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Midwest, USA

I plan to visit friends in the Midwest, USA in late May, early June. Specifically Madison, WI, Chicago and Grand Rapids, MI. Have done most of the typical attractions-Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, Art Institute, Chicago river tour. Any suggestions? Am interested in lighthouses & am considering traveling around Lake Michigan with a rental car. Interested in historic buildings, lodgings on a budget. Love seafood.

Posted by
1887 posts

Chicago: Art Institute, Chicago library. There are certainly architecture tours. Not sure how to find them. The Robey house is on the U Chicago campus (FLWright). While there, stop in to the Oriental Institute - small but very good. Many of the staff were at the discoveries in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. There are other museums as well - Science and Industry, Field, Aquarium, Planetarium. Chinatown is one place we often go to get dim sum. Also food-wise you need to get Chicago hot-dogs and vienna beef - a variation on the French dip sandwich. Other food things downtown include the Mexican restaurants of Rick Bayless - a little expensive but quite different from the local taqueria. Also Chicago deep dish pizza and Chicago stuffed pizza. These are unique, with plenty of local places that do a great job. Make sure to stop in at the Baha'i Temple - you take Lake Shore Dr N until it becomes Sheridan Rd, and then follow it around. The Temple is an amazing sight at night or at sunset, with wonderful gardens. As you might have guessed, I grew up in this area. A nice hotel is Hotel Lincoln off Lincoln Park near the zoo.

If you do circle the lake, stop in Milwaukee. Nice downtown, nice lakefront. Mader's Restaurant is the last of the high-end Bavarian restaurants, and has good Bavarian food. The 3 Brothers in S Milwaukee has Serbian food. There's beer of course. Cedarburg WI has a good winery. Going north, you come to Door county, with Green Bay at the base of the thumb. The deal in Door county is the fish boil. Also everywhere in WI you find the Friday night fish fry in most taverns and roadhouses. We always look forward to that. In many small towns, the fish fry can be very inexpensive, but with a draft beer and some fries, it's good.

Of course, there are beer gardens in Milwaukee as well. I'd hit those. I haven't been north of Sheboygan, but there are plenty of pretty lake towns along the way.

Madison has the Capital, the U of WI, and Mel's Diner. Go to Mel's. Great food.

Haven't been to Grand Rapids.

But make sure to hit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It's a wonderful place to stick your toes in the lake and look for crinoid fossils (small tubes) - you find them after a storm. In June, the water will be ice cold.

Posted by
65 posts

Ditto on the Indiana Dunes National Park. One of the most underrated parks in USA.
Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn is fascinating. Your a Motor plant (no kidding) while there or the test track. Then head north to Mackinaw area. Northern Michigan is beautiful.
There’s a lot of history in Detroit. Cross over to Windsor Canada for more history opps. Or just kayak and enjoy the river area.

Venture east of Toledo to Cedar Point, one of the oldest amusement parks in the USA.

Wisconsin: Fond du Lac and other lovely towns along the lakeshore. https://www.travelwisconsin.com/article/outdoor-fun/wisconsins-harbor-towns

Have fun and happy travels.

Posted by
242 posts

The Chicago Architecture Center will be a good source of walking tours. I most recently did their tour of the Pilsen neighborhood and really enjoyed it.

If you are interested at all in historical documents, a tour of the Newberry Library might be of interest - they do include a fair amount of architectural info in the tours as well, which are free and very enjoyable.

I'm not sure how budget is budget for you, but if you want to be centrally located, my usual budget options in Chicago are either the Freehand or the Hostelling International. Both are hostels (the Freehand being the "hipper" of the two), but both include private rooms with private bathrooms. Another good budget tip is to use a parking app like ParkWhiz - the last time I stayed in the Freehand (which is very central), I think I paid around $28 for two nights of parking (no in-and-out privileges to be fair), whereas when I've stayed in hotels that push their valet service, it's frequently much, much more.

Posted by
4835 posts

Check out Door County Wisconsin (on the thumb of the mitt). Very pretty vacation destination on the lake.

Posted by
982 posts

If you're traveling around Lake Michigan and driving, check out the websites for the lighthouses in St. Joseph, Michigan, South Haven, Michigan, and the area of Holland, Michigan before heading over to Grand Rapids. LOVELY small town atmospheres which are becoming more difficult to find here in the States, and they are personal favorites of mine.

PS - Some great places to eat in Chicago & Grand Rapids. Enjoy!!!

Posted by
837 posts

I lived in that area 20 years ago, so I apologize for not having the latest information, but I used to enjoy Cedarburg north of Milwaukee, Lake Geneva (boat tours available on the lake), Old World Wisconsin in the Kettle Moraine region, and as others mentioned, Door County.

Posted by
2650 posts

Various things to hit:

Grand Rapids: the Meijer Sculpture Garden, big

UP: Really the Lake Superior shore is prettier, drive straight north from Madison to the Keweenau Peninsula, then across to Munising, Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum, then over to Point Iroquois Lighthouse, Sault Ste Marie to see the locks, then down over the bridge to Petoskey/Harbor Springs, Traverse City is the main tourist area, wineries, Fishtown at Leland, and then Sleeping Bear Dunes and Manistee.

This is quite a tourist rich area, without too many crowds, and few foreign tourists (which I find to be a sign of over-tourism).

Hi There! I was born and raised in Grand Rapids. Here's a run-down list for you. Meijer's' Botanical Garden as mentioned above is one of the best GR attractions. The Gerald Ford museum is good for about 2 hours time. The microbreweries are fine. There are several. Note: the Van Andel museum is better for kids than adults. A pretty church - St. Adalbert. Heritage Hill has some Victorian homes. The Calder Sculpture downtown.

Michigan has a lot of great natural parks. Hoffmaster State Park, Ludington State Park. Further north - nice areas include Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Upper Peninsula - tahquemenon falls, Picture Rocks - Munising, Porcupine Mountains. Isle Royale is hard to get to. Way off the beaten path. Mackinaw Island.
Grand Rapids is loaded with Holiday Inn Expresses.