Syttende Mai in Stoughton, Wis. This Norwegian constitution day festival is the largest in North America and probably the world. It features Norwegian dancing, Viking games, fjord horses, a canoe race, an arts fair and a big parade at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. May 1820.
Syttende Mai in Westby, Wis. This Norwegian town, southeast of La Crosse, holds a bicycle tour, troll hunt, rommegrot-eating contest, old-time music, children's tractor pull and a big parade at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. May 1920.
Art-A-Whirl Studio and Gallery Tour in Minneapolis. More than 500 artists take part in this tour of 60 locations in the northeast Minneapolis arts district. May 1820.
DubuqueFest in Dubuque, Iowa. This downtown arts festival includes dance, music on two stages, storytelling, food and children's activities. May 1820.
This is a bike-crazy part of the country. We like twisting singletrack, floating on fat tires and even gravel grinding but we love our off-road touring trails.
Luckily, we have more than anyone: Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin rank No. 1, 2 and 3 for miles of rails converted to trails, and Iowa and Illinois also are top-tier.
Minnesota's trails are prized because they're paved, including the 121-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail. For more, see Bicycling in Minnesota.
In Wisconsin, you can ride a trail most of the way between La Crosse and Milwaukee. For more, see Bicycling in Wisconsin.
Spring barely has started, but it's time to think about summer trips especially the ones that book up fast.
We found some interesting ways to save money this year. On Minnesota's popular North Shore of Lake Superior, a hostel has opened. In eastern Iowa, a benefit bike tour includes free skin-cancer screenings. In Chicago, a family of six can camp next to the Museum Campus for $50.
Here are the 2016 editions of our cheap-trips series.
For Minnesota, see Cheap summer getaways in Minnesota.
The ground is still frozen, but it's time to think about summer if you'd like to come away from vacation with more than a sunburn.
Yes, there's summer school for adults, and now is time to sign up.
In Door County, The Clearing Folk School is taking registrations for summer and fall. Classes in watercolor, quilting and wood-carving fill up fastest.
On Minnesota's North Shore, registration for summer classes at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais started this month. Bread-baking and boat-building classes are especially popular.
Ah, the smell of creosote in spring.
On a gorgeous day in May, its hard to resist checking out a new bicycle trail, especially when the neighborhood includes two state parks famous for their wildflowers.
Thats how we found ourselves in southeast Minnesota on the Great River Ridge State Trail, riding over a maniacally winding creek on dozens of freshly timbered bridges.
First, we drove to little Carley State Park, where white pines line a sunken bowl in the middle of farmland. Thousands of bluebells and clouds of false rue anemone covered an oxbow in the North Branch of the Whitewater River, but we were the only ones on the trails.
No one can predict when morel mushrooms will appear.
Usually, they appear in Iowa in late April and peak on Mother's Day in southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin and southern Michigan.
The season lasts three to four weeks. Since most people go out on weekends, Thursdays and Fridays are good days to look because new mushrooms have had a chance to pop out since the previous weekend.
April may be for lovers in Paris, but around here, its for lovers of soft-serve ice cream.
The best-loved drive-ins and stands have opened for the season, to the delight of their fans. In the Wisconsin town of Stevens Point, they pitched tents March 3 so they could be first in line when Belts Soft-Serve opened at 11 a.m. March 5.
Belt's is a find, for sure. When I stumbled on it one warm April day, it was mobbed. I got a $1.25 junior twist cone the size of an Olympic torch and watched people feeding free Puppy Cups to their dogs and eating flurries topped with peanut-butter cups the size of a brownie.
I look for these mom-and-pop spots everywhere I go; they were common, before the arrival of a certain franchise.
In summer, only the foolhardy travel without reservations.
Big events can eat up every room and campsite in an entire region, especially if the event is in a small town.
In central Iowa, more than 100,000 people go to Pella Tulip Time in May (pictured), which the American Bus Association regularly chooses as one of the Top 100 Events in North America.
In northeast Iowa, 75,000 people go to Decorah for Nordic Fest in July, filling rooms between Lanesboro and La Crosse.
In May, the shady forests and sunny hillsides of southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin erupt into blooms.
The varied terrain of bluff country provides the region's best and widest array of wildflowers, all within a 50-mile radius. Here's a road trip on which you can see them all.
Start in Carley State Park, four miles south of Plainview, Minn., to see masses of Virginia bluebells. Then drive east to the woodland canopies of Whitewater State Park, where you'll find the full array of ephemerals: trout lilies, spring beauties (pictured), hepatica, bloodroot, false rue anemone, bellwort, marsh marigolds and Dutchman's breeches.
From Whitewater, drive southeast to Mound Prairie, a state natural area between Houston and
Hokah, just north of the Root River.
Check out MidwestWeekends new page on Facebook. Weve posted a gallery of spring wildflowers, from the mid-April pasqueflowers to early-June orchids, with tips on where to find them. Coming up: galleries of roadside concrete folk art and giant mascots.
Well also post one-of-a-kind events as soon as we hear about them. Right now, you'll want to order the Minnesota state parks' Special Events Guide to find out about summer programs. Many fill quickly, such as Lake Bemidjis free pontoon-boat tour on June 24.
And in Wisconsin, the River Alliance of Wisconsin has released its list of summer excursions, which also fill; one to watch for is its Milky Moonlight paddle through Milwaukee on Aug. 5.