MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Trip Hints

Favorites for fall

5 great places to watch birds in fall
Tag along with experts, and you'll get to see the migration up close.
Pursuing the hues
With luck, leaf peepers can squeeze six weeks of color out of fall.
30 classic fall hikes
For autumn scenery, these beautiful trails are the best of the best.
Cheap fall getaways
Here are 20 places to enjoy autumn colors without going into the red.
Autumn in the studios
On fall art tours, treasure hunters strike gold (and orange and red).
Bash on a bike trail
In fall, kick up your wheels at a small-town festival.
Autumn along the St. Croix
On fall days, this scenic river valley is dressed to impress.
Fall in Door County
On this Wisconsin peninsula, autumn colors gild a much-loved landscape.

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FastPlans/Fall in Decorah

Phelps Park in Decorah.

In the bluffs of northeast Iowa, Decorah has a lot going for it: a spectacular location, a scenic bicycle trail, fine restaurants and a rich cultural scene rarely found in a town of only 8,000.

What to do: Bicycle the 11-mile Trout Run Trail loop. Hike the blufftop trail in Phelps Park (pictured). Tour Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Visit Seed Savers Exchange.

Events to catch: Oct. 7-9, Northeast Iowa Studio Arts Tour.  Oct. 15, Harvest Festival at Seed Savers.

Details: See A pocket of Norway.

Past fast plans: Fall on the St. Croix, Capital of cheese, North Shore in fall, Swiss in New Glarus, Fun in the Porkies

This weekend

Enjoy harvest traditions from the Old World.

The Oktoberfest parade in Amana.

Oktoberfest in Amana, Iowa. Listen to German music and watch teams roll kegs, walk a balance beam with full steins of beer and saw logs. A parade is at 10 a.m. Saturday Sept. 30–Oct. 2.

Olde English Faire and Autumn on Parade in Oregon, Ill. Watch swordfighters, minstrels and magicians and, in town, strolling performers and the Harvest Time Parade on Sunday. Oct. 1–2. 

Fall Heritage Festival in Mount Horeb, Wis. This town west of Madison offers fjord horses, buggy rides, a Norwegian breakfast, a mini tractor pull, rosemaling and lefse-making demonstrations and photo opps with Jorgen the Troll. Oct. 1–2.

Big Island Rendezvous and Festival in Albert Lea, Minn. See more than 1,000 re-enactors dancing, demonstrating, competing and pulling visitors back into the fur-trade era. Oct. 1–2.

For more events, see our Events Calendar.


Great grape stomps

At winery harvest festivals, compete with your feet.

A grape-stomp contestant in a barrel.

During harvest time in a vineyard, turning purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings.

Purple is what you'll be if you get into a wooden tub of grapes and try to turn them into juice with your bare feet.

Vineyards don't get their juice that way anymore, but many still offer a grape stomp, and there's nothing goofier to do on an autumn day.

There are prizes for those who extract the most juice and those who show the most "style,'' so wearing a creative costume helps.

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Toasting Oktoberfest

These festive tributes to Bavarian tradition put the oompah into fall.

Narren at Minneapolis Oktoberfest.

When fall arrives, we get a sudden urge to hoist a stein of beer, eat a grilled bratwurst and listen to red-cheeked men in little felt hats play the accordion.

Fall belongs to the Germans, who streamed into the Upper Midwest in the 1850s and still are the largest ethnic group in every state. Which is a good thing, because Germans like to have fun.

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15 great fall drives

Chase the colors through glorious autumn landscapes.

Hilltop view of Hudson.

On a crisp, sunny fall day, we all get the urge to go for a drive.

The countryside is alight with color, and there's a lot going on — art-studio tours, corn mazes, hay rides and harvest festivals in every little town.

And you'll be chasing the colors, of course.

You probably could throw a dart at the map and find a pretty spot, but here are 15 routes that we think are especially beautiful.

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10 cool ways to see fall colors

When the trees put on a show, get a front-row seat that can't be beat.

A gondola on the St. Croix River.

In fall, you don't need to limit yourself to seeing the colors while speeding by in a car or even at a snail's pace from a hiking trail.

You also can watch the show on horseback, by boat or from a train. Or try a different kind of conveyance — say, covered wagon, dog team or gondola.

The important thing is get out there and see as much as you can while it lasts. Here are 10 cool ways to view the hues.

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So many festivals, so little fall

Want to go on an autumn power trip? Here are the best places to be each weekend.

Scarecrows in a contest.

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.

The 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.

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Tales of Tahquamenon

On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a big state park is a playground for waterfall-lovers.

Canoeing past Lower Falls.

At most waterfalls, people mainly sit, look and take pictures.

Not at Tahquamenon Falls.

Here, people duck under the falls, wade through them, row out to them and hike between them on a five-mile riverside path that's part of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

The waterfalls are the big attraction in Michigan's second-largest state park, on the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula. Even more novel is the park's brewpub, a popular stop for tourists on the Circle Tour of Lake Superior.

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