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Discover Wisconsin: Five towns that are amazing during summer
The La Crosse Queen is a modern-day replica of the 19th century river boats that once cruised the Mississippi River. (Photo supplied)
Live music, balmy sunsets and a cold brew on a patio ... Wisconsin summers are heaven. Here are five lovely towns the #DWcrew recommends checking out before the leaves begin to turn:

1. La Crosse

With the mighty Mississippi to your west, bluffs surrounding you and eagles soaring above, La Crosse, a vibrant college town on Wisconsin's southwestern edge, is the perfect summer destination. Hop aboard the La Crosse Queen, a modern-day replica of the 19th century grand river boats that once cruised the Mississippi. Jump on last-minute for a daily sightseeing cruise or make a reservation for a dinner cruise. Later, check out Grandad Bluff, "the most scenic view in the state." The view from the top, a 600-foot-high perspective, encompasses the Mississippi River Valley. La Crosse also is known for its festivals; locals come together to celebrate summer during Riverfest in early July and Irishfest in mid-August, while Oktoberfest USA in late September brings in visitors from across the state to kick off autumn.

2. Menasha

Menasha, a friendly city in the Fox Valley, sits beautifully on the northwest shore of Lake Winnebago and at the mouth of the Fox River. Both locals and visitors enjoy the farmers market during the warmer months, happening every Thursday afternoon rain or shine.

For some classic American grub, check out Mihm's Charcoal Grill, a favorite in Menasha. With Appleton nearby, a show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center or a ball game at Fox Cities Stadium are excellent summer activities for families.

3. Germantown

A close-knit Milwaukee area village, Germantown has something for everyone this summer, from its Saturday morning farmers markets to productions of "Bye Bye Birdie" presented by Imagination Theatre. Pull up your lawn chair for Germantown's Wednesday evening Summer Concerts in the Park Series.

4. Cumberland

Cumberland, often called the "Island City," is a beautiful small community in northwest Wisconsin. Nestled on a piece of land surrounded by Beaver Dam Lake, it's clear where the city gets its nickname. Its friendly residents and abundance of recreational activities make Cumberland an excellent destination any time of year, but the annual "Rutabaga Festival," taking place the weekend before Labor Day and showcasing live music, carnival rides, fantastic food and a parade, proves to be the perfect end-of-summer event in a vibrant small town.

5. Stevens Point

Stevens Point, one of the most centrally located cities in Wisconsin, isn't too far for anyone in the state and should be on your list of cities to visit this summer.

Between its location on the Wisconsin River and amid the Green Circle Trail, water and land adventurers regularly seek out the area. The 26-mile scenic hiking and biking Green Circle Trail loops through the Stevens Point area and covers forests, parks and wetlands, while the Wisconsin River draws in fishermen and boaters.

Check out SentryWorld for a pristine golf course, and head down to Public Square on Main Street for a fountain show and plenty of shopping and dining.

Which towns would you add to our list? Chime in on Twitter: #DiscoverWisconsin.

- Kristen Finstad is a crew member of the nation's longest-running tourism TV show, "Discover Wisconsin." The column is published Tuesday on the Life page in the Times.