Once upon a time, people in Iowa's Amana Colonies lived simply. Now, people go there to indulge.
These tidy, once-communal villages in east-central Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, are famous for their family-style restaurants, wineries, brewery and shops. During the holiday season, tourists descend on the villages to buy gifts quilts, pottery, chocolates.
Events to catch: Dec. 4-6, Prelude to Christmas.
Past fast plans: Shopping in Madison, Gales of November, Exploring Northfield, Halloween in Chicago, Fall at Devil's Lake
Holidazzle in Minneapolis. A month-long, open-air holiday village opens in Loring Park with a performance by the Minnesota Chorale and fireworks. Nov. 2729.
Christkindlsmarkt in Excelsior, Minn. On the shores of Lake Minnetonka, a parade opens this German-style open-air Christmas market. Nov. 2729.
Sinterklaas Day in Pella, Iowa. In this Dutch town, the man in the red suit (pictured) arrives in a wooden ship, wears a bishop's miter and has a Moorish servant as helper. A 10 a.m. parade is followed by a breakfast. Nov. 28.
Lighting & Electric Parade in St. Charles, Ill. There's Lighting of the Lights and music Friday and free horse-drawn sleigh rides, movies and Santa visits Saturday, with the Electric Christmas Parade at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2728.
For more events, see our Events Calendar.
No one ever accused Milwaukee of being flashy.
Best known for tractors, motorcycles and beer, its a meat-and-potatoes kind of town, stolid and practical like the Germans who built it.
Its not what youd call a trendy destination. And yet every time I go there, I have a great time.
The ugly duckling has turned into a swan. Consider its landmarks a bright-white wing, whose graceful unfurling draws sightseers to the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the sliding roof of Miller Park, which tucks itself in to a musical fanfare after Brewers games.
Some people may guess that lakes or bicycle trails are the chief attraction for travelers in the Upper Midwest. Other might say museums, state parks or stadiums.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. The No. 1 attraction in travel is . . . shops.
Shopping is sightseeing for a lot of people. On vacation, they shop not as they would at the local mall, but as if had all the time in the world to browse, stroll and sample.
As, in fact, they do. Legions of weekend hobby shoppers have fueled the rise of such boutique towns as Stillwater in Minnesota, Cedarburg in Wisconsin and Galena in Illinois.
Chicago is a fun, fun place to be.
It's popular with conventioneers, families, students, girlfriend groups and couples on a romantic getaway. Everyone wants to join the festive mobs at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and, at Christmas, the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.
There are nearly 40,000 hotel rooms downtown, which you'd think would be enough. Except in summer, when vacationers from around the world flood in. And whenever there's a big convention, like the one that draws 55,000 radiologists to Chicago the week after Thanksgiving.
But new hotels have been popping up, adding to an already huge selection. How to pick one? Here's a guide.
For 500 years, Germans have done their
holiday shopping at open-air Christmas markets in town squares.
Named for the Christ child, the markets traditionally start on the first Sunday of Advent, with shoppers warming up with hot spiced wine while browsing at garland-draped timber kiosks.
It's a tradition worth importing,
and that's what Chicago did in 1996 with its Christkindlmarket, where two-thirds of the vendors come from Germany.
become more popular every year, and now many other towns from the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota to Wisconsin cheese country and the ethnic enclaves of Michigan have
markets of their own.
In November, women make a break for it.
As men sit in deer stands or watch football games on TV, women hit the road with their friends. They shop, they visit spas, they sip wine and they see shows their husbands or boyfriends don't want to see.
For women, November is a great month. Not only do they have a good excuse to get away with their friends, but it's time to start shopping for Christmas.
There are art fairs and holiday markets everywhere. And festivities start early in such shopping meccas as Cedarburg, Wis., which starts its Festive Friday Eves on the eve of Wisconsin's firearms deer opener.
Late fall when crowds fade and hotel deals appear is one of the best times to make a getaway.
For hikers, it's the sweet spot between the fall-color rush and hunting season. For shoppers, it's the time to get a head start on the holidays, before the craziness starts.
More often than not, the weather still is gorgeous, and stubborn oaks and willows offer color that lasts into the middle of November.
The more popular a destination is in summer, the more likely you'll find great deals in late October and November. Check deal sites, including LivingSocial Escapes and Groupon Getaways.
Here are 10 great places to go for a late-fall getaway.
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