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: Fun in Minneapolis, Summer in Chicago, Lanesboro outdoors, Walking Lake Geneva, Door County spring
Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, Ill. This large festival on the west edge of Chicago features daily hot-air balloon launches, glows and fireworks shows, plus children's activities and a craft fair. July 13.
Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, Wis. This festival in Menominee Park, next to Lake Winnebago, celebrates the logging era, when Oshkosh was known as Sawdust City. It includes a historic village, flea market, carnival, fireworks and music on four stages, including Sabor-a-Mexico. June 30July 4.
Iowa City Jazz Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. This downtown festival features a Culinary Row, Fun Zone for kids and Sunday fireworks in addition to music. July 13.
Ribfest in Naperville, Ill. Headliners include 3 Doors Down in Knoch Park, where there's also magic shows, kids' games, food and fireworks on the last evening. July 13.
For more events, see our Events Calendar.
Watch a water-ski show, and you'll want to climb into your Thunderbird and go get a chocolate malted.
something deliciously retro about spending a balmy summer evening
listening to '50s party music and the roar of marine engines as
spangled, sun-bleached teen-agers fly by.
A corny comedy routine is part of the show, but it's the tricks that keep the crowd enthralled: double flips, dance lines and pyramids that can go up to five tiers.
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.
Over the Fourth of July holiday, every town worth its salt holds a celebration.
There are band concerts, parades with antique cars and cute kids dressed in red, white and blue: It's all good.
Yet some celebrations are a little more special than others. And this is a special year if you love our neighbours to the north: Canada Day is on Friday and the Fourth of July is on Monday, so you can bookend your weekend with two sets of fireworks.
After many years of traveling around this region, I can answer nearly every travel question except one: Can you give me the name of a good lake resort?
No, I cant. Only you and your therapist know what you consider a good lake resort.
Staying at a north-woods lake resort is not like staying at a Marriott. There may be chipmunks living under your cabin, and fish that nibble your legs when you wade. Squealing children may run past your window while youre trying to read.
You may find these things alarming. For you, there are resorts with all-day childrens programs, pools, and new townhouse units on manicured grounds.
Even if you camp, you don't have to rough it.
A lot of state parks have plenty of woods, water and wildlife, but they're also just a short bike ride or walk away from the finer things in life say, a pizza parlor or ice-cream stand.
Nearby restaurants make packing easy because you can leave the pots, dishes, soap and firewood home. Even if you like cooking over a fire, it's still nice to go out for a treat.
Here are 15 parks in five states where you won't be too far from some of your favorite things.
On the Great Lakes, everyone loves to see a multi-masted schooner, white sails flapping in the breeze.
They're always the favorite guests at festivals, especially on Lake Superior, which usually sees only freighters.
On Lake Michigan, these magnificent replicas of 19th-century schooners and sloops are more common, offering tours and day sails from their homes when they're not appearing at festivals.
Most of the tall ships are non-profit and devoted to teaching early American history and training future sailors. Many offer passage between ports as they sail to festivals.
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