MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Four seasons of Grand Marais
On Minnesota's North Shore, this photogenic village always is ready for its close-up.
10 great places to take teens
Sure, they'd rather be with their friends. But you're the one with the wallet.
Cheat the heat
When summer becomes a sauna, it's time to chill out.
20 great rivers for tubing
Lolling on the water, it's easy to play it cool on hot days.
Outdoors in Door County
Beaches, bays and forests are keys to this lovely peninsula.
Watching a water-ski show
Spend a perfect summer evening watching flips, dance lines and pyramids.
Great beaches on bike trails
When you're done sweating, cool off in the surf.
Summer on stage
In vacation towns, plays and musicals offer a midsummer's-night diversion.

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FastPlans/Paul Bunyan in Bemidji

Paul Bunyan and Babe stand beside Lake Bemidji.

In Bemidji, it's all about Bunyan. The northern-Minnesota town was first to create a giant Paul, in 1937, and it's the northern trailhead of the Paul Bunyan State Trail.

What to do: Bike around the lake. Take a pontoon tour at Lake Bemidji State Park.

See the musical "Young Frankenstein'' at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. Buy a plaid ear-flap hat from Bemidji Woolen Mills. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the Outdoor Program Center on the lake.

Events to catch: Aug. 4-7, Dragon Boat Festival.

Details: For more, see Bemidji's behemoths.

Past fast plans: Pedaling and paddling in Lanesboro, Cooling off on the lake in Duluth, Staying cool in Grand Marais, Music and theater in Winona, Riverfront fun in Minneapolis

This weekend

Hoot like a loon in Grand Marais.

Canoeing in Grand Marais.

Fisherman's Picnic in Grand Marais, Minn. There's a lot going on at the North Shore's biggest festival, including loon-calling, log-sawing and rock-skipping contests; Saturday fireworks; and the grand parade  at 1 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 5–8.

Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis. The fair in this Milwaukee suburb features big-name musicians, a sea-lion show, a daily parade and lots of contests, including hog-calling, cookie-stacking and cream puff-eating. Aug. 5–15.

River City Days in Red Wing, Minn. In this Mississippi River town, there's music, food and games in Bay Point Park and an arts show in Levee Park. The parade is at 1 p.m. Sunday. Aug. 6–8.

Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven, Mich. There's nightly entertainment on the waterfront, a downtown carnival, tours of Coast Guard cutters, a Grand Parade and fireworks. Through Aug. 8.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

Camping without roughing it

Here are 15 state parks close to all the comforts: restaurants, shops, golf courses, even nightlife.

The beach and lighthouse at Holland State Park.

Even if you camp, you don't have to rough it.

A lot of state parks have plenty of woods, water and wildlife, but they're also just a short bike ride or walk away from the finer things in life — say, a pizza parlor or ice-cream stand.

Nearby restaurants make packing easy because you can leave the pots, dishes, soap and firewood home. Even if you like cooking over a fire, it's still nice to go out for a treat.

Here are 15 parks in five states where you won't be too far from some of your favorite things.

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Circling Lake Superior

A trip along its gorgeous shores provides everything a tourist's heart could desire.

Point Iroquois Light near Sault Ste. Marie.

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.

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Michigan's great lake cabins

In the only state that borders three Great Lakes, the best places to stay are in state parks.

A rustic cabin in Wells State Park.

On a summer day in Holland, Mich., all roads lead to the beach.

When we were there one June, people streamed toward this broad swath of sand until the sun fell low on the horizon, making the fire-engine-red harbor beacon glow like an ember. They ate ice cream, they strolled on the breakwall, they took a last dip in Lake Michigan.

But at 10 p.m. sharp, a police cruiser started flashing its red lights to shepherd everyone out of the park.

Except us, because we were sitting on the porch of our camper cabin with cold drinks from our fridge, a bowl of freshly popped popcorn and a killer view of the lake and Big Red, the beloved 1907 lighthouse.

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10 tourist traps to love

These roadside attractions dole out equal portions of schlock and awe.

Big muskie in Hayward.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with their tourist traps. They’re so uncool . . . but so irresistible.

What makes something a tourist trap? It’s a place that’s so cheesy you have to see if it’s really as cheesy as it looks. A place so iconic you’ve seen a million pictures of it. A place plugged by thousands of highway billboards.

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