25 Instant Itineraries | Midwest Living
More
Close

25 Instant Itineraries

Not much time to travel? Explore the Midwest on weekends or short weekday trips with our two-day getaway itineraries.

Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota

Lakeside family fun defines Brainerd Lakes, 130 miles north of the Twin Cities. Stay at lakeside cabins that make it easy for travelers to unplug; fill days on the lakes or at local attractions such as Paul Bunyan Land, Croft Mine Historical Park and Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

See our two-day Brainerd Lakes itinerary.

Saint Paul

The other "twin," Saint Paul's energetic neighborhoods give Minnesota's state capital a personality all its own. Walk in the serene sunken gardens at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory or browse upscale shops along Grand Avenue. 

See our two-day Saint Paul itinerary.

Badlands and Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City and the Badlands, 75 miles apart on I-90, combine for a great list of must-do stops. Awe-inspiring buttes, pinnacles and spires fill 242,756-acre Badlands National Park, and the nearby Minuteman Missile Site gives engaging tours of Cold War history. Stop at kitschy Wall Drug, a roadside attraction since 1931, on your way to Rapid City. 

See our two-day Badlands and Rapid City itinerary.

Wichita, Kansas

Old West spirit meets urban energy in Wichita, where travelers find contemporary fine arts and a restored Old Town. Wander 17 acres of themed gardens at Botanica, The Wichita Gardens. Make sure to visit the Old Cowtown Museum, which captures the rowdy spirit of Wichita’s early days, and the Wichita Art Museum, with its extensive glass collection.

See our two-day itinerary for Wichita.

Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota

Lakeside family fun defines Brainerd Lakes, 130 miles north of the Twin Cities. Stay at lakeside cabins that make it easy for travelers to unplug; fill days on the lakes or at local attractions such as Paul Bunyan Land, Croft Mine Historical Park and Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

See our two-day Brainerd Lakes itinerary.

Omaha

Nebraska's biggest city is drawing national attention with its booming arts and culinary scenes. Stroll the cobblestone streets of the Old Market; explore museums such as the Joslyn or Durham; wander 2 miles of paths at Lauritzen Gardens; and splurge on dinners at hidden gem Taste Bistro or the trendy Boiler Room.

See our two-day Omaha itinerary.

 

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The three largest Great Lakes (Huron, Michigan and Superior) lap against the shores of the upper arm of Michigan, where beauty and bounty feel timeless. Spend the night in a light station, explore a shipwreck museum and journey to natural attractions such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

See our two-day Upper Peninsula itinerary.

Columbus, Indiana

If learning about architecture (and staying in gorgeous hotels) sounds like a perfect getaway, then Columbus stands ready to wow you. The town is filled with more than 70 buildings created by famed architects, including Eliel and Eero Saarinen. Excellent restaurants and shops round out a weekend. 

See our two-day itinerary for Columbus, Indiana.

Des Moines

Iowa's capital city, Des Moines, has evolved into a sophisticated weekend destination with reasonable prices. Parks and trails compliment boutique shops and independent gastronomy gems. 

See our two-day Des Moines itinerary.

Springfield, Illinois

History infuses almost everything in Springfield. Much of Abraham Lincoln’s past lives on here, but beyond that, you’ll find a carillon, classic eats and ghost stories. 

See our two-day Springfield itinerary.

Wisconsin Dells

The "Waterpark Capital of the World" ranks as one of the most kid-friendly vacation spots in the Heartland with more family activities than you can cover in a weekend. Spend the day on lazy rivers, bumper boats and rides like a water roller-coaster, or seek thrills on Bigfoot Ziplines. World War II-era duck vehicles take visitors off-road past fern-filled canyons and plunge into Lake Delton during Original Wisconsin Duck Tours.

See our two-day Wisconsin Dells itinerary.

Indianapolis

Smack in the middle of the state, Indiana's capital offers luxe lodging, a museum-packed park, a new bicycle trail and eclectic shopping. It's also a great place to experience the arts, with local attractions including Indianapolis Arts Center and Indianapolis Museum of Art.

See our two-day Indianapolis itinerary.

Michigan's Traverse area

Farm-to-table restaurants, award-winning wineries and fabulous resorts dot the shore from Traverse City through Charlevoix and Petoskey to Harbor Springs. The 35-mile Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore feels a million miles from anywhere, and Michigan's famed Tunnel of Trees leads to the legendary Legs Inn, known for its Polish dishes atop a bluff.

See our two-day itinerary for the Traverse area.

Chicago

One Chicago CityPass ($89) grants holders access to up to five attractions in addition to sweet perks (go ahead, skip the line). Interested? Here's how we'd make the most of a weekend in Chicago with a pass.

See our two-day Chicago itinerary.

Kansas City

Barbecue, shopping, great museums and dueling pianos make for a lively weekend in Kansas City. Don't miss the gorgeous, free-admission Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with its striking outdoor sculptures. Kids (and adults) will enjoy attractions such as the Kansas City Zoo, Worlds of Fun and Science City. 

See our two-day Kansas City itinerary.

Ohio's Wine Country

Covered bridges and lush farmlands give way to bountiful vineyards south of Lake Erie. The popular, self-directed Bridges Driving Tour features 18 covered bridges, and more than 40 wineries hide among the tiny farm communities along the Lake Erie shore. Along the way, consider dropping in at the soda fountain at Rees' Corner or paddling the Grand River in Rock Creek. 

See our two-day Ohio wine country itinerary.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, entices vacationers with a large park surrounding waterfalls, nearby kayaking and canoeing opportunities, charming boutiques, a strong arts scene and delicious dining. Spend time exploring Falls Park, shop along Phillips Avenue, and get up close and personal with butterflies at the Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove.

See our two-day Sioux Falls itinerary.

Madison, Wisconsin

Food plays a starring role in Madison, whether you're at the famous farmers market or locavore eateries. But there's much more to explore, including Olbrich Botanical Gardens, art museums and Lake Monona. Badgers games draw crowds to State Street and University of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium.

See our two-day Madison itinerary.

Detroit

Detroit's economic situation continues to be challenging, but travelers will also see the results of a decade-long revitalization effort. Stroll along the landscaped RiverWalk, line up for tiger-filled shots at Comerica Park and visit one or more of the area's excellent museums. 

See our two-day Detroit itinerary.

 

 

 

Atchison and Leavenworth, Kansas

Less than an hour northwest of Kansas City, cute shops, cozy B&Bs, ghostly tales and the legacy of Amelia Earhart breathe energy into the historical streets of Atchison and Leavenworth. Take an overnight getaway to shop at Nell Hill’s, wander through the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and unwind at a luxe B&B in Atchison. Then head to Leavenworth for a glimpse of the frontier military lifestyle at Fort Leavenworth—and to shop at an eclectic mix of stores.

See our two-day Atchison-Leavenworth itinerary.

Minnesota's North Woods

The remote, lake-filled, 1 million-plus acres of the Boundary Waters near Canada lure adventurers who mix days of hiking and canoeing with legendary characters, tiny towns and excellent pie.

See our two-day North Woods itinerary.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

This reservoir in central Missouri has a rep as a full-throttle boating vacation destination. Spend days swimming, fishing or cruising on the lake. For a change of pace, explore Ha Ha Tonka State Park or visit Bagnell Dam Strip in Lake Ozark for old-time photos, arcade games and penny candy. 

See our two-day Lake of the Ozarks itinerary.

Cincinnati

The Queen City's crown jewels include pro sports, a bounty of great museums—including the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, the Taft Museum of Art and the three museums at Union Terminal—and a standout zoo. Cincinnati also is home to great places to sample regional foods. Graeter's Ice Cream churns out original flavors like Black Raspberry Chip, and Findlay Market sells a great mix of ethnic, traditional and organic foods.

See our two-day Cincinnati itinerary.

Medora, North Dakota

The Little Missouri River, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and cowboy-themed, squeaky-clean Medora Musical promise plenty of fun. Learn the history of the area at the Center of Western Heritage and Cultures or Chateau de Mores State Historic Site, then explore the national park by car, foot, horseback or bike.

See our two-day Medora itinerary. 

Okoboji, Iowa

Generations of families have made northwest Iowa’s chain of five glacial lakes their summer destination. Around Okoboji, you’ll find nostalgia in the waterfront amusement park Arnolds Park, hours of beachside fun and great lakeside cocktails. 

See our two-day Okoboji itinerary.

Best of the Midwest® 2014

Like the 25 instant itineraries in this slideshow? Our 2014 Best of the Midwest® travel guide includes these plus 53 more weekend getaways. Buy it at newsstands or online at The Meredith Store. 

 

 

Add Your Comment