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.
Events: March 7-8, Mush for a Cure.
Past fast plans: Eagles on the river, Madison with kids, Fun around Ely, North Shore fun, Fun in Bayfield
International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minn. This southeast Minnesota town offers owl prowls, hooting contests, pellet dissection, live-owl programs and children's activities. March 79.
Canoecopia in Madison. It's the world's largest paddlesports expo, with dozens of demonstrations, workshops and presentations plus discounts on boats and gear. March 79.
Balloon Rally & Snowshoe Championships in Cable, Wis. Hot-air balloonists give rides for charity, weather permitting, and athletes compete in the Braveheart Midwest Snowshoe Racing Championships. March 79.
Winter Powwow in West Allis, Wis. This traditional powwow with drumming, singing and food is the winter version of Indian Summer Festival. March 89.
For more festivals, see our Events Calendar.
Why do we love St. Patrick? Because when the landscape still is icy and white, he makes everything else turn green clothes, beer, even rivers.
For that, the Irish priest deserves sainthood. Here are some good ways to celebrate his day. And if you miss the parties, four Irish inns are green year-round.
In 2014, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Monday, so events will be spread out over a long weekend.
Even if it looks like winter outside, you can count on maple trees to know otherwise.
In late February, their sap starts to run, and that's "the sweet good-bye of winter,'' writes naturalist John Burroughs.
Indigenous people were first to tap trees, inserting hollow reeds, letting the sap drip into troughs and boiling it down over a wood fire. The process isn't much different today, except most people use metal taps, plastic tubing and buckets to catch the sap.
It's still a lot of work; it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. But most people think real maple syrup is worth the effort.
On the far end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park always rewards those who make the effort to get there.
When 12 of us did, steering through a blizzard in cars heaped with snowshoes and skis, our prize was even more snow falling every day from the sky, swirling in stiff winds and piled high on the earth.
Luckily, we retain a child-like love of the white stuff. So we had ourselves a snowpalooza, gliding through snow-draped forests, making snow angels and taking countless photos of snow mushrooms, snow arches and snow slabs on Lake Superior.
And the snowshoeing? The best of our lives.
For alpine skiers, these are the best days of winter.
Late winter and spring are good times to ski bring the Coppertone, because the sun is high in the sky and also to learn to ski, since the snow is softer and more forgiving.
In March it's carnival time, with skiers schussing around in grass skirts and watching fireworks. In April, skiers can sit at outdoor beer gardens, listening to live bands.
At least, they are at Lutsen Mountains on Minnesota's North Shore.
Along the shores of Lake Superior, this winter is making professional photographers really happy.
First came weeks of northern lights. Then, an irruption of snowy owls swept down from the Arctic. And now, the mainland ice caves of the Apostles not only are accessible but magnificently frozen by subzero temperatures.
Amid so much natural beauty, photographers are like kids in a candy store. And they're sharing their booty on Facebook pages and online galleries.
In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, a pair of nesting bald eagles have become an international phenomenon.
Last winter, the famous eagles frustrated their fans by nesting and raising their young in a nearby tree that doesn't have a camera.
But this winter, the camera is in place on the new nest, and not only do fans have a constant stream of video, but they're snatching the best episodes and posting them on YouTube.
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