Dutchman’s Store: Old-Fashioned Shop in Amish Community

Dutchman’s Store: Old-Fashioned Shop in Amish Community

In 1985 Clair Zimmerman and his wife, Virginia, opened a small general store in Cantril, Iowa, a town that serves the surrounding Amish community. They expanded…and expanded…and expanded. Today Dutchman’s Store occupies an entire block on Cantril’s main street, and it’s as much a tourist attraction as it is a grocery store…or a fabric shop…or a gift shop. Read more

The Music Man Square, Mason City, Iowa: A Tribute to Meredith Willson

The Music Man Square, Mason City, Iowa: A Tribute to Meredith Willson

Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand …

–Meredith Willson

Twirling a baton and marching to “Seventy-Six Trombones” in a parade when I was eight years old, I was unaware the song was from the movie The Music Man, an Academy Award winner in 1962 and prior to that, a Broadway hit. The catchy tune has stuck in my head for fifty years, but it was only this year, when visiting Mason City, Iowa, that I learned the classic musical’s fictitious River City was modeled after composer and songwriter Meredith Willson’s hometown of Mason City, Iowa, and inspired by the city’s annual North Iowa Band Festival. Mason City pays tribute to likely the city’s most famous resident with The Music Man Square, which includes a museum with a reproduction of The Music Man movie set and his boyhood home.

Music Man Square Statue Read more

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