Human on a Stick: Minneapolis Segway Tour

Human on a Stick: Minneapolis Segway Tour

I always find a walking history tour of a city fascinating, but I discovered that taking a Segway history tour is a blast! We did exactly that in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the Minneapolis Segway Tour – Human on a Stick Magical History Tour. Gliding through the Minneapolis Riverfront area, we stopped at several key sites, where our knowledgeable guides filled us in on the historical significance of them. Read more

Crayola Experience: Mall of America Family Attraction

Crayola Experience: Mall of America Family Attraction

Become the star of your own coloring page. Watch your drawing become part of a scrolling mural. Turn a crayon into a race car. Spin melted wax into a work of art. These are just a few of the activities kids—and adults—can have fun with at Crayola Experience, new to Mall of America in 2016. Read more

Roadtrip: Meet Minnesota’s Great River Road

Roadtrip: Meet Minnesota’s Great River Road

The Mississippi River, the third-largest watershed in the world, flows over 2,300 miles through the United States, from Lake Itasca in Minnesota south into the Gulf of Mexico. Traveling the Great River Road Scenic Byway, which follows the course of the river, is on my bucket list. However, lacking the time to do it “right,” seeing everything there is to see along the byway in one trip, I am doing it piecemeal. During a recent travel bloggers conference, TBEX, which was held in Minnesota at the Mall of America, we had an opportunity to explore part of Minnesota’s portion of the Great River Road, from Kellogg to Red Wing. Read more

12 Fun Facts You May Not Know about the Midwest

12 Fun Facts You May Not Know about the Midwest

One fun part of travel is learning interesting facts about the places you visit. Following are bits of trivia I’ve picked up about each of the Midwest states: Read more

Here ‘n There in the Midwest: A Look Ahead to 2015

Happy New Year! As you make your resolutions and set your goals for 2015, don’t forget to add in time for recreation and travel. If you can’t afford the time or expense of a long trip, consider day trips or short weekend getaways in the Midwest. No matter the season, there are always plenty of events, attractions and new dining experiences to enjoy. Read on for big things happening in the Midwest in 2015.

2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of Custer State Park’s Buffalo Roundup. It isn’t too early to start planning a trip to western South Dakota for the September 25 event. Park rangers and cowboys round up the park’s 1,300 bison for their annual checkups, including vaccinations and pregnancy tests. More than 14,000 spectators attend each year, and I was one of them in 2014. I’ll be writing more about that exciting adventure in a future blog post.

Buffalo RoundupIf you’re a biker, mark your calender for the August 3-9 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, celebrating their 75th anniversary. Join the expected one million bikers at this legendary event in Sturgis, South Dakota, as you enjoy music, food, bike demos and more.

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Speaking of South Dakota, the western half of the state made the Number 2 spot on Lonely Planet’s Best in the US 2015 list because of the above events and its “vast natural beauty, quirky small-town charm, Native American cultural sites, and some famously larger-than-life presidential noggins carved into a mountain.” I spent a week in South Dakota in September. I’ve already shared a few of my experiences with you, including Native American Heritage and Rapid City’s Journey Museum and Chapel in the Hills, but I have many more exciting South Dakota experiences that I’ll tell you about over the next few months.

Dinosaur photo opIndianapolis and Duluth also made Lonely Plant’s Best in the US 2015 top-ten list. Indianapolis is definitely on my list to visit in 2015. Some of the things to check out are the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Indy Racing Experience and the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, the world’s largest museum for kids. We visited the museum a couple of times when the kids were young, and we enjoyed it as much as the kids did.

Duluth, Minnesota, made Lonely Planet’s list as the “Midwest’s premier outdoors hot spot,” which includes the 290-mile Superior Hiking Trail. I’ve never been to Duluth, but it’s going on the list to do.

St Charles, Illinois, has proclaimed 2015 as the Year of the Scarecrow, as it celebrates the 30th anniversary of Scarecrow Fest, scheduled October 9-11. I’ll let you know about year-long special promotions at participating area hotels and businesses as I get more details.

Have you already made travel plans for 2015? Share them in the comments below, whether in the Midwest or beyond.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


Ring in 2015 in the Midwest for $20 or Less

Ring in 2015 in the Midwest for $20 or Less

Looking for something to do this New Year’s Eve that you won’t cost a fortune? There is plenty to do this December 31 in the Midwest for $20 or less per person. Here are some of them:

Springfield, Illinois
Purchase your First Night tickets in advance, and they’re only $15 ($18 the night of the event). From 6:15 p.m. until 11:15 p.m. over 30 performances take place on eight stages throughout downtown Springfield. Fireworks start at 8 p.m.

Chicago, Illinois
When the clock strikes midnight the fireworks begin at Navy Pier.

Andalusia, Illinois
Slide down Stargazer Tube Hill over and over again from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for only $16. They supply the tubes and their Magic Carpet lift takes you to the top of the chutes so you don’t have to walk to the top of the hill.

Vincennes, Indiana
Gather at Patrick Henry Square beginning at 9 p.m. for music, food and a beer/wine garden. Stay for the fireworks and watch the watermelon 18 foot, 500 pound “Watermelon Drop.” Free admission.

Indianapolis, Indiana
At New Year’s Eve on Georgia Street (250 W Georgia Street) enjoy entertainment, food trucks and drinks. At midnight an Indy Car hoisted high above descends to a countdown. Family-friendly activities will take place inside the Entry Pavilion at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Bettendorf, Iowa
Dance to the 70s band The Travoltas from 8:30 p.m. through the countdown to midnight at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, for $20. Hotel packages are also available at the adjacent Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf.

Marquette, Michigan
The illuminated ball drops at midnight at the intersection of Washington Street and Front Street.

Ludington Michigan
At the free New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in the North James Street Plaza, enjoy entertainment beginning at 9:30 p.m., fireworks, and the ball drop at midnight.

Charlevoix, Michigan
At the second annual Bridge Drop, enjoy family-friendly daytime activities. In the evening, local restaurants, bars and shops provide activities and entertainment. The celebration concludes with the bridge drop and fireworks at midnight.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Subway Hot New Year’s Eve Celebration, which has moved this year to Calder Plaza, includes live entertainment and a midnight ball drop.

Traverse City, Michigan
Three dollars or three non-perishable food items (which benefit Northern Michigan families) buys you admission to the CherryT Ball Drop. Entertainment begins at 10:30 p.m.

Midland, Michigan
There is limited ticket availability for Midnight on Main, so get your tickets early. You must be 21 or over to gain access to the gated area, which includes beverage tent and live entertainment. Michigan’s largest New Year’s Eve Ball drops at midnight.

Port Huron, Michigan
Port Huron will welcome in 2015 with the New Year’s Eve Anchor Drop from the top of the McMorran Tower. Enjoy live music, a beer tent, and free open skating.

Eagan, Minnesota
Admission to the Family New Year’s Eve Party at Lebanon Hills Visitor Center is $8 per person if you preregister by December 30 and $10 at the door. Children 5 and under are free. The party runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and includes candlelight hiking, snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding, bonfires, and more.

Annandale, Minnesota
The Annandale New Year’s Eve Ball Drop takes place at Clock Tower Park in downtown Annandale.

Carlos, Minnesota
Snowshoe or walk by the light of the moon and candle luminaries from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the New Year’s Eve Candlelight Event at Lake Carlos State Park. A Minnesota State Park vehicle permit is required ($5 per day).

St. Louis, Missouri
Only $12 gets you into First Night® in Grand Center, where you can ring in the New Year with music, storytellers, magicians and other performers. The party starts at 6 p.m. on the Main Stage at Grand and Lindell and ends with fireworks at midnight.

Columbia, Missouri
Early purchase of tickets to Columbia Eve Fest are $6 ($8 at the door). Children 6 and under are free. Walk from entertainment venue to entertainment venue.

Columbus, Ohio
For $10 admission, enjoy entertainment from 5 p.m. until midnight at First Night Columbus.

Youngstown, Ohio
First Night Youngstown is a family event with entertainment at various venues, fireworks at both 9 p.m. and midnight, and a ball drop at Covelli Centre. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
Droppin’ of the Carp festivities begin at 9 p.m. and includes a bonfire music and food. The countdown for the lowering of the carp starts at 11:59 p.m.

Plymouth, Wisconsin
What better way to ring in 2015 in Wisconsin than with a New Year’s Eve Cheese Drop? Hot chocolate will be served in the Plymouth Arts Center plaza from 11:45 p.m. until 12:15 p.m. The Big Cheese drops at midnight.

Happy travels in 2015!

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie




Weathering this Midwest Winter

Weathering this Midwest Winter

“I’m tired of this winter.”  I’ve heard it over and over again for the past month.  And I agree.  It seems that every day, at least here in the Chicago area, we’ve been getting either more snow, making roads dangerous to navigate, or single-digit to sub-zero temperatures, so we can’t go out and enjoy snow activities.  Of course, the obvious remedy is to go somewhere warm, and if you can do that, great.  But for many, a vacation to a warm climate is impractical or even impossible.  Besides, a week later, you’ll be back home in the snow and cold again.  So aside from hibernating and counting the days until spring, here are a couple of ways to counter the cabin fever that has hit the Midwest hard:

Go to indoor events and attractions.  On the days that are cold but the roads okay to drive on, go to a local museum that you haven’t been to in a long time.  (Call first to make sure they haven’t closed due to the cold.)  Or go to one of the many travel, RV, boat, auto, or home shows going on in cities all over the Midwest.  You’ll find links to information on lots of them on the Midwest Festivals & Fairs page.

Plan your summer travel.  Now is the time to plan your summer getaways.  Get them on the calendar before your calendar fills up with other obligations.  If you’re planning to go to a popular seasonal destination, you should make your accommodation reservations as soon as possible, too, for the best selection.  Need help in deciding where to go?  Turn to the convention and visitors bureaus of the states you are thinking about.  On the Internet, search “[state name] tourism” to find the state’s official tourism site, which will have listings of attractions, accommodations, dining options, and events.  You can order free hard copy travel guides for the states or regions you are considering for your getaways, too.  I personally like to peruse the hard copy guides from the cozy comfort of a sofa and then use the Internet to get further details on places that interest me.  To get you started, I’ve included links below to order tourism guides for the Midwest states.

North Dakota
South Dakota

Just thinking about and planning your summer getaways will do wonders to counter the winter doldrums.  Do you have other suggestions for cabin fever remedies?  Answer in the Comments box below.

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Other attractions you may enjoy this winter:

Peoria Riverfront Museum: Interactive Exhibits, Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Springfield IL: Museum Meets Disney

Frank Lloyd Wright Dana-Thomas House: 12,000 Square Feet of Phenomenal

Visit Jelly Belly, Pleasant Prairie WI: Take the Tour, Taste the Candy

Tour Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, MO: Most Historic and Awarded Winery in the State

Nina and Pinta Replicas Sail the Mississippi, Dock for Tours

On the way home from this weekend’s Carroll County IL trip, we detoured through Clinton, Iowa, to tour the replicas of the Nina and Pinta, two of the three ships that Christopher Columbus used on his voyage.

The Nina is said to be the most historically accurate replica ever built.  The Pinta was built larger than the original in order to accommodate a larger deck for visitors, and air conditioning was added to the cabin below for the crew’s comfort.  Asked whether a Santa Maria would be built, a crew member said he doubted there would be a Santa Maria since it would require a 14-foot draft, double that of the Pinta, making navigating some of the shallower waters difficult.  The draft is the distance between the water line and the lowest point of the ship.

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The two ships are making their way up the Mississippi River, docking  and available for tours at cities along the route.  The next stop is in Marquette, Iowa, June 19-24, at the Marina by the Lady Luck Casino. 

Once the ships reach Winona, Minnesota, they’ll turn around and work their way back south.  So if you didn’t get to see them on the way up, you can catch them on the return trip.  Click here to see the scheduled stops.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie