Wonder what it’s like to drive or race legit sled dogs but thinking Alaska is too far to find out? Journey instead six and half hours north (or a take a quick flight from O’Hare to Sawyer International Airport) to Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a slew of seriously exciting dog sledding activities, including the upcoming UP200  dog sledding championships from February 13 to 17. 

Marking its 25th ear, the 12-dog sled, 40-team race serves as a qualifier for Alaska’s 1000-mile Iditarod and draws mushers from both Canada and across the U.S. Its trail covers approximately 240 miles out and back from Marquette to Grand Marais, traversing both small towns and some beautifully wild forests, creek crossings, and hills and valleys. 

No matter how cold, big crowds gather for the nighttime start in Marquette. There are other great spots along the course to see mushers and their Alaskan Huskies—the predominant racing dog—in action, including Lakenen Land Sculpture Park at Mile 28, the checkpoint at Wetmore, and the halfway point in Grand Marais, where you can get up-close views. 

Two other races round out the weekend and vie for your attention: the eight-dog sled, 90-mile Midnight Run, also starting in Marquette moments after the UP200, and the 30-mile JackPine 30, starting in Gwinn. 

Where to stay: The restored, 62-room Landmark Inn  (from $159) in downtown Marquette has views of Lake Superior and a history of hosting celebs from Amelia Earhart to The Rolling Stones. 

Where to learn how to mush: Try your hand at Nature’s Kennel, a “drive-your-own-dog-team” outfit owned by past UP200 winners Ed and Tasha Stielstra. Adventures at Nature’s Kennel start at $180 a person and range from half-day trips with instruction and the chance to drive your own team on a 10-mile course to guided overnight trips complete with meals and a stay at a heated winter camp.


What Are the Most Instagrammed Places of 2013?

Last week, Instagram  released the most Instagrammed places around the world, including Siam Paragon in Bangkok, which took the top slot. Other popular locations include New York City’s Times Square (no. 2), The Bellagio in Las Vegas (no. 4) and—surprise, surprise—both Disneyland and Disney World in the top five. Read more at Skift.


Chicago Airport Food Keeps Getting Better and Better

Eater Chicago  just released an updated guide to dining at O’Hare International Airport. “The expansion of Terminal 5 continues as Tocco and Kofe Powered By Intelligentsia are the latest additions, joining Big Bowl, Tortas Frontera and more,” says Jeffy Mai. “Look for Wow Bao, Hub 51, Urban Olive and R. J. Grunts to open sometime in February next year.”


400 Tuba Players Bring Christmas Cheer at Palmer House Hilton

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton  puts on its 25th Annual TubaChristmas spectacular, where some 400 tuba players pack into the festive Grand and State Ballroom to play holiday classics. Donate a non-perishable item to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and admission is free. Seating is first come, first serve.


A Plunge in the Ganges at the World’s Largest Religious Festival

“The real point of the Kumbh Mela, the reason millions of faithful arrive from every corner of India on bicycles, in rickshaws, on foot, and hanging off the back of packed buses,” writes Kevin Doyle of the mass Hindu pilgrimage, “is to bathe in the river, an act which, Hindu tradition holds, fills one with so much positive energy that there is no room for anything else.” Read more on Doyle’s transformative experience at Condé Nast Traveler. The next Kumbh Mela takes place in 2015 in alignment with celestial bodies.