MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Marquette's double appeal
This college town on Lake Superior is both sophisticated and outdoorsy.
Pizza on the farm
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.
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 nation.
Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis
The lakes, river and creeks that ring this metropolis are a magnet year-round.
Circling Lake Superior
A trip along its gorgeous shores provides everything a tourist's heart could desire.
Exploring Isle Royale
Famous for its moose and wolves, this Lake Superior wilderness island is beguiling.
Mad about brew
In the town that worships beer, brewery tours draw legions of fans.

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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. 26-28, 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: Sample La Crosse, Alexandria's lakes, Bemidji and Bunyan, Exploring Voyageurs, Keweenaw Peninsula

This weekend

Show a talent at fairs and fiestas.

A hog at the State Fair.

Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee. Enjoy the best of Mexican culture: mariachi, arts and crafts, spicy foods and contests: dance, costume, jalapeno-eating and el grito, or shouting. Aug. 26–28.

Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn. This goofy festival features mashed-potato wrestling, a golden potato hunt, potato car races, peeling and eating contests and a Saturday parade. Aug. 26–27.

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. Watch the new grilling and barrel-racing contests, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 25–Sept. 5.

Harbor Fest in Marquette, Mich. This Lake Superior town celebrates with rock music, a classic car and motorcycle show, a luge run, inflatables for kids and tours of three tall ships. Aug. 26–28.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

On the water in West Duluth

On the once-gritty St. Louis River, boaters and birders enjoy the scenery.

Paddling on the St. Louis River.

In Duluth, there's water — a lot of water — beyond the big lake and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, and it creates a huge estuary as it approaches the lake.

Fishermen and bird-watchers have frequented it for years, and more are showing up as the water becomes cleaner. Sturgeon have come back, eagles nest, and 70 percent of the birds seen in Minnesota come through on fall and spring migrations.

The St. Louis also is a state water trail, and paddlers like to explore the many peninsulas and islands. They can even hitch a ride on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad and return by canoe or kayak, for a Choo Choo Paddle.

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Graveyard of the Great Lakes

For 200 years, a bottleneck on the east end of Lake Superior has claimed ships and lives.

Boat pass Whitefish Point.

In 1816, the first schooner built for Lake Superior shipping also became first to sink. It was called the Invincible, but it was no match for winds whipping off the east end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Invincible wreck was the first of hundreds along what become known as the Shipwreck Coast. The last — we hope — was the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down in 1975 with 29 lives lost.

At Whitefish Point, not far from the Soo Locks, the lake narrows into a funnel where shipping lanes converge, visibility is poor and northwesters reach full fury, building up over 200 miles of open water.

Lake Superior's first lighthouse was built here in 1848, urged on by New York  editor Horace Greeley: "Every month's delay is virtual manslaughter,'' he wrote.

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10 perfect places for a picnic

You'll get scenery with your sandwich at these spots in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rose Garden in Duluth.

On a beautiful summer day, there are few places that aren't good for a picnic.

A patch of grass, a plump sandwich, the warmth of sun on skin — this is what we look forward to all winter.

But at some spots, picnickers will be tempted to while away the whole afternoon there. What elevates a picnic spot to greatness? A stiff breeze to ward off bugs, a scenic view, good people-watching and perhaps a concert.

Here are some of the best, plus good places to pick up lunch on the way.

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10 great places to take teens

Youth learns whitewater kayaking on Wolf River.

By the time children turn 10, the day already is looming when they no longer want to spend time with you, their loving parent.

Jeremy Southworth of La Crosse, Wis., saw that day coming. So when his son Gavin got older, he took him jet-boating in the Dells and zip-lining in Door County.

"He'd been wanting to try zip-lining, so as soon as we came up here, we decided, 'We're doing that,' '' he said.

Luckily, parents still are in demand when they're willing to pay for thrills.

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