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: Lanesboro outdoors, Door County spring, Horicon Marsh birds, Escape to Stillwater, Duluth boat-watching
Gospel Festival in Chicago. This free music festival Millennium Park also includes an art fair and a kids' activity zone. May 2931.
Bluegrass Festival in Niles, Mich. Listen to American roots music on two stages along the banks of the St. Joseph River. There's also a carnival, arts show and games. May 2831.
Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes, Minn. This western Minnesota lake town hosts a juried arts show with music, fair food and a beer garden. May 2930.
Rivertown Art Festival in Stillwater, Minn. More than 100 artists set up along the St. Croix River for the valley's largest art fair. May 3031.
For more events, see our Events Calendar.
The second weekend in June is a good time to try something new in Minnesota.
Many parks are holding special events, such as archery, bird and flower hikes and geocaching and fishing programs.
There will be concerts at Itasca and Blue Mounds, a peregrine falcon program at Gooseberry Falls, a Family Outdoor Fair at Whitewater, birding at Bear Head and a selfie scavenger hunt at Interstate.
Several public paddles will be on the Minnesota River State Water Trail between Granite Falls and the Twin Cities.
On the North Shore, Split Rock Lighthouse historical site will have an open house June 13, along with the state park.
The park will offer storytelling about the shipwrecks of 1905 and host a
guided bike ride on the Gitchi-Gami Trail to Iona's Beach natural area.
Usually, vehicle passes are $5 daily, $25 annual. But GPS units and kits for birding, fishing and kids' discovery can be borrowed any time.
Every May, wildflower followers find their way to Baileys Harbor.
They walk past two 1870 range lights on a boardwalk lined by endangered dwarf lake iris. On strips of wetland called swales, they look for bogbean and goldthread. In June, they search for 25 species of orchids.
The land Ridges Sanctuary occupies almost became a trailer park. Now, it's habitat for more species of plants than any other place in Wisconsin.
The preserve is why many people visit Baileys Harbor. But even more come to photograph its lighthouses, kiteboard off its breezy beach and bicycle on its roads.
The town is the biggest on the Lake Michigan side of Door County, and its arguably the most outdoorsy destination on the peninsula.
The first full weekend in June is a good time to try something new in Wisconsin.
parks plan special events, including kayak tours, archery instruction and a candlelight hike.
Bicycle riding on trails also is free. Normally, it's $4 for a daily pass. For trail details, see Bicycling in Wisconsin.
It's also Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin. It's for non-residents as well as residents, with no license required. Many parks are planning clinics and games for all ages, and many lend fishing equipment.
On June 7, the Wisconsin Historical Society is offering $2 admission at Pendarvis in Mineral Point, the H.H. Bennett Studio in Wisconsin Dells and Stonefield in Cassville as well as the Madeline Island Museum.
In nature, bogs are the coral reefs of the north woods.
They're wet, spongy and seething with life that's often too small to see unless you look closely. Lean over the boardwalk, and you'll get a better view of sparkly goldthread or the lacy needles of baby tamarack.
Early spring is not too soon to start planning a summer on the water.
Outdoors and paddle clubs are happy to show the ropes to new members.
Outdoors stores offer boat demos and free classes on trip planning. Rangers at federal wildlife reserves offer guided trips.
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