5 Sunny Midwest Destinations to Visit this Spring
Horicon Marsh, Horicon, Wisconsin
This 33,000-acre wetland, known as the "Little Everglades of the North," is the country's largest freshwater cattail marsh. Its impressive Education and Visitor Center is worth a visit, but the real action in spring is the tens of thousands of birds stopping by the marshlands to fuel up on invertebrates, fish and leftover field corn on their migration from South America, Central America and the southern United States to the northern United States and Canada.
"They come through as soon as the ice is gone," says Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife educator Liz Herzmann.
The best time to see the migration is from mid-April to mid-May, though some species (especially Canada geese) move through the marsh starting in late February to early March. About 300 species in all have been seen at Horicon Marsh. Watch the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center Facebook page to pick the best time to visit.
Mitchell Park Conservatory, Milwaukee
For more than 50 years, three glass-and-concrete beehive domes have lent a mid-century modern twist to the landscape near the Milwaukee Brewers' ballpark.
Refresh your winter-weary outlook in the Tropical Dome's rainforest microcosm, thick with vines and ferns, or explore the Desert Dome's exotic succulents and African pampas grass.
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago
Baby animals might lead the online cuteness parade, but Chicago's legendary (and free!) zoo lets you see them for real. In 2021, a baby snow monkey arrived, and zoo staffers are crossing their fingers for more this year. You might know them as Japanese macaques, or as the photo-friendly white monkeys with a habit of lounging in hot springs.
What's your baby fave? Whether wobbly zebra colts make you weak in the knees or penguin chicks are your picks, you can time your next zoo visit right by watching the New Arrivals page online.
Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago
When March is coming in like a lion, head for this glass-topped botanical haven, where the weather is always in lamb mode. The conservatory houses 2 toasty acres of ferns, palms, cacti and thousands of other heat-loving species. It's off the beaten tourist path west of the Loop but worth a stop to see one of the nation's largest conservatories, and admission is free.
Maple Sugar Festival, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Get ready to get sticky. Every spring, more than 2,000 people head to the Kalamazoo Nature Center for one of its biggest events of the year: Maple Sugar Fest (March 11, 2023). Visitors can feast on a pancake breakfast (dripping with real Michigan maple syrup, of course), maple cotton candy and ice cream drizzled with maple syrup. Jump into a horse-drawn wagon and head to the DeLano Homestead, a wooden farmhouse. There, sap bubbles and burbles aover the fire as it's turned into maple sugar, just like pioneers made it in the 1800s.
All that maple will fuel your hike around 14 miles of trails at the 1,100-acre property—one of the largest nature centers in the country. Go your own way, or join a naturalist-led historical maple sugar tour.