MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

Where to find spring wildflowers
Some can be seen everywhere; others are more elusive.
Where to stay in Chicago
Want to visit the Windy City? So does everyone else. Here's how to find a place.
Planning a Circle Tour of Lake Superior
For a great vacation, follow the shores of Lake Superior.
Chasing cherry blossoms
In spring, Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula is a sight for sore eyes.
A feast of festivals
At small-town shindigs, get your fill of strawberries and sauerkraut, kolacky and sweet corn.
Spring bird festivals
After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.
Waterfalls of the North Shore
When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.
Minnesota's spring mecca
In May, Whitewater is the go-to park for trout, morels and wildflowers.

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FastPlans/Boats in Duluth

The Dutch-flagged Albanyborg.

In Duluth, the shipping season is in full swing.

The first laker, the Roger Blough, left the harbor March 22, and the first saltie, the Antigua-flagged Lake Ontario, arrived April 2. Locals as well as tourists are happy to see the big boats back.

How to keep track of boats: Check Duluth Shipping News, which estimates Twin Ports arrivals and departures, and see boat descriptions on Boat Nerd.

What to do: Visit the free Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center next to the Aerial Lift Bridge. Shop and eat on Canal Park.

Details: For more, see Boat watching in Duluth and Duluth 101.

Past fast plans: Spring in Galena, Milwaukee ball, On Lake Pepin, Watching eagles, Fun in Bayfield

This weekend

In Galena, eat cake with a general.

Gen. Grant and his birthday cake.

U.S. Grant's Birthday Celebration in Galena, Ill. The former home of the Civil War general celebrates his 195th birthday with free admission to the Grant Museum, an artillery encampment, Main Street walking tours with Gen. Grant, a pie auction, a spy trial and appearances by President and Mrs. Lincoln. April 21–23.

Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, There's a Friday-night rodeo, blacksmith championships, stagecoach rides, Texas trick riders, music and performances, including the Wisconsin Mounted Police Team. At Alliant Energy Center. April 21–23.

Dairy State Cheese & Beer Festival in Kenosha, Wis.There's cheese and beer from around the state plus live music at the Brat Stop. April 22.

Earth Day Birding Festival in Hastings, Minn, This festival at Carpenter Nature Center includes bird-banding demonstrations, a raptor class and guided birding trips. Reservations are required. April 22

For more, see our Events Calendar.


Tours on two wheels

On organized weekend bike trips, it's easy to go along for the ride.

Bicyclists on the Mesabi Trail.

If you like to ride bikes and you live in the Upper Midwest, you've lucked out.

This is a bike-crazy part of the country. Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin rank No. 1, 2 and 3 for miles of rails converted to trails.

For quite a while, Illinois and Iowa were No. 5 and 6. Now they've been supplanted by Washington state and New York; Pennsylvania is No. 4.

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Cheap spring getaways

Here are 20 places where a fun weekend won't break the budget.

A bicyclist pedals on the Root River State Trail.

After a long winter, everyone deserves a spring getaway.

On a budget? No problem. Spring is the best time to find deals, and often the weather is stellar.

Along the Mississippi in Minnesota, join a warbler weekend at a retreat center.  In northeast Iowa, go on a beginning backpacking trip. In Chicago, stay at one of three hostels during Craft Beer Week.

Think a little bit outside the box, and you'll save a ton of money. 

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20 great spring hikes

The scenery along these lovely trails will put a spring in your step.

Bluebells in Kaskaskia Canyon.

What's so great about hiking in spring? That's easy – there's so much to see.

Move your feet in any direction and you'll run across wildflowers, waterfalls and, best of all, sweeping views that last only until the trees leaf out.

Head out before summer makes its brash appearance, with walls of greenery and fleets of bugs.

Here are 20 great places to go hiking in spring.

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Searching for morels

When days get warmer, fungus hunters get ready to root out the much-sought treat.

A morel hunter brings his booty to sell in La Crescent.

Deep down, every morel hunter believes in divine providence.

There's nothing so providential as baskets overflowing with morels, and the taste is so divine hunters dream about it all winter. In spring, they offer a fervent prayer to the mushroom gods: May the fungus be among us.

Morels do taste heavenly. But it's the hunt that's so addictive — it's fun to find something for free that's so expensive in stores and restaurants, and it's fun to beat the odds by finding something so notoriously elusive.

It's a lot like gambling — a windfall is hard to come by, but once you've had one, you want a lot more. And sometimes, people do get lucky.

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Best of spring

With the early arrival of warm weather, there's time to tiptoe through the tulips.

Bluebells on the Illinois Canyon Trail.

This year, winter fizzled so fast some of us didn't get a chance to whine about it. For once, we have lots of time to enjoy spring before summer arrives.

Go on a spring drive, see fiddlehead ferns unfurl and surround yourself with that delicate shade of chartreuse that seems to tint the air green.

Kayak on cattail-lined creeks, stalk morel mushrooms and watch Dutch dancers clogging on the street.

Here are our picks for the best things to do in spring 2017.

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20 great spring drives

When weather warms, the urge to hit the road is irresistible.

A barge on the Mississippi River.

It's a beautiful spring day — finally. The trees are budding, the birds are chirping. What do you do?

Road trip! Somehow, the call of the highway is especially strong in spring. We want to feel the wind on our face and see something new and unusual.

There's a lot to do along the way: Walk through bluebells, spot birds, visit artist studios, sample cheese, watch a parade.

Here are 20 of the best spring drives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and  Michigan, along with festivals you'll want to catch, in 2017.

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