MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for fall

Cheap fall getaways
Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.
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.
Wisconsin Dells in fall
For many, the scenery is best when the crowds are gone.
15 great fall views
From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.
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/Autumn in the St. Croix Valley

A paddlewheeler on the St. Croix.

On a lovely day in fall, the 52-mile stretch between Taylors Falls and Prescott has everything a tourist could want — shops, historic houses, theaters, train excursions, boat cruises and scenery.

Events to catch: Sept. 23-24, Art in the Park in Afton and Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson. Sept. 23, Art and Artists Celebration at Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylors Falls.

What to do: Ride the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway. Take a paddlewheeler cruise from Taylors Falls. Shop in Stillwater or Hudson.

Details: For more, see Autumn along the St. Croix.

Past fast plans: Fall in the Dells, Fall on Minnesota's North Shore, Swiss in New Glarus, Exploring Michigan's Porkies, Exploring La Crosse

This weekend

Tour a marsh or watch a battle.

Harvest on a cranberry marsh.

Cranberry Festival in Warrens, Wis. There'll be marsh tours, a pie-eating contest, a huge market and a parade at 2 p.m. Sunday. Sept. 22–24.

Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines, This festival at Western Gateway Park features Latino music, dancing, arts, cultural booths, children's activities and a corn-eating contest. Sept. 23–24.

Civil War Weekend in Greenbush, Wis. Battles are reenacted at this festival at the Wade House historic site near Sheboygan. There's also a traveling medicine show, court martials, a sutler's row, period concerts and appearances by Abraham Lincoln. Sept. 23–24.

Doors Open Milwaukee in Milwaukee. More than 150 historic buildings — theaters, breweries, mansions, cathedrals, hotels, museums — are open to the public, and many offer free guided tours. Sept. 23–24.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

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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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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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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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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Great grape stomps

At winery harvest festivals, compete with your feet.

A grape-stomp contestant in a barrel.

During harvest time in a vineyard, turning purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings.

Purple is what you'll be if you get into a wooden tub of grapes and try to turn them into juice with your bare feet.

Vineyards don't get their juice that way anymore, but many still offer a grape stomp, and there's nothing goofier to do on an autumn day.

There are prizes for those who extract the most juice and those who show the most "style,'' so wearing a creative costume helps.

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