MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

A day to be outdoors
The first weekend of June is a great time to try a new park, trail or fishing hole, for free.
Lake Superior's greatest hits
This nine-day itinerary gives you the highlights of a Circle Tour.
Trails of Trempealeau
There's a lot to do in this Mississippi River hamlet in southwest Wisconsin.
Waterfalls of the North Shore
When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.
Chasing cherry blossoms
In spring, Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula is a sight for sore eyes.
Wright in Racine
In southeast Wisconsin, a wax magnate's decision to hire 'the greatest architect in the world' had stunning results.
Bicycling in Minnesota
This state's long, paved trails draw eager riders from around the nation.
Following the tall ships
Sloops and schooners still sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Find us on Facebook

FastPlans/Walking Lake Geneva

People walking around Geneva Lake.

In the southeast corner of Wisconsin, Lake Geneva has been welcoming wealthy Chicagoans for 150 years. They came, they built fabulous mansions, and now the rest of us get to gawk at them from a footpath that hugs all 20 miles of shoreline.

When to go: Now, when it's still fairly quiet. July and August are crowded, especially on weekends.

What to do: Walk around Geneva Lake; if you want to walk only the eight miles from Lake Geneva, an excursion boat will pick you up in Williams Bay. Shop downtown. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Swim at the municipal beach or rent a motorboat.

Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.

Past fast plans: Door County spring, Art in Mineral Point, Touring Trempealeau, Wisconsin Muir tour, Spring in Galena

This weekend

Listen to marching bands and eat brats.

People down brats at Brat Fest.

World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison. There's music on four stages, with headliners including Travis Tritt, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. May 27–30.

ChocolateFest in Burlington, Wis. There's a battle of chefs, giant Choco-Jenga, Project Yum-way, cupcake and chocolate-eating contests, lumberjacks and a carnival. May 27–30.

North Iowa Band Festival in Mason City, Iowa. Don't miss the 10 a.m. Saturday band parade in this town, which Meredith Willson made famous in "The Music Man.'' May 26–30.

Duluth Dylan Festival in Duluth. The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 75th birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest. May 22–29

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Planning a cheap summer trip

Even in the priciest places, you can have fun without spending much.

Bicycling in Chicago.

Spring barely has started, but it's time to think about summer trips — especially the ones that book up fast.

We found some interesting ways to save money this year. On Minnesota's popular North Shore of Lake Superior, a hostel has opened. In eastern Iowa, a benefit bike tour includes free skin-cancer screenings. In Chicago, a family of six can camp next to the Museum Campus for $50.

Here are the 2016 editions of our cheap-trips series.

For Minnesota, see Cheap summer getaways in Minnesota.

For Wisconsin, see Cheap summer getaways in Wisconsin.

For the U.P. and western Michigan, see Cheap summer getaways in Michigan.

For Illinois and Iowa, see Cheap summer getaways in Iowa and Illinois.

20 great spring hikes

The scenery along these lovely trails will put a spring in your step.

Bluebells in Kaskaskia Canyon.

What's so great about hiking in spring? That's easy – there's so much to see.

Move your feet in any direction and you'll run across wildflowers, waterfalls and, best of all, sweeping views that last only until the trees leaf out.

Head out before summer makes its brash appearance, with walls of greenery and fleets of bugs.

Here are 20 great places to go hiking in spring.

Read story and trip tips

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.

Read story and trip tips

Eyeballing bison

Once creatures of Old West yore, the new national mammal can be seen in a park or preserve near you.

Bison at Blue Mounds State Park.

Like bald eagles, bison have staged a spectacular comeback.

This week, the massive creatures that once roamed the plains by the millions joined the national bird as the national mammal.

Herds have grown, including the genetically pure herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, and have shared bison with parks and preserves in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Now anyone can see bison, or buffalo, often on tallgrass prairie restored to its original state.

Read story and trip tips

20 great spring drives

When weather warms, the urge to hit the road is irresistible.

A barge on the Mississippi River.

It's a beautiful spring day — finally. The trees are budding, the birds are chirping. What do you do?

Road trip! Somehow, the call of the highway is especially strong in spring. We want to feel the wind on our face and see something new and unusual.

There's a lot to do along the way: Walk through bluebells, spot birds, visit artist studios, sample cheese, watch a parade.

Here are 20 of the best spring drives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and  Michigan. This weekend, you'll find spring festivals along many of them.

Read story and trip tips

15 great trails to ride in spring

On a bike, get out to see what's new in countryside or city.

Spring bicycling on the Root River State Trail.

In spring, everything moves so fast you need wheels to see it all.

Two wheels are perfect, because bicycle trails are little nature corridors in spring. Warblers zoom back and forth, nabbing twigs for nests, and wildflowers bloom on sunny edges.

You'll also want to check out new trails and see what's new along favorite trails.

Here are some of the best to ride in spring.

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