Midwest Winter Festivals Worth the Trip

Celebrate the snowy season with these great getaways for families who love the cold.

Instead of avoiding the cold, how about embracing it? These three winter festivals are snow much fun!

Winterfest in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Feb. 1-5

Featuring the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship, bonfires on the beach and live entertainment, Lake Geneva’s Winterfest is an exceptional way to embrace the season. Fifteen teams compete to build beautiful creations out of snow and ice. Music, concessions and character visits brighten the vibe and kids can play in the Snow Zone.

Stroll downtown Lake Geneva to see more than 40 ice sculptures. Visit the Winter Carnival at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa on Feb. 4 for human bowling on the sled hill, toboggan races and balloon artistry. Ice Castles will glow at Geneva National Resort & Club. The magical, icicle-adorned creation delights with ice slides, tunnels, thrones and archways.

Take advantage of the winter package at the Lake Lawn Resort, where you can ice skate, swim indoors and use a $75 dining credit in your own private igloo. Scenic views of Delavan Lake, supervised children’s activities, an arcade, rejuvenating spa and three on-site restaurants make it an easy escape.

Great Northern Festival in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

Jan. 25-Feb. 5

As one of the top winter celebrations in the world, The Great Northern Festival in the Twin Cities seizes the season with an exciting St. Paul Winter Carnival, the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, Kidarod outdoor racing, engaging art, live performances and climate education. The 10-day festival is all about invigorating minds and bodies during the frigid months.

Walk, ski or snowshoe around candlelit Lake of the Isles during the Luminary Loppet. Join The Lowry pre-party for poutine and hot chocolate. Kidarod is a two-mile winter obstacle course inspired by Alaska’s famous dog sled race. Children can climb, slide and run, then receive medals and meet Husky dogs.

The Winter Wonderland Relaxed Family Concert is designed for all audience members, including individuals with autism and sensory sensitivities. Explore downtown St. Paul’s interactive digital art installations, which Nina Graham, director of development for The Great Northern, says are a gamified artistic interpretation of human’s impact on the Earth. “Open your mouth and trash spews out,” she says. “Close your mouth and vegetation grows.” She also recommends Ten Thousand Birds, a musical experience that imitates birdsong throughout the course of a day, as a gorgeous feast for the senses.

Rest at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, which features an indoor pool and offers festivalgoers a 15% discount.

Soulard Mardi Gras in St. Louis, Missouri

Jan. 6-Feb. 21

The second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country, Soulard Mardi Gras in St. Louis, includes kid-friendly events. At the free Family Winter Carnival, kids can make their own Mardi Gras crowns, capes, masks and beads, then show them off in the children’s parade. Live performances, interactive sports challenges and food and drink for purchase round out the event.

Dress your family pet up and march in the Purina Pet Parade, a Guinness Book of World Records holder for the largest collection of costumed dogs. There’s also a Wiener Dog Derby, 5K Run for Your Beads and Taste of Soulard self-guided sampler of Cajun flavors.

Overnight at Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, where you can swim in an indoor pool and walk to The Gateway Arch. Other family-friendly fun includes a view-tiful spin around The St. Louis Wheel, a visit to the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, with an immersive train-themed entry, and a stop at the Soda Fountain for diner classics and over-the-top milkshakes. Scoop up fresh baked goods, produce and Creole dishes at the historic Soulard Farmers Market to keep the good times rolling.

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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.


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