Midwest Living

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With patriotic charm, Old West adventure, sweeping history lessons, stunning scenery, caves and paleontology, and wildlife galore, South Dakota’s Black Hills is one of America’s greatest family destinations. Here are 10 places to spark kids’ imaginations, dole out sneaky history lessons and replace “Are we there yet?” with “Wow!” 1) 1880 Train ... More
An old white wooden door, with chipped paint and idle hinges, gets new life with a strip of black chalkboard paint down the center and a scrawl of chalk. “All it takes is a great mind,” it announces. “And a pile of junk.” Twice a year, Junkstock upcycles an old Omaha, Nebraska, dairy farm into a haven for shoppers seeking repurposed, vintage, retro and antique... More
The Twin Cities embrace the outdoors with family-friendly attractions such as Valleyfair amusement park, Twins baseball and the Minnesota Zoo, but there’s plenty inside to keep kids busy when the weather’s too hot or wet. 1) Minnesota Children’s Museum Build sandcastles on the rooftop, run a cafe, crawl through tunnels, make a music video and splash... More
The Ozarks make a stunning backdrop for biking, hiking, water sports and outdoor recreation during an active Midwest weekend getaway in Branson. 1) Table Rock Dam and Lake Anchored by a massive dam (see the ins and outs of the structure on a guided tour), this White River-fed reservoir serves as the centerpiece of Branson’s great outdoors. In the warm months, the lake is prime... More
I had dreamed of going to Italy this summer to see historical mosaic art. Instead, that money went toward a bathroom remodel. So I took a basics workshop at the Chicago Mosaic School, the only classical and contemporary mosaic training school in the United States. In an afternoon, I got my Italian art fix and discovered a new way to be creative. These are the seven... More
Because 5 million annual visitors flow into the Wisconsin Dells like a tidal wave, you'll find an overwhelming number of places clamoring for your vacation dollars. Go ahead and splurge on big resorts with on-site water parks if your kids are happy jumping, sliding and splashing the day away, but you can usually save money by traveling midweek and dining off-property. You can... More
At many museums, when you pay for admission, you receive headphones to hear a narrated tour. At the Rhythm! Discovery Center in Indianapolis, the receptionist offers a pair of earplugs. On our recent visit, my parents and I chuckled and politely refused—after all, surely the point of a museum of percussion instruments is to hear the music, right? But a minute later, as my daughter gleefully... More
I’m having a delightful Saturday night at Cleveland’s Palace Theatre, even though there’s nothing on stage but a single-bulb floor lamp, burning like a star front and center. I peek around the curtain from a front-row seat, studying the complex web of ropes and weights that operate the scenery. I stare up at rows of lights that help transform the place on any given night from... More
Every Midwestern city has its gems, but St. Louis takes the crown when it comes to free things to do. Here are some of the best deals (but do factor in parking fees) in St. Louis: 1) Saint Louis Zoo Go early to what’s considered one of the top zoos in the nation. Its has 19,000 animals living on its 90 acres. Though visitors have to pay for extras, such as... More
In South Dakota’s Black Hills, mica and quartz sparkle along trails and thick stands of pines decorate granite peaks and distinctive spires seen from scenic overlooks. Here are some of our favorite Black Hills adventures: 1) Harney Peak A majestic four-state view unfurls from the highest point in South Dakota at 7,242 feet above sea level. Pack a lunch for this 4- or 5-mile (... More