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FastPlans/Fall in Decorah

Phelps Park in Decorah.

In the bluffs of northeast Iowa, Decorah has a lot going for it: a spectacular location, a scenic bicycle trail, fine restaurants and a rich cultural scene rarely found in a town of only 8,000.

What to do: Bicycle the 11-mile Trout Run Trail loop. Hike the blufftop trail in Phelps Park (pictured). Tour Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Visit Seed Savers Exchange.

Events to catch: Oct. 13-15, Northeast Iowa Studio Arts Tour.  Oct. 14, Harvest Festival at Seed Savers.

Details: See A pocket of Norway.

Autumn in the St. Croix Valley

A paddlewheeler on the St. Croix.

On a lovely day in fall, the 52-mile stretch between Taylors Falls and Prescott has everything a tourist could want — shops, historic houses, theaters, train excursions, boat cruises and scenery.

Events to catch: Sept. 23-24, Art in the Park in Afton and Spirit of the St. Croix Art Festival in Hudson. Sept. 23, Art and Artists Celebration at Franconia Sculpture Park near Taylors Falls.

What to do: Ride the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway. Take a paddlewheeler cruise from Taylors Falls. Shop in Stillwater or Hudson.

Details: For more, see Autumn along the St. Croix.

Fall in the Dells

Kayaking on the Wisconsin River in fall.

Autumn is quiet time in the Wisconsin Dells. But when the children go home, the adults can come out to play in the woods and on the river.

What to do: Hike and kayak in Mirror Lake State Park. Cruise the river gorge on a Dells Boat Tour. Take your kids for a ride on the Riverside & Great Northern Railway.

Events to catch:  Sept. 15-17, Wo-Zha-Wa Days Fall Festival. Oct. 13-14, Autumn Harvest Fest and Dells on Tap.

Details: For more, see Wisconsin Dells in fall.

Fall on Minnesota's North Shore

Fall colors on Oberg Mountain.

For Minnesotans, the stretch of Lake Superior they call the North Shore is hallowed ground. The cobblestone beaches, the dramatic river gorges and the panoramic views of a vast inland sea all make their hearts beat a little faster, especially in fall.

When to go: The last week of September in inland maple forest (pictured).

What to do: Hike the trails. Ride the Gitchi-Gami Trail. Have a picnic on Palisade Head. Skip rocks or hunt for agates on the beaches.

Go on guided hikes with the Superior Hiking Trail Association Sept. 23-24, 30 and Oct. 7.

Details: See Colors of the North Shore and North Shore by the mile.

Swiss in New Glarus

Chalet of the Golden Fleece in New Glarus.

In the Wisconsin town of New Glarus, the Swiss look is not just a facade for the tourists.

This town near Madison has jealously preserved its heritage on buildings, in restaurants and with festivals. It's an easy way to visit Switzerland without paying air fare.

What to do: Ride the 23-mile Sugar River State Trail. Tour  New Glarus Brewing. Visit the Swiss Historical Village.

Events to catch: Sept. 1-3, Wilhelm Tell Festival. Sept. 22-24, Oktoberfest.

Details: For more, see Swiss at heart.