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Fun things to do in the Midwest

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Missouri.


Lewis and Clark Arrival Weekend

FREE! December 9–10 This living history event reenacts the arrival of the Lewis & Clark expedition at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to build Camp River Dubois. See demonstrations of how Corps of Discovery soldiers lived during their 1803 winter encampment, and check out displays of vintage tools, firearms, artillery, and 18th century medicine. Festivities will take place from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. both days. Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, Hartford.

Alton Eagle Ice Festival

FREE! January 6 Heading south in winter may appeal to residents of frigid southern Illinois, but American Bald Eagles have a different idea. As many as 1,000 of them fly to the area to reclaim their winter roosts just in time to star in this yearly event. Meet one of these majestic birds of prey up close, and enjoy food trucks, ice carvers, and eagle-watching shuttle tours. Other festivities will take place at the nearby National Great Rivers Museum, Audubon Center at Riverlands, and TreeHouse Wildlife Center. Flock Food Truck Park, Alton.

Ice Jam at the Dam

FREE! February 17 Learn about winter wildlife and recreational opportunities on the Mississippi River. Tour the Melvin Price Locks & Dam for views from 80 feet above the river. Peer into scopes to watch eagles. Music plays while s’mores roast over a firepit. Festivities take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. National Great Rivers Museum, East Alton.

Maple Syrup Festival

FREE! March 23–24 Discover how maple syrup is made at this festival that includes nature hikes, lumberjack demonstrations, and children’s activities. Dig into a pancake breakfast ($15) topped with maple syrup harvested from area trees. Shop for handmade crafts while listening to live music. Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center, Makanda.


Jasper O’Tannenbaum Days

FREE! December 1–3 Decorated with a giant Christmas tree downtown, Jasper rings in the holidays with this celebration that includes carolers, visits with Santa, carriage rides, special performances, and children’s activities. Take advantage of sales in downtown shops and at church bazaars. Admission is free; some activities cost extra. Jasper.

Grown Up & Me

January 18, February 15, March 21 Children 2–5 and their adults can enjoy STEAM activities on the third Thursday of every month. Hands-on activities from 9 to 10 a.m. will focus on weather. Museum admission for those 18 months and older is $12; a program ticket is $5 (covers 1 adult and 1 child). Koch Family Children’s Museum of Evansville, Evansville.

Huntingburg Antique Show

January 20 Treasure hunters converge on this annual show to shop for art, pottery, glassware, furniture, Americana, primitives, and more. Vendors will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and you never know what you might find. Admission, $3. Huntingburg Event Center, Huntingburg.

Come From Away

February 15 This inspiring musical is based on the true story of thousands of travelers who were stranded in a small Newfoundland town after flights were grounded on 9/11. Cultures collided when residents opened their doors to the strangers, but anxieties soon melted away and friendships were forged. Ticket prices TBA. Aiken Theatre, Evansville.


Lawrence Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade

FREE! December 2 Kick off the holiday season in style at this annual parade, now in its 30th year. The parade begins and ends at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and features dozens of horse-drawn carriages adorned with garlands and bells parading along Massachusetts Street. Lawrence.

Final Fridays

FREE! January 26 Galleries in downtown Lawrence and the Warehouse Arts District celebrate the arts and culture on the last Friday of every month. Storefronts convert into pop-up galleries and performance spaces. Children will find activities designed just for them. Festivities take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Lawrence.

75th International Pancake Day

February 13 For a flipping good time, check out the wild and wacky—and friendly—competition between this Kansas town and Olney, England. Women run 415 yards down the streets of both towns while holding a pan on the day before Lent. The event here kicks off with a pancake breakfast for $5 per person. Other festivities include a church service, a parade, and a live stream with folks from Olney when the official race winner is declared. Liberal.

Final Fridays

FREE! February 23 & March 29 Galleries in downtown Lawrence and the Warehouse Arts District celebrate the arts and culture on the last Friday of every month. Storefronts convert into pop-up galleries and performance spaces. Children will find activities designed just for them. Festivities take place from 5 to 9 p.m. Lawrence.

Topeka St. Patrick’s Day Parade and IrishFest

FREE! March 16 The day before St. Patrick’s Day, grab your greenest attire to watch Irish-themed floats in the parade that steps off at noon. Enjoy Celtic music, dancing, and food throughout the rest of the day. Thousands of people are expected to converge on the state capital for the festivities. Topeka.


Holiday Christmas Festival

FREE! December 2–3 Get into the season’s spirit in this small town that was founded in the mid-1700s by French Canadian colonists. Enjoy live music in historic churches and other downtown venues, a parade, caroling, an arts and crafts sale, historic site open houses, photos with Santa, and an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting. Various locations, Ste. Geneviève.

Say Cheese Wine Trail

December 9 Seven wineries on the Hermann Wine Trail celebrate the complementary tastes of wine and cheese during this annual event. Savor cheese-forward fare paired with wine at area wineries from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants must be 21 or older and will receive a souvenir wineglass. Tickets are $35. Hermann.

Soulard Mardi Gras

January 6–February 13 Celebrate Mardi Gras in the Midwest? Yes. The Soulard neighborhood in St. Louis throws one of the best Mardi Gras blasts north of New Orleans. Events include a Cajun cook-off, wiener dog derby, the Taste of Soulard, the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball, a pet parade, and the grand parade. Some events charge fees. St. Louis.

KC Restaurant Week

January 12–21 What’s cookin’ in KC? Plenty! You have hundreds of choices in this major dining event that spotlights Kansas City’s culinary scene. During the 10-day celebration, savor offerings from hot new restaurants and tried-and-true favorites. The city’s famous barbecue will surely head many lists. The event benefits local charities. Kansas City.

March Madness

March 7–16 The Phillips 66 Big 12 women’s (March 7–12) and men’s (March 12–16) basketball championships will thrill college hoops fans. Ticket sales start when the postseason begins. Festivities will likely include pep rallies, a fan fest, and live performances. T-Mobile Center, Kansas City.

FREE! indicates free admission to the event, but additional fees may be required. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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