MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Great winter festivals

Enjoy the chilly season with snow sculptures, ice castles, sleigh rides and lots of hot chocolate.

Artists at the Art Shanties.

© Beth Gauper

There are lots of goofy goings-on at the Art Shanties near Minneapolis.

True northerners don't let cold weather keep them indoors, not when they could be out on the ice playing broomball and bowling turkeys. 

Many festivals in winter are held on frozen lakes, the best place for kite-flying, ice golf and hot-air balloon lift-offs. In northern Minnesota, an ice-house city goes up on Leech Lake for the goofy Eelpout Festival in February.

In parks, elaborate ice and snow sculptures entertain passersby. On rivers, buses take tourists to see bald eagles. Bonfires and hot chocolate are offered everywhere.

Below are some of the fun festivals going on around the region in 2018

Always check before you go to verify dates and to make sure you catch the best parts of a festival, especially the parades.

For candlelight events, see Ski or snowshoe by candlelight.

For more about eagle-watching events, see Where eagles land.

For events year-round, see the Events Calendar.

New Year's celebrations

Look for fireworks everywhere New Year's Eve, especially in La Crosse, where the Skyrockers are famous for their pyrotechnics from Grandad Bluff (midnight, with a kids' show at 6 p.m.).

For getaway ideas, see 10 great ways to celebrate New Year's.

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 18–Jan. 2.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio). Nov. 23–Jan. 3.

Christkindlmarket Park at Wrigley in Chicago, IL This new North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.     Dec. 26–31.

Cheese Drop in Plymouth, WI For the big Cheese Drop in this eastern Wisconsin town, an 80-pound lighted wedge of cheese is dropped 100 feet at 10 p.m. There will also be free live music, cheese wedges and a s'mores bar. Dec. 31.

Light Up Eau Claire in Eau Claire, WI This New Year's Eve festival downtown features live music, free movies, an ice bar with ice glasses, lantern parades at 5 and 11 p.m. and fireworks. Dec. 31.

Cherry Ball Drop in Traverse City, MI In this town on Grand Traverse Bay, there's music from 9 p.m., a visit from the Coast Guard and a large illuminated cherry dropping 115 feet at midnight. Dec. 31.

Carp Fest in Prairie du Chien, WI In this Mississippi River town, celebrate with fireworks, music, a light show, a bonfire and the Droppin' of the Carp, a large, frozen Mississippi River rough fish.   Dec. 31.

New Year's Eve Ball Drop in Ludington, MI The party in this Lake Michigan beach town includes music, dancing, a beer tent, a lighted ball drop and fireworks. Dec. 31.

New Year's Day Parade in Egg Harbor, WI Welcome the new year with a 1 p.m. parade. Jan. 1.

Cool Kite Festival in Milwaukee, WI In addition to kite-flying, there will be ice sculptures and free hot chocolate, coffee and snacks in the lakefront Veterans Park. Jan. 1.

First weekend of January

Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison, WI The free display in Olin Park is open from dusk to dawn. Nov. 18–Jan. 2.

Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac, WI This free light show on Lake Winnebago includes animated scenes and trees that dance to 20 minutes of music played on 87.9 FM (you can listen on your car radio). Nov. 23–Jan. 3.

Ice Festival in Sandstone, MN There are ice-climbing and winter camping clinics, a chili cook-off, door prizes and use of demo gear in Sandstone Ice Park. Jan. 5–7.

Bald Eagle Days in Rock Island, IL At the Quad Cities Expo Center, there's an environmental fair, with flying demonstrations by eagles, hawks and owls and many other events. Jan. 5–7.

Breezy Point Ice Fest in Breezy Point, MN This Brainerd Lakes resort village celebrates with horse-drawn wagon rides, an ice slide, snow golf, ice fishing and dog-sled rides. Jan. 5–6.

SISU Ski Fest in Ironwood, MI This Finnish fest includes a 5K Fun Ski, 15km and 31km ski races, a snowshoe tour and a fat-bike demo on scenic bluffs and along the Montreal River. Jan. 6.

Gunflint Mail Run sled-dog race in Gunflint Trail, MN Mushers travel two legs of 50 miles, starting and ending at the Trail Center Lodge on the Central Gunflint Trail. Jan. 6–7.

Bald Eagle Watch in Clinton, IA Two Mississippi River towns host this event, with live-eagle and nature programs at Iowa's Clinton Community College and free bus service to Lock & Dam 13 in Fulton, Ill. Jan. 6.

Foot of the Lake Synchronized Skating Classic in Fond du Lac, WI Watch 85 synchronized-skating teams from across the nation compete at the Blue Line Family Ice Center. Jan. 6.

A Bock Fest parade.

© Beth Gauper

Bock Fest in New Ulm signals the end of winter.

Second weekend of January

Back to Hack Winter Festival in Hackensack, MN The festival in this Brainerd Lakes town on the Paul Bunyan State Trail features snow sculpting, an ice-fishing contest, penguin plunge, dog-sled rides, kids' games and Saturday fireworks. Jan. 11–14.

Bald Eagle Watching Days in Prairie du Sac, WI This town along the Wisconsin River, next to a hydroelectric plant, offers guided bus tours, live birds of prey programs and kids' activities. Jan. 12–13.

Sleigh & Cutter Rally in Ashland, WI Antique sleighs and drivers in 19th-century costumes gather at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and offer rides. Jan. 13.

Jack Frost Fest in Spooner, WI There's turkey bowling, minnow races, an antique snowmobile show and a fat-bike ride in this western Wisconsin town. Jan. 13.

Winter Festival in La Farge, WI Visit the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for horse-drawn wagon rides, guided snowshoe and ice-cave hikes, winter games and a sled-dog race and weight pull.   Jan. 13.

An art sled flies down the hill.

© Torsten Muller

A child flies down the hill at Minneapolis' Art Sled Rally.

Third weekend of January

Icebox Days in International Falls, MN In this far-north town, there will be smoosh races, frozen turkey bowling, a toilet-seat toss, boot hockey and fireworks. On Saturday, there's the annual Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run. Jan. 18–21.

Hunter Ice Festival in Niles, MI This festival in the southwest tip of the state, named for a turn-of-the-century ice-harvesting business, features more than 150 ice sculptures and a competition. Jan. 19–21.

Winterfest in Mackinaw City, MI There's a snow-sculpting competition, sleigh rides, a poker run and outhouse races. Jan. 19–20.

Crashed Ice World Championship in St. Paul, MN Red Bull Crashed Ice is returning with the extreme sport of ice cross downhill, or high-speed skating on a downhill course from the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jan. 19–20.

Silver Mine Ski Jumping Championships in Eau Claire, WI Watch top skiers from North America and Europe compete at Silver Mine Hill. Jan. 19–20.

Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis, MN This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.     Jan. 20–21.

Bald Eagle Watch in Dubuque, IA Live-eagle programs and free trolley rides from the Grand River Center downtown to the National Mississippi River Museum and Lock & Dam 11. Jan. 20.

Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest in Madison, WI A celebration of Wisconsin's greatest products at Alliant Energy Center, with plenty to sample. Tickets sell out, so buy early. Jan. 20.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Keokuk, IA There's live-eagle presentations, Native American activities, demonstrations and viewing on the river. Jan. 20–21.

Winter Trails Day in Minneapolis, MN Play outdoors on the beach at Fort Snelling State Park, near the airport. Try such sports as snowshoeing, skiing, skijoring, ice-fishing, quinzee-building, ice-sculpting and more. It's free and hosted by the Mississippi Park Connection and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, and a vehicle sticker is required. Jan. 20.

Fourth weekend of January

A Toast to Winter: Ice Bars in Milwaukee, WI Enoy a cocktail for charity in the Historic Third Ward at three hand-carved ice bars, one with a Bloody Mary luge, one with an ice wall and one with a beer-serving cow.  Jan. 24.

Winter Carnival in St. Paul, MN See ice sculptures in Rice Park and snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds, go down the snow slide, compete in a jigsaw-puzzle contest, take a free fire-truck ride and watch barstool ski races and lawn-mower races. Family Day is Feb. 3 at the Landmark Center, and there are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Jan. 25, Grande Day Jan. 27 and Vulcan Victory Torchlight Feb. 10, followed by fireworks. Jan. 25–Feb. 10.

Winter Games in Lake Okoboji, IA This resort area in northwest Iowa will offer human sled races, flag football on ice, indoor golf, snowball drop, stein-holding, horse-drawn carriage rides, a Freeze Yer Fanny Bike Ride, keg toss and fireworks. Jan. 25–28.

Winterfest in Grand Haven, MI In this Lake Michigan town, there's a human sled race, cardboard sled race, luau and snow-angel contest. Jan. 25–28.

Celebration of the Lakes in Center City, MN This Chisago Lakes festival on North Center Lake includes snowmobile races, an ice-fishing tournament, sled-dog rides and a free ice-fishing clinic for kids. Jan. 26–28.

Hot Air Affair in Hudson, WI There will be a Friday night torchlight parade and fireworks plus a craft fair, smoosh boarding, morning balloon launches and evening moon glows. Jan. 26–28.

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $22 at brunch or lunch and $33-$44 at dinner. Jan. 26–Feb. 8.

Schnee Days in Elkhart Lake, WI The Snow Days festival in this town in east-central Wisconsin includes a hunt for colored ice cubes, dog sledding and a chili cook-off. Jan. 26–28.

Janboree in Waukesha, WI The fest in this Milwaukee suburb includes Friday-night fireworks, ice sculpting, trolley rides, a penguin-egg hunt and tobogganing on the lighted run in Lowell Park.  Jan. 26–28.

Frostival in Fargo-Moorhead, MN This festival includes snow yoga, snow golf, snow kickball and snow softball, plus s'mores and bike and cardboard-sled races. Jan. 26–27.

Super Bowl Live fan festival in Minneapolis, MN The free festival on Nicollet Mall, between 6th and 12th streets, features concerts, ice sculptures, a life-size snow globe for photos and drum and dance presentations every day at 5 p.m. There's also an 800-foot zip line across the Mississippi River. Online tickets sold out in less than 36 hours, but some walk-up tickets will be available. Jan. 26–Feb. 4. Zipline website

Winterfest in Amana, IA Go on a wine walk or scavenger hunt or compete in ham-throwing, log-sawing, the Amana Freezer Run/Walk, snowshoeing or for the best beard. There will be ice sculptures, storytelling and schnitzel-sampling, too. Jan. 27.

U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship and Winterfest in Lake Geneva, WI Watch artists shape snow into whimsical shapes, and vote on the best ones. There's also music, a human sled-dog race, children's entertainment and helicopter rides. Jan. 27–Feb. 4.

Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis, MN This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.     Jan. 27–28.

Art Sled Rally in Minneapolis, MN Watch sledders or ride down a decorated hill at Powderhorn Park in your own wacky sled, which you can make at home or at free workshops at Powderhorn Park Community Center. There's also live music and hot chocolate. Jan. 27.

Eagle Watch Weekend in Utica, IL There will be eagle viewing and family activities at Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center, Starved Rock Lodge and, across the river, the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Trolleys connect the three venues. Jan. 27–28.

City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN For recreational skiers, the highlight of this big cross-country ski festival is the Feb. 3 Luminary Loppet on Lake of the Isles, with glowing ice pillars and "ruins.'' Afterward, there's a tent party with music. There are also classical and free-style races, ski games for children, a snow-sculpture contest and orienteering, ice-cycle, speedskating, snowshoeing and skijoring races, plus a beer garden and vendor village.     Jan. 27–Feb. 4.

Heikinpaiva in Hancock, MI The winter festival in this Finnish town on the Keweenaw Peninsula features wife-carrying, kicksled races, a polar bear dive and an 11  a.m. parade. Jan. 27.

Norge Ski Jumping Tournament in Fox River Grove, IL See some of the nation's best jumpers compete in this northwest Chicago suburb, which has trained much of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team. Jan. 27–28. Wall Street Journal story

Lake Harriet Kite Festival in Minneapolis, MN In addition to kite-flying, this event on popular Lake Harriet includes horse-drawn wagon rides, kids' ice fishing, arts, music and roasted marshmallows. Jan. 27.

Winter Fest in Wausau, WI On the 400 Block downtown, there will be a snow slide, ice carving, ice skating, dog weight-pulling, horse-drawn wagon rides, fat-tire bike demos and a mac-and-cheese contest. The figure-skating and nordic-skiing competitions of the Badger Winter Games also are being held in Wausau. Jan. 27.

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Two Harbors, MN Watch the start of the marathon to the Gunflint Trail and the mid-distance race to Tofte.   Jan. 28.

WinterFest in Rochester, MN This southern Minnesota city offers a a cardboard sled race Jan. 28; sleigh rides, art activities, frozen turkey bowling and minigolf Feb. 3; and, on the last weekend, a polar plunge, softball, candlelight ski, snow games and downtown ice bars. Jan. 28.

The human sled race in Grand Haven.

© Kevin Ryan

At Winterfest in Grand Haven, contestants pull in the Human Sled Race.

First weekend of February

Winter Carnival in St. Paul, MN See ice sculptures in Rice Park and snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds, go down the snow slide, compete in a jigsaw-puzzle contest, take a free fire-truck ride and watch barstool ski races and lawn-mower races. Family Day is Feb. 3 at the Landmark Center, and there are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Jan. 25, Grande Day Jan. 27 and Vulcan Victory Torchlight Feb. 10, followed by fireworks. Jan. 25–Feb. 10.

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $22 at brunch or lunch and $33-$44 at dinner. Jan. 26–Feb. 8.

Super Bowl Live fan festival in Minneapolis, MN The free festival on Nicollet Mall, between 6th and 12th streets, features concerts, ice sculptures, a life-size snow globe for photos and drum and dance presentations every day at 5 p.m. There's also an 800-foot zip line across the Mississippi River. Online tickets sold out in less than 36 hours, but some walk-up tickets will be available. Jan. 26–Feb. 4. Zipline website

U.S. Snow Sculpting Championship and Winterfest in Lake Geneva, WI Watch artists shape snow into whimsical shapes, and vote on the best ones. There's also music, a human sled-dog race, children's entertainment and helicopter rides. Jan. 27–Feb. 4.

City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN For recreational skiers, the highlight of this big cross-country ski festival is the Feb. 3 Luminary Loppet on Lake of the Isles, with glowing ice pillars and "ruins.'' Afterward, there's a tent party with music. There are also classical and free-style races, ski games for children, a snow-sculpture contest and orienteering, ice-cycle, speedskating, snowshoeing and skijoring races, plus a beer garden and vendor village.     Jan. 27–Feb. 4.

Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake, IA The Surf Ballroom marks the 59th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, with concerts, luncheons, dance lessons and crash-site tours. Jan. 31–Feb. 3.

Groundhog Days in Woodstock, IL The 1993 movie "Groundhog Day'' was filmed in this town an hour northwest of Chicago, and it celebrates with storytelling, family games and tours of movie sites, including the 1889 Opera House, where actor Bill Murray jumped from the belfry. At 7:07 a.m. Friday, Woodstock Willie will look for his shadow. Feb. 1–4.

Winter Festival in Ely, MN There's a best-beard contest, snow sculpting, an arts market, fat-tire bike demos and a ride, Ely Folk School classes and a free snowshoe hike to the Hegman Petroglyphs. Feb. 1–11.

WinterFest in Crosslake, MN In this Brainerd Lakes area, there are horse-drawn sleigh rides, bonfires, ice car races, helicopter rides, Friday fireworks and Italian Outdoor Olympics. Feb. 1–3.

Snowflake Ski-Jumping Tournament in Westby, WI At the top of a hill that's the equivalent of a 41-story skyscraper, watch jumpers fly by at 55 mph. It's fun to watch because the jump is built onto the side of a coulee, and spectators can climb it and watch from the top. There are hot drinks and food at the bottom. Feb. 2–3.

Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race in Bayfield, WI Watch four races over two days and get in some skiing and snowshoeing on the side. Feb. 2–4.

Winter Festival in Fish Creek, WI This Door County village lets loose with events that include a toilet-seat throw, pie tin toss, bean-bag cannon shoot, smoosh racing and an ugly-sweater contest. There are also free trolley rides, ice carving, a fiddle contest, a snowshoe dance and fireworks. Feb. 2–4.

Knickerbocker Ice Festival in Lake Mills, WI This town east of Madison holds a fish toss, snowball-eating contest, dad-sled race, chili cook-off and Iceberg Open golf tournament. There's ice carving and ice wine, too. Feb. 2–3.

Ice Breaker in South Haven, MI There's an ice-carving competition in this Lake Michigan town, plus wagon rides, synchronized skating and a chili cook-off. Feb. 2–4.

Magical Ice Fest in St. Joseph, MI Watch the pros carve sculptures in this Lake Michigan town. There's also entertainment, a scavenger hunt and magic and crafts for kids. Feb. 2–4.

Iola Winter Carnival in Iola, WI This village near Waupaca offers ice carving, a lutefisk dinner, ski and snowshoe races and ski jumping. Feb. 2–4.

Scandihoovian Winter Festival in Mount Horeb, WI The festival in this town just west of Madison features such events as turkey bowling, a snowman-building contest, kick sledding, a spelling bee and a vintage snowmobile show and ride. Feb. 2–4.

Duluth Ice & Mixed Fest in Duluth, MN This annual festival in West Duluth's Quarry Park features such events as a free ice-climbing clinic for youths 12 and older, beginner and intermediate clinics for adult climbers, a fat-bike intro and presentations on mountain climbing. There's also a disc-golf course. Feb. 2–4.

WinterFest in Rochester, MN This southern Minnesota city offers a a cardboard sled race Jan. 28; sleigh rides, art activities, frozen turkey bowling and minigolf Feb. 3; and, on the last weekend, a polar plunge, softball, candlelight ski, snow games and downtown ice bars. Feb. 2–3.

Madison Winter Festival in Madison, WI The annual festival in Elver Park features cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing plus music, family games and ice and snow sculptures. Feb. 3–4.

Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis, MN This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.     Feb. 3–4.

Frostbite Olympics in Algona, IA The festival in this north-central Iowa town features snowmobile rides, ice races, snow kickball and a treasure mountain for kids. Feb. 3.

Smoosh racing at the City of Lakes Loppet.

© Beth Gauper

Smoosh racing is part of the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis.

Second weekend of February

Winter Carnival in St. Paul, MN See ice sculptures in Rice Park and snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds, go down the snow slide, compete in a jigsaw-puzzle contest, take a free fire-truck ride and watch barstool ski races and lawn-mower races. Family Day is Feb. 3 at the Landmark Center, and there are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Jan. 25, Grande Day Jan. 27 and Vulcan Victory Torchlight Feb. 10, followed by fireworks. Jan. 25–Feb. 10.

Restaurant Week in Chicago, IL Time to pack on the calories: More than 370 restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $22 at brunch or lunch and $33-$44 at dinner. Jan. 26–Feb. 8.

Winter Festival in Ely, MN There's a best-beard contest, snow sculpting, an arts market, fat-tire bike demos and a ride, Ely Folk School classes and a free snowshoe hike to the Hegman Petroglyphs. Feb. 1–11.

Winter Carnival in Houghton, MI This snow fest at Michigan Tech University includes a human dog-sled race, snow volleyball and a tug of war and ends with a torchlight parade and fireworks at Mont Ripley ski hill. Feb. 8–11.

Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN Over two weekends, this festival features an ice palace, a snow angels competition, tubing night, an appearance by polar explorer Ann Bancroft and such events as a snowman build, fishing derby, wildlife tracking, fat-tire bike races and fireworks.   Feb. 8–19.

WinterFest in Rochester, MN This southern Minnesota city offers a a cardboard sled race Jan. 28; sleigh rides, art activities, frozen turkey bowling and minigolf Feb. 3; and, on the last weekend, a polar plunge, softball, candlelight ski, snow games and downtown ice bars. Feb. 9–11.

Pine Mountain Ski Jumping Tournament in Iron Mountain, MI This Upper Peninsula town on the Wisconsin border is where the international jumpers go; it's a stop on the Continental Cup circuit. Feb. 10–11.

Auto Show in Chicago, IL This car show at McCormick Place is the largest in the nation and third-largest in the world. Feb. 10–19.

Art Shanty Projects in Minneapolis, MN This year, frozen Lake Harriet hosts two dozen artist-designed ice houses and lots of fun art antics. Check for scheduled events and ice conditions.     Feb. 10–11.

Ice sculptures in St. Paul's Rice Park.

© Beth Gauper

Ice sculptures fill St. Paul's Rice Park during Winter Carnival.

Third weekend of February

Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes, MN Over two weekends, this festival features an ice palace, a snow angels competition, tubing night, an appearance by polar explorer Ann Bancroft and such events as a snowman build, fishing derby, wildlife tracking, fat-tire bike races and fireworks.   Feb. 8–19.

Auto Show in Chicago, IL This car show at McCormick Place is the largest in the nation and third-largest in the world. Feb. 10–19.

Michigan Ice Fest in Munising, MI Watch ice-climbing demos and slide shows and take clinics for beginners at spectacular Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Feb. 14–18.

Book Across the Bay in Ashland/Washburn, WI The weekend starts with a Friday-night polka party in Ashland. On Saturday night, ski or snowshoe across Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay on a 10-kilometer route lined by ice luminaries. If you're not too fast, fireworks will fill the sky as you're approaching Washburn; a bonfire, chili feed and blues music follow. Feb. 16–17.

Sax Zim Bog Festival of Birds in Meadowlands, MN Listen to programs and go on field trips to see such boreal species as evening grosbeak, northern hawk owl, gray jay and particularly snowy owls. Register early for this festival northwest of Duluth. Feb. 16–18.

Winter Festival in Cedarburg, WI In its 44th year, this festival just north of Milwaukee features bed races, ice-carving, a dog weight pull competition, an egg hunt for kids and a parade at 1 p.m. Saturday. Feb. 17–18.

Color the Wind Kite Festival in Clear Lake, IA This town in north-central Iowa draws kiters from eight states for its festival, the largest in the Midwest, and stunt fliers will perform routines choreographed to music. Feb. 17.

Fire & Ice in Sturgeon Bay, WI Ice and snow sculptors create pieces around town. There's a novice category for beginners. Feb. 17.

Barstool Races in Drummond, WI In this small town north of Cable, watch people careen down a hill on decorated bar stools, then stay for the chili feed. Feb. 17.

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines, IA It's all about bacon at this festival at the Iowa Event Center, with sampling and demos followed by a concert by Smash Mouth.  Feb. 17.

Empire Winter Fest in Empire, MI This town on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers a soup cook-off and polar plunge as well as such events as ice art, sled races and ice bowling. Feb. 17.

Northwoods Blizzard Blast in Conover, WI On the snowy northeast edge of Wisconsin, go on horse-drawn sleigh rides and see such events as recliner racing, ice bowling, dog-sled dashing, snowshoe baseball and snow sculpting. Feb. 17.

Outhouse Race in Sault Ste. Marie, MI Watch the wacky races in this Lake Superior town, "the final plop on the eastern Upper Peninsula outhouse circuit.'' They're at 2 p.m.   Feb. 17.

Fourth weekend of February

International Eelpout Festival in Walker, MN 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. Be sure to have some 'pout nuggets, which are as tasty as the fish is ugly. Feb. 22–25.

American Birkebeiner in Hayward, WI Watch the "Greatest Show on Snow,'' with races of all distances for all ages and abilities plus a ski expo, snowshoe hike, skijoring and vintage ski. On Saturday, watch the world's best skiers on the 51-kilometer marathon (55 kilometers for classic skiers). On Sunday, there's a ski-gear and fat-bike demo and an event for girls 8-18.   Feb. 22–25.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Prairie du Chien, WI Birding experts give programs, and volunteers man spotting scopes at the Wisconsin Travel Information Center, just off the bridge into town. There will also be children's activities and an Effigy Mounds Winter Film Festival. Feb. 23–24.

Grumpy Old Men Festival in Wabasha, MN There's always good eagle-viewing in this Mississippi River town, and during the festival, there will be an ice-fishing contest, polar plunge and minnow races. Feb. 24.

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

WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race in Ely, MN There's a dog weight pull competition and mushers lasagna feed Saturday and the race to Tower and back on Sunday. Feb. 24–25.

International Festival in Madison, WI 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.

Coopersville Outhouse 500 in Coopersville, MI In this town just east of Grand Haven, there's a parade of decorated outhouses, races and a decorated toilet seat contest, auction and chili cookoff. Feb. 24.

Trenary Outhouse Classic in Trenary, MI In this little town, not far from Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, there will be potty-pushing contests for kids and adults, a best fur-hat contest and lots of craft beer. Feb. 24.

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

Snow Days in Chicago.

© Navy Pier

Snow sculptures are part of Snow Days in Chicago.

First weekend of March

International Festival of Owls in Houston, MN This southeast Minnesota town offers owl prowls, hooting contests, pellet dissection, live-owl programs and children's activities. March 2–4.

Winter Festival in Bayfield, WI The Lake Superior festival features the Run on Water to Madeline Island, poker run, ice golf, polar plunge, obstacle course and whitefish liver-eating contest. March 2–4.

Artigras in Green Bay, WI This fine arts festival in Shopko Hall includes artist demonstrations, children's activities, dance, jazz and classical music. March 3–4.

Bock Fest in New Ulm, MN There's a parade of mythical Germanic characters, a hunt for billy-goat heads on the Schell Brewery grounds and beyond and a big party afterward with beer, live music and a bonfire. March 3.

Sleeping Giant Loppet in Thunder Bay, ON Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is the setting for this tour and race, which includes live entertainment, food and a choice of four distances, 10, 20, 35 and 50 kilometers. March 3.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, MN The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi. March 3–4.

World's Longest Weenie Roast in Cable, WI Lakewoods Resorts hosts this benefit on Lake Namekagon, which includes snowmobile speed runs, ice bowling, a weenie-eating contest and a frozen weenie polar plunge. March 3.

Second weekend of March

Canoecopia in Madison, WI It's the world's largest paddlesports expo, according to host Rutabaga, with dozens of demonstrations, workshops and presentations plus discounts on boats and gear. Bike-O-Rama, with discounts on bicycles and gear, is next door. At Alliant Energy Center. March 9–11.

Balloon Rally in Cable, WI Hot-air balloonists give rides for charity, weather permitting, and there's an evening balloon glow. Hosted by Lakewoods Resort. March 9–11.

St. Patrick's Day parade in Milwaukee, WI The big parade starts at noon, starting at Third and Wisconsin downtown and followed by music, dancing and pipes and drums at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. March 10.

Celtic Fest in Moorhead, MN This free festival at the Hjemkomst Center includes two entertainment stages, heritage programs, arts and crafts, interactive booths and Celtic food and treats. March 10.

Winter Powwow in West Allis, WI This traditional powwow with drumming, singing and food is the winter version of Indian Summer Festival. At Wisconsin State Fair Park. Grand entries are 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. March 10–11.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, MN The National Eagle Center holds live-bird programs and nature presentations weekends in March, when bald eagles migrate northward along the Mississippi. March 10–11.

Dog Days of Winter in Gunflint Trail, MN In the Central Gunflint, the Trail Center is hosting a sled-dog derby, skijoring races, snowman-building contest and snow sculptures. March 11.

St. Patrick's Day Parade and Irish Fest in New London, WI This town west of Appleton becomes "New Dublin'' for the week, with festivities that include a big Grand Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed with Irish music, food and marketplace under a heated big-top tent. March 12–17.

For St. Patrick's Day events, see Toasting St. Pat.

For the best events in spring, see Great spring festivals.


Last updated on January 29, 2018