MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for fall

Best of fall
The chase is on as autumn colors start to coat the countryside.
So many festivals, so little fall
Want to go on an autumn power trip? Here are the best places to be each weekend.
Autumn in the studios
On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).
Fall in Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, autumn colors gild a much-loved landscape.
Bash on a bike trail
In fall, kick up your wheels at a small-town festival.
Cheap fall getaways
Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.
15 great trails to ride in fall
Here's where to get your fill of flora, fauna and fall colors.
Colors of the North Shore
In fall, eager crowds pursue the hues along Lake Superior.

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FastPlans/Fall in Decorah

Phelps Park in Decorah.

In the bluffs of northeast Iowa, Decorah has a lot going for it: a spectacular location, a scenic bicycle trail, fine restaurants and a rich cultural scene rarely found in a town of only 8,000.

What to do: Bicycle the 11-mile Trout Run Trail loop. Hike the blufftop trail in Phelps Park (pictured). Tour Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Visit Seed Savers Exchange.

Events to catch: Oct. 13-15, Northeast Iowa Studio Arts Tour.  Oct. 14, Harvest Festival at Seed Savers.

Details: See A pocket of Norway.

Past fast plans: Autumn in the St. Croix Valley, Fall in the Dells, Fall on Minnesota's North Shore, Swiss in New Glarus, Exploring Michigan's Porkies

This weekend

Hoist a stein and hammer nails.

The Oktoberfest parade in Amana.

Oktoberfest in Amana, Iowa. In this Amana Colonies village, teams roll kegs, walk a balance beam with full steins of beer and saw logs. The parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday. Sept. 29–Oct. 1.

Oktoberfest in Milwaukee. There will be dachshund racing, stein-hoisting and brat-eating competitions as well as music and dancing in Pere Marquette Park and Das Boot Bar Crawl on nearby Old World Third Street. Sept. 29–Oct. 1.

Oktoberfest in Galena, Ill. At this riverfront festival, there will be wiener-dog races, polka lessons, nail-driving, pumpkin-decorating and a beanbag tournament. Sept. 30.

Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua, Wis. In this northern Wisconsin lake-resort town, there's a Cow Pie Plop, beef-eating contest and Parade of Beef at 3 p.m. Saturday. Sept. 29–30.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Pursuing the hues

With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze seven weeks of color out of fall.

Rowing on the Mississippi.

As anyone who’s ever planned a fall trip knows, peak leaf color can be elusive.

Betting on a burst of spectacular color is like plugging nickels into a slot machine. To win, all of the figures have to line up: the right number of warm days and cool nights, the right levels of sugar produced, the right amounts of moisture.

Predictions always are chancy. What experts look for are summer rains that give trees plenty of moisture, and sunny days that are warm but not hot enough to stress trees.

Throw in a few chilly nights in the first part of September, and you've got the recipe for vivid and long-lasting color, with luminous orange maples and deep-scarlet oaks that can last right up to November.

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Toasting Oktoberfest

These festive tributes to Bavarian tradition put the oompah into fall.

Narren at Minneapolis Oktoberfest.

When fall arrives, we get a sudden urge to hoist a stein of beer, eat a grilled bratwurst and listen to red-cheeked men in little felt hats play the accordion.

Fall belongs to the Germans, who streamed into the Upper Midwest in the 1850s and still are the largest ethnic group in every state. Which is a good thing, because Germans like to have fun.

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30 classic fall hikes

For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.

Runners in Carleton's Arboretum.

An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where?

This time of year, you could walk down the street and see something nice.

But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.

Here are 30 of our favorite fall hikes. A few require a little huffing and puffing, but most are easy strolls. And they all showcase fall at its finest.

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15 great fall drives

Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.

Hilltop view of Hudson.

On a crisp, sunny fall day, we all get the urge to go for a drive.

The countryside is alight with color, and there's a lot going on — art-studio tours, corn mazes, hay rides and harvest festivals in every little town.

And you'll be chasing the colors, of course.

You probably could throw a dart at the map and find a pretty spot, but here are 15 routes that we think are especially beautiful.

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10 cool ways to see fall colors

When the trees put on a show, get a front-row seat that can't be beat.

A gondola on the St. Croix River.

In fall, you don't need to limit yourself to seeing the colors while speeding by in a car or even at a snail's pace from a hiking trail.

You also can watch the show on horseback, by boat or from a train. Or try a different kind of conveyance — say, covered wagon, dog team or gondola.

The important thing is get out there and see as much as you can while it lasts. Here are 10 cool ways to view the hues.

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15 great fall views

From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.

The Porcupines' Lake of the Clouds in autumn.

In autumn, the pilgrims head for Holy Hill.

Some want to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom the basilica was built in 1930. But many others just want to see the amazing view, which includes the Milwaukee skyline and surrounding Kettle Moraine State Forest, dappled with colors.

The basilica was built atop a kame — a mound filled with glacial rubble — that has one of the highest elevations in southeast Wisconsin and the highest in the 120-mile-long kettle moraine, where two lobes of the last glacier collided.

It's one of 15 great overlooks that are easy to reach on a lovely fall day.

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