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. Go on a narrated lake tour. Swim at the municipal beach or rent a motorboat.
Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.
This Mississippi River village in southwest Wisconsin is an outdoors mecca, with bird-watching, canoeing, biking and hiking.
What to do: Climb Brady's Bluff in Perrot State Park for a
view of the river valley (pictured) and La Montagne Qui Trempe a l'Eau, the mountain that soaks in water.
From Van Loon Wildlife Area, hike the four-mile McGilvray-Seven Bridges Road, past five rare bowstring-arch bridges.
Details: See Hitting the trails in Trempealeau.
In May, this Wisconsin peninsula on Lake Michigan is as gorgeous as ever, but you don't have to share it with crowds. Venture
beyond the shops to the headlands, estuaries, beaches and parks.
Many rare wildflowers (such as the dwarf lake iris, pictured) bloom amid the sandy ridges and boggy swales of Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor.
Events to catch: May 25-27, Door County Festival of Nature.
Where to stay: Many inns offer Seasons of
Blossoms specials through June 9.
Just south of Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin's Horicon Marsh often is called the Everglades of the North. It's a rest stop for
migrating birds and home to 200 species.
What to do: Hike on the trails of Horicon National Wildlife
Refuge and Horicon Marsh State Wildlife
Area. Drive the 50-mile Auto Tour. Bicycle the 34-mile Wild Goose State Trail. Go canoeing or on a pontoon-boat tour from Horicon.
Events to catch: May 10-13, Horicon Marsh Bird
Details: For more, see Life on Horicon Marsh.
The St. Croix River town of Stillwater always has held a prominent place in Minnesota — first as a lumber town, and now
as a favorite getaway for Twin Citians.
Its downtown is full of interesting shops in old brick storefronts, and beautiful Victorian houses cover its hillsides.
What to do: Shop on Main Street, especially for antiques. Take a trolley tour. Take a cruise on a paddlewheeler. See the town from a real Venetian gondola. Have a picnic in Pioneer Park overlooking the river valley. Sample wine at Northern Vineyards and beer at Staples Mill Brewing Co.
Events to catch: May 18-19, Rivertown Art Festival in
Details: For more, see Summer in Stillwater.