MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

Great summer festivals
Here are the best of the fests in the Upper Midwest.
How to find the best campsites
Great campsites await those who know how to look for them.
Art al fresco
When warm weather arrives, art fairs start to pop up everywhere.
Trails of Trempealeau
There's a lot to do in this Mississippi River hamlet in southwest Wisconsin.
Waterfalls of the North Shore
When snow melts along Lake Superior, hear them roar.
Wright in Racine
In southeast Wisconsin, a wax magnate's decision to hire 'the greatest architect in the world' had stunning results.
Bicycling in Minnesota
This state's long, paved trails draw eager riders from around the nation.
Following the tall ships
Sloops and schooners still sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

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FastPlans/Walking 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.

Past fast plans: Door County spring, Art in Mineral Point, Touring Trempealeau, Wisconsin Muir tour, Spring in Galena

This weekend

Listen to marching bands, eat brats and pay tribute to Bob.

People down brats at Brat Fest.

World's Largest Brat Fest in Madison. There's free music on four stages, plus kids' games, a sports zone, carnival rides and Sunday fireworks. May 27–30.

ChocolateFest in Burlington, Wis. There's a battle of chefs, giant Choco-Jenga, Project Yum-way, cupcake and chocolate-eating contests, lumberjacks and a carnival. May 27–30.

North Iowa Band Festival in Mason City, Iowa. Don't miss the 10 a.m. Saturday band parade in this town, which Meredith Willson made famous in "The Music Man.'' May 26–30.

Duluth Dylan Festival in Duluth. The town in which Bob Dylan was born celebrates the singer's 75th birthday with a Blood on the Tracks train ride, a singer-songwriter contest, a bus tour, films, music and a trivia contest. May 22–29.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.

Planning a cheap summer trip

Even in the priciest places, you can have fun without spending much.

Bicycling in Chicago.

Spring barely has started, but it's time to think about summer trips — especially the ones that book up fast.

We found some interesting ways to save money this year. On Minnesota's popular North Shore of Lake Superior, a hostel has opened. In eastern Iowa, a benefit bike tour includes free skin-cancer screenings. In Chicago, a family of six can camp next to the Museum Campus for $50.

Here are the 2016 editions of our cheap-trips series.

For Minnesota, see Cheap summer getaways in Minnesota.

For Wisconsin, see Cheap summer getaways in Wisconsin.

For the U.P. and western Michigan, see Cheap summer getaways in Michigan.

For Illinois and Iowa, see Cheap summer getaways in Iowa and Illinois.

Lake Superior's greatest hits

This nine-day itinerary gives you the highlights of a Circle Tour.

The pictographs at Agawa Bay.

The Circle Tour of Lake Superior is one of the world's most scenic drives, 1,300 miles of non-stop scenery and attractions.

There's a staggering number of things to do and see around Lake Superior. But if you have only a week's vacation, you can see the highlights on this nine-day, eight-night Circle Tour.

Drive clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on what festivals or events you want to catch. For more, see Planning a Circle Tour.

For an overview of what you'll see, go to Circling Lake Superior.

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Pizza on the farm

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, dinner guests flock to the countryside for ultra-fresh ingredients and idyllic settings.

Pizza night at Suncrest Gardens.

You can't get more local and sustainable than a wood-fired pizza served just yards from where its ingredients were raised and grown.

Farms that moonlight as pizzerias one or two nights a week are multiplying, but not just because the pizzas are so good.

The visitors who eat them also get to spend an evening soaking up the bucolic country atmosphere, savoring a lifestyle that's now far removed from most lives.

Children tear around expansive lawns, adults chat over chilled wine, and the scent of lilacs and freshly mowed grass wafts through the air. Often, there's live music.

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A day to be outdoors

The first weekend of June is a great time to try a new park, trail or fishing hole, for free.

The rocks of Big Bay State Park.

If you don't spend at least part of this weekend outdoors, you'll be missing the boat.

At least in Wisconsin, where it's Free Fishing Weekend, with clinics and games for all ages.

You get to explore state parks and use state trails for free in Wisconsin for Free Fun Weekend, and there are special events in many parks, such as raptor shows and lessons in archery and mountain biking.

Free use of trails in Wisconsin saves bicyclists $5 for a daily pass. Free entry to parks save non-residents $11 for a daily pass.

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America's freshwater Riviera

On Lake Michigan's gorgeous beaches, everyone can find a spot in the sun.

The beach at J.W. Wells State Park.

It’s funny that some people in the Upper Midwest spend their summer vacations on the beaches of Cancun or Cape Cod, because the best beaches in the world are in their own back yard.

Lake Michigan is America’s freshwater Riviera, a nearly unending strand of sand that looks like Florida without the high-rise condos. It’s clean, blue and pleasantly cool, with water temperatures in the 60s, and in most places it looks just like the ocean.

Add in candy-striped lighthouses and even more ice-cream stands, and you’ve got the makings of a great beach holiday — a cheap one, too, if you're on a budget.

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Eyeballing bison

Once creatures of Old West yore, the new national mammal can be seen in a park or preserve near you.

Bison at Blue Mounds State Park.

Like bald eagles, bison have staged a spectacular comeback.

This week, the massive creatures that once roamed the plains by the millions joined the national bird as the national mammal.

Herds have grown, including the genetically pure herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, and have shared bison with parks and preserves in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Now anyone can see bison, or buffalo, often on tallgrass prairie restored to its original state.

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