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.
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
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 411.
Taste of Minnesota in Waconia, Minn. This family festival features food, music, games and fireworks in this southwest Minneapolis exurb. July 25.
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 15.
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 15.
For more events, see our Events Calendar.
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.
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, theyll 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 its a formula that works.
Here's the schedule for 2015.
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 Americas 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.
Its 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 Americas freshwater Riviera, a nearly unending strand of sand that looks like Florida without the high-rise condos. Its 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 youve got the makings of a great beach holiday a cheap one, too, if you're on a budget.
Americans have a love-hate relationship with their tourist traps. Theyre so uncool . . . but so irresistible.
What makes something a tourist trap? Its a place thats so cheesy you have to see if its really as cheesy as it looks. A place so iconic youve seen a million pictures of it. A place plugged by thousands of highway billboards.
Mostly, its a place everyone else has seen so you have to, too. We cant help ourselves, especially when it comes to anything thats odd or oversized.
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