MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Great summer festivals
Here are the best of the fests in the Upper Midwest.
Celebrating roots
No matter where you're from, there's a heritage festival for you.
How to prevent Lyme disease
The bite of a deer tick can cause major headaches, and more.
Following the tall ships
Sloops and schooners still sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
10 great day trips from Madison
See the circus, visit Swiss towns or ride a rail trail: There's fun in every direction.
Chasing cherry blossoms
In spring, Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula is a sight for sore eyes.
15 great rivers for paddling
On a fine day, go sightseeing in a canoe or kayak.

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FastPlans/Walking around Lake Geneva

People walking around Geneva Lake.

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

This weekend

Indulge in chocolate, brats and music.

People down brats at Brat Fest.

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 24–27.

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 24–26.

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 23–27.

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 24–27.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Cheap summer getaways in Iowa and Illinois

From quiet lake parks to the big city, vacation for $100 or less.

A cabin in Backbone State Park.

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.

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Cheap summer getaways in Minnesota

No money, no problem: Here are 20 great vacations that are easy on the wallet.

Skaters and bicyclists use the Munger State Trail.

In summer, it’s not as hard as you’d think to take a fun trip that doesn't cost much.

Many of the great travel experiences in Minnesota can’t be bought, anyway — hiking amid old-growth white pines, paddling through bluff country, listening to loons in the Boundary Waters.

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Cheap summer getaways in Wisconsin

No money, no problem: Here are 20 great vacations that are easy on the wallet.

A crowd listens to an outdoor blues concert in Solon Springs

In summer, it’s not as hard as you’d think to take a trip that's a lot of fun but doesn't cost much.

Many of the great travel experiences in Wisconsin can’t 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.

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Cheap summer getaways in Michigan

On the Upper Peninsula and Lake Michigan shores, vacation for as little as $100.

A volunteer lighthouse keeper.

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.

Read story and trip tips