The biggest asset of this three-college town is its location, right on the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin's coulee country.
Getting there: Why not take the train? From the west, Amtrak's Empire Builder arrives at 10:47 a.m.; from the east, at 7:11 p.m. (barring delay).
Details: See Cruising La Crosse.
Past fast plans: Cooling off in Duluth, Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, Exploring Voyageurs, Exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula, Breezy in Bayfield
Air & Water Show in Chicago. The 59th annual free show features aerobatics, extreme flying and parachuting off North Avenue Beach. Aug. 1920.
Venetian Festival in Lake Geneva, Wis. In this southeast Wisconsin vacation area, the festival includes a carnival, arts and crafts fair, firefighter water fight and, on Sunday, a water-ski show followed by a lighted boat parade and fireworks. Aug. 1620.
Irish Fest in Milwaukee. The nation's largest Irish festival features 100 acts on 16 stages, plus children's activities, red hair and freckle contests and demonstrations by Irish dog breeds. In Henry Maier Festival Park. Aug. 1720.
Ki-Chi-Saga Days in Chisago City, Minn. The fest in this town just north of St. Paul features an Old World market, sandcastle and skateboard contests, Swedish dancers, a horn hunt and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 1720.
For more, see our Events Calendar.
In this region, nearly every river is a good paddling river.
For adventure, try northwest Wisconsin's Bois Brule, which flows into Lake Superior over a series of rapids.
For scenery, head for the cliff-lined Upper Iowa, which National Geographic Adventure magazine calls one of Americas Best Adventure 100, along with rafting in the Grand Canyon.
For fun with kids, paddle the crooked Kickapoo in southwest Wisconsin, also a great river for bird-watchers.
In 1920, northern Wisconsin already was a playground for people from Chicago.
And when Prohibition flung open the door to organized crime, its remote lakes and forests became even more attractive to a certain kind of Chicagoan.
Al Capone had a fortified summer home on a lake near Hayward, to which hydroplanes flew whiskey from Canada.
His lieutenants frequented the saloons and brothels in Hurley. Rival Roger Touhy vacationed in Minocqua, fishing with a machine gun.
In 2014, Duluth made us proud by beating out 63 other U.S. towns in Outside magazine's best outdoors town tournament.
It's hard to argue with Duluth, even against such better-known towns as Boulder, Colo., and Missoula, Mont., because everything it offers is right in the city hiking, mountain biking, paddling, skiing.
But other towns are almost as deserving. Here are 10 great outdoor towns in the western Great Lakes.
When heat wraps itself around your shoulders like an electric blanket with static cling, theres 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 Rivers potholes and let the cool waters swirl around you. Or go whitewater rafting a fast cool-down is guaranteed.
If it's really scorching, try a dip in Lake Superior. Sheltered coves can be tolerable, especially off Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but otherwise it's perfectly chilly.