MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for summer

Pizza on the farm
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.
Sightseeing by bicycle
Join a rolling tour, and you'll see the best of the Upper Midwest.
Living like a pioneer
At day camps in forts, fur posts and frontier homesteads, kids go back in time.
Duluth rocks!
With a pizza train, bike path and beaches lined with boulders, this is a great town for kids.
5 festivals that are out of this world
You'll have a cosmic good time celebrating things that came from outer space.
Loving Frank Lloyd Wright
Tours, events and inns cater to the many fans of the famous architect.
A feast of festivals
At small-town shindigs, get your fill of strawberries and sauerkraut, kolacky and sweet corn.
Waterfalls of the North Shore
When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.

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FastPlans/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. Swim at the municipal beach or rent a motorboat.

Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.

Past fast plans: Door County spring, Horicon birds, Touring Trempealeau, Boats in Duluth, Spring in Galena

This weekend

Pig out on brats, chocolate and music.

People down brats at Brat Fest.

World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison. There's music on four stages, with headliners including George Clinton and Everclear, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. Admission is free. May 26–29.

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, carnival and Friday fireworks. May 26–29.

CelebrAsian Asian Heritage Festival in Des Moines. This festival at Western Gateway Park features martial arts, a cosplay competition, lion dancers, table tennis and a fashion show. May 26–27.

Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, Ill. 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 26–29.

For more, see our Events Calendar.

20 great spring hikes

The scenery along these lovely trails will put a spring in your step.

Bluebells in Kaskaskia Canyon.

What's so great about hiking in spring? That's easy – there's so much to see.

Move your feet in any direction and you'll run across wildflowers, waterfalls and, best of all, sweeping views that last only until the trees leaf out.

Head out before summer makes its brash appearance, with walls of greenery and fleets of bugs.

Here are 20 great places to go hiking in spring.

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15 great trails to ride in spring

On a bike, get out to see what's new in countryside or city.

Spring bicycling on the Root River State Trail.

In spring, everything moves so fast you need wheels to see it all.

Two wheels are perfect, because bicycle trails are little nature corridors in spring. Warblers zoom back and forth, nabbing twigs for nests, and wildflowers bloom on sunny edges.

You'll also want to check out new trails and see what's new along favorite trails.

Here are some of the best to ride in spring.

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Planning a Circle Tour of Lake Michigan

For a great summer road trip, follow the shores of this Midwestern Riviera.

Lilac Parade on Mackinac Island.

If sun, sand and water are your favorite things, the Circle Tour of Lake Michigan is the vacation for you.

The 1,100-mile drive along this Third Coast is an easygoing road trip that appeals to beach bums, lighthouse lovers, boating buffs and anyone who likes to wander in and out of wineries and fudge shops.

It's a great family trip because there's a beach every few miles, almost always with a playground. On the northwest side of the lake, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one big sandbox.

Many of Michigan's 18 beach parks, especially Ludington State Park, are like resorts, and some families stay there an entire week. Beach-boutique towns like South Haven and Saugatuck add shopping and fine dining.

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10 great day trips from the Twin Cities

Within an hour's drive, you can cruise Lake Minnetonka, stroll on the St. Croix or climb a historic bluff.

Barn Bluff frames Red Wing on the Mississippi.

As wonderful as Minneapolis and St. Paul are, sometimes you just have to get out of town.

Luckily, you only have to drive an hour or so to find a world of fun.

Minneapolis and St. Paul grew around the confluence of two rivers, and their favorite day-trip destinations are on rivers, too.

To the southeast, the port of Red Wing is curled into an elbow of the Mississippi.

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Spring in Door County

On this Wisconsin peninsula, a vast array of wildflowers rewards those weary of winter.

At Ridges Sanctuary, a visitor examines a bog flower.

Goldthread and gaywings. Bogbean and trailing arbutus. In Wisconsin's Door County, it's enough to make a naturalist hyperventilate.

Cherry blossoms and daffodils are the showiest spring flowers on this tourist playground between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. But it's the wildflowers, many of them rare, that provide the most joyous proof that spring has arrived.

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20 great spring drives

When weather warms, the urge to hit the road is irresistible.

A barge on the Mississippi River.

It's a beautiful spring day — finally. The trees are budding, the birds are chirping. What do you do?

Road trip! Somehow, the call of the highway is especially strong in spring. We want to feel the wind on our face and see something new and unusual.

There's a lot to do along the way: Walk through bluebells, spot birds, visit artist studios, sample cheese, watch a parade.

Here are 20 of the best spring drives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and  Michigan, along with festivals you'll want to catch, in 2017.

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