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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.

Events to catch: June 22-24, Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival. July 14-15, Arts Festival

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

Riverfront fun in Minneapolis

A paddlewheeler near the Stone Arch Bridge.

The downtown Minneapolis riverfront is a magnet for tourists and locals alike, and everyone wants to be outdoors: listening to free concerts, dining at sidewalk tables and strolling on the Stone Arch Bridge.

What to do: Run, walk, bike or skate along the riverfront. Tour the Guthrie Theater. Take a historic walking tour from Mill City Museum. Go to the Mill City Farmers Market on Saturdays. See free water-ski shows on Thursdays.

Events: June 15-17, Stone Arch Bridge Festival. July 4, Red White and Boom. July 21, Aquatennial fireworks.

Details: See On the river in Minneapolis.

Summer in Chicago

bicyclists along Chicago's Lakefront Trail

In summer, everyone wants to be in Chicago, and the price of hotel rooms skyrockets. But the entertainment is free once you get there, and it's easy to eat well for very little.

What to do: There's always something free going on at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and Grant Park, including world-class classical music at the Grant Park Music Festival, June 13-Aug. 18.

Events to catch: June 8-10, Blues Festival, Ribfest and Midsommarfest. June 9-10, Old Town Art Fair.

Where to stay: See Where to stay in Chicago.

Details: For more, see Chicago as you like it and Cheap 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.

See "Silent Sky'' or "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'' at Commonweal Theatre. Shop for art at Lanesboro Arts Center. Take an Amish tour in the countryside.

Events to catch: June 2, Rhubarb Festival. June 16, Art in the Park.

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. Swim at the municipal beach or rent a motorboat.

Details: For more, see Gawking in Lake Geneva.