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.
Lake Michigan's greatest hits
A nine-day Circle Tour itinerary takes in the highlights of this ultra-scenic drive.
Art al fresco
When warm weather arrives, art fairs start to pop up everywhere.

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FastPlans/Summer in Winona

Inline skater on trail in Winona

In the corner of southeast Minnesota, Winona has an enviable spot on the loveliest stretch of the Mississippi River Valley.

Not only is it scenic, it's a college town, with lots of theater, concerts and coffeehouses.

Events to catch: June 24-Aug. 2, Great River Shakespeare Festival, plus free Concerts on the Green. June 27, Dixieland Jazz Festival. June 28-July 19, Minnesota Beethoven Festival.

What to do: Use canoes, kayaks and paddleboards at Lake Lodge Recreation Center on Lake Winona (pictured). Tour the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. Visit Garvin Heights Vineyards and see the view. Visit the nearby Pickwick Mill.

Details: See Afloat in Winona.

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

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.

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Summer on stage

In vacation towns, plays and musicals offer a midsummer's-night diversion.

American Players Theatre in Spring Green.

In vacation hubs all across the region, summer theaters are launching another season of delicious escapism.

With corps of enthusiastic young actors drawn from all over the nation, they’ll put on Neil Simon, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and the bouncy musicals vacationers love — "Little Shop of Horrors,’’ "Fiddler on the Roof,'' "Spamalot.''

Light-hearted plays for light-hearted days — it’s a formula that works.

Here's the schedule for 2015.

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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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America's freshwater Riviera

On Lake Michigan's gorgeous beaches, everyone can find a spot in the sun.

The beach at J.W. Wells State Park.

It’s funny that some people in the Upper Midwest spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Cancun or Cape Cod, because the best beaches in the world are in their own back yard.

Lake Michigan is America’s freshwater Riviera, a nearly unending strand of sand that looks like Florida without the high-rise condos. It’s clean, blue and pleasantly cool, with water temperatures in the 60s, and in most places it looks just like the ocean.

Add in candy-striped lighthouses and even more ice-cream stands, and you’ve got the makings of a great beach holiday — a cheap one, too, if you're on a budget.

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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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