The biggest asset of this three-college town is its location, right on the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin's coulee country. Its scenery and festivals draw tourists year-round.
Getting there: Why not take the train? From the west, Amtrak's Empire Builder arrives at 10:47 a.m.; from the east, at 7:14 p.m. (barring delay).
Events to catch: Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Bicycle Festival, with free tours and a downtown music festival.
Details: See Cruising La Crosse.
Past fast plans: Fun in the Porkies, Exploring Voyageurs, Bemidji and Bunyan, Cool Grand Marais, Kickapoo canoeing
In this part of the world, fall is sweet but way too short.
All of the quaint little towns along rivers and in the bluffs have to pack their autumn festivals into the same six weekends, rolling out parades, pumpkin contests and oompah bands for all the leaf-peeping tourists.
choices are paralyzing. Flea market or scarecrow contest? Pumpkin regatta or studio tour? Yodeling contest or dachshund races?
You can't do it all, but you can do a lot. Just go on a power trip to two, even three festivals in one weekend.
If you dont know much about Minnesotas North Shore, trip-planning can be confusing.
For one thing, its really the west shore of Lake Superior. People in Ontario dont get confused because they live on the real north shore. Chicagoans do because they call their northern suburbs the North Shore.
This pointy corner of Minnesota also is called the Arrowhead Region. Some people call its roads by their names Sawbill and Caribou and some by their numbers County Road 2 and County Road 4. Some people heading north along the shore say theyre heading east, and theyre right.
Even if you know exactly where you are, its still hard to plan a trip to the North Shore: Theres so much to see and do, and everything passes in a flash.
Thanks to volunteers who love locomotives, excursion trains live on.
These days, trains also are rolling entertainment venues, offering murder mysteries and beer tasting in addition to barbecue, pizza, brunch, happy hour and holiday trains.
In autumn, there are pumpkin trains and fall-color excursions, including one on the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive, which will make a run from Minneapolis to Duluth and back Sept. 27-28.
The scenery is great year-round. Below are some of the best trains to ride.
This summer, Duluth made us proud by beating out 63 other U.S. towns in Outside magazine's best outdoors town tournament.
It's hard to argue with Duluth, even against such better-known towns as Boulder, Colo., and Missoula, Mont., because everything it offers is right in the city hiking, mountain biking, paddling, skiing.
But other towns are almost as deserving, and there's still time this summer to visit them (though the best are just as fun in winter).
Here are 10 great outdoor towns in the western Great Lakes.
In summer, you dont have to hunt wildflowers.
Theyre big and splashy, blooming by the thousands on prairie, along bicycle trails and anywhere theres sun. When everything else is green, they give us pops of color: the purple of bottle gentian, the orange of hawkweed, the yellow of tansy.
Do you like Monets paintings of Giverny? Then youll love the meadows of blue vervain and Queen Annes lace on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, the swaths of pearly everlasting and red bunchberry on the Keweenaw Peninsula and the fields of sunflower and blazing star along the Waters of the Dancing Sky scenic byway in northern Minnesota.
This time of year, its a real pleasure to take a drive or a hike or bike ride. Here are 10 great places to find late-summer wildflowers.
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