The biggest asset of this three-college town is its location, right on the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin's coulee country.
Getting there: Why not take the train? From the west, Amtrak's Empire Builder arrives at 10:47 a.m.; from the east, at 7:11 p.m.
Details: See Cruising La Crosse.
When the rest of the Upper Midwest broils, this Lake Superior city basks in cool breezes.
In Bemidji, it's all about Bunyan. The northern-Minnesota town was first to create a giant Paul, in 1937, and it's the northern trailhead of the Paul Bunyan State Trail.
See the musical "Hairspray'' at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, Aug. 1-5 and 8-11. Buy a plaid ear-flap hat from Bemidji Woolen Mills. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the Outdoor Program Center on the lake.
Events to catch: Aug. 1-4, Dragon Boat Festival.
Details: For more, see Bemidji's behemoths.
Summer is the time to explore Minnesota's only national park, which is mostly water. You can explore by park-service pontoon, rented launch, houseboat, kayak or canoe.
Explore by canoe with a naturalist. Hike one of nine trails. Learn about the park at three visitors centers.
Details: For more, see Land of big water.
In summer, Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula is beautiful and cool, yet quiet even at the peak of tourist season.
It doesn't have many "attractions,'' yet there's so much to see soft pink-sandstone beaches, old mining towns, 10 lighthouses. In late July, blueberries ripen along roads and bear sightings are likely.
Details: For more, see Digging the Keweenaw.