Sunset behind a lighthouse

Three Historic Happenings

This weekend, head west to Iowa to stroll historic covered bridges or north to Wisconsin or Michigan to ascend lighthouses. From either bird’s-eye or bucolic ground level, you’ll encounter lovely water views.

  1. The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival
    If you swooned over The Bridges of Madison County, head for the 41st Annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival. Based in the county seat of Winterset, Iowa (John Wayne’s birthplace, and yes, you can tour his boyhood abode—$6 adults, $2 children), the Fest kicks off with a street dance on October 8th  (6 p.m. on Jefferson between First and Second avenues). It continues through the 10th with wine tastings, live music, and various country pleasures, such as sheep shearing demonstrations, a quilt show, a horseshoes competition, and—but of course—guided tours ($8) across the four picturesque spans that starred in the book.
    Where to Stay:
    West Des Moines Marriott, 1250 Jordan Creek Pkwy., West Des Moines, Iowa; 515-267-1500, Rates range from $109 to $119.
    Stoney Creek Inn, 5291 Stoney Creek Ct., Johnston, Iowa; 515-334-9000, Rates range from $140 to $225.
    Hampton Inn, 7060 Lake Dr., West Des Moines, Iowa; 515-223-4700, Rates range from $109 to $129.

    GO Madison County Covered Bridge Festival, Winterset, Iowa; October 8th through 10th. For more information, call 800-298-6119 or go to

  2. Lighthouses, Part One
    The final lighthouse climb of the season for Wisconsin’s Wind Point Lighthouse happens on Sunday, October 10th. Climb the 144 steps to the top of 108-foot-tall, 121-year-old structure; on a clear day, you can see the Chicago skyline. Funds raised from the “Tour to the Top” go toward maintaining and preserving the structure, whose beaming beacon flashes every 20 seconds come nightfall and can be seen 19 miles out over Lake Michigan. Reservations are a must; groups of 12 start the climb every 15 minutes.
    Where to Stay: Radisson Hotel, Harbourwalk, 223 Gaslight Cir., Racine, Wisconsin. 262-632-7777, Rates range from $109 (no view) to $119 (marina view).

    GO Wind Point Lighthouse, Wind Point, Wisconsin; 262-639-5432, $10 for adults, $5 children ages 6 to 12. Food and a maritime museum are available at ground level.

  3. Lighthouses, Part Two
    Michigan’s annual Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival—billed as the largest lighthouse festival in the country—runs through this coming weekend, with 11 lighthouses from Tawas to Mackinaw open for tours via helicopter or boat or on foot. Festival HQ is Alpena, Michigan, where visitors can book tours or visit a maritime museum. Other activities include a Lighthouse Keeper’s Dinner and Concert on Saturday, October 9th; a live auction on Sunday, October 10th; and a uniquely nautical vendor area where more than 75 maritime-related booths will feature authors, artists, preservationists, and historians.
    Where to Stay:  The Widow’s Watch Bed & Breakfast, 401 N. Lake Street, Harrisville, Michigan; 989-724-5465, Rates are $75 to $105 a night. Also try the Holiday Inn, Alpena, 1000 US 23 N., Alpena, Michigan; 989-356-2151, Rates are $89 to $124 a night.

    GO Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival, Thunder Bay Recreational Center, 701 Woodward Ave., Alpena, Michigan; October 7th through 10th. For more information and to make reservations (required for dining events), call 800-425-7326 or go to