MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for fall

Hawk heaven
On a ridgetop in Duluth, bird watchers keep eyes on the fall skies.
Lighthouses of Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, beacons are reminders of a more rugged past.
Pursuing the hues
With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze seven weeks of color out of fall.
Bicycling in Wisconsin
The state that pioneered rail trails isn't resting on its laurels.
Autumn in the studios
On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold.
Fall in Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, autumn colors gild a much-loved landscape.
Cheap fall getaways
Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.
Lodgings in Minnesota state parks
Surrounded by nature, a lucky few sleep in relative luxury.

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FastPlans/Fall in the Dells

Kayaking on the Wisconsin River in fall.

Autumn is quiet time in the Wisconsin Dells. But when the children go home, the adults can come out to play in the woods and on the river.

What to do: Hike and kayak in Mirror Lake State Park. Cruise the river gorge on a Dells Boat Tour. Take your kids for a ride on the Riverside & Great Northern Railway.

Events to catch:  Sept. 17-19, Wo-Zha-Wa Days Fall Festival. Oct. 16, Dells on Tap.

Details: For more, see Wisconsin Dells in fall.

Past fast plans: Fall in Marquette, Exploring La Crosse, Swiss tradition in New Glarus, Breezy in Bayfield, Paul Bunyan in Bemidji

This weekend

Indulge in apples, pumpkins and wine.

Apple orchard in Door County.

Art and Apples on the Lake in Excelsior, Minn. On the shore of Lake Minnetonka, Art on the Lake combines with Apple Day, with an art fair, apple pie-eating contest, music and a street dance. Sept. 18–19.

Wauktoberfest in Waunakee, Wis. This town just north of Madison celebrates with a craft-beer tasting, bike tour, music and lots of contests: frau carrying, yodeling, beer keg race, dachshund dash and Limburger cheese and sauerkraut eating. Sept. 17–19.

Gemuetlichkeit Days in Jefferson, Wis. This festival between Madison and Milwaukee is named for the German word for a cozy and congenial atmosphere. It includes sauerkraut-eating, nail-driving, facial hair and costume contests, a vintage car show, music and a parade at noon Sunday. Sept. 17–19.

Wine & Harvest Festival in Cedarburg, Wis. There's a pumpkin regatta — yes, people paddling hollowed-out pumpkins across Cedar Creek — at the fest in this historic mill town just north of Milwaukee. There's also a scarecrow contest, grape stomp, hay rides, juried arts fair and lots of food. Sept. 18–19.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

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, chairlift or Venetian 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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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.

In October 1810, they had so much fun at the wedding of Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, held in a meadow near Munich, that they decided to do it every year.

Emigrants to America brought the tradition with them, along with their recipes for beer and sausage, and started hundreds of smaller Oktoberfests all across the Midwest.

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So many festivals, so little fall

The season is short, so go on a power trip and catch two or three festivals each weekend. Here's where to go.

Pumpkin regatta in Cedarburg.

In this part of the world, fall is sweet but way too short.

All of the quaint little towns along rivers and in the bluffs have to pack their autumn festivals into the same six weekends, rolling out parades, pumpkin contests and oompah bands for all the leaf-peeping tourists.

The choices are paralyzing. Flea market or scarecrow contest? Pumpkin regatta or studio tour? Yodeling contest or dachshund races?

You can't do it all, but you can do a lot. Just go on a power trip — to two, even three festivals in one weekend.

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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.

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