MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

How to prevent Lyme disease
The bite of a deer tick can cause major headaches, and more.
Wildflowers of the North Shore
On the shores of Lake Superior, delicate blooms mark the return of warmth.
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.
A feast of festivals
At small-town shindigs, get your fill of strawberries and sauerkraut, kolacky and sweet corn.
Tours on two wheels
On organized weekend bike trips, it's easy to go along for the ride.
Door County 101
Want to check out this popular peninsula? Here's everything you need to plan a visit.
Watching a water-ski show
Spend a perfect summer evening watching flips, dance lines and pyramids.

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FastPlans/Walking Lake Geneva

People walking around Geneva Lake.

In the southeast corner of Wisconsin, Lake Geneva has been welcoming wealthy Chicagoans for 150 years. They came, they built fabulous mansions, and now the rest of us get to gawk at them from a footpath that hugs all 20 miles of shoreline.

When to go: Now, when it's still fairly quiet. July and August are crowded, especially on weekends.

What to do: Walk around Geneva Lake; if you want to walk only the eight miles from Lake Geneva, an excursion boat will pick you up in Williams Bay. Shop downtown. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard. Swim at the municipal beach or rent a motorboat.

Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.

Past fast plans: Lanesboro outdoors, Door County spring, Horicon Marsh birds, Escape to Stillwater, Duluth boat-watching

This weekend

Enjoy roots music and handmade art.

Musicians play a festival in Chicago.

Gospel Festival in Chicago. This free music festival Millennium Park also includes an art fair and a kids' activity zone. May 29–31.

Bluegrass Festival in Niles, Mich. Listen to American roots music on two stages along the banks of the St. Joseph River. There's also a carnival, arts show and games. May 28–31.

Street Faire at the Lakes in Detroit Lakes, Minn. This western Minnesota lake town hosts a juried arts show with music, fair food and a beer garden. May 29–30.

Rivertown Art Festival in Stillwater, Minn. More than 100 artists set up along the St. Croix River for the valley's largest art fair. May 30–31.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Free day in Minnesota state parks

On June 13, everyone is invited to join naturalists for a day of fun.

Kids at the Itasca headwaters.

The second weekend in June is a good time to try something new in Minnesota.

On June 13 in 2015, admission to all Minnesota state parks is free to celebrate National Get Outdoors Day.

Many parks are holding special events, such as archery, bird and flower hikes and geocaching and fishing programs.

There will be concerts at Itasca and Blue Mounds, a peregrine falcon program at Gooseberry Falls, a Family Outdoor Fair at Whitewater, birding at Bear Head and a selfie scavenger hunt at Interstate. 

Several public paddles will be on the Minnesota River State Water Trail between Granite Falls and the Twin Cities.

On the North Shore, Split Rock Lighthouse historical site will have an open house June 13, along with the state park. The park will offer storytelling about the shipwrecks of 1905 and host a guided bike ride on the Gitchi-Gami Trail to Iona's Beach natural area.

Usually, vehicle passes are $5 daily, $25 annual. But GPS units and kits for birding, fishing and kids' discovery can be borrowed any time.

Baileys Harbor in Door County

On the Lake Michigan side of the famous peninsula, this town draws nature-lovers.

Kiteboarding in Baileys Harbor.

Every May, wildflower followers find their way to Baileys Harbor.

They walk past two 1870 range lights on a boardwalk lined by endangered dwarf lake iris.  On  strips of wetland called swales, they look for bogbean and goldthread. In June, they search for 25 species of orchids.

The land Ridges Sanctuary occupies almost became a trailer park. Now, it's habitat for more species of plants than any other place in Wisconsin.

The preserve is why many people visit Baileys Harbor. But even more come to photograph its lighthouses, kiteboard off its breezy beach and bicycle on its roads.

The town is the biggest on the Lake Michigan side of Door County, and its arguably the most outdoorsy destination on the peninsula.

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Free weekend in Wisconsin

The annual open house in June is a great time to try a new park, trail, fishing hole or historic site.

The rocks of Big Bay State Park.

The first full weekend in June is a good time to try something new in Wisconsin.

June 6-7 is Open House Weekend in Wisconsin, with free admission to state parks.  Since non-residents pay $10 for a daily pass, it's a good time to visit.

Many parks plan special events, including kayak tours, archery instruction and a candlelight hike.

Bicycle riding on trails also is free. Normally, it's $4 for a daily pass. For trail details, see Bicycling in Wisconsin.

It's also Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin. It's for non-residents as well as residents, with no license required. Many parks are planning clinics and games for all ages, and many lend fishing equipment.

On June 7, the Wisconsin Historical Society is offering $2 admission at Pendarvis in Mineral Point, the H.H. Bennett Studio in Wisconsin Dells and Stonefield in Cassville as well as the Madeline Island Museum.

10 great bog walks

In early summer, find out what's blooming under the boardwalk.

The flower of a pitcher plant.

In nature, bogs are the coral reefs of the north woods.

They're wet, spongy and seething with life that's often too small to see unless you look closely. Lean over the boardwalk, and you'll get a better view of sparkly goldthread or the lacy needles of baby tamarack.

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Planning a paddle trip

If you'd like to hit the waterways this summer, you'll find lots of encouragement.

Canoeists paddle on the Chicago River.

Early spring is not too soon to start planning a summer on the water.

Outdoors and paddle clubs are happy to show the ropes to new members.

Outdoors stores offer boat demos and free classes on trip planning. Rangers at federal wildlife reserves offer guided trips.

Read story and trip tips

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