MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Door County 101
Want to check out this popular peninsula? Here's everything you need to plan a visit.
Pizza on the farm
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.
Sister Bay in Door County
Near the top of the peninsula, this town snares tourists with its beautiful beach and marina.
Giants of Lake Superior
On a trip around the biggest lake, stop to see larger-than-life heroes and mascots.
Free for all
At festivals and attractions across the region, fun doesn't cost a thing.
Following the tall ships
Sloops and schooners still sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
Exploring Isle Royale
Famous for its moose and wolves, this Lake Superior wilderness island is beguiling.
Tranquility in the Turtle-Flambeau
Near the northeast Wisconsin town of Mercer, paddling is as wild as you want it to be.

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FastPlans/Exploring Voyageurs

A boat speeds past an island on Rainy Lake in Voyageurs Nati

Summer is the time to explore Minnesota's only national park, which is mostly water. You can explore by park-service pontoon, rented launch, houseboat, kayak or canoe.

What to do: Take a Rainy Lake boat tour to gold mines or a historic fish camp. Take a Kabetogema Lake boat tour to Kettle Falls Hotel. Explore Rainy Lake in a rented motorboat or houseboat.

Explore by canoe with a naturalist. Hike one of nine trails. Learn about the park at three visitors centers.

Information: Download the park newspaper. For more, see Land of big water.

Past fast plans: Keweenaw Peninsula, Breezy in Bayfield, Cool Grand Marais, Summer in Winona, Fun in Minneapolis

This weekend

Enter world of Vikings and lumberjacks.

Speed climbers compete in Hayward's lumberjack championships

Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa. It's the 50th year of this friendly, authentic, very fun and very large festival of Scandinavian culture. The parade is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. July 28–30.

Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wis. You can't see this kind of thing just anywhere: cut-throat log rolling, boom running, springboard chopping and speed climbing. July 28–30.

German Fest in Milwaukee. Look for dachshunds, dirndls and lots of oompah music at this big party on Lake Michigan. July 29–31.

Riverboat Days in Wabasha, Minn. There's a lighted boat parade Friday, and on Saturday a pedal tractor pull, duck derby, water fight and 6 p.m. parade. July 29–30.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

On the water in West Duluth

On the once-gritty St. Louis River, boaters and birders enjoy the scenery.

Paddling on the St. Louis River.

In Duluth, there's water — a lot of water — beyond the big lake and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, and it creates a huge estuary as it approaches the lake.

Fishermen and bird-watchers have frequented it for years, and more are showing up as the water becomes cleaner. Sturgeon have come back, eagles nest, and 70 percent of the birds seen in Minnesota come through on fall and spring migrations.

The St. Louis also is a state water trail, and paddlers like to explore the many peninsulas and islands. They can even hitch a ride on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad and return by canoe or kayak, for a Choo Choo Paddle.

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Cheat the heat

When summer becomes a sauna, it's time to chill out.

Rafters go over rapids on Wolf River.

When heat wraps itself around your shoulders like an electric blanket with static cling, there’s only one thing to do: Look for cold water.

You'll find it tubing on a spring-fed river, such as the South Branch of the Root River, which takes a short cut through Mystery Caverns and heads toward Lanesboro chilled to 48 degrees.

On Minnesota's North Shore, plop yourself into one of the Baptism River’s potholes and let the cool waters swirl around you. Or go whitewater rafting — a fast cool-down is guaranteed.

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Touring Mackinac Island

On a scenic web of trails, visitors see another side of a celebrated spot.

Victorian houses on Mackinac Island.

In the straits between lakes Michigan and Huron, you can find more than one Mackinac Island.

The best-known first was advertised as “the Fairy Isle of Mackinac,’’ and it's not quite rooted in reality. It has a tuxedo shop but no hardware store, a Victorian house called Brigadoon and a fan club that gathers every October in vintage clothing to revere the year 1912.

You get to that island in a horse-drawn surrey, driven by a liveryman in a top hat.

Then there's the day-tripper island, chockablock with ice-cream and fudge shops. You see that one from wagons on tours narrated by college students.

And there’s the island we saw, on bicycles with backpacks. From the bemused look on the ferryman's face, we gathered that not many folks go to this famous island with their belongings on their backs.

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For football fans, a preview

Watching is free and festive at training camps for Vikings, Packers and Bears.

Green Bay Packer on way to practice.

It's that time of year again.

If you're wondering how the Vikings, Packers or Bears will do this year, you can get a preview by watching the players gear up for the season at training camps.

Make a day of it, because all of the camps offer festivities, games of skill, giveaways, autograph sessions for kids and even fireworks. Admission is free.

Here are the highlights in 2016.

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10 great places to take teens

Youth learns whitewater kayaking on Wolf River.

By the time children turn 10, the day already is looming when they no longer want to spend time with you, their loving parent.

Jeremy Southworth of La Crosse, Wis., saw that day coming. So on recent vacations, he's taken his son Gavin jet-boating in the Dells and zip-lining in Door County.

"He's been wanting to try zip-lining, so as soon as we came up here, we decided, 'We're doing that,' '' he said.

Luckily, parents still are in demand when they're willing to pay for thrills.

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Camping without roughing it

Here are 15 state parks close to all the comforts: restaurants, shops, golf courses, even nightlife.

The beach and lighthouse at Holland State Park.

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.

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