MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

Wildlife reality show
Web cams open a window into lives of eagles, bears and other wild things.
Free for all
At festivals and attractions across the region, fun doesn't cost a thing.
Celebrating roots
No matter where you're from, there's a festival for you.
Spring bird festivals
After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.
Tours on two wheels
On organized weekend bike trips, it's easy to go along for the ride.
Braking for jelly beans
With the siren call of free samples, factories reel in visitors.
Sugarbush safari
Running sap is cause for celebration in the maple forest.
Celebrating Syttende Mai
On a special day in May, Norwegian-Americans wave the red, white and blue.

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FastPlans/Wisconsin Muir tour

A blue crane at the Crane Foundation.

Celebrate John Muir's April 21 birthday with a trip to the sand plains of central Wisconsin, where Muir and Aldo Leopold began to shape the conservationist ethic that made them famous.

What to do: Near Baraboo, visit the International Crane Foundation (pictured, a blue crane). Tour Aldo Leopold's famous shack, the only chicken coop on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Leopold Center.

North of Portage, visit John Muir's boyhood home, now John Muir Memorial Park.

South of Baraboo, hike in Devil's Lake State Park and two state natural areas, Parfrey's Glen and Pewits Nest.

Events to catch: May 17, Family Day at the Leopold Center and Shack.

Details: For more, see Pilgrimage to the Baraboo Hills.

Past fast plans: Duluth boat-watching, A ball in Milwaukee, Spring in Galena, Circling Lake Pepin, Gunflint prime time

Best of spring

When warmer weather finally arrives, don't waste time.

Tulip Time in Pella.

Again, winter is lasting way too long. When it finally retreats, we'll need to move fast to enjoy spring before summer arrives.

Go on a spring drive, see fiddlehead ferns unfurl and surround yourself with that delicate shade of chartreuse that seems to tint the air green.

Canoe through sloughs, stalk morel mushrooms and watch colorfully attired folks dance around a maypole.

Here are our picks for the best things to do in spring 2014.

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Cheap spring getaways

Here are 20 spots where a fun weekend costs $100 or less.

Chula Vista resort in the Dells.

After a long winter, everyone deserves a spring getaway.

On a budget? No problem. Spring is the best time to find deals, and often the weather is stellar.

You'll have to pass on the fancy resorts and spas, but you don't have to give up comforts. Lots of lodgings offer great rates between the Easter school breaks and Memorial Day weekend.

In the bluffs of southeast Minnesota, learn how to cast for trout. In Green Bay, ride a swinging Viking ship. In the Amanas, dance around a May pole.

Think a little bit outside the box, and you'll save a ton of money. 

Here's our 2014 edition of great spring trips, each costing $100 or less per person.

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Spring weekends for women

In shopping towns and woodsy retreats, April and May are prime time for girlfriend getaways.

Women shop in Northfield.

In spring, women's weekends pop up like daffodils.

Chalk it up to cabin fever — women just want to get away. Or, perhaps more accurately, tourist-starved destinations want women to get away.

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Chasing cherry blossoms

In spring, Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula is a sight for sore eyes.

The Mission Point Lighthouse near Traverse City.

After a long winter, the sight of cherry blossoms is tonic for the soul.

In northern Michigan, cherries love the gravelly soil of the Old Mission Peninsula —and so do tourists.

This area has a friendly rivalry with Wisconsin's Door Peninsula, also warmed by the waters of Lake Michigan and known for cherries and vineyards. The Old Mission Peninsula, though, is small enough to tour in a day, since it's only 19 miles long and three miles wide.

That makes it one of the region's best spring drives.

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Blazing the trail

In spring, help maintain and extend your favorite hikes.

Volunteers on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Have you ever wondered who keeps your favorite hiking trail open?

It's not Mother Nature. She's the one downing trees and making brush grow over the path.

By helping maintain and build trail, you can do good, make friends and get a free or cheap trip. Lodges and nature centers also could use a hand. It's win-win for everyone.

Here are some of the opportunities in spring 2014.

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Waterfalls of the North Shore

When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.

High Falls on the Pigeon River.

There's only one good thing about a "spring'' that includes blizzards in April.

All that extra snow means extra-impressive waterfalls when the snow melts.

One of the easiest places to see lots of big waterfalls is along Minnesota's North Shore, where dozens of rivers roar down into Lake Superior. Where there's water, there's a waterfall.

When's the best time to go? As soon as ice melts, of course.

Here are some of the most spectacular falls.

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Along for the glide

On rivers, guided paddle trips offer a one-way ticket with nonstop scenery.

Canoeing the North Branch of the Root River.

There's no better way to see nature's best than on a river, the original highway.

The same rivers that carried hunters, explorers and traders now carry us, the sightseers. Paddling along, we see the same things they did: otters, eagles, fish and deer, plus lovely flora and endless sky.

Best of all, you never see the same thing twice.

You can paddle on your own, but then you have to make your way back upstream. It's easier and more fun to join one of the many trips organized by river associations, parks, schools and outdoors clubs.

Here are some of the river trips that sound most fun in 2014.

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