On Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior, this village of 1,400 is more cosmopolitan than many towns 20 times its size it has a performing-arts center, a folk school, an art colony and galleries and restaurants that could hold their own in much bigger cities.
Details: For more, see Four seasons of Grand Marais.
Past fast plans: Winona festivals, Riverfront fun in Minneapolis, Summer in Chicago, Lanesboro outdoors, Lake Geneva
Summerfest in Milwaukee. They call this the world's largest music festival. More than 800 acts perform on 11 stages along Lake Michigan. June 28July 2.
National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Mich. This town on Lake Michigan attracts half a million people to events that include air shows, an arts fair, music, races, the big Cherry Royale Parade and many contests, including pie-eating and pit-spitting. July 18.
Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, Ill This large festival on the west edge of Chicago features daily hot-air balloon launches, glows and fireworks shows, plus children's activities and a craft fair. June 30July 2.
Iowa City Jazz Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. This downtown festival features a Culinary Row, Fun Zone for kids and Sunday fireworks in addition to music. June 30July 2.
For more, see our Events Calendar.
By the time children turn 10, the day already is looming when they no longer want to spend time with you, their loving parent.
Jeremy Southworth of La Crosse, Wis., saw that day coming. So when his son Gavin got older, he took him jet-boating in the Dells and zip-lining in Door County.
"He'd been wanting to try zip-lining, so as soon as we came up here, we decided, 'We're doing that,' '' he said.
Luckily, parents still are in demand when they're willing to pay for thrills.
Of all the Great Lakes, Superior is the drama queen.
It's unpredictable and petulant, throwing tantrums that threaten to swallow any boat that ventures onto its waters. In 1975, it famously swallowed a boat that itself was called Queen of the Lakes.
Superior loves irony. The first recorded wreck, in 1816, was called the Invincible.
Everything about this lake is big and muscular. Volcanoes formed its shores, and hardened lava holds up dozens of waterfalls, except where giant dunes rise like shifting mountains.
Over the Fourth of July holiday, every town worth its salt holds a celebration.
There are band concerts, parades with antique cars and cute kids dressed in red, white and blue: It's all good.
Yet some celebrations are a little more special than others. And this is a special year if you love our neighbours to the north: It's Canada's 150th birthday.
It celebrates Canada Day on July 1, which is Friday. In the United States, the Fourth of July is on Tuesday, so you can bookend your weekend with two sets of fireworks.
In nature, bogs are the coral reefs of the north woods.
They're wet, spongy and seething with life that's often too small to see unless you look closely. Lean over the boardwalk, and you'll get a better view of sparkly goldthread or the lacy needles of baby tamarack.
But looks can be deceiving in a bog. Flowers that seem delicate are relentless predators, attracting flies to patterned red leaves that resemble engorged arteries, then drowning and digesting them.
Its funny that some people in the Upper Midwest spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Cancun or Cape Cod, because the best beaches in the world are in their own back yard.
Lake Michigan is Americas freshwater Riviera, a nearly unending strand of sand that looks like Florida without the high-rise condos. Its clean, blue and pleasantly cool, with water temperatures in the 60s, and in most places it looks just like the ocean.
Add in candy-striped lighthouses and even more ice-cream stands, and youve got the makings of a great beach holiday a cheap one, too, if you're on a budget.
In general, I like my heritage. It involves Vikings and trolls and populist politics. At festivals, tow-headed children dance around in cute outfits.
But the food . . . not so much. When it comes to herring and lutefisk, I'd rather be Polish. Plump pierogi with sour cream and sauteed onions now, there's an ethnic food I can love.
Luckily, it's easy to piggyback on other cultures in the Upper Midwest. Yes, many of us came from Germany, Ireland and Norway.
But we also came from Greece, Ghana, Switzerland, Iceland, Scotland, Ukraine and there are festivals honoring those cultures and those of the Dakota, Ojibwe, Cree and Ho-Chunk, who already were here.