The Great Lakes

Eight states and two nations border these vast inland seas. Bustling cities stand along their shores. But they also boast waterfront serenity and natural beauty.

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How You'd Spend Your Free Time:

Most folks end up on, in, or near the water: fishing (including ice-fishing), boating, swimming, waterskiing, diving, and in the winter snowmobiling or dogsledding on the ice. You can even surf―Sheboygan, Wisconsin, hosts a surfing tournament every Labor Day.

Historical, cultural, and entertainment attractions call folks to the metropolises. For a strong dose of French culture, visit Montreal or Quebec City, along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, affords a taste of British culture, wonderful theater (the Shaw Festival, April through December), and ice wine (an intense dessert wine that's a specialty of most of the more than 40 area wineries). At Niagara Falls, the boat tour's awesome up-close look is worth the drenching.

Take a cruise on one of several small to medium-size ships that ply the lakes during warmer months. Or explore the many resort islands, such as the Lake Erie islands near Sandusky, Ohio, and the Thousand Islands where Lake Ontario becomes the St. Lawrence Seaway (birthplace of Thousand Island salad dressing). Or see Manitoulin Island and its neighbors on the Ontario side of Lake Huron, Mackinac and Bois Blanc islands on the Michigan side of Huron, and Beaver Island and its compatriots on Lake Michigan. There's also the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin and Isle Royale off northeastern Minnesota.

For birding, visit such feather-friendly spots as Ohio's western Lake Erie shore and Whitefish Point in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Explore all the rustic charms of the "U.P.," as the peninsula is known in these parts.

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