Normally, winter carnivals start taking place in February, but Spirit Mountain, in Duluth, likes to kick off the carnival season a little bit early. Spirit will hold the Heartland's first carnival of the new year Saturday, Jan. 24.

How about a little cotton candy, corn dogs, snocones, face painting, indoor carnival games, and clowns to perk up your January? Shorts and Speedos are optional. There also will also be snow carousel rides for the kids and on-snow obstacle course games and, of course, you can ski and ride in between the carnival games.

The winter can be long in the Queen City of the North, so residents need a little relief from time-to-time to prevent Cabin Fever. The carnival is also part of the Duluth Winterfest, which is a six-week long celebration of the area's longest season. The festival includes cross-country ski races and downhill events also held at Spirit. It concludes with the legendary 400-mile John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

The grueling race, which has had up to 80 teams and over 700 dogs compete in past events, commemorates the old mail run between Duluth and Grand Marais along the rugged north shore of Lake Superior. It's one of the longest sled dog races held in the Lower 48.