MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for fall

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.
Great grape stomps
At winery harvest festivals, compete with your feet.
Cheap fall getaways
Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.
Pursuing the hues
With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze seven weeks of color out of fall.
Fall in Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, autumn colors gild a much-loved landscape.
Wisconsin's Rustic Roads
On quiet lanes, motorists ramble into the heart of the countryside.
Bash on a bike trail
In fall, kick up your wheels at a small-town festival.
Pedaling for a pint
Thanks to mutual attraction, breweries are popping up along bike trails.

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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. 28-29, Art in the Park in Afton and Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson. Sept. 28, 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 tradition in New Glarus, Exploring Michigan's Porkies, Exploring La Crosse

This weekend

Watch paddlers pilot pumpkins.

Pumpkin regatta in Cedarburg.

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. 21–22.

Apple Day in Excelsior, Minn. On the shore of Lake Minnetonka, there's an artisan fair, apple pie-eating contest, music and a street dance. Sept. 21.

Party on the Pavement in Racine, Wis. Racine's biggest street festival features five stages of entertainment and a car show, art walk, carnival rides and zones for kids and sports. Sept. 21.

World War II Days in Rockford, Ill. Midway Village Museum hosts one of the largest World War II battle re-enactments in the nation, with more than 1,200 uniformed re-enactors and more than 60 vintage tanks and other armored vehicles. Sept. 21–22.

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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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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Best of fall

The chase is on as autumn colors start to coat the countryside.

Waterfall in the Porkies.

We always get a little frantic in fall, trying to make the most of a too-brief window of opportunity.

Fall is the best time for a lot of things: hiking, after frost has knocked off the bugs; road trips, when the countryside is at its loveliest; and wildlife-watching, when birds and beasts are on the move.

Plus, it's gorgeous. Most people try to catch the reds and oranges of maples at peak, but tamaracks, tallgrass and oaks keep things glowing through October.

Here are our picks for the best things to see and do this fall.

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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.

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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, 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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Autumn in the studios

On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).

Shops on Commerce Street in Mineral Point.

In September and October, artists everywhere throw open their studio doors, inviting the public to see some fall colors along with fine art.

It's tempting because of the scenic landscapes in which so many artists live: the bluffs of northeast Iowa, the coulees of southwest Wisconsin, the towns around Lake Pepin, the lumpy terrain of the Ice Age Trail.

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