MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

Cheap summer getaways in the Upper Midwest
No money, no problem: Here's how to find a great vacation for $100 or less in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois.
Door County 101
Want to check out this popular peninsula? Here's everything you need to plan a visit.
Pilgrimage to the Baraboo Hills
The sandy soil of central Wisconsin is a springboard for naturalists, past and present.
15 great trails to ride in spring
On a bike, get out to see what's new in countryside or city.
Mad about brew
In the town that worships beer, brewery tours draw legions of fans.
Michigan's great lake cabins
In the only state that borders three Great Lakes, the best places to stay are in state parks.
Spring weekends for women
In shopping towns and woodsy retreats, April and May are prime time for girlfriend getaways.
Celebrating roots
No matter where you're from, there's a heritage festival for you.

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FastPlans/Escape to Stillwater

A trolley tour in Stillwater.

On the St. Croix River, Stillwater always has held a prominent place in Minnesota — first as a lumber town, and now as a favorite weekend destination.

What to do: Ride the new Brown's Creek State Trail from downtown. Shop on Main Street, especially for antiques. Take a trolley tour. Have a picnic in Pioneer Park overlooking the river valley. Sample wine at Northern Vineyards and beer at Maple Island Brewing.

Events to catch: May 8-10, Pottery Studio Tour. May 30-31, Rivertown Art Festival.

Details: For more, see Summer in Stillwater.

Past fast plans: Duluth boat-watching, A ball in Milwaukee, Spring in Galena, Eagles on the river, Circling Lake Pepin

This weekend

For many cultures, May starts with a party.

Guitarists at Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul. This fiesta on the West Side (just south of downtown) features a 10 a.m. parade, low-rider car show and lots of food, music and dancing. May 2.

Dutch Days Festival in Fulton, Ill. This Mississippi town, across from Clinton, Iowa, celebrates its heritage with Dutch dancing, windmill tours, street scrubbing and a 3 p.m. Saturday parade. May 1–2.

Maifest in Amana, Iowa. There's a lot going on in this former communal society — a 10 a.m. Saturday parade, polka music, keg-tapping, artisan demonstrations and pony rides. May 2–3.

Festival of Nations in St. Paul. Sample food, music, crafts and dance from 90 different ethnic groups at the downtown RiverCentre. April 30–May 3.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.


15 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 15 of the best spring drives around the region.

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Spring bird festivals

After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.

Birders in spring.

By April, the harbingers of spring are on the move.

"The spring migration is well underway!'' comes the report from wildlife refuges. "Eagles and swans, Canada geese, robins, sparrows, sandhills cranes have arrived!''

Where there are birds, there are birders — and bird festivals. Those are especially nice for beginners, who don’t yet have the skills to find and identify birds.

If there’s a bird-banding demonstration, don’t miss it; it’s a good chance to see identifying markings of a bird close-up. 

Below are a few of the best festivals in 2015. Space on field trips and tours goes fast, so sign up early.

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Germans among us

In the Upper Midwest, many of our most-loved traditions arrived with emigrants from Germany.

New Ulm's Glockenspiel.

It's hard to imagine life without the Germans.

When they crossed the ocean, they brought hot dogs, potato salad and beer gardens. Thanks to them, we have kindergartens, Christmas trees and fairy tales.

Their traditions now are woven into the fabric of Upper Midwest life. To paraphrase the words of John F. Kennedy, we are all Germans.

Germans are fun folks — at least, they like a party. Thanks to them, we have Oktoberfests all fall, Christkindl markets over the holidays and, to welcome spring, Maifests.

That's when young women dance around May poles and everyone gets to eat strudel and drink Maibock beer. In Iowa's Amana Colonies and Davenport, Maifest is the traditional first weekend in May.

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Where to find spring wildflowers

Some can be seen everywhere; others are more elusive.

Shooting stars at Perrot State Park.

Here are just a few of the best places to look for wildflowers.

Minnesota's scientific and natural areas (SNAs) also are very good places to find unusual flowers, as are Wisconsin's state natural areas.

For more, see Spring in full glory.

Nature Conservancy sites host many interesting plants. Wildlife refuges, nature preserves and environmental learning centers also are good places to look.

For more, see our Facebook album of 50 spring wildflowers.

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Waterfalls of the North Shore

When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.

High Falls on the Pigeon River.

Up north, all of the snow that brought you great skiing just keeps on giving when spring arrives.

That's when it turns into waterfalls, roaring down river gorges and misting awed onlookers.

One of the easiest places to see lots of big waterfalls is along Minnesota's North Shore, where dozens of rivers roar down into Lake Superior. Where there's water, there's a waterfall.

When's the best time to go? As soon as ice melts, of course.

Here are some of the most spectacular falls.

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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.

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Best of spring

When warmer weather finally arrives, don't waste time.

Bluebells on the Illinois Canyon Trail.

Again, winter is lasting way too long. When it finally retreats, we'll need to move fast to enjoy spring before summer arrives.

Go on a spring drive, see fiddlehead ferns unfurl and surround yourself with that delicate shade of chartreuse that seems to tint the air green.

Canoe through sloughs, stalk morel mushrooms and watch colorfully attired folks dance around a maypole.

Here are our picks for the best things to do in spring 2015.

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