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You’ve got to visit the “Snowmobile Capital of the World” at least once while snow is still on the ground.

Many Milwaukeeans associate the towns and lakes that dot the northern half of our fair state with summertime camping trips and autumnal leaf-peeping excursions. But Northwoods towns like Eagle River also make for great winter or early spring getaways.

So, if you find yourself Up North before all the ice has melted, consider adding one of the following five ideas to your itinerary:

Rev your engines

Eagle River bills itself as the “Snowmobile Capital of the World.” And for good reason. You can find more than 500 miles of well-tended trails winding around the tiny Wisco town, and crowds of about 40,000 gather annually for the World Championship Snowmobile Derby.

Fill a growler at Tribute Brewing

Vilas County may not boast as many breweries as Milwaukee does, but it’s got at least one good one: Tribute. The small but mighty brewery offers five flagship beers (28 Lakes Lager, Blueberry Train Wheat Ale, Barefoot Charlie IPA, Ghost Lights Amber Lager and Old Eagle Porter) along with several seasonal or special-occasion brews. Visit the Tribute tap room for full or half-sized pours of each, and free peanuts aplenty.

Root for the home team at a local tavern

Say hello to Lumpy’s, a sprawling Northwoods bar that claims to have more TVs than any other bar in Eagle River. I can’t verify whether that claim is correct, but I did count more than half a dozen TVs on my last visit – including one that was roughly the size of a pickup truck. Even more impressive than the glowing blue screens, though, were the many, many Packers jerseys, helmets and posters lining the walls.

Lumpy's

The first thing you see when you step into Lumpy’s

Stock up on ‘Sconnie merchandise in town

A bustling metropolis it’s not, but Eagle River has some cute, tourist-friendly boutiques and antique stores – more than enough to while away an afternoon rifling through gently used flannel coats, mid-century home goods and vintage records. And be sure to swing by one of the town’s candy shops for some homemade fudge or saltwater taffy on your way out.

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Take a hike

The natural beauty of Vilas County isn’t confined to a single season. The trails snaking through the Chain of Lakes are just as pretty dusted with snow as they are covered in fresh grass or fallen leaves. And the town’s Chamber of Commerce provides visitors with a handy hiking guide.

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