MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Great fall festivals
Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2017.
Lake break in Bemidji
A historic northern-Minnesota resort is a great place for a low-key, low-cost getaway.
Autumn in the studios
On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).
Packer country
Like Oz, Green Bay glows green and gold.
Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis
The lakes, river and creeks that ring this metropolis are a magnet year-round.
Giants of Lake Superior
On a trip around the biggest lake, stop to see larger-than-life heroes and mascots.
10 great getaways from Chicago
Take a break to lounge on beaches, gawk at river canyons and go on brewery tours.
Chasing gangsters in Wisconsin
In lakes country, tourists still love to see where infamous crooks relaxed.

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FastPlans/Exploring Michigan's Porkies

A hiker on the Porkies' Escarpment Trail.

On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is gorgeous, with 90 miles of trails through old-growth forest, 25 miles of Lake Superior shoreline and four inland lakes.

Hiking is best in late summer and fall, when bugs are gone and hardwoods turn colors that are among the region's most vivid.

What to do: Hike the Escarpment Trail above Lake of the Clouds (pictured). See waterfalls along the Little Carp and Presque Isle rivers. Take a workshop at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School.

Events to catch: Aug. 25-27, Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

Where to stay: The park rents 19 rustic cabins, four yurts and a handsome 1940s lodge.

Details: For more, see Afoot in the Porkies.

Past fast plans: Exploring La Crosse, Cooling off in Duluth, Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, Exploring Voyageurs, Exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula

This weekend

Dig into mariachi or mashed potatoes.

Guitarists at Cinco de Mayo.

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. Try flights at the Craft Beer Hall, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 24–Sept. 4.

Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee. Enjoy the best of Mexican culture at the Henry Maier Festival Park: mariachi, arts and crafts, spicy foods and contests: dance, costume, jalapeno-eating and el grito, or shouting. Aug. 25–27.

Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn. This goofy central-Minnesota festival features mashed-potato wrestling, a golden potato hunt, potato car races, peeling and eating contests and a Saturday parade. Aug. 25–26.

Festival in the Pines in Eau Claire, Wis. There's music on two stages, children's games, a petting zoo and an arts fair in Carson Park. Entry to Paul Bunyan Logging Camp and Chippewa Valley Museum is included. Aug. 26–27.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

10 great outdoors towns

Want to get sweaty, dirty . . . and exhilarated? Here's where to go.

Brewers Ridge on the Superior Hiking Trail.

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.

Read story and trip tips

Cheap fall getaways

Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.

A waterfall on the Presque Isle River in the Porcupines.

Fall is the busiest travel season of the year — we all know the nice days are numbered, and we're going to try our darndest to make them count.

But with pretty much everyone heading out to look for fall color, especially on weekends, there are few bargains.

That's why those of us on a budget look to our old friends: the parks, the mom-and-pop motels, the environmental centers, the hostels, the outdoors clubs.

Here's our 2017 list of 20 great autumn trips, most of which cost $100 or less per person

Read story and trip tips

10 great places to find late-summer wildflowers

In special spots, blooms paint the landscape in every color under the sun.

Pearly everlasting grows amid bunchberries on the Keweenaw P

In summer, you don’t have to hunt wildflowers.

They’re big and splashy, blooming by the thousands on prairie, along bicycle trails and anywhere there’s sun. When everything else is green, they give us pops of color: the purple of bottle gentian, the orange of hawkweed, the yellow of tansy.

Do you like Monet’s paintings of Giverny? Then you’ll love the meadows of blue vervain and Queen Anne’s lace on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, the pearly everlasting on the Keweenaw Peninsula and the sunflower fields along the Waters of the Dancing Sky scenic byway in northern Minnesota.

This time of year, it’s a real pleasure to take a drive — or a hike or bike ride. Here are 10 great places to find late-summer wildflowers.

Read story and trip tips

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.

Read story and trip tips