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Our Favorite Summer Towns

The Heartland on Half Speed

Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Scandinavian settlers were attracted to the wildflower meadows and summer days that stretch until nine. Today's drop-ins to this bayside village in Wisconsin's Door County, the pinkie-shaped peninsula that separates Green Bay from the rest of Lake Michigan, also get tidy fruit orchards, markets stocked with artisanal cheddars, and a marina with slips reserved for yachts. Main Street's white clapboard storefronts are enthusiastically sprinkled with Swedish kitsch (count the blue-and-yellow flags and the heart-shaped doodads). Swim in water so clean you can skip bath time, and hike, bike, boat, and fish along the Door's 250 miles of shore. STAY AT The White Gull Inn (4225 Main St., Fish Creek; 888/364-9542; www.whitegullinn.com; cottages for four from $299), a Victorian lodge with the best fish boil, a Nordic dish of whitefish and potatoes cooked over a hyperactive outdoor fire. (Hot dogs available on request.) RENT FROM JR Vacation Rentals (53 W. Spruce St., Sturgeon Bay; 888/481-1935; www.jrvacationrentals.com; three-bedroom condos from $1,485 per week). EAT AT Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant (702 North Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay; 920/854-2626; dinner for four $64), where goats chomp on the sod roof and waitresses in dirndls dish up Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and meatballs on the side. Dessert stop: Sweetie Pies (The Settlement Shops, Hwy. 42, Fish Creek; 920/868-2743) for cherry pie and cinnamon-piecrust cookies. IDEAL OUTING Rent wheels from Edge of Park Bike and Moped (Park Entrance Rd., Fish Creek; 920/868-3344; www.edgeofpark.com), at the main entrance of Peninsula State Park (920/868-3254; www.dnr.state.wi.us), then coast the gentle trails beneath the park's 3,776 acres of white birches and sugar maples. While you're there, swim and canoe at Nicolet Bay Beach, a crescent of shallow water (plus a playground and snack bar) on Green Bay. IT'S A JOKE Take a crash course in Midwestern humor at the American Folklore Theatre (9462 Shore Rd., Fish Creek; 920/854-6117; www.folkloretheatre.com) in the park's outdoor amphitheater. DON'T MISS Miniature golf at the delightfully creaky Red Putter (10404 Hwy. 42; 920/854-5114), in nearby Ephraim, or a flick at the 1950's Skyway Drive-in Theater (3475 Hwy. 42, Fish Creek; 920/854-9938). PERFECT SOUVENIR A bucket of tart Montmorency cherries, harvested from mid-July to mid-August at Lautenbach's Orchard Country (9197 Hwy. 42, Fish Creek; 920/868-3479; www.orchardcountry.com). Be sure to test your prowess at the local sport: pit spitting.
—ELIZABETH LARSEN

Sandcastle Country

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Named for a cannon that washed ashore in 1846, Cannon Beach is sandwiched between Highway 101 and the pounding Pacific. Its big selling points: proximity to Portland and Seattle (80 miles east and 222 miles north, respectively); wild, undeveloped beaches; four blocks of galleries and kite stores; and a highly competitive annual sandcastle-building contest (June 11 this year). LAY OF THE LAND The town extends four miles along the Pacific, bordered on the north by Ecola State Park and on the south by Tolovana Beach Park. FIRST TOURISTS Lewis and Clark stopped by in 1806, to buy 300 pounds of whale blubber from the Clatsop Indians. FAMOUS LANDMARK Haystack Rock, a 235-foot monolith, towers above the shore. At low tide during May and June, you can see black-and-white tufted puffins (try saying that 10 times fast!) nesting on its grassy north slope. Look for members of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (they're the ones setting up microscopes and spotting scopes); they'll help you identify all the strange creatures in the tide pools. STANDOUT BEACHES The town's own stretch has soft sand and calm surf. Secluded and stunning Arch Cape lies five miles to the south. Five more miles down the coast, Short Sands Beach, a horseshoe-shaped cove at Oswald West State Park, is beloved by families and surfers for its sandy bottom, reliable waves, and shelter from strong winds. Caveat Pack wet suits: the water averages a teeth-chattering 54 degrees. STAY AT The beachfront Surfsand Resort (148 W. Gower St.; 800/547-6100; www.surfsand.com; doubles from $199), which has an indoor pool, plus a weenie roast on summer Sundays. The Ocean Lodge (2864 S. Pacific St.; 888/777-4047; www.theoceanlodge.com; doubles from $249, or $279 after June 21) caters to young guests, with sand buckets on arrival and a cookie jar in the lobby. RENT FROM Cannon Beach Property Management (877/386-3402 or 503/436-2021; www.cbpm.com); a two-bedroom house with ocean views goes for about $1,800 a week. ESSENTIAL EATING You'll find razor clams—breaded and panfried—on menus all over town; some of the best are at the Driftwood Inn (179 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-2439; dinner for four $130). SUGAR FIX Cannon Beach Cookie Company (239 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-1129) bakes starfish-shaped cookies and scones with marionberries, a grown-only-in-Oregon delicacy. Across the street, at Bruce's Candy Kitchen (256 N. Hemlock St.; 503/436-2641), the saltwater taffy, made with a 1908 machine, comes in flavors like butter and molasses-mint. PERFECT SOUVENIR A kite from Once Upon a Breeze (240 N. Spruce St.; 503/436-1112).
—JAIME GROSS

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