MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for summer

The Minnesota resort of your dreams
Here's where to look for the perfect place on a lake.
Michigan's Pictured Rocks
There's a lot of scenery crammed into one stretch of Lake Superior around Munising.
The Wisconsin resort of your dreams
Here's where to look for the perfect place on a lake.
Minnesota's Boundary Waters
For canoeists, this vast wilderness is the promised land.
Camping without roughing it
Here are 15 state parks close to all the comforts: restaurants, shops, golf courses, even nightlife.
10 great places to ride 'n' glide
Traveling by both bike and boat, a river trip is twice the fun.
Summer in Minocqua
In Wisconsin's north woods, vacationers flock to this Island City.
Paddling the Bois Brule
In northwest Wisconsin, this lively river is cherished by presidents, paddlers, fishermen and wildlife-watchers.

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FastPlans/Staying cool in Grand Marais

People walking on the Grand Marais breakwall.

On Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior, this village of 1,400 is more cosmopolitan than many towns 20 times its size — it has a performing-arts center, a folk school, an art colony and galleries and restaurants that could hold their own in much bigger cities.

What to do: Walk to Artists' Point. Skip rocks. Take a class from North House Folk School. Hike at nearby Cascade River State Park. Hunt for agates at Cutface Creek Wayside.

Details: For more, see Four seasons of Grand Marais.

Past fast plans: Playing outdoors in Chicago, Pedaling and paddling in Lanesboro, Walking around Lake Geneva, Looking for wildflowers, Spotting eagles

Cheap fun with kids

Want to have a good time with your children? Then go back to the basics.

children jumping off raft at Minnesota resort.

When it comes to travel, it costs a lot less to make kids happy than parents think.

Oh, kids are happy to let adults spend money on big-ticket trips — Disney World, Six Flags, the Wisconsin Dells.

But what do they prefer? It's elemental, my dear parents: rocks, water and sand.

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America's freshwater Riviera

On Lake Michigan's gorgeous beaches, everyone can find a spot in the sun.

Playing on the Platte River.

It’s funny that some people in the Upper Midwest spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Cancun or Cape Cod, because the best beaches in the world are in their own back yard.

Lake Michigan is America’s freshwater Riviera, a nearly unending strand of sand that looks like Florida without the high-rise condos. It’s clean, blue and pleasantly cool, with water temperatures in the 60s, and in most places it looks just like the ocean.

Add in candy-striped lighthouses and even more ice-cream stands, and you’ve got the makings of a great beach holiday — a cheap one, too, if you're on a budget.

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Cheat the heat

When summer becomes a sauna, it's time to chill out.

Rafters go over rapids on Wolf River.

When heat wraps itself around your shoulders like an electric blanket with static cling, there’s 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.

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Pizza on the farm

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.

Making pizza in Hayward.

You can't get more local and sustainable than a wood-fired pizza served just yards from where its ingredients were raised and grown.

Farms that moonlight as pizzerias one or two nights a week are multiplying, but not just because the pizzas are so good.

The visitors who eat them also get to spend an evening soaking up the bucolic country atmosphere, savoring a lifestyle that's now far removed from most lives.

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Camping in state parks

Pay attention to the window if you want to reserve a prime spot at peak times.

The beach at Devil's Lake.

So this year, you got a great campsite in your favorite state park. Or maybe you didn't.

A lot of people vie for places in the most popular parks — Peninsula and Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, Split Rock and Itasca in Minnesota, all of the beach parks in Michigan.

The people who get them know how to work the angles. Mainly, that means knowing when to reserve.

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