MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Music & theater

Summer on stage

In vacation towns, plays and musicals offer a midsummer's-night diversion.

In vacation hubs all across the region, summer theaters are launching another season of delicious escapism.

With corps of enthusiastic young actors drawn from all over the nation, they’ll put on Neil Simon, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and the bouncy musicals vacationers love — "Little Shop of Horrors,’’ "Fiddler on the Roof,'' "Spamalot.''

Light-hearted plays for light-hearted days Ñ it's a formula that works.

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Arts in Door County

On this Wisconsin peninsula, vacation isn't complete without a dose of culture.

Once, evening entertainment in Door County consisted of watching the sun set over Green Bay.

Then, at the turn of the century, the seven sons of the Eagle Bluff lighthouse keepers formed a band to entertain at various gatherings, arriving with a horse-drawn piano.

The arts scene really got going in 1935, when the first theater was founded on the lawn of a Fish Creek motel. The same year, a Danish landscape architect from Chicago started the first arts school. In 1953, the first music festival was founded.

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Summer nights in Solon Springs

In Wisconsin, big-name musicians find their way to a small-town park.

Just two miles from the start of the Bois Brule, another famous river flows in the opposite direction.

It's the St. Croix, flowing out of Upper St. Croix Lake and toward the Mississippi River. The two rivers are separated by a continental divide but became an important water highway for Indians, explorers and fur traders.

Today, their two-mile portage trail is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Music on the Mississippi

In southeast Minnesota, an unusual medley of rural and small-town venues draws delighted audiences.

In southeast Minnesota, along the Mississippi and in its bluffs, folk and roots music has found a home far from the bright lights of the big city.

In the countryside, music sounds different. In an old general store in Oak Center, it's toasty warm, like late-afternoon sunlight.

In the airy loft above a harp-building workshop near Red Wing, it rings out like a church bell on Sunday morning.

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In winter, it's play time

When the outdoors is unfriendly, escape to another world onstage.

In winter, the stage is set for skiers and snowmobilers.

But not everyone is cool with the cold. Luckily, winter also is the peak cultural season, making it a good time to stay indoors and be entertained.

So there’s no reason to treat winter as a tragedy — unless you’ve got tickets for  “Othello,’’ of course.

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