MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

One in 1,000
Somewhere in lakes country, there's a resort with your name on it. Here's how to find it.
Chicago as you like it
Beaches or museums, baseball or music? This fun-loving metropolis makes it hard to decide what to do first.
Minnesota's Boundary Waters
For canoeists, this vast wilderness is the promised land.
Touring Mackinac Island
On a scenic web of trails, visitors see another side of a celebrated spot.
Bicycling in Minnesota
This state's long, paved trails draw eager riders from around the region.
Grand sand
Along Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are a playground for all ages.
Summer on stage
In vacation towns, plays and musicals offer a midsummer's-night diversion.
Art al fresco
When warm weather arrives, art fairs start to pop up everywhere.

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FastPlans/Breezy in Bayfield

Bayfield's marina is filled with sailboats and yachts.

For more than a century, vacationers have been making their way to this hillside village on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior.

What to do: Cruise the Apostle Islands. Explore Madeline Island. Take a sailing class or go on a walking tour.

Go to a concert or revue at Big Top Chautauqua. Pick berries in the orchards above town. Walk the three-mile Brownstone Trail along Chequamegon Bay. Bicycle around the Bayfield Peninsula.

Event to catch: July 18-19, Festival of Arts.

Details: For more, see Beloved Bayfield.

Past fast plans: Summer in Winona, Minneapolis' river, Summer in Chicago, Touring Trempealeau, Walking Lake Geneva

This weekend

Balloons and fireworks fill the skies.

Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich. This big fest includes an air show, arts fair, races, carnival rides (pictured), parades and many contests, including pie-eating and pit-spitting. July 4–11.

Taste of Minnesota in Waconia, Minn. This family festival features food, music, games and fireworks in this southwest Minneapolis exurb. July 2–5.

Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, Ill. The festival on the west edge of Chicago features a daily hot-air balloon launches, glows and fireworks shows, plus children's activities and a craft fair. July 1–5.

Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, Wis. This Lake Winnebago party celebrates the logging era, when Oshkosh was known as Sawdust City. It includes a historic village, flea market, carnival, fireworks and music on five stages, including Sabor-a-Mexico. July 1–5.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Lake Superior's greatest hits

This nine-day itinerary gives you the highlights of a Circle Tour.

The pictographs at Agawa Bay.

The Circle Tour of Lake Superior is one of the world's most scenic drives, 1,300 miles of non-stop scenery and attractions.

There's a staggering number of things to do and see around Lake Superior. But if you have only a week's vacation, you can see the highlights on this nine-day, eight-night Circle Tour.

Drive clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on what festivals or events you want to catch. For more, see Planning a Circle Tour.

For an overview of what you'll see, go to Circling Lake Superior.

Duluth to Thunder Bay, 113 miles: Every year, readers of Lake Superior magazine vote Minnesota's North Shore their No. 1 favorite attraction on the big lake.

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Lake Michigan's greatest hits

A nine-day Circle Tour itinerary takes in the highlights of this ultra-scenic drive.

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island.

Smack in the middle of the Upper Midwest, Lake Michigan is irresistible in summer.

It's America's freshwater Riviera, and everyone competes for a little piece of that beautiful sand: beach bums, lighthouse buffs, campers on a budget.

A road trip around its shores is one of the world's most scenic drives, a thousand miles of lakeshore lined by state, county and national parks — and two big cities.

But it's tricky to plan a Circle Tour of Lake Michigan. What to see, what to do, where to stay? If you wait till the last minute, you may not find a place.

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30 great campsites

A group campsite on the Namekagon River.

There's nothing like finding the perfect campsite.

I look for them wherever I go, and when I was at Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, one of the most popular campgrounds in Wisconsin, I found it: Campsite 435.

It's framed but not enclosed by trees, has a lovely view of Crystal Lake and is on the edge of its sand beach. It's near the shower house and not too close to latrines, easy to reach but not heavily trafficked and off a paved bicycle trail to nearby towns.

A family from Rhinelander had reserved it for an August weekend, less than two weeks before they arrived.

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15 great rivers for paddling

On a fine day, go sightseeing in a canoe or kayak.

A kayaker on the Kinnickinnic River

In this region, nearly every river is a good paddling river.

For adventure, try northwest Wisconsin's Bois Brule, which flows into Lake Superior over a series of rapids.

For scenery, head for the cliff-lined Upper Iowa, which National Geographic Adventure magazine calls one of America’s Best Adventure 100, along with rafting in the Grand Canyon.

For fun with kids, paddle the crooked Kickapoo in southwest Wisconsin, also a great river for bird-watchers.

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10 tourist traps to love

These roadside attractions dole out equal portions of schlock and awe.

Big muskie in Hayward.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with their tourist traps. They’re so uncool . . . but so irresistible.

What makes something a tourist trap? It’s a place that’s so cheesy you have to see if it’s really as cheesy as it looks. A place so iconic you’ve seen a million pictures of it. A place plugged by thousands of highway billboards.

Mostly, it’s a place everyone else has seen — so you have to, too. We can’t help ourselves, especially when it comes to anything that’s odd or oversized.

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