MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for summer

Great fall festivals
Here are the best of the autumn fests in 2019.
Pizza on the farm
In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.
Digging the Keweenaw
On Lake Superior, an isolated peninsula yields up all sorts of riches.
Watching a water-ski show
Spend a perfect summer evening watching flips, dance lines and pyramids.
Into the belly of Chicago
A food tour points us toward pizza, spice and everything nice.
A feast of festivals
At small-town shindigs, get your fill of strawberries and sauerkraut, kolacky and sweet corn.
Best brew fests
Quaff craft beer to your heart's content at these tasting parties.
Dreaming of Ely
The wilderness around this Minnesota town exerts a magnetic pull on city folk.

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FastPlans/Exploring Michigan's Porkies

A hiker on the Porkies' Escarpment Trail.

On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is gorgeous, with 90 miles of trails through old-growth forest, 25 miles of Lake Superior shoreline and four inland lakes.

Hiking is best in late summer and fall, when bugs are gone and hardwoods turn colors that are among the region's most vivid.

What to do: Hike the Escarpment Trail above Lake of the Clouds (pictured). See waterfalls along the Little Carp and Presque Isle rivers. Take a workshop at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School.

Events to catch: Aug. 23-25, Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.

Where to stay: The park rents 19 rustic cabins, four yurts and a handsome 1940s lodge.

Details: For more, see Afoot in the Porkies.

Past fast plans: Exploring La Crosse, Cooling off on the lake in Duluth, Paul Bunyan in Bemidji, Traveling by boat in Voyageurs, Exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula

This weekend

Go to a Fair, fiesta and folk fest.

A swing at the Minnesota State Fair.

Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. Try flights at the Craft Beer Hall, eat food on a stick, listen to free concerts and watch the 2 p.m. daily parade. Aug. 22–Sept. 2.

Potato Days in Barnesville, Minn. This goofy central-Minnesota festival features mashed-potato wrestling, a golden potato hunt, potato car races, peeling and eating contests and a Saturday parade. Aug. 23–24.

Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee. Enjoy the best of Mexican culture: mariachi, arts and crafts, spicy foods and contests: dance, costume, jalapeno-eating and el grito, or shouting. Aug. 23–25.

Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, Wis. This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities, a traditional arts and crafts fair and music performances and workshops. Aug. 23–25.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


Great grape stomps

At winery harvest festivals, compete with your feet.

A grape-stomp contestant in a barrel.

During harvest time in a vineyard, turning purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings.

Purple is what you'll be if you get into a wooden tub of grapes and try to turn them into juice with your bare feet.

Vineyards don't get their juice that way anymore, but many still offer a grape stomp, and there's nothing goofier to do on an autumn day.

There are prizes for those who extract the most juice and those who show the most "style,'' so wearing a creative costume helps.

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Cheap fall getaways

Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.

Waterfall in the Porkies.

Fall is the busiest travel season of the year — we all know the nice days are numbered, and we're going to try our darndest to make them count.

But with pretty much everyone heading out to look for fall color, especially on weekends, there are few bargains.

That's why those of us on a budget look to our old friends: the parks, the mom-and-pop motels, the environmental centers, the hostels, the outdoors clubs.

Here's our 2019 list of 20 great autumn trips. Most of them cost $100 or less per person.

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A zeal for zip lines

There's a boom in zooming over the tree tops.

Gravity Trails zipline in Door County.

It's a big rush, zipping over treetops.

You can ride over an Ontario canyon, dunes in Door County, a gorge near the Dells and a creek in Michigan.

Zip lines first made an appearance at environmental learning centers, alongside climbing towers and high-ropes courses.

If you want to try one, here's where to look. There's usually a weight restriction of between 230 and 275 pounds, and a minimum age of 7 to 10 years. Most courses require reservations.

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Following the tall ships

Sloops and schooners still sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Tall ship Friends Good Will.

On the Great Lakes, everyone loves to see a multi-masted schooner, white sails flapping in the breeze.

They're always the favorite guests at festivals, especially on Lake Superior, which usually sees only freighters.

On Lake Michigan, these magnificent replicas of 19th-century schooners and sloops are more common, offering tours and day sails from their homes when they're not appearing at festivals.

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