MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for winter

Owl aboard
In southeast Minnesota, a live-wire named Alice is the star of a late-winter festival.
Sweet spots
On road trips, make a detour to some of these great chocolate shops.
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.
20 perfect cabins
They're in the woods, with views, vintage charm and modern luxuries (but maybe not all together).
Planning a Circle Tour of Lake Superior
For a great vacation, follow the shores of Lake Superior.
Time to eat
During Restaurant Weeks, you can be a glutton with a good conscience.
Spring bird festivals
After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.

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FastPlans/Fun in Bayfield

A boy skies the Valkyrie Trail near Washburn.

In winter, 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.

And when the famous ice caves are open, Bayfield becomes the hub for hordes of visitors.

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

Events to catch: March 6-8, Winter Festival.

Details: For more, see Bayfield in winter.

Past fast plans: Gunflint prime time, Weekend in Chicago, Madison with kids, North Shore fun, Fun around Ely

This weekend

Collect poker cards or go on an owl prowl.

Polar plunge during Winter Festival.

Winter Festival in Bayfield, Wis. The Lake Superior festival features the Run on Water to Madeline Island, poker run, ice golf, polar plunge (pictured) and obstacle course. March 6–8.

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 6–8.

Soar With Eagles in Wabasha, Minn. The National Eagle Center holds a flying bird show and programs on raptors, wolves and eagles of the world, plus eagle-spotting on the river. March 7–8.

Klondike Days in Eagle River, Wis. There's a lot to see: a fur-trade encampment, Ojibwe dancing, dog weight pull, lumberjack show and chainsaw-carving contest, plus snowshoe races and sleigh rides. March 7.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Sugarbush safari

Running sap is cause for celebration in the maple forest.

Tapping a maple tree at Fort Snelling.

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.

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15 great escapes in March

Winter's not over till it's over. Meanwhile, here's where to go for fun.

The Chicago River dyed green.

March can be a cruel month. We're tired of the cold, and it's tempting to sit tight and wait for spring.

But don't do it. This is the best time of the year for a lot of things, including eagle-watching, expos, ice-exploring and, of course, St. Patrick's Day parties.

We offer you three options for March getaways: outdoors, indoors and outdoors/indoors. Enjoy!

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Ice caves of the Apostles

Near Cornucopia, people wait for the window into a crystalline world to open.

Ice caves from Lakeshore Trail.

Along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, everyone waits for a big freeze.

Only when temperatures stay low for a long time will the edges of Lake Superior freeze enough for people to walk out to the mainland ice caves, whose beauty is renowned.

Even when ice is sufficiently solid, wind may suddenly split it, and snow may block the access drive. So when park rangers say it’s okay to go — well, then you’d better go.

In 2015, word came on Feb. 25: The ice caves would open on Saturday, Feb. 28.

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Toasting St. Pat

Over one weekend in March, everyone gets to be Irish.

A reveler at Milwaukee's St. Pat's Day parade.

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 2015, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Tuesday, so events will be spread out over a long weekend.

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Wildlife reality show

Web cams open a window into lives of eagles, bears and other wild things.

An eagle nesting in the Twin Cities.

In the northeast Iowa town of Decorah, a pair of nesting bald eagles have become an international phenomenon.

This winter, the pair have laid three eggs, and fans are eagerly awaiting the hatch.

Not only do they have a constant stream of live video, but avid watchers are snatching the best episodes and posting them on YouTube. This year, an attempted nest takeover by an amazingly aggressive owl drew rapt attention.

The Raptor Resource Project posts links on its Facebook page, along with regular updates.

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