MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for fall

Ghosts of the Great Lakes
Centuries of tragedy on ship and shore leave haunting memories.
Hiking Minnesota's North Shore
Soak up the scenery above Lake Superior with one of these great day hikes.
Wisconsin Dells in fall
For many, the scenery is best when the crowds are gone.
One fall swoop
The roller-coaster hills and riverside bluffs of northeast Iowa yield a photo album of panoramas.
Hawk heaven
On a ridgetop in Duluth, bird watchers keep eyes on the fall skies.
15 great fall views
From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.
High color in Cable
Fall frames the abundant beauty around a northwest Wisconsin town.
Tracing the Ice Age Trail
In north-central Wisconsin, a slow-moving monolith left a playground for weekend wanderers.

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FastPlans/Halloween in Chicago

Skull at a farmers market.

In Chicago, Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas.

The city puts on a big cultural party in and around Millennium Park. Navy Pier has a party over two weekends. And everybody dresses up.

Events to catch: Oct. 21, Halloween Parade of Artists. Oct. 21 and 28, Halloween at Navy Pier, with  fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 28.

What to do: Go on a ghost tour or "Devil in the White City" tour. Tour Graceland Cemetery

Details: For more, see Halloween in Chicago.

Past fast plans: Fall hikes at Devil's Lake, Fall colors in Door County, Fall in Decorah, Autumn in the St. Croix Valley, Fall in the Dells

This weekend

Chuck a pumpkin or run with zombies.

A tower of hay at a fall festival.

Pumpkin Chuckin Fest in Union Grove, Wis. This festival just west of Racine features a pumpkin catapult contest, barbecue cook-off, pie auction, pumpkin-baking contest, children's games and music. Oct. 21–22.

Haven Harvest Festival in South Haven, Mich. This downtown festival includes hayrides, a scarecrow contest, pumpkin-chucking, zombie runs, a pet-costume parade and a haunted asylum at the Maritime Museum. Oct. 20–22.

Harry Potter Festival in Jefferson, Wis. This festival celebrates the famous boy wizard with a lighted parade at 6:30 p.m. Friday, a Magical Night Out, Quidditch games, a Sorting Hat Experience, Dragons Alley, a corn maze and many other events. Oct. 20–22.

Southwest Wisconsin Fall Art Tour in Mineral Point, Spring Green, Dodgeville and Baraboo, Wis. This popular studio tour is Oct. 20–22.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


Horror around the corner

Spoiling for a fright? For Halloween, ghouls lurk in strange places.

A Redcoat ghoul at Fort Michilimackinac.

It began with a sepulchral fugue, crashing through the frigid steel corridors. Then there was a shriek. And throbbing blood-red lights.

At a fork along a curtained gantlet, a hand-lettered sign advised, "Choose wisely.'' We chose. Another sign said, "You chose poorly.'' Then the ghouls began to crowd in, chattering like monkeys: "Where you goin'? Where you goin'?''

A skeleton slowly turned to face us. We climbed a Plexiglass ramp over an open coffin and into an electrocution chamber. A tortured face poked out of the wall. Behind us, the tunnel closed.

A haunted house? No, a haunted ship — a real claustrophobe's nightmare.

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Ghosts on the prowl

Around the region, spirits of past turn out to haunt tourists of today.

The cemetery in Spillville.

It's funny how, wherever there are tourists, there are ghosts.

In Chicago, two ghost tours put titillated tourists on the track of Al Capone and John Dillinger, thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb and serial murderer H.H. Holmes, the Devil in the White City.

There's enough lingering ectoplasm in St. Paul, Milwaukee and Winnipeg to keep guides busy there, too, especially around Halloween.

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15 great late-fall getaways

It's the mellowest time of the year, when hotel rates drop with the leaves.

Dells Boat Tours.

Late fall — when crowds fade and hotel deals — appear  is one of the best times to make a getaway.

For hikers, it's the sweet spot between the fall-color rush and hunting season. For shoppers, it's the time to get a head start on the holidays, before the craziness starts.

More often than not, the weather still is gorgeous, and stubborn oaks and willows offer color that lasts into the middle of November.

The more popular a destination is in summer, the more likely you'll find great hotel deals in late October and November; check Groupon, Living Social and TravelZoo.

Here are 15 great places to go for a late-fall getaway.

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November girlfriend getaways

In the slow season, women head out to have fun with their friends.

Horseback riding in autumn.

In November, women make a break for it.

As men sit in deer stands or watch football games on TV, women hit the road with their friends. They shop, visit spas, sip wine, take cooking classes and see musicals their husbands or boyfriends don't want to see.

For women, November is a great month. Not only do they have a good excuse to get away with their friends, but they can get a head start on shopping for Christmas.

There are art fairs and holiday markets everywhere. And festivities start early in such shopping meccas as Cedarburg, Wis., which starts its Festive Friday Eves on the eve of Wisconsin's firearms deer opener.

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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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