beer Week.

Think a little bit outside the box, and you'll save a ton of money. 

Here's our 2018 edition of great spring trips, most costing $100 or less per person.

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Great places to snowshoe

In winter, the outdoors is wide open to those who walk on snow.

North Country Trail on the Black River.

Everyone likes to snowshoe. It's cheap, easy and you can do it anywhere. 

In winter, snowshoes are the bridge into the wild white yonder. They allow you get off the beaten path and to places that otherwise would be hard to explore — islands, overgrown woods, bogs and marshes.

In deep snow, the first person to break trail has to expend some serious effort. If you're the fourth or fifth person on the trail, though, that's just about right. 

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The chocolate cure

When winter drags on, drown your sorrows with sweets.

Candinas chocolates in Madison.

In February and March, most of us are getting tired of winter . . . time to eat some chocolate.

As everyone knows, chocolate has unique restorative qualities. It's effective draped on strawberries, whipped into mousse, covering cakes . . . you get the idea.

Here's where to go to thumb your nose at winter (and your diet). Pick from tastings, tours and road trips.

Here's how to take the chocolate cure in 2018.

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