Top Midwest Events in January and February | Midwest Living

Top Midwest Events in January and February

This winter, watch ice carvers compete in speed rounds, go to indie film screenings or fly a kite over a frozen lake. Check out our other top events around the Midwest for January and February.


Bald Eagle Watch Weekend OGLESBY January 26–27 Each winter, bald eagles congregate (nearly 100 of them some years) on the Illinois River. At Starved Rock State Park, naturalists lead guided eagle-watching hikes and present programs on other birds of prey.

Groundhog Days WOODSTOCK January 31–February 3 Fans of Bill Murray’s hit film emerge every winter for walking tours, trivia and a movie screening in the town where the 1993 feature was filmed. You don’t have to be a movie buff to enjoy the bowling tournament and prognostication, where Woodstock Willie predicts the arrival of spring.

Chicago Theatre Week CHICAGO February 7–17 Attend world-class performances for a fraction of the price at select venues. Tickets typically go for $30, $15 or less. This year’s participants include The Second City, Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre, downtown’s oldest nonprofit


The Reel West INDIANAPOLIS through February 3 Western movie fans get a rare look at costumes, props and posters from classic films and TV sets at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in downtown’s White River State Park. See a hat, gun belt and scarf worn by actor Clayton Moore as the original Lone Ranger, plus iconic clips from favorite cowboy films.

Meltdown Winter Ice Festival RICHMOND January 24–27 Spectators watch master ice carvers compete in speed rounds. During the favorite Meltdown Throwdown, audience members decide what the competitors carve, then judge their work. The fest, including a pub crawl and chili cook-off, takes over downtown Richmond’s streets.

Black Violin WEST LAFAYETTE February 28 These string artists with style perform hip-hop hits and other contemporary tunes on the violin and viola. Attendees can meet at Purdue Union’s 1869 Taproom for a preshow discussion and drinks.


Christian Midjo: Choose Your Own Artventure Decorah Through April 21 In a customized exhibit at Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum, four unique self-guided tours highlight themes, such as technique or art history, through the works of a Scandinavian painter.

Kinky Boots AMES January 31 Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award-winning musical about friendship, perseverance and the importance of good shoes comes to the Iowa State Center. Attendees can buy a themed preshow dinner and drinks.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo CEDAR FALLS February 23 The Gallagher Bluedorn hosts the acclaimed male choir from South Africa. Known internationally for a collaboration album with Paul Simon, the double-platinum group has won five Grammys for its inspirational tunes.


Mid-America Market HUTCHINSON January 13 and February 17 The Kansas State Fairgrounds becomes a bargain-hunter paradise. Browse deals on antiques, furniture and other decor at 200-plus booths.

Hays Symphony Valentine’s Concert HAYS February 9 The Fort Hays State University orchestra presents a mix of French-inspired love songs from Bizet, Ravel and Fauré at the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

King Lear MANHATTAN February 21–23 Actors from The London Stage—one of the world’s oldest-touring Shakespeare theater companies—perform the Bard’s tragedy about the demise of an ancient monarch.


Winterfest GRAND HAVEN January 24–27 Watch out for human-size six-packs of beer or a giant cheeseburger barreling down the slopes. The outrageous Cardboard Sled Race anchors this Michigan celebration. Warm up at the Bonfire Bash downtown before the family pajama run.

Photograph: Courtesy of Winterfest/Randy Riksen

Winterfest. Photograph: Courtesy of Winterfest/Randy Riksen

Festival of the Arts BIG RAPIDS February 1–28 For a full month, art exhibits, indie film screenings and musical performances help beat cabin fever. Artists lead free or low-cost classes on topics such as stone carving, flower arranging and baking at Ferris State University and other venues.   

Pine Mountain Continental Cup Ski Jumping Tournament IRON MOUNTAIN February 8–10 Olympic-level skiers take on a 123-meter jump to claim the coveted Continental Cup. More than 20,000 spectators show up for the soaring spectacle.


Annie Hejny: Waterlines WINONA through January 6 The Minnesota Marine Art Museum shows 20-plus abstract paintings from the Minnesota-born artist. She crafted each work with water and sediment from local lakes and rivers.

Hygge Week GRAND MARAIS February 8–14 Pronounced hoo-gah, the Danish term celebrates the cozy feeling of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Embrace winter at fireside concerts, twilight hikes, knitting lessons and Scandinavian-inspired dinners.

Kites on Ice Festival BUFFALO February 9 When Buffalo Lake freezes, it becomes a playground. Fly a kite, or make one at a class led by pros. The event includes a friendly broomball tournament and food trucks.


St. Louis Auto Show ST. LOUIS January 24–27 Auto fans get a first look at the new models from top manufacturers. The Toyota Drive Center puts visitors behind the wheel of a car. And a new motorcyle show will include custom bikes and big-name brands.

Chocolate Wine Trail HERMANN February 16–17 Wine tasting gets even sweeter when seven vineyards offer cocoa-themed pairings. Sampling might include rich reds paired with dark chocolate tortes, or crisp whites with whipped mousses, in the rolling hills of Missouri’s eastern wine trail.

True/False Film Fest COLUMBIA February 28–March 3 If you’re a sucker for documentaries, book a trip to this 100 percent nonfiction film fest. It includes concerts, parties, a parade and screenings at record stores, chapels and art-house theaters.


Thomas D. Mangelsen: A Life in the Wild OMAHA through January 6 Go on a journey to see wildlife and scenery from all seven continents at The Durham Museum. The exhibit of the legendary nature photographer’s work includes snapshots of polar bears, South American jungles and Indian tigers.

Tri-City Street Rods Auto Exhibition GRAND ISLAND February 16–17 More than 150 antique muscle cars, street rods and go-carts are on display at the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center. The closing ceremony awards the Most Beautiful Street Rod trophy and other prizes.

Tim Allen LINCOLN February 23 During a rare cross-country tour, the actor known for his roles in Home Improvement and Toy Story performs stand-up and shares stories at the University of Nebraska’s Lied Center for Performing Arts.


Frostival FARGO METRO January 25–26 Bundle up for a weekend of snow play in the north. Outdoor activities take a turn for the quirky, with cardboard sled races, icy disc golf, and snowy kickball tournaments. In the heart of Fargo, everyone warms up at Base Camp with a hot cocoa cook-off, a beer garden and live music.

Wahpeton 150th Anniversary Celebration WAHPETON February 1–2 The town celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary with a Super Bowl party, time capsule dedication and dinner. Outdoor activities include snowmobile runs, ice fishing, snow sculpting and fireworks shows.

Ice Fishing Derby JAMESTOWN February 16 Fishers of all skill levels are invited to spend the day at the Jamestown Reservoir, where $127,000 in cash prizes will be awarded for the biggest catches.


Mohican Winterfest LOUDONVILLE January 12–13 It’s worth braving the cold to watch fire spinners, figure skaters and Olympic ice carvers. Visitors also enjoy snowy hikes, horse-drawn carriage rides and a scavenger hunt through downtown.

Comfort Food Cruise HOCKING HILLS January 12–13, 19–20 and 26–27 This county driving tour hits 13 restaurants where chefs serve up rich and soul-warming creations. Your ticket scores samples at each stop and benefits area food pantries.

Lake Erie Folk Festival EUCLID February 22–23 Strum along for musician-led bluegrass demos, guitar workshops and community sings. In the evening, test your skills at the pop-up jam sessions before a concert featuring more than a dozen folk artists and string bands.


Deadwood Snowmobile Rally and Races DEADWOOD January 25–26 Hairpin turns, jumps and obstacles challenge world-class snowmobilers competing for the Snocross Championship. VIP passes include happy hours, reserved seats and other perks.

Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo RAPID CITY January 25–February 3 Midwest meets Old West when ranchers and pro cowboys compete in cattle shows and rodeo events. A beer festival and concerts help draw hundreds of thousands to the Central States Fairgrounds and Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Sioux Empire on Tap SIOUX FALLS January 26 Beer fans choose from 120-some craft varieties at this major brew festival. Food, live music and lawn games also fill the Sioux Falls Convention Center.


Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master WAUSAU through February 24 At the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, bright colors and bold geometric shapes define more than 150 Vasarely serigraphs and paintings in an exhibition featuring the father of the optical art movement.

Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest MADISON January 19 Get unlimited samples of beer and cheese from breweries and creameries from around the state. Pros in the field teach classes on cooking and pairing Wisconsin favorites.

Winter Free Fishing Weekend STATEWIDE January 19–20 For one weekend, residents and visitors fish for free on all inland waters and from the Wisconsin side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Some of the state parks offer free demos and loaner gear.

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