Many of us are still trying to forget the chill of this year’s harsh winter, and there’s no better way to put it behind than by fully embracing summer. That’s why we put together a list of our favorite weekend getaways.
Whether you’re looking for quality time with your family, your significant other or your best girlfriends, these Midwest getaway destinations offer something for travelers of all ages. So pack up the car, wave goodbye to Glenview and head on out to:
Mackinac Island, Mich: If you’re looking for pure relaxation, try Mackinac Island, which is located in Lake Huron off the coast of Michigan between the state’s upper and lower peninsulas. No motor vehicles are allowed on the island (except for some service and emergency vehicles) so you have to take a ferry and the rely on your feet, bikes, carriages or horses to get around.
There are a variety of lodging options, including resorts, historic inns, bed-and-breakfasts and cottages. For entertainment, there’s Mackinac State Park, Fort Mackinac, horse-back riding, carriage tours, hiking, shopping, diverse dining options, nightly entertainment, festivals, Victorian architecture to admire and more.
And did we mention the fudge? Mackinac Island has had a tradition of fudge-making since shortly after the Civil War, and there are seven companies with shops all over the island. There’s even an annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival.
Rockford, Ill: Looking for a variety of options for people of all ages? Then Rockford is for you. There’s more than 10,000 acres of parks and forest preserves, where you can hike, in-line skate, swim, boat, sail, picnic, camp, fish, bird-watch, ride horses and play miniature golf. The Rockford area has 25 miles of interconnecting trails and 12 golf courses. Kids of all ages (and adults!) can enjoy the 35-acre Magic Waters Waterpark and car and motorcycle races at Rockford Speedway and Blackhawk Farms Raceway.
If you are interested in a little culture with your fresh air, swing by the Anderson Japanese Gardens, ranked the top Japanese garden in North America. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens at Sinnissippi Gardens, a linear park on the Rock River, brings the tropics to the Midwest. Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden has so many rare and unusual trees and shrubs, botanists say there’s only one comparable site─and it’s in France.
Rockford Art Museum is Illinois’ largest art museum outside of Chicago and features 1,500 works of art plus dynamic and changing exhibits featuring regional and national artists. The Burpee Museum of Natural History offers the award-winning exhibit, Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur, which explores the history of the young T. rex skeleton found by Burpee Museum researchers in the badlands of Montana.
Harbor Country, Mich: Love art? Then this area that comprises eight communities along a stretch of about 15 miles along Lake Michigan is a must-visit spot. It’s home to close to 20 art galleries offering large-scale marble, granite and bronze sculptures, to watercolor dune scenes, to fine glasswork and handcrafted jewelry. There’s also a thriving theater and performing arts scene and a number of museums, including the New Buffalo Railroad Museum and the Three Oaks Bicycle Museum.
If you need a little more noise and excitement, you can head over to Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, and test your luck. There’s also fine dining and entertainment on hand at Four Winds. Adults can continue the grown-up activities at the region’s many wineries, distilleries and breweries.
If you’re in the mood for a little shopping, you’ll find everything from high fashion and casual clothing boutiques to home decor and decorating emporiums, gifts, mementos and keepsakes in Harbor Country.
New Glarus, Wis: Although most craft beer drinkers know this town for being home to Spotted Cow, this little town is also known for antique stores, cheese and meat shops, and wood-paneled taverns. Known as “America’s Little Switzerland,” New Glarus is a short 2-hour drive from Chicago and hosts several festivals throughout the summer, including Polkafest, Beer, Bacon & Cheese and the Heidi Festival. Don’t miss Swiss Volksfest (Swiss Independence Day) on August 3.
For outdoor lovers, there’s also Badger State Trail, Sugar River Trail, and the New Glarus Woods State Park, which offers 435 acres of the scenic wildlife and is popular with campers.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: If you want a destination that offers something for families, a girls’ weekend and history buffs, this 2014 All-America City might be an ideal option. For museum-goers, there’s the African American Museum of Iowa and its current exhibit: Behind the Beat, the history behind African American music. Then there’s the National Motorcycle Museum and Brucemoor, a 26-acre estate with a 19th-century mansion and gardens. Art lovers may want to check out the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, with more than 7,200 works of art from many eras.
For sports fans, head down to Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium for a Cedar Rapids Kernels game. The Kernels are the Class A Affiliate of the Minnesota Twins and were named Minor League Baseball’s best franchise in 2008.
Hungry? Cedar Rapids is a foodies haven. You can try NewBo City Market, the New Bohemia District, which serves up local, homegrown foods, art, and events. There’s Croissant Du Jour French Patisserie and Café to satisfy your European delicacy tastebuds, the Lighthouse Inn Supper Club for BBQ ribs and even The Blue Toad for Czech cuisine. And don’t forget to check out the city’s wineries to find the perfect accompaniment to your meals.
Need to make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip ahead? Here’s why you want to schedule a pre-trip inspection before you hit the road.