With the school year behind us and a long July 4th weekend ahead, there’s no better time to plan a weekend outing for the family, with other couples or setting up an exciting girlfriends’ weekend. Here are 4 of our top Midwest weekend destinations. Enjoy the summer!
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.
Ludington, Mich: Midwest Living Magazine voted Ludington State Park the #1 state park in the Midwest, and with seven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, it’s a favorite destination in the summer. Touted as a “vacation within itself,” this state park is not just for beachgoers and campers. It’s also a haven for hikers, fishermen, bikers, or anyone who loves what nature has to offer. Here you’ll discover sand dunes with spectacular views, hardwood forests, and marshlands.
Away from the beach, Ludington is home to Friday Night Live. Scheduled for four Friday nights in late July and early August, FNL features music, food, and great family activities. The three blocks of Ludington Avenue between Harrison and Robert streets are closed to traffic between 6:00-9:00pm, allowing people to fill the streets and watch local entertainment. Some of the highlights include musical performances, Blessing of the Badges and free ice cream.
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.
Illinois & Michigan Wine Trails: Did you know there are more than 100 wineries and 450 vineyards located throughout Illinois? There are six official wine trails that wine lovers can traverse and discover a variety of wines in just one trip. The wineries offer a variety of experiences: classes, tours, tastings, restaurants, comedy shows, music festivals and more. Pick a trail close to home or venture to the other end of the state.
If that’s not enough wine for you, you can continue the tasting into Michigan and tour the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Country, which stretches across the southwestern corner of Michigan from the Indiana-Michigan state line, north to the Kalamazoo River and east toward the city of Kalamazoo.