MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

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Favorites for fall

Wings over the Mississippi
Tundra-swan watchers have a honkin' good time during the November migration.
Minnesota's scenic byways
Hit the road for a glimpse of the state's most engaging spots.
15 great fall views
From these overlooks, see rolling waves of color light up the landscape.
Lodgings in Minnesota state parks
Surrounded by nature, a lucky few sleep in relative luxury.
Tracing the Ice Age Trail
In north-central Wisconsin, a slow-moving monolith left a playground for weekend wanderers.
Don't be a dope in the woods
Even if you feel at home in the outdoors, a mistake can be disastrous.
November girlfriend getaways
In the slow season, women head out to have fun with their friends.
Pursuing the hues
With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze seven weeks of color out of fall.

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FastPlans/Fall hikes at Devil's Lake

Devil's Lake State Park in fall.

In fall, there's nowhere more spectacular than Devil's Lake State Park, the most-visited park in Wisconsin.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail loops around it atop 500-foot quartzite cliffs, giving hikers one great view after another.

What to do: Hike the West Bluff and East Bluff trails around the lake. Visit Baxter's Hollow state natural area west of the park. Bicycle the Great Sauk State Trail south of the park.

Details: See The divine Devil's Lake and Baraboo's gilt complex.

Past fast plans: Fall colors in Door County, Fall in Decorah, Fall on Minnesota's North Shore, Exploring La Crosse, Cooling off on the lake in Duluth

This weekend

Shop for art or tour Chicago virtually.

A Chicago house decorated for Halloween.

Earth Wood & Fire Artist Tour around Lake Mills, Wis. Visit artists in their studios in and around Lake Mills, Cambridge and Fort Atkinson, between Madison and Milwaukee. Oct. 24–25.

Great Pumpkin Halloween Celebration in St. Paul. The Landmark Center in Rice Park hosts this free party for kids of all ages. Admission is by reservation with timed entry. Oct. 25.

Chicago International Film Festival in Chicago. This year's program includes 65 films and nine programs of shorts that are screening virtually and at the ChiTown Movies Drive-In in Pilsen. Oct. 14–25.

Open House Chicago in Chicago. The Chicago Architecture Foundation sponsors this free, behind-the-scenes peek at mansions, clubs, churches, hotels and theaters in more than 20 neighborhoods. This year, all of the tours will be outdoors or online. Oct. 16–25.

For more, see our Events Calendar.


15 great fall drives

Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.

Hilltop view of Hudson.

On a crisp, sunny fall day, we all get the urge to go for a drive.

The countryside is alight with color, and there's a lot going on — art-studio tours, corn mazes, hay rides and harvest festivals in every little town.

And you'll be chasing the colors, of course.

You probably could throw a dart at the map and find a pretty spot, but here are 15 routes that we think are especially beautiful.

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30 classic fall hikes

For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.

Runners in Carleton's Arboretum.

An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where?

This time of year, you could walk down the street and see something nice.

But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.

Here are 30 of our favorite fall hikes. A few require a little huffing and puffing, but most are easy strolls. And they all showcase fall at its finest.

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Quiet time on Minnesota's North Shore

Late fall is marked by stark beauty, cheaper stays and the gales of November.

Bridge over the Brule River.

The skies were leaden and forbidding as Lake Superior slid into view and we descended into Duluth. The wind mauled our hair as we stood alongside the harbor canal, waving to the crew of the Sea Pearl II as it pushed toward Malta with a load of grain.

Driving up the shore, we listened to taped stories of shipwrecks: The sidewheeler Lotta Bernard, pummeled into pieces off Gooseberry Falls on Oct. 29, 1874.

The steamer Edenborn, hurled into the mouth of Split Rock River and broken in two on Nov. 28, 1905. The Lafayette, pulverized against a cliff near Encampment Island on the same day.

Ahhhh. This is the North Shore I know and love.

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5 great places to watch birds in fall

Tag along with experts, and you'll get to see the migration up close.

Children look at tundra swans near Alma.

In fall, the birders come out to watch the annual migration of hawks, waterfowl and swans.

The rest of us come out to watch the birders, because they see things the rest of us don't.

At the annual Hawk Weekend on Duluth's Hawk Ridge, renowned author and ornithologist Laura Erickson had eagle eyes trained on the sky, as usual.

"There's a sharp-shinned hawk with a songbird in its crop,'' she noted to anyone who cared to listen. "Since it's just eaten, it probably won't fly any closer, but it might if it sees easy pickings.''

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15 great late-fall getaways

It's the mellowest time of the year, when hotel rates drop with the leaves.

Dells Boat Tours.

Late fall — when crowds fade and hotel deals appear — is one of the best times to make a getaway. 

For hikers, it's the sweet spot between the fall-color rush and hunting season. For shoppers, it's the time to get a head start on the holidays, before the craziness starts.

More often than not, the weather still is gorgeous, and stubborn oaks and willows offer color that lasts into the middle of November.

The more popular a destination is in summer, the more likely you'll find great hotel deals in late October and November.

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