Hot off the minds of Midwest travel writers: a fresh look at where to eat, drink, play and stay around the region.
the big chill luminary
Credit: Caroline Yang

The Great Northern, Minneapolis and St. Paul

Winter is coming—and fans of The Great Northern can't wait. This annual 10-day festival, held at venues across the Twin Cities, celebrates the season through art displays, live performances, convos about the environment, and seasonal food and drink. With climate change at the forefront, the festival seeks to inspire action and awareness around the importance of winter. Held January 25–February 5, 2023, it also encompasses several events, including the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships and City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival.

The LaSalle Chicago

An architect's legacy lives on in a new hotel called The LaSalle Chicago. Daniel Burnham—known for the layout of the Chicago World's Fair and Chicago's city plan—designed the Continental and Commercial National Bank Building in 1911. Now the top five floors of this neoclassical masterpiece offer an elegant escape in the Windy City's financial district (close to the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park and the theater district). The hotel alludes to its "time well spent" theme through hourglass imagery and symbolism—a fitting tribute to a man famous for his passion, and whose work has stood the test of time.

Makwa Coffee, Roseville, Minnesota 

File this under "turning lemons into lemonade." Jamie Becker-Finn, who serves in Minnesota's House of Representatives, recently launched Makwa Coffee in Roseville. "The concept came together a year into the pandemic, when I was really missing people and wishing I had somewhere to go without being in my house 24/7," she says. "Makwa Coffee is about creating a gathering space, a place that feels like it belongs to our community." Becker-Finn tapped local vendors for the coffee beans and tea, and she sourced prints and paintings of bears from Native artists to hang on the walls. "We are Leech Lake Ojibwe and bear clan," Becker-Finn says, adding that Makwa (pronounced "muck-wuh") means "black bear" in Ojibwe. The cozy shop is a true family project—her children supplied its name.

Niche Book Bar, Milwaukee

A beloved book bike—yes, a micro-store on two wheels—is pedaling into its first brick-and-mortar location later this winter. Children's author and entrepreneur Cetonia Weston purchased a building in Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood to house Niche Book Bar. Like the mobile shop, Weston's new venture will focus on titles by Black authors. Niche Book Bar also lives up to the second part of its name with a wine bar.

holiday tea ritz carlton chicago
Credit: Courtesy of the Ritz Carlton Chicago

Holiday Hotel Events, Chicago

Lift your pinky to the season at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago. Weekends between November 25 and December 25, the downtown hotel hosts high teas ($75 per person). You'll be treated to an array of tea sandwiches, quiche, scones, festive confections (think eggnog panna cotta), a glass of champagne and tea selection. Another hotel on our nice list? The InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, which decks the halls and hosts a weekly event series during the holidays. Attend a champagne cocktail class or listen to live jazz in the lobby. Guests have the option to attend "dive-in movie nights," where holiday films are shown at the hotel's historic indoor pool.

DG Pilot, St. Paul

Donnie Gardner, a commercial airline pilot and a member of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, recently added another line to his resume: business owner. His new store, DG Pilot, located in St. Paul's historic Hamm Building, stocks model airplane kits and travel-inspired lifestyle products. "I love our vintage aviation apparel and bags, which provide a sense of nostalgia in regard to the golden era of aviation," Gardner says. He also recommends the Destination MSP Collection­—locally made shirts, hats, pillows, mugs and more that proudly rep Minnesota and the Twin Cities.

Six Turtles Boutique, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Floral dresses, stacks of bright shirts and stylish jeans await customers in downtown Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Size 3X? No problem. More like an XS? That works too. Six Turtles Boutique is a size-inclusive women's shop owned and operated by Lauren and Mike Ries. "Our goal is to help women feel beautiful by offering a wide range of clothing that will fit every body," Lauren says. Some of their most popular items include Judy Blue Jeans and E Designs earrings, which are handcrafted by a local artist. Nonlocals can get the goods by shopping Six Turtles Boutique online or via the store's app.