MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Packer country
Like Oz, Green Bay glows green and gold.
Toasting Oktoberfest
These festive tributes to Bavarian tradition put the oompah into fall.
Great hikes in Minneapolis
See the best of this beautiful city on five short but sweet walks.
Great grape stomps
At winery harvest festivals, compete with your feet.
Great fall festivals
Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2015.
Bash on a bike trail
In fall, kick up your wheels at a small-town festival.
Hawk heaven
On a ridgetop in Duluth, bird watchers keep eyes on the fall skies.
10 cool ways to see fall colors
When the trees put on a show, get a front-row seat that can't be beat.

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FastPlans/Fun in the Porkies

A hiker on the Porkies' Escarpment Trail.

On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is gorgeous, with 90 miles of trails through old-growth forest, 25 miles of Lake Superior shoreline and four inland lakes.

Hiking is best in late summer and fall, when bugs are gone and hardwoods turn colors that are among the region's most vivid.

What to do: Hike the Escarpment Trail above Lake of the Clouds (pictured). See waterfalls along the Little Carp and Presque Isle rivers. Take a workshop at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School.

Events to catch: Aug. 28-30, Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

Where to stay: The park rents 19 rustic cabins, four yurts and a handsome 1940s lodge.

Details: For more, see Afoot in the Porkies.

Past fast plans: Swiss in New Glarus, Exploring Voyageurs, Alexandria's lakes, Keweenaw Peninsula, Cool Grand Marais

This weekend

Musicians and artists fill festive streets.

A kids' ride at the Minnesota State Fair.

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. Sample beer flights at the Craft Beer Hall, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 27–Sept. 7.

Artstreet in Green Bay, Wis. Artists, performers and craft and food stands fill streets downtown near the Fox River. Aug. 28–30.

Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn. This goofy central-Minnesota festival features mashed-potato wrestling, potato car races, peeling and eating contests and a parade at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Aug. 28–29.

River Roots Live in Davenport, Iowa. This music festival in LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi, also features Rib Festival. Aug. 28–29.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Autumn in the studios

On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).

Shops on Commerce Street in Mineral Point.

In September and October, artists everywhere throw open their studio doors, inviting the public to see some fall colors along with fine art.

It's tempting because of the scenic landscapes in which so many artists live: the bluffs of northeast Iowa, the coulees of southwest Wisconsin, the towns around Lake Pepin, the lumpy terrain of the Ice Age Trail.

"This is such a pretty area in the fall, and we thought it would be nice to have a tour where people could travel through it,'' says potter Diana Johnston, who helped found southwest Wisconsin's Fall Art Tour, the region's oldest.

The tours are free, and many artists demonstrate their craft and provide music and treats. It's not like shopping at the mall, that's for sure.

"You can get a slice of someone's life and see just what they do out there,'' Johnston says. "You can go home with a piece of art and have a story to go with it.''

Here are some of the best in 2015.

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10 great day trips from Chicago

Take a break to lounge on beaches, gawk at river canyons and go on brewery tours.

Lake Geneva in fall.

There's an endless number of fun things to do in Chicago, which is why tourists flock to it from around the world. To paraphrase the English wit Samuel Johnson, "When a man is tired of Chicago, he is tired of life.''

And yet, everyone needs to get out of town once in a while.

The traditional playground of Wisconsin lies to the north, and the beaches of  Michigan to the east. To the west, aim for destinations on rivers: the Fox, the Illinois, the Rock.

It's not easy to get out of Chicagoland, because it sprawls almost endlessly. Luckily, you can get to some of the destinations below by train.

Here are 10 great day trips from Chicago, all within an hour and a half (assuming traffic isn't impossible).

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So many festivals, so little fall

Want to go on an autumn power trip? Here are the best places to be each weekend.

Pumpkins decorated by kids.

In this part of the world, fall is sweet but way too short.

All of the quaint little towns along rivers and in the bluffs have to pack their autumn festivals into the same six weekends, rolling out parades, pumpkin contests and oompah bands for all the leaf-peeping tourists.

The choices are paralyzing. Flea market or scarecrow contest? Pumpkin regatta or studio tour? Yodeling contest or dachshund races?

You can't do it all, but you can do a lot. Just go on a power trip — to two, even three festivals in one weekend.

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Cheap fall getaways

Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.

A waterfall on the Presque Isle River in the Porcupines.

Fall is the busiest travel season of the year — we all know the nice days are numbered, and we're going to try our darndest to make them count.

But with pretty much everyone heading out to look for fall color, especially on weekends, there are few bargains.

That's why those of us on a budget look to our old friends: the parks, the mom-and-pop motels, the environmental centers, the hostels, the outdoors clubs.

Here's our list of 20 great autumn trips for $100 or less per person, based on two

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Riding the rails

On vintage-train excursions, the scenery is only part of the fun.

An excursion train stops in Two Harbors.

Thanks to volunteers who love locomotives, excursion trains live on.

These days, trains also are rolling entertainment venues, offering murder mysteries and beer tasting in addition to barbecue, pizza, brunch, happy hour and holiday trains.

In autumn, there are pumpkin trains and fall-color excursions, including one on the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive, which often make a run from Minneapolis to Duluth.

The scenery is great year-round. Below are some of the best trains to ride.

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