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FastPlans/Boats in Duluth

The Dutch-flagged Albanyborg.

In Duluth, the shipping season is in full swing.

The first laker left the harbor March 20, and the first saltie, the Marshall Islands-flagged Federal Weser, arrived April 12. Locals as well as tourists are happy to see the big boats back.

How to keep track of boats: Check arrivals and departures on Harbor Lookout and see boat descriptions on Boat Nerd.

What to do: Visit the free Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center next to the Aerial Lift Bridge. 

Events to catch: April 28, Lester River whitewater kayak race. May 13, Run Smelt Run parade.

Details: For more, see Boat watching in Duluth and Duluth 101.

A John Muir tour in Wisconsin

A blue crane at the Crane Foundation.

Celebrate John Muir's April 21 birthday with a trip to the sand plains of central Wisconsin, where Muir and Aldo Leopold began to shape the conservationist ethic that made them famous.

What to do: Near Baraboo, visit the International Crane Foundation (pictured, a blue crane). Tour Aldo Leopold's famous shack, the only chicken coop on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Leopold Center.

North of Portage, visit John Muir's boyhood home, now John Muir Memorial Park.

South of Baraboo, hike in Devil's Lake State Park and the state's first natural area, Parfrey's Glen.

Events to catch: May 19, Spring Open House at the Leopold Center and Shack.

Details: For more, see Road trip: Wisconsin's Muir Tour.

Spring in Galena

A cannon in Galena.

Everybody loves Galena, the cute little "town that time forgot.'' And because everybody can be a lot of people, spring is the best time to enjoy it.

Tulips and daffodils bloom on the terraces, weather is mild and streets are not too crowded. And there's always lots to do in this northwest Illinois town.

What to do: Take a trolley tour. Shop on Main Street. Tour the Ulysses S. Grant Home. Go on a Saturday-morning walking tour with Gen. Grant.

Events to catch: April 20-22, U.S. Grant's Birthday. April 28-29, Grant's Home Front & Re-enactment.

Details: See Galena getaway and Outdoors in Galena.

Baseball in Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Miller Park.

When the Milwaukee Brewers play, no one shivers in the stands, thanks to Miller Park's retractable roof. The home opener against the Cardinals April 2-4 will be followed by a home stand against the Cubs April 5-8.

There's also a lot to do downtown, and you can get a good rate at hotels, which are expensive during the summer festival season.

What else to do: See the "Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed'' exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. On the lakefront, visit Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum, whose "wings'' open at 10 a.m., flap at noon and close at 5 p.m.

Details: For more, see Playtime in Milwaukee.

On Lake Pepin

The view from Maiden Rock Bluff.

On this wide spot of the Mississippi, villages emerge from their winter slumber with the reopening of the popular Harbor View Cafe, which marks the start of tourist season.

Where to start: It's a 70-mile loop from Red Wing, Minn., in the north and Nelson, Wis., in the south.

What to do:  Explore the artsy shops in Stockholm. Visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. See downtown Red Wing or climb Barn Bluff. Admire the view from Maiden Rock Bluff state natural area (pictured).

In Pepin, the Harbor View Cafe is open for lunch and dinner Fridays-Sundays in early spring. No reservations.

Details: For more, see A spin around Lake Pepin.