MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Tubing a lazy river
Lolling on the water, it's easy to play it cool.
A feast of festivals
At small-town shindigs, get your fill of strawberries and sauerkraut, kolacky and sweet corn.
Seeking the best soft-serve
Their ranks are thinning, but old-time ice-cream stands still brighten road trips.
The Minnesota resort of your dreams
Here's where to look for the perfect place on a lake.
Bicycling in western Michigan
In the top rail-trails state, everyone loves a ride along Lake Michigan.
Planning a family reunion
It's tough to please everyone, but the rewards are huge.
Cruising to a lighthouse
In summer, excursion boats give visitors a chance to see historic beacons.
Cruising around Excelsior
On the Twin Cities' fringe, a historic lake-resort town still draws day-trippers.

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FastPlans/Keweenaw Peninsula

Copper Harbor Lighthouse can be reached only by water.

In summer, Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula is beautiful and cool, yet quiet even at the peak of tourist season.

It doesn't have many "attractions,'' yet there's so much to see — soft pink-sandstone beaches, old mining towns, 10 lighthouses. In late July, blueberries ripen along roads and bear sightings are likely.

What to do: Take a boat tour to the 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse. Kayak the Keweenaw Water Trail. Swim in Eagle Harbor and buy muffins at the Jampot. Explore the beaches between Bete Grise and Gay.

Talk to the living-history interpreters at Fort Wilkins State Park. Tour old mines and Coppertown USA in Calumet.  Go to a concert at the Calumet Theatre.

Details: For more, see Digging the Keweenaw.

Past fast plans: Cool Grand Marais, Moose Lake agates, Breezy in Bayfield, Summer in Winona, Minneapolis' river

This weekend

Celebrate summer on Great Lakes shores.

Cobblestones line Grand Marais' harbor.

Fisherman's Picnic in Grand Marais, Minn. There's a lot going on at the North Shore's biggest festival, including loon-calling, log-rolling, herring-eating and rock-skipping contests; Saturday fireworks; and the grand parade at 1 p.m. Sunday. July 30–Aug. 2.

Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, Mich. There's nightly entertainment on the waterfront, a downtown carnival, tours of Coast Guard cutters and a Grand Parade  and fireworks Saturday. Through Aug. 2.

Brat Days in Sheboygan, Wis. This town on Lake Michigan is sausage central. There's music, a carnival, beer and, of course, a brat-eating contest. The parade is 9 a.m. Saturday. July 30–Aug. 1.

Taste of Wisconsin in Kenosha, Wis. This free harborfront festival features locally produced specialties as well as cooking demonstrations and music on three stages. July 31–Aug. 2.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Grand sand

Along Lake Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are a playground for all ages.

Girls run into the Platte River.

One Great Lake east of Superior, there’s another North Shore.

It doesn’t have any craggy points or sheer palisades, and there are no agates waiting to be found. It has no waterfalls, and not a scrap of basalt; in fact, there’s nothing volcanic about it.

But this north shore, on the leeward side of Lake Michigan, has something Minnesota's beautiful North Shore on Lake Superior doesn’t have: Sand, lots and lots of sand.

In fact, it’s nothing but a big, squashy pile of sand, deposited by the last glacier and continually whipped into new shapes by the same nor’westers that skip right over the North Shore.

Read story and trip tips

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.

Read story and trip tips

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 2015.

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Road Trip: Otter Tail County

Big surprises pop up along a scenic byway in northwest Minnesota.

A giant otter is Fergus Falls' mascot.

In Minnesota's Otter Tail County, everything comes extra-large and in multiples.

Few know that this county near the North Dakota border has more lakes than any other in Minnesota — 1,048 — or even that it has lakes at all.

It also has the state's densest concentration of giant mascots and roadside sculptures, largely thanks to a scrap-metal wizard who also is the father of an astronaut.

But before he made his first piece, a 1,200-pound foot, the county already had a 23-foot fiberglass warrior plus a 15½-foot pelican and 22-foot otter, both billed as the world's largest.

Read story and trip tips

What to bring on a camping trip

Here's how to keep your packing list short but still have what you need.

Campsite in Decorah.

Tent camping is the best deal in travel. You can go at the last minute, you get the most scenic locations and you pay hardly anything.

It's too bad about all that stuff you have to bring along.

Some super-organized people love to pack gear and have most of it ready to go after the last camping trip. But most of us aren't that kind of person.

Most of us just want to head out the door and go. But if you want to save on a hotel bill, you've got to bring stuff.

The question is, how much? Here's how to make it easy on yourself. 

Read story and trip tips

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