MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for spring

Great spring festivals
It's a good time to indulge in brews, birding and blooms.
Wildlife reality show
Web cams open a window into lives of eagles, bears and other wild things.
Spring bird festivals
After a long winter, birders welcome the return of feathered friends.
Spring in Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, a vast array of wildflowers rewards those weary of winter.
Trying kayaking
Think the sport looks cool? It's easy to get your feet wet.
Planning a Circle Tour of Lake Superior
For a great vacation, follow the shores of Lake Superior.
Spring weekends for women
In shopping towns and woodsy retreats, April and May are prime time for girlfriend getaways.
20 great spring hikes
The scenery along these lovely trails will put a spring in your step.

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FastPlans/Spring in Galena

A cannon in Galena.

Everybody loves Galena, the cute little "town that time forgot.'' And because everybody can be a lot of people, spring is the best time to enjoy it.

Tulips and daffodils bloom on the terraces, weather is mild and streets are not too crowded. And there's always lots to do in this northwest Illinois town.

What to do: Take a trolley tour. Shop on Main Street. Tour the Ulysses S. Grant Home. Go on a Saturday-morning walking tour

Events to catch: April 9-19, Peace in Union sesquicentennial, celebrating the end of the Civil War. April 24-26, Civil War re-enactment.

Details: See Galena getaway and Outdoors in Galena.

Past fast plans: Eagles on the river, Circling Lake Pepin, Fun in Bayfield, Gunflint prime time, Weekend in Chicago

15 great spring drives

When weather warms, the urge to hit the road is irresistible.

A barge on the Mississippi River.

It's a beautiful spring day — finally. The trees are budding, the birds are chirping. What do you do?

Road trip! Somehow, the call of the highway is especially strong in spring. We want to feel the wind on our face and see something new and unusual.

There's a lot to do along the way: Walk through bluebells, spot birds, visit artist studios, sample cheese, watch a parade.

Here are 15 of the best spring drives around the region.

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Schools of know-how

In resort areas, many people go home from vacation with a new skill.

Judy Sutcliffe helps students at Shake Rag Alley.

In hindsight, it's good to be grown up and out of school: no more tests, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks.

But it's also good to be a grown-up who's back in school, because schools have grown up, too. There are no tests and few books, and teachers are as friendly and attentive as cruise-ship hosts.

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Best of spring

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

Bluebells on the Illinois Canyon Trail.

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 2015.

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Cheap spring getaways

Here are 20 places where a fun weekend won't stress the budget.

A bicyclist pedals the Root River State Trail in spring.

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.

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The season's first ships

When the Great Lakes shipping season starts, boat nerds watch for salties.

An ore boat enters the Twin Ports.

Like robins and maple sap, Lake Superior ore boats aren't much affected by the never-ending winter that humans find so annoying.

In Duluth, icebreakers help the big lakers get out of ports the third week of March — this year, the John G. Munson was first to leave, on March 20. Then traffic starts to move within Lake Superior and then, after the Soo Looks open, from other Great Lakes.

Ah, but when will the first oceangoing boat arrive? Whoever guesses that wins the annual First Ship Contest sponsored by the city and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, and the grand prize of an all-expenses-paid trip to the port town

The deadline to enter is March 31, and there's only one entry allowed per person.

You may think that the colder and longer the winter, the later the arrival — and that was true in 2014, the year of the polar vortex.

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