The coolest days of winter
Ditch the indoors for one of these great festivals.
© Beth Gauper
For Winter Carnival, sculptors carve ice in St. Paul's Rice Park.
There's no use hiding from winter — it lasts too long, and eventually that living room will get old.
Many of the tourist spots we love to visit in summer work hard to lure us back when it's cold, offering festivals with lots of fun in the snow, plus bonfires and chili feeds to warm us up afterward.
For a spectacular spectator event, watch the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth or international ski-jumpers in Westby, Wis., or Iron Mountain, Mich. To join in yourself, try Madison's Winter Festival or Winter Tracks on the Gunflint Trail and North Shore.
Here are 15 winter festivals and events worth planning a weekend around in 2013.
Jan. 11-13, The Big Chill in Racine, Wis. Monument Square is the new location of Wisconsin's state snow-sculpting competition. There's ice-carving, too.
Jan. 24-Feb. 3, St. Paul Winter Carnival. Carvers create glittering ice sculptures in Rice Park. There are three parades: the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade, the King Boreas Grand Day Parade and the Torchlight Parade, followed by fireworks.
Jan. 25-27, University of Okoboji Winter Games in Lake Okoboji, Iowa. This festival in the northwest corner of Iowa is about as serious as the university is real. There's a a Freeze Your Fanny bike ride, Marshmallow Man blaster shootout, ice bowling, broomball and fireworks at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Feb. 1-2, Snowflake Ski-Jumping Tournament in Westby, Wis. At the top of a hill that's the equivalent of a 41-story skyscraper, watch jumpers fly by at 55 mph. It no longer attracts many international skiers, but it's still 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 will be music and fireworks Friday night and music after the jumping Saturday. For more, see A jumpin' joint.
Feb. 1-10, Winter Tracks Festival on the North Shore and Gunflint Trail of Minnesota. Enjoy guided snowshoe hikes and cross-country ski tours, sleigh rides and snowmobile runs from the Lutsen-Tofte area to the Gunflint Trail.
There's a Family Fun Fest at Lutsen Mountains Feb. 3-5 (fireworks and torchlight parade Feb. 4), a candlelight ski from Cascade Lodge Feb. 10 and the Volks Ski 400 Feb. 11.
For the Book Across the Bay candlelight tour, skiers wear goofy costumes.
Feb. 9, Bock Fest in New Ulm, Minn. There's a parade of mythical Germanic characters, a devilishly difficult hunt for stag heads on the Schell Brewery grounds and beyond (with prizes) and a big party afterward with beer, live music and a bonfire.
It's become so popular that the brewery limits entrance, so get there early. For more, see A German Mardi Gras.
Feb. 9-10, Pine Mountain Ski Jumping Tournament in Iron Mountain, Mich. This is where the international jumpers go; it's a stop on the Continental Cup circuit.
Feb. 14-17, International Eelpout Festival in Walker,
Minn.: It's fun just to wander (or drive) around Leech Lake during this goofy event. Be sure to have some 'pout
nuggets, which are as tasty as the fish is ugly.
For more, see Home of the eelpout.
Feb. 16, Book Across the
Bay between Ashland and Washburn, Wis. 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. For more, see Winter in Washburn.
Feb. 16-17, Winter Festival in Cedarburg,
Wis. This town just north of Milwaukee knows how to throw a party. There's costumed bed racing, barrel races,
ice-carving, a snowshoe Olympics, dog weight-pull competition and a 1 p.m. Saturday parade.
If you get cold, you can always duck into the winery or one of the fun little shops. For more, see Jolly Cedarburg.
Feb. 16-17, Madison Winter Festival. See Capitol Square turn into a sports venue, with cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing plus music, family games and ice and snow sculptures.
March 2-3, Klondike Days in Eagle River, Wis.There's a lot to see: a fur-trade encampment, powwow, dog weight pull, lumberjack show and chainsaw-carving contest, plus snowshoe races and sleigh rides.
For more, see Full throttle in Eagle River.
March 10, John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Duluth. The race up Minnesota's North Shore was postponed from Jan. 27 due to low snow and icy conditions.
The start in Duluth is one of the region's best spectator events, and it's also great fun to catch the teams on checkpoints
along the route.
For more, see Chasing the
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