The least crowded: Southern Wisconsin
When to go: Second week of October
Why go: In general, leaf-peepers in the Midwest don't have to contend with the same kinds of crowds that they do in the Northeast. "I tend to think that the entire region is rather underrated," says Marek D. Rzonca of the Foliage Network. "Historically, when people think of fall foliage, they think of the Northeast and New England. That thinking is not without merit, as the displays in much of the Northeast are spectacular, but the Midwest has its gems as well. Wisconsin has grown in popularity, at least on our site." Danielle Johnson, from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, calls the small resort town of Lake Geneva a "hidden gem for fall color" in Wisconsin. "Crowds die down in the fall," she says, "making it the perfect time to visit."
Where to get the best view: The Lake Geneva Shorepath Walk. The 21-mile trek gives you plenty of opportunities to see the fall colors set against the lake—and, as a bonus, it'll also take you through the backyards of historic mansions. Johnson says the town owes its popularity to the Chicago fire. "Wealthy Chicagoans fled to their second homes in Lake Geneva after the fire and made them their new homes," she says. This includes a number of properties that once belonged to the prominent Wrigley family. (Black Point Estate is the only one currently open to tours.)
Insider tip: Not content to look at those leaves from the ground? Lake Geneva Canopy Tours can take you much, much closer on a 2.5-hour tour through ziplines in the trees.