Chicago Travel and Adventure Show 2017

Chicago Travel and Adventure Show 2017

As Midwest winter winds blow and temperatures drop to single digits, we dream about warm weather and sunshine. Turn those dreams into reality by starting your planning at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show. The popular travel show returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois, on January 21 and 22. 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

Discover the Romance of Yesteryear’s Carousels at Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum

Discover the Romance of Yesteryear’s Carousels at Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum

One of the first amusement park rides you ever rode as a child was most likely the carousel. You chose the most colorful and bejeweled horse. Your tiny legs sprawled across the saddle, not nearly long enough to reach the stirrups. You squeezed the brass pole, one sweaty hand above the other, excited and nervous at the same time. Mom or dad stood next to you, holding you, reassuring you’d be safe. As the calliope music began and the carousel started to turn, your horse inched forward and at the same time began to rise and glide down again, over and over. The ride picked up the pace until you reached a smooth gallop on the twirling carousel, the world around you passing by in a blur. Read more

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!

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Photographing Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Photographing Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

When at an amusement park, I’m usually not thinking about taking artistic photographs. I don’t carry my DSLR camera, since I’m there to enjoy the park. I recently attended a conference at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, the country’s second oldest amusement park. I didn’t have much time in the park itself, but on the evening I spent there I snapped a few quick photographs using my smart phone just to document the trip. However, as part of the conference, I also went on the optional sunrise photo walk. What a difference it made.

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My camera phone photos are so-so, good enough for trip keepsakes. I took a shot of Johnny Rockets, a full diner inside the park, where they provided service with a smile.

Johnny Rockets

Fries and onion rings

I photographed Lake Erie at dusk from the Sky Ride.

From the sky ride at dusk

Since Cedar Point is known as the roller coaster capital of America, I snapped a shot of the Magnum XL-200, the first coaster ever to top 200 feet.

Roller Coaster

Cedar Point was celebrating the first weekend of HalloWeekends, so Halloween decorations were everywhere.


Sgt Peppers

Kiddy Kingdom

Zombies lurked in the gardens and in the Dead Ride Cemetery.


Dead ride cemetery

The sunrise photo walk the next morning, led by Fashion by Mayhem blogger Angie Keiser and Cedar Point Public Relations Manager, Bryan Edwards, was a completely different photography experience. The walk highlighted popular photo subjects, starting with sunrise on Lake Erie.

Seagull at sunrise

Sunrise over Lake Erie

At 136 feet, the Ferris wheel is one of the largest in North America.

Ferris Wheel

I can’t stop myself from taking photos of pretty flower beds …


… and birds, especially with wings widespread.

Seagull in flight

I liked the effect of the color against clouds on this one.

In Cedar Point at dawn

It’s amazing how pieces of roller coasters can look like art.

Roller Coaster 2

I’m not a professional photographer by a longshot, but the right light, a decent camera, interesting subjects and helpful hints from others make learning fun, and definitely improve my photos.

Cedar Point, located on the shore of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, is open late spring through summer and weekends through Halloween. Check the web site for exact schedule and directions.

Disclosure: My ticket to Bloggy Con included a free pass to Cedar Point , but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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

New Year’s Eve in the Midwest: Dropping the Carp or the Bridge or the Watermelon

New_Years_Eve_photoMost everyone is familiar with the ball dropping at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that here in the Midwest, several cities have their own traditions of dropping quirky objects.  I didn’t either until I started researching New Year’s Eve events for the Midwest Festivals and Fairs page.  Here are some that I found:

In Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the grand finale of the Carp Fest that runs for several days at the end of the year includes a pyrotechnic show, music, a bonfire and the Droppin’ of the Carp.  Kiss Lucky the Carp for a year of good fortune.

Another fish, a 20 foot, 600 pound walleye, drops in Port Clinton, Ohio, during Walleye Madness at Midnight following an evening of festivities with street vendors, raffles, and live entertainment.  An early, 6 p.m. edition of the fish drop entertains kids whose bedtime is well before midnight.

Traverse City, Michigan, known for tart cherries, drops an illuminated cherry, called a Cherry T Ball at midnight, with live music beginning at 9:30 p.m.  If weather permits, you’ll see fireworks, too.  The Cherry T Ball is a charity fundraising event.  Suggested admission is $3 or three non-perishable food items.

In Charlevoix, Michigan, the Memorial Draw Bridge will be raised at 11:45 p.m. and then lowered with the countdown to midnight, followed by fireworks and the lighting of the lighthouse.  Bridge Drop festivities begin in early afternoon and include a snowman building contest, food trucks and s’mores and hot cocoa.

Watermelon is the thing to drop in Vincennes, Indiana, fourteen of them!  Live music, food and spirits begin at 9 p.m.

There are more, too, like The Puck Drops Here celebration in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and like in Times Square, Ludington, Michigan drops a ball.

Do you know of a Midwest town that drops something on New Year’s Eve?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Happy wandering in the New Year.

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