Summer is for camping out on a boozy restaurant patio, trekking to a bizarre street fair, and exploring uncharted literature while planted on the sand. Summer is for buying produce outside, watching bands outside, and indulging in semiridiculous childish acts outside. Summer is for playing on the lake, playing with your dog, and taking a cruise on the lake with your dog. But mostly, summer is for comebacks—coming back from the collective hell we call winter.

We didn’t plan for “comebacks” to be the overriding theme in the four travel stories in our summer guide (which includes the goings-on we think are most worth your precious summer hours). But there you have it: a blues festival that’s being resurrected, a pristine beach that’s seeing a resurgence, and the ultimate comeback: a confirmed visit from the Virgin Mary. Admittedly, we’re not exactly sure what kind of comeback Blarney Island is making, but suffice it to say we couldn’t resist a floating bar whose claim to infamy is “babes, bikinis, bands, boats, and beer.”

All this stuff is about as far from hell as we can imagine. Enjoy it while you can.

In town

Alfresco: 25 notable spots for outdoor dining

Exploring Chicago Craft Beer Week

Drink out of town: summer beer fests

Follow the music: Our guide to the summer’s notable music festivals

Best of the rest of the fests

Get on the water: Kayak, swim, jet-ski, surf, or sail – even if you’re the aquatically challenged

Dog days of summer: Five canine-friendly summertime events

On two wheels: Bike rides and races

From scavenger hunts to beachathons to obstacle courses, the race is on

Summer book fairs

Farmers’ Markets: where to go for your greens


This isn’t heaven. It’s Wisconsin. By Sam Worley

Madison’s Nostrano: Destination dining from husband-and-wife vets of Blackbird and Boka By Mike Sula

With a restaurant and a charcuterie CSA, Madison’s Underground Food Collective is underground no longer By Mike Sula

Blarney Island: A mile away from reality and dangerously close to paradise By Luca Cimarusti

The resurgence of a Benton Harbor beach By Joanné von Alroth

Southwest Michigan’s naturally beautiful beaches By Joanné von Alroth

The return of Benton Harbor’s old-school blues fest By David Whiteis