Sure, the Dells can be scary with countless screaming children upset about their mini-golf scores, but the popular tourist destination gets downright eerie as Dells Boat Tours launches its Ghost Boat excursion. Embarking Friday and Saturday nights through October, the after-dark voyage takes you on an excursion upriver to Witches Gulch, hailed as one of the most haunted spots in Wisconsin Dells. The 90-minute adventure features special effects, the ominous nature of the river at night with tales of spirits and ghouls and a stop at Witches Gulch for a sneak along the narrow boardwalk in the nearly pitch-dark canyon.
8:15 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4; 6:15 and 8:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 11 Broadway in downtown Wisconsin Dells. Boat tickets cost $22 per person (not recommended for children ages 10 and younger). Call Dells Boats Tours at (608) 254-8555 for more information or go to dellsboats.com.
Ethnic eats on your feet
You'd love to nose around some of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods to try their authentic foods but don't know where to start? Consider one of Rebecca Wheeler's Chicago Food Tours. The chef and cooking teacher personally leads every tour into immigrant communities. Enjoy tastings at shops, markets, bakeries or restaurants while getting context on the cuisine, culture and immigrant experience. Tours lasting 3½ hours explore Argyle Street (Southeast Asian), Devon Avenue (Indian and Pakistani) and Chinatown.
10 a.m. various dates and meeting points. Group tours (maximum of eight people) are $95 per person. For more info or to book a private tour, go to rebeccawheeler.com or call (773) 368-1336.
West Side story
Chicago's West Town has emerged as a rich, cultural area that you can experience in one easy trip into the city. The free West Town Art Walk features visual, musical, culinary and other art forms within dozens of storefronts along Chicago Avenue. Take in visual art, performance art, music and fashion from Chicago artists showcased inside businesses, restaurants and bars. Stop at "party central" at the Banco Popular parking lot, 1445 W. Chicago Ave., for maps and information, a bar with beer and wine, a designer "lounge" area and DJs. There will be trolley and bike rickshaw rides to get you around and performance art along the corridor.
6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, on Chicago Avenue from Milwaukee to Leavitt. Free. For details, visit westtownartwalk.com or call (312) 850-9390.
Brats and beer are de rigueur for October but when you live near a city like Chicago, you just might want to take advantage of the fifth annual OctoberFeast. River North teems with fabulous restaurants that are well-regarded around the country, and OctoberFeast allows you a progressive stroll among some of Chicago's best restaurant, bar and entertainment venues, each featuring signature food and drink tastings along the way. You can sample Japanese, Mediterranean, Italian and other cuisines from some of the hottest eateries in the nation. The last stop is at Castle, where everyone meets for an after party (included in the price of admission).
5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, throughout the River North neighborhood. OctoberFeast tickets cost $75 per person and are available at rivernorthassociation.com or by calling (312) 645-1047.
Oktoberfest at Iowa's Amana Colonies village might be one of the busiest fall fests in the Midwest. Be the first to finish eating a foot-long brat and win a gift certificate to the Amana Meat Shop, watch the Keg Roll and Log Sawing Competitions, or after the Oktoberfest Parade, take a guided tour to get a closer look at how Amana furniture and clocks are handcrafted. Take in demonstrations at Iowa's only working woolen mill, watch the creation of traditional blankets, enjoy carriage rides through the historic streets of Amana and listen to live classic rock music while savoring Amana brats, hot dogs and Oktoberfest beer. There will be lots of activities for kids at Kinderplatz, and don't forget to buy a raffle ticket for your chance to win a side of beef.
2 p.m. to midnight Friday, Oct. 4; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 5; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, in Amana Colonies, Amana, Iowa. $10 for a one-day pass, $15 for a two-day pass. See festivalsinamana.com/oktoberfest.html.
The scent of bratwurst and sauerkraut and the sounds of oompah will waft through the air at the annual Galena Oktoberfest. Be there for the ceremonial tapping of the keg, wiener dog races, polka lessons, music and dancing, bean bag tournament, beer stein endurance contest, free trolley rides, wunderbar food and beer, and plenty of action for your little Greta or Gunther.
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Depot Park, Highway 20 and Park Avenue, Galena. Admission is $5, free for kids 12 and younger. (815) 331-0180 or galenaoktoberfest.com.
Get a (ski) jump on winter
Ski, snow and boarding buddies might want to consider Boyne Mountain's Skitoberfest, a weekend that celebrates the coming winter season with a Snowsports Summit hosted by Olympian and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee Cary Adgate and tons of outdoor activity. New attractions include a 25-foot rock climbing wall, dual extreme air jumpers, acrobatics, fire breathing performances and an elaborately decorated Biergarten with more than 100 varieties of Michigan beers, wines, spirits, foods and treats. There will be live street theater and performances, free scenic chairlift rides, hayrides and kids' attractions from pony rides to crafts. The Rail Jam competition is an annual crowd pleaser.
4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4; 10 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. Bay Harbor, Mich. Admission is free; tickets are sold for tastings and select kids' activities. A special lodging package starts at $99 per person for one night or $178 per person for two nights including overnight accommodations in Boyne Mountain's Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa, 10 tasting/event tickets, commemorative mug, and discount on the purchase of a VIP pass to the Biergarten. For a complete schedule of events, visit Boyne.com or Call (800) 462-6963.