In the bluffs of northeast Iowa, Decorah has a lot going for it: a spectacular location, a scenic bicycle trail, fine restaurants and craft breweries and a rich cultural scene rarely found in a town of only 8,000.
Details: For more, see A pocket of Norway.
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: Right now through the last week of September in inland maple forest (pictured).
Events to catch: Sept. 25-Oct. 4, Art Along the Lake: Fall Studio Tour.
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.
Events to catch: Sept. 4-Oct. 4, Bicycle Festival, with free route maps and giveaways.
Details: See Cruising La Crosse.
When the rest of the Upper Midwest broils, this Lake Superior city basks in cool breezes.
For more than a century, vacationers have been making their way to this hillside village on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior.
What to do: Cruise the Apostle Islands. Explore Madeline Island. Pick berries in the orchards above town. Walk the two-mile Brownstone Trail along Chequamegon Bay. Explore the mainland sea caves by kayak.
Details: For more, see Beloved Bayfield.