MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for fall

10 cool ways to see fall colors
When the trees put on a show, get a front-row seat that can't be beat.
Autumn along the St. Croix
On fall days, this scenic river valley is dressed to impress.
Hiking Minnesota's North Shore
Soak up the scenery above Lake Superior with one of these great day hikes.
Bash on a bike trail
In fall, kick up your wheels at a small-town festival.
15 great fall views
From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.
High color in Cable
Fall frames the abundant beauty around a northwest Wisconsin town.
Toasting Oktoberfest
These festive tributes to Bavarian tradition put the oompah into fall.
How to find a great place to stay
If you want a room you can afford, you might need to widen your search. Here's how.

Find us on Facebook

FastPlans/Fall in Decorah

Phelps Park in Decorah.

In the bluffs of northeast Iowa, Decorah has a lot going for it. It has a spectacular location, a scenic new bicycle trail, fine restaurants and a rich cultural scene rarely found in a town of only 8,000.

What to do: Bicycle the 11-mile Trout Run Trail. Hike the blufftop trail in Phelps Park (pictured). Tour Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Visit Seed Savers Exchange.

Events to catch: Oct. 2-4, Northeast Iowa Studio Arts Tour

Where to eat: See Table-hopping in bluff country.

Details: See A pocket of Norway.

Past fast plans: Art in Mineral Point, Fall on the St. Croix, North Shore in fall, Swiss in New Glarus, Fun in the Porkies

This weekend

Watch apple-peelers and sword-fighters.

Competitors in Bayfield's apple-peeling contest.

Apple Festival in Bayfield, Wis. This big festival on Lake Superior features orchard tours, history walks, an apple-peeling contest, live music and a big parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 2–4.

Olde English Faire and Autumn on Parade in Oregon, Ill. There will be swordfighters, minstrels and magicians at the castle-like Stronghold Center and, in town, a parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 3–4.

Big Island Rendezvous and Festival in Albert Lea, Minn. More than 1,000 jolly re-enactors dance, demonstrate, compete and pull visitors back into the fur-trade era. Oct. 3–4.

Oktoberfest in Amana, Iowa. There's German music and food at this Amana Colonies village, plus contests that include the Eisenmann, or Iron Man, competition. The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday. Oct. 2–4.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

15 great fall drives

Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.

Hilltop view of Hudson.

On a crisp, sunny fall day, we all get the urge to go for a drive.

The countryside is alight with color, and there's a lot going on — art-studio tours, corn mazes, hay rides and harvest festivals in every little town.

And you'll be chasing the colors, of course.

You probably could throw a dart at the map and find a pretty spot, but here are 15 routes that we think are especially beautiful.

Read story and trip tips

Autumn in the studios

On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).

Shops on Commerce Street in Mineral Point.

In September and October, artists everywhere throw open their studio doors, inviting the public to see some fall colors along with fine art.

It's tempting because of the scenic landscapes in which so many artists live: the bluffs of northeast Iowa, the coulees of southwest Wisconsin, the towns around Lake Pepin, the lumpy terrain of the Ice Age Trail.

"This is such a pretty area in the fall, and we thought it would be nice to have a tour where people could travel through it,'' says potter Diana Johnston, who helped found southwest Wisconsin's Fall Art Tour, the region's oldest.

Read story and trip tips

Troll-hunting in Mount Horeb

A little town near Madison wins friends with a mix of old and new attractions.

The Mayor troll in Mount Horeb.

In Mount Horeb, Wis., trolls are revered, not reviled.

The little town west of Madison calls itself the Troll Capital of the World, for its many mascots — most wooden, but one live — and Norse traditions, which will be on display at this weekend's Fall Heritage Festival.

It won't have the medieval Norwegian stave church that has been the town's pride and joy since 1937. This week, the ornate wooden building headed back to Orkdal, Norway, whose residents built it for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and will reassemble it as an attraction for Orkdal.

Many of the original trolls also have retreated, having turned black with age. But new ones are appearing, along with new wineries, galleries and artisan farms.

Today, Mount Horeb is a 21st century town for 21st century tastes.

Read story and trip tips

Five great places to watch birds in fall

Tag along with experts, and you'll get to see the migration up close.

Releasing a sharp-shinned hawk.

In fall, the birders come out to watch the annual migration of hawks, waterfowl and swans.

The rest of us come out to watch the birders, because they see things the rest of us don't.

At the annual Hawk Weekend on Duluth's Hawk Ridge, renowned author and ornithologist Laura Erickson had eagle eyes trained on the sky, as usual.

"There's a sharp-shinned hawk with a songbird in its crop,'' she noted to anyone who cared to listen. "Since it's just eaten, it probably won't fly any closer, but it might if it sees easy pickings.''

But we didn't need to see one closer, because soon two young naturalists walked over from the banding station, holding newly banded sharpies.

Read story and trip tips

30 classic fall hikes

For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.

Runners in Carleton's Arboretum.

An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where?

This time of year, you could walk down the street and see something nice.

But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.

Here are 30 of our favorite fall hikes. A few require a little huffing and puffing, but most are easy strolls. And they all showcase fall at its finest.

Read story and trip tips

Pursuing the hues

With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze six weeks of color out of fall.

Rowing on the Mississippi.

As anyone who’s ever planned a fall trip knows, peak leaf color can be elusive.

Betting on a burst of spectacular color is like plugging nickels into a slot machine. To win, all of the figures have to line up: the right number of warm days and cool nights, the right levels of sugar produced, the right amounts of moisture.

Read story and trip tips

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter

Get our weekly stories, tips and updates delivered a day early — directly to your Inbox. Wondering what you'll get? Take a look at our newsletter archive.

* indicates required