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posted: 7/10/2011 12:01 AM

On the road: Explore eight great Indiana towns

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  • "1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana" is part of the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

      "1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana" is part of the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

  • Experience the beauty of nature via a fall foliage tour with Vacations By Rail.

      Experience the beauty of nature via a fall foliage tour with Vacations By Rail.

 
 

Eight great towns

Visit Hamilton County, Ind., and you get the best of eight towns in one weekend. Just minutes north of Indianapolis, the area features the towns of Fishers with the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, and Noblesville, home of the Indiana Transportation Museum's 1940s-era excursion train. Stroll the art and design district in Carmel and take a ghost walk tour in Westfield, shop six different farmer's markets and lots of antique shops before enjoying a mix of Indiana eateries.

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Find out more at the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 37 E. Main St., Carmel, Ind. Call (800) 776-8687 or visit 8greattowns.com.

Chicago

Ancient Chinese secret for summer fun

Immerse in another culture at Chicago's Chinatown Summer Fair. The neighborhood festival features a colorful Lion Dance procession plus Asian cultural entertainment from music to dance. Have a taste of Chinatown's many restaurants, plus browse the unique gift shops, Chinese arts and crafts exhibits, and the children's area.

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at Wentworth Avenue from Cermak Road to 24th Place, Chicago. Call (773) 868-3010 or visit chicagochinatown.com.

Midwest

Vive le Milwaukee

North America's largest outdoor French-themed festival is held in downtown Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park, and the 30th anniversary offers old favorites and some new twists. Enjoy live entertainment options, mini-French lessons, roaming minstrels, waiter/waitress races, kids' activities and delicious food. Bastille Days is known for its impromptu street performers, interactive and musical entertainment, and the signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica.

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, July 14-16, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee. Free admission. Visit easttown.com.

Princeton pedigree

Princeton, Ill., is host to Festival 56, Illinois' largest summer theater festival. The six-week run of professional theater includes productions of Shakespeare, classic and world-premiere musicals, and the masterworks of playwrights such as Steinbeck, Ibsen and Shakespeare. This summer, see "Proof," "Annie Get Your Gun," "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Nunsense" among others. Productions are presented simultaneously in three venues around Princeton. There are also museums, covered bridges, antique shops and outdoor recreation. Also, Starved Rock State Park is a short drive away.

Showtimes and venues vary through Sunday, Aug. 7. Call (815) 879-5656 or visit festival56.com.

Worth the trip

It's not too soon to be thinking about fall travel, and autumn's colors may be best illuminated during a train excursion. Vacations By Rail's autumn tours take travelers through the scenery of New England visiting sights like Boston, Mystic Seaport, the Breakers mansion, White Mountain National Forest and Cape Cod. Some tours, like the eight-day New England Rails and Sails, also include scenic lake and harbor cruises. Double fall color with the dual-country Fall Colors of Quebec and Vermont tour, stay in the Midwest with a Mackinac Island trip or choose the Smoky Mountains as an autumn destination.

Fall foliage rail vacations start at $1,698 land only, per person based on double occupancy. All tours have limited departure dates due to the short window between late September and mid-October when the colors are at their peak. Call (877) 929-7245 or visit vacationsbyrail.com.

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