In the southeast corner of Wisconsin, Lake Geneva has been welcoming wealthy Chicagoans for 150 years. They came, they built fabulous mansions, and now the rest of us get to gawk at them from a footpath that hugs all 20 miles of shoreline.
When to go: Now, when it's still fairly quiet. July and August are crowded, especially on weekends.
What to do: Walk around Geneva Lake; if you want to walk only the eight miles from Lake Geneva, an excursion boat will pick you up in Williams Bay. Shop downtown. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard.
Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.
Past fast plans: Enjoying spring in Door County, Touring the trails of Trempealeau, Art and whimsy in Mineral Point, Boats in Duluth, A John Muir tour in Wisconsin
ChocolateFest in Burlington, Wis. This big festival in southeast Wisconsin features a battle of the chefs, the Project Yum-way candy-wrapper design contest and chocolate-eating contests, plus a crafts fair and carnival. May 2427.
World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison. There's music on four stages, including Smash Mouth, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. May 2426.
North Iowa Band Festival in Mason City, Iowa. There's a carnival, craft show and car cruise, but don't miss the 10 a.m. Saturday band parade in this northern Iowa town, which Meredith Willson made famous in "The Music Man.'' May 2327.
Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, Ill. In this south Chicago suburb, there's music on five stages, plus a petting zoo, hurling, theater, Irish dog and pony exhibits and red hair, freckle and bonnie baby contests. May 2427.
For more, see our Events Calendar.
In summer, you have to work the angles to vacation for $100 or less.
You've got a good shot in Iowa, which has a big selection of cabins in state parks and especially county parks.
It's a little harder in Illinois. But Chicago has one of the world's best hostels, and some state parks have lodges and camper cabins.
And because there are so many people in northern Illinois, there are many outdoors clubs that host low-cost trips around the region.
In summer, its not as hard as youd think to take a fun trip that doesn't cost much.
Many of the great travel experiences in Minnesota cant be bought, anyway hiking amid old-growth white pines, paddling through bluff country, listening to loons in the Boundary Waters.
In summer, its not as hard as youd think to take a trip that's a lot of fun but doesn't cost much.
Many of the great travel experiences in Wisconsin cant be bought, anyway bicycling along Lake Michigan, camping on sandbars, volunteering in a lighthouse.
If you like music and festivals, you're really in luck Wisconsin has many fun, family-friendly fests with on-site camping, at unbeatable prices. And its national forests and county parks are full of great campsites.
Here's our 2019 list of the best cheap trips, most for less than $100 per person.
With shoreline on three Great Lakes, Michigan is a popular destination in summer.
But it's still one of the best places to go for a budget beach vacation, thanks to the state parks.
They offer a huge array of cabins and lodges as well as campsites, though you have to reserve far in advance for a place in Lower Michigan parks.
It's much easier to find a last-minute campsite on the Upper Peninsula. Its lakeshores are lined by state, county and municipal parks, and its interior is mostly national forest.