20 Perfect Weekend Getaways | Midwest Living
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20 Perfect Weekend Getaways

Check out some of our favorite Midwest places to escape for the weekend—for entertainment, outdoor fun or just plain relaxing.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Bison, prairie dogs, elk and other creatures roam near (and often cross!) the Wildlife Loop Road at Custer State Park, about 45 miles southwest of Rapid City. But animals are just the beginning here. Scenic Needles Highway (left) winds through the park, hiking trails beg for exploration, and even rookie campers will feel at home at the park's Blue Bell campground.

Midwest Living's Great State Park Stays: Custer State Park

Custer Area Chamber of Commerce

Omaha, Nebraska

Stroll the brick-paved Old Market district (left), a complex of historic warehouses now housing shops and restaurants. Sunlight warms the animal exhibits in nearby Henry Doorly Zoo's Desert Dome to a toasty 80 degrees. Paths wind around sandy enclosures, where cacti sprout and cottontail bunnies scamper on hillsides. (Personally, we love the African Klipspringer, which look like toy-size deer.) You could spend an entire day exploring Omaha's museums, including the impressive Durham Museum housed in a gorgeous train station and the equally beautiful Joslyn Art Museum with its fine examples of Art Deco architecture.

Midwest Living's Omaha Trip Guide

Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Hocking Hills, Ohio

We have one answer for anyone who says the Midwest is flat: Ohio's Hocking Hills. Here, just 55 miles southeast of Columbus, cornfields give way to Appalachia. Hocking Hills State Park encompasses some of the best scenery, including Ash Cave, a rock shelf that soars 90 feet above the trail. Other outdoor adventures include a zip-line canopy tour, the 17-mile bikeway between Nelsonville and Athens and tube floats on the Hocking River.

Midwest Living's Hocking Hills Trip Guide

Hocking Hills Tourism Association

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Want a glam night out at the theater? Look no further than Minneapolis, home to more theater seats per capita than any city outside of New York. Our pick: The legendary Guthrie (left), housed in a spectacular complex on the Mississippi River. During the day, visit scenic Minnehaha Falls, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the 11-block Nicollet Mall, a downtown pedestrian thoroughfare featuring some of the city's best shops and restaurants.

Midwest Living's Minneapolis-Saint Paul Trip Guide

Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association

 

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Bison, prairie dogs, elk and other creatures roam near (and often cross!) the Wildlife Loop Road at Custer State Park, about 45 miles southwest of Rapid City. But animals are just the beginning here. Scenic Needles Highway (left) winds through the park, hiking trails beg for exploration, and even rookie campers will feel at home at the park's Blue Bell campground.

Midwest Living's Great State Park Stays: Custer State Park

Custer Area Chamber of Commerce

Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

We'll forgive you for thinking you've landed in Europe the first time you tour one of the seven wineries on Old Mission Peninsula. Tidy vineyards and orchards blanket lush green hills along the 20-mile-long peninsula north of Traverse City, and beyond them, Lake Michigan (or more precisely, Grand Traverse Bay) sparkles as blue as the Mediterranean. (But much more affordable!)

Old Mission Peninsula

Chicago, Illinois

Sure, it's become the most cliched thing to do in downtown Chicago, but we still love staring at our reflections in Millennium Park's Cloudgate sculpture (affectionately known as "The Bean"). For the full funhouse effect, join the crowds walking under the sculpture, or stand back to see the whole skyline bent across the mirrored surface like a piece of taffy. Spend the rest of your day enjoying more of Chicago's top-notch free-admission destinations, which include Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Garfield Park Conservatory, the Chicago Cultural Center and the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Midwest Living's Must-See Attractions in Chicago

City of Chicago Tourism Office

Medora, North Dakota

Where better to celebrate the original "Rough Rider" than on his old stomping grounds? Medora Musical re-creates Teddy Roosevelt's cowboy days with singing, dancing and even fireworks, all under a night sky in the stunning North Dakota Badlands. You'll come away tapping your toes—and eager to check out nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 135 miles west of Bismarck.

Midwest Living's Black Hills and Badlands Trip Guide

Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation

Indianapolis, Indiana

Got kids? Or grandkids? Or just a nice neighbor kid? Then get thee to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. It's the Midwest's premier kids' zone, with hundreds of interactive exhibits, including a planetarium, a make-believe construction site and a water zone. Both pint-size visitors and their full-gallon guardians may never want to leave! (Although, if you do choose to explore, the gang will love the Indianapolis Zoo and the museums in White River State Park, too.)

Midwest Living's Indianapolis Trip Guide

Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Sure, Lake of the Ozarks attracts thousands of visitors to central Missouri, but early morning, you'll hear just three sounds: birdsong, water lapping and the put-put of fishing boats. By midday, the symphony grows to include speedboats, dockside restaurants and cannonballing kids. Come nightfall, quiet sets in again over the water, but laughter and conversation ring out from the edge of every cove.

Midwest Living's Lake of the Ozarks Trip Guide

Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Flint Hills, Kansas

A simple Kansas truth: You'll never see the same prairie sky twice. On a perfect autumn day, wispy clouds streak across a cerulean canvas. Come summer, storms arrive, and lightning zigzags through the thunderheads. But then the sun returns, rising above the horizon like a crimson dinner plate. The Flint Hills offer some of the Midwest's best bird-watching, but make sure to put down the binoculars and admire the biggest, prettiest sky this side of heaven. You can experience the Flint Hills along hiking, biking and driving routes; ranch bed and breakfasts offer trail rides, and two outfitters lead wagon treks through the grasslands.

Midwest Living's Two-Day Trip Along the Flint Hills Scenic Byway

Kansas Flint Hills

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Crowds gather every day at noon to see the Milwaukee Art Museum flap its 217-foot sun-shading "wings," like a mechanical bird silently taking flight. Check out the 20,000-strong collection of fine art, and then head to the funky Third Ward district for gallery hopping. Summer festivals happen almost every weekend, so complete your trip with live music, beer and a classic Wisconsin brat.

Midwest Living's Milwaukee Trip Guide

Visit Milwaukee

Great River Road, Illinois

In spring and summer, enjoy the leafy green of the wooded bluffs along the Mississippi River; in fall, the bluffs reveal an autumn wardrobe of red, orange and gold. For the best view of the show, take a weekend drive along the Great River Road. You'll find historic towns and old-fashioned inns along the route, but most visitors find themselves content to just roll down the window and soak in the scenery. One of our favorite sections of the drive: The 16-mile stretch from Alton, Illinois, to Pere Marquette State Park (left) along State-100, squeezed between walls of limestone and the Mississippi.

Midwest Living's Alton, Elsah and Grafton Trip Guide

Mississippi River Travel

Cleveland, Ohio

Many people come to Cleveland for one thing: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And who can blame them? The Hall's collection includes Prince's "Purple Rain" coat, John Lennon's passport and Jimi Hendrix's guitar. But Cleveland also offers a world-class orchestra, a stunning art museum and revitalized historic neighborhoods such as Little Italy, where dainty cookies and authentic cannoli line the bakery cases.

Midwest Living's Cleveland Trip Guide

Positively Cleveland

Mackinac Island, Michigan

If you're going to wile away the summer on a front porch, why not go to the biggest one of them all, at Mackinac Island's iconic Grand Hotel? (Even if you don't want to pay for a room, at least walk by for a peek at this white-columned landmark.) Most visitors come to this no-cars-allowed island for leisurely carriage rides and fudge-munching, but if you leave the downtown area, you'll find yourself in one of Michigan's prettiest state parks, where a 70-mile trail network winds through woods and limestone outcroppings.

Midwest Living's Mackinac Island Trip Guide

Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

Wichita, Kansas

Little pockets of this city of 383,000 feel like they somehow fell out of a movie set and into place here, whether it's a town from the Old West or an enchanting garden. Visitors eager for rustic cowboy life stop at the Old Cowtown Museum and explore an 1870s town complete with a saloon and a blacksmith's shop. Serenity envelops Botanica (left), a collection of 25 totally different garden styles. In one, beds laid out in English symmetry overflow with plants and herbs mentioned in Shakespeare's works. Other engaging escapes include the Kansas Aviation Museum in a revamped air terminal and the Wichita Art Museum, which boasts a large collection of historic and contemporary glasswork.

Midwest Living's Wichita Trip Guide

Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau

Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota

The giant Paul Bunyan statue greets visitors by name at Paul Bunyan Land (left), a kitschy amusement park that's entertained families since the 1950s. It's just one example of the outdoor playground of activities in this region. Whether you want to golf, boat or jump off the trampoline anchored in the lake, Madden's on Gull Lake near Brainerd offers guests plenty to choose from. Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby rents bikes and kayaks for travelers eager to explore Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, and Croft Mine Historical Park provides self-guided tours in a tunnel that's refreshingly cool on sticky summer days.

Midwest Living's The Lure of Minnesota's Brainerd Lakes

Brainerd Lakes Chamber

Dubuque, Iowa

The state's oldest city, Dubuque shines with lively historical districts near the mighty Mississippi. Victorian buildings house unique shops, galleries and restaurants in a two-block area called Cable Car Square. Take the Fenelon Place Elevator (pictured) to the top of the bluff for a spectacular tri-state view. Nearby, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium includes an immersion theater and 12 big aquariums full of river creatures. Drive 32 miles south on US-61 to explore more than a dozen caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park. 

Midwest Living's Two-Day Riverfront Getaway in Dubuque

Dubuque Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

Nebraska City, Nebraska

Family activities and fall color star in the hometown of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton. The Frank Lloyd Wright-style Lied Lodge and Conference Center, with a stunning lobby and fireplace (left), offers an on-site arboretum and Olympic-size swimming pool. Known for its Sunday brunch, the hotel's Timber Dining Room is the town's best restaurant. Branch out to other local favorites including Arbor Day Farm, where historic barns, a market and a soaring tree house offer more than enough to fill a day. Unwind among 72 tree-filled acres at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, which contains J. Sterling Morton's preserved mansion.

Midwest Living's Nebraska City Trip Guide

Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce

Columbus, Ohio

Some of the coolest stuff hides just beyond the downtown district of Ohio's capital city. Delve into turn-of-the-century history on Queen City Underground's colorful tours in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The energetic Short North hosts a monthly Gallery Hop showcasing the work of local artists, eclectic boutiques and small yet sublime chef-owned restaurants such as Rigsby's Kitchen. Sweeten the day with scoops of luscious dark chocolate or spicy Bangkok peanut at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. 

Midwest Living's Columbus Trip Guide

Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

 

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