MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for fall

Autumn in the studios
On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).
Hiking Minnesota's North Shore
Soak up the scenery above Lake Superior with one of these great day hikes.
Autumn along the St. Croix
On fall days, this scenic river valley is dressed to impress.
Autumn in the Brainerd Lakes
In fall, this lake-resort area is a hideaway in plain sight.
15 great fall views
From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.
Toasting Oktoberfest
These festive tributes to Bavarian tradition put the oompah into fall.
10 cool ways to see fall colors
When the trees put on a show, get a front-row seat that can't be beat.
How to find a great place to stay
If you want a room you can afford, you might need to widen your search. Here's how.

Find us on Facebook

FastPlans/Fall in Door County

In fall, Door County produces plenty of pumpkins.

In fall, Door County's many apple orchards, pumpkin patches and vineyards provide eye candy for tourists, who flock in on weekends.

What to do: Hike in five state parks, 18 county parks and 28 natural areas. Shop at orchard markets and dozens of galleries. Go to a fish boil. Tour wineries and even a haunted winery.

Events to catch: Oct. 10-11, Townline Art Fair in Ephraim and Pumpkin Patch Festival in Egg Harbor. Oct. 16-18, Fall Festival in Sister Bay. Oct. 30-Nov. 1, Jack O' Lantern Days in Fish Creek.

Details: See Fall in Door County and Outdoors in Door County.

Past fast plans: Fall in Decorah, Art in Mineral Point, Fall on the St. Croix, North Shore in fall, Swiss in New Glarus

This weekend

Carve a pumpkin or pucker up for kraut.

A wall of jack-o-lanterns in Highwood.

Pumpkin Festival in Highwood, Ill. Every year, this northern suburb of Chicago tries to break the record for most lighted jack-o-lanterns. In addition to all-you-can-carve stations, there will be costume, pie-eating and carving contests and a parade at noon Sunday. Oct. 9–11.

Oktoberfest in Cedarburg, Wis. There will be music and food plus goofy contests: best lederhosen/dirndl, sauerkraut-eating, a German spelling bee and a live Glockenspiel show. Oct. 10–11.

Madison County Covered Bridge Festival in Winterset, Iowa. This town offers  bus tours to its famous covered bridges, horse-drawn wagon rides to John Wayne's house, Old West shootouts, live music and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 10–11.

Galena Country Fair in Galena, Ill. There's a juried fine arts/arts and crafts fair, farmers market, wine garden, bake shop, music and children's games in Grant Park. Oct. 10–11.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

15 great fall drives

Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.

Hilltop view of Hudson.

On a crisp, sunny fall day, we all get the urge to go for a drive.

The countryside is alight with color, and there's a lot going on — art-studio tours, corn mazes, hay rides and harvest festivals in every little town.

And you'll be chasing the colors, of course.

You probably could throw a dart at the map and find a pretty spot, but here are 15 routes that we think are especially beautiful.

Read story and trip tips

Wisconsin Dells in fall

For many, the scenery is best when the crowds are gone.

Pumpkin decorating in fall.

In the Dells, when the children go home, the adults come out to play.

Autumn is a quiet time in Wisconsin Dells. The outdoor water parks are closed, many attractions are shuttered and the water-ski show performers are in Florida for the winter.

In the rush of summer, many tourists spend a whole week in Wisconsin Dells and never see the dells that drew tourists in the first place.

These sandstone formations, left when an apocalyptic rush of of water created a 15-mile gorge at the end of the last Ice Age, are especially striking in the warm light of fall. So are the forests.

Read story and trip tips

Troll-hunting in Mount Horeb

A little town near Madison wins friends with a mix of old and new attractions.

The Mayor troll in Mount Horeb.

In Mount Horeb, Wis., trolls are revered, not reviled.

The little town west of Madison calls itself the Troll Capital of the World, for its many mascots — most wooden, but one live — and Norse traditions.

It doesn't have the medieval Norwegian stave church that has been the town's pride and joy since 1937. The ornate wooden building has gone back to Orkdal, Norway, whose residents built it for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and will reassemble it as an attraction for Orkdal.

Many of the original trolls also have retreated, having turned black with age. But new ones are appearing, along with new wineries, galleries and artisan farms.

Today, Mount Horeb is a 21st century town for 21st century tastes.

Read story and trip tips

Five great places to watch birds in fall

Tag along with experts, and you'll get to see the migration up close.

Releasing a sharp-shinned hawk.

In fall, the birders come out to watch the annual migration of hawks, waterfowl and swans.

The rest of us come out to watch the birders, because they see things the rest of us don't.

At the annual Hawk Weekend on Duluth's Hawk Ridge, renowned author and ornithologist Laura Erickson had eagle eyes trained on the sky, as usual.

"There's a sharp-shinned hawk with a songbird in its crop,'' she noted to anyone who cared to listen. "Since it's just eaten, it probably won't fly any closer, but it might if it sees easy pickings.''

But we didn't need to see one closer, because soon two young naturalists walked over from the banding station, holding newly banded sharpies.

Read story and trip tips

30 classic fall hikes

For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.

Runners in Carleton's Arboretum.

An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where?

This time of year, you could walk down the street and see something nice.

But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.

Here are 30 of our favorite fall hikes. A few require a little huffing and puffing, but most are easy strolls. And they all showcase fall at its finest.

Read story and trip tips

Pursuing the hues

With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze six weeks of color out of fall.

Rowing on the Mississippi.

As anyone who’s ever planned a fall trip knows, peak leaf color can be elusive.

Betting on a burst of spectacular color is like plugging nickels into a slot machine. To win, all of the figures have to line up: the right number of warm days and cool nights, the right levels of sugar produced, the right amounts of moisture.

Read story and trip tips

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter

Get our weekly stories, tips and updates delivered a day early — directly to your Inbox. Wondering what you'll get? Take a look at our newsletter archive.

* indicates required