Midwest Living

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The whirl of activity was mesmerizing as we walked into Zaharakos. We heard the thunk-thunk-thunk of old metal ice cream cases opening and closing. Servers dashed by carrying trays loaded with ice cream in old-fashioned clear glasses. In the back room, an organ piped out tunes. “Sit right here,” said our server, Wilma, pointing to two small soda fountain chairs. She... More
The train’s whistle echoes through the park, and I pick up the pace on my bike, racing to reach the tiny red depot in Peninsula, just 30 minutes south of Cleveland. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad makes its last Bike Aboard! stop in 10 minutes, and I don’t want to miss it. I’ve spent the last hour biking along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, an 80-plus mile... More
While most of Holland, Michigan, sat in classrooms and offices on an average Wednesday morning, the mayor and city council were blowing the lid off a civic crisis looming downtown. With only a handful of onlookers nearby, the leaders donned white gloves, bent low over the street, swiped their hands on the asphalt and declared it unacceptably filthy. This set in motion a crisis response that had... More
1) Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium It’s easy to see why this zoo consistently receives high marks. First, it’s huge. Second, its design lets you commune with gorillas, sharks, snakes, butterflies and all sorts of other creatures. It's also home to the largest indoor desert habitat in the world, capped off with a stunning three-story dome. You don’t have... More
The wild-eyed stare, bristling mane and yellowed fangs of the taxidermied lion stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t the beast’s size and ferocity that captivated me, but the idea that this was the first lion ever encountered by millions who visited the Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Photo © The Field Museum. Likewise, when I came face to face with... More
I’ll admit it: I’m a roller coaster fanatic. My childhood obsessions always involved wheels, starting with tractors, evolving to trains (like a bunch of tractors connected to each other!) and, finally, roller coasters (like a train that goes upside down!). The bug bit me at age 8, when I braved a rickety coaster called Cyclone in Denver. Since then, I’ve buckled my seat... More
1) Grand Traverse Lighthouse One of Michigan's oldest lighthouses sits at the tip of the 1,300-acre Leelanau State Park peninsula. Pay the park entry fee and $4 to climb to the top of the restored 1858 structure and wander through a museum for a peek into the life of a lightkeeper. Ghost walks and overnights are also available. (231) 386-7195; grandtraverselighthouse.com 2)... More
The strangest thing about Dogwood Canyon is that I saw a snake there. That wouldn’t seem all that unusual when you’re poking among creekside rocks along the Missouri-Arkansas border. But this is Dogwood Canyon, and finding an even remotely unpleasant critter at your feet feels a little like stumbling upon a mugger inside the Magic Kingdom. This canyon is a genuine natural wonder,... More
I stood on the side of a dirt road somewhere east of Van Wert, Ohio, and surveyed the massive yard sale spread out before me, one of several huge bargain-hunting events on my hit list. Before me was a grassy field dotted with white tents, hovering over rows of tables laden with … well, from this distance, I couldn’t say exactly what. But I hoped for a piece to add to... More
"Another beer tour?" My family looks puzzled. We've chuckled along with a high-spirited guide at Lakefront Brewery, traipsed through the huge Miller-Coors factory and are scheduled to visit Sprecher Brewery. On our first visit to Milwaukee, we're doing our best to get the full brewing experience. "But this one's right here," I say, pointing out our hotel room... More