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Fast Plans / Where to go now

FastPlans/Staying cool in Grand Marais

People walking on the Grand Marais breakwall.

On Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior, this village of 1,400 is more cosmopolitan than many towns 20 times its size — it has a performing-arts center, a folk school, an art colony and galleries and restaurants that could hold their own in much bigger cities.

What to do: Walk to Artists' Point. Skip rocks. Take a class from North House Folk School. Hike at nearby Cascade River State Park. Hunt for agates at Cutface Creek Wayside.

Details: For more, see Four seasons of Grand Marais.

Playing outdoors in Chicago

Kayaks on the Chicago River.

In summer, Chicago lives outdoors, which is a good thing in coronavirus times, since the big festivals are canceled and the biggest attractions closed.

Here's what you can do in Chicago this summer.

For accommodations in all price ranges, see Where to stay in Chicago.

Pedaling and paddling in Lanesboro

A bicyclist pedals on the Root River State Trail.

In summer, this hamlet in Minnesota's southeast corner kicks into high gear as bicyclists, paddlers and trout fishermen stream into its many inns and B&Bs.

The beautiful Root River State Trail jump-started Lanesboro's renaissance in the 1980s, but now tourists also come for the theater and art.

What to do: Bicycle the 42-mile Root River State Trail or 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail. Canoe or kayak the Root River. Fish for trout

Details: For more, see The belle of bluff country.

Walking around 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

Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.

Looking for wildflowers

Marsh marigolds at Split Rock.

If we ever needed to see the bright faces of the first spring wildflowers, this is the year. The first wave of ephemerals is blooming now, and the second wave will continue into early June.

Where to look: You'll see some in almost every park. To get a little more space for yourself, visit one of the many Minnesota scientific and natural areas (SNAs) and Wisconsin state natural areas, many of which protect rare and endangered flowers.

Nature Conservancy preserves host many interesting plants. Wildlife refuges, nature preserves and environmental learning centers also are good places to look.

Details and identification: For more, see Where to find spring wildflowers and our Facebook album of 50 spring wildflowers.