Hot off the minds of Midwest travel writers: a fresh look at where to eat, drink, play and stay around the region.
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woman pouring out matcha drink
Credit: Courtesy of Matchacita

Eat & Drink

Feeling Green, Chicago

For Bianca Pearson, it's always matcha time. The emerald-hued powder, derived from green tea leaves, anchors the lattes and lemonades she serves at her Chicago cafe, Matchacita. Traditionally consumed in East Asia, matcha has found its way onto menus worldwide. While Pearson acknowledges the trend factor, especially among the Instagramming set, she's quick to tout the extract's health benefits, such as antioxidants that may help prevent chronic disease.

Due to the cafe's popularity, Matchacita announced in September that they will be moving into an expanded space to accommodate more matcha- lovers. When it opens, lean into the leafy island vibes (and escape the snow) with Matchacita's half-green, half-lavender Purple Haze Latte or an orange Paradise Colada Latte. They're almost too pretty to sip. Almost.

Fire and Ice, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Get ready for hygge in the stuga. Translation? Relaxation time in cozy bubble cabins. Eldr+Rime, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, serves modern American cuisine inspired by Scandinavian culinary techniques in a chic restaurant—and now inside weatherproof domes for the winter season.

Hygge (pronounced HUE-guh) is central to the Milwaukee-area restaurant's ethos. The team defines it as being in the moment and totally content after a busy day. To help customers find that bliss, executive chef Gary Baca crafts tastyfare with fresh and seasonal offerings, including herbs and botanics from his on-site garden. Eldr+Rime embraces its Nordic name, which means fire and ice, with grilled dishes cooked over a live fire (Roasted Carrot Pate, Wood-Fire Grilled Skirt Steak) and seafood served on ice (like oysters on the half shell and snow crab claws). Don't miss Scandinavian- inspired drinks, like a bourbon cocktail made with Scandi cola syrup.

Mockingbird Bakery Scones
Mockingbird Bakery
| Credit: Courtesy of Mockingbird Bakery

From Scratch with Love, Rochester, Illinois

Kathryn Elder knows her flour, eggs and sugar. She studied at a Le Cordon Bleu affiliate academy, decorated cakes in Chicago and relished the cookie wisdom of two inspirational women: her grandmothers. "I grew up with delicious, from-scratch, baked goods," Elder says.

"It was a way they showed their love." That legacy lives on at Mockingbird Bakery. Open since May, Mockingbird tempts customers with sweet treats like raspberry lemon scones, triple chocolate cookies and carrot cake cupcakes. Everything is baked daily from scratch.

An avid reader, Elder named the biz after To Kill a Mockingbird; her teenage daughter stocked the bakery's lending library with good reads. The two envision Mockingbird as a place for community and conversation, where neighbors might run into each other or acquaintances become friends. "We have been hugely supported by our small town," Elder says. "I hope to spread that love back out into the world through the bakery."

o'shaughnessy distilling company
Credit: Courtesy of O'Shaughnessy Distilling Company

Raise a Glass, Minneapolis

Brian Nation is considered one of the best whiskey distillers in the world, with two decades of experience working for Jameson. But he recently left the powerhouse Irish whiskey brand, shuttling his family across the Atlantic. What compelled this move? None other than Minnesota start-up O'Shaughnessy Distilling Company.

Founded by cousins Patrick and Michael O'Shaughnessy, and Michael's father, Gerry, the distillery blends the best elements of Irish and American whiskey into new palate-pleasers. "To create a truly new and unique style of whiskey is a dream come true for any distiller," Nation says.

Sample the inaugural offering, Keeper's Heart Whiskey, at the expansive new O'Shaughnessy Distillery, housed in a former potato factory. With daily tours, three on-site bars, educational programs and a spirits garden, the distillery beckons patrons to stay awhile. It's a fitting venue for the O'Shaughnessy family motto, fugit hora (the hour flies).

Play

Step Into Malala's World

After the Taliban banned girls from attending school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan in 2008, Malala Yousafzai courageously spoke out about their right to learn. She became an activist for female education but, as a result, suffered—and survived—a brutal attack. Today, she continues to speak out for educational rights. In 2014, she became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She has famously said,

"I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls."

Now, visitors to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis can immerse themselves in the world of Yousafzai to learn more about her. The addition opened in September as a part of the museum's permanent exhibit The Power of Children. It also is the only permanent exhibit in the world dedicated to Yousafzai. Her story will be told alongside those of threeother impactful children—Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White.

Billy Reid
Credit: Courtesy of Billy Reid

Southern Charm, Edina, Minnesota

Florence, Alabama-based designer Billy Reid became interested in fashion when he was young, spending time in his mom's clothing store. Now he's bringing modern Southern style to the Midwest with a new shop in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. Reid specializes in "broken-in luxury," selling men's and women's clothing, accessories, and leather goods that feel loved and lived-in. Texture is a big deal at his eponymous Billy Reid stores: quilted cotton, leather and corduroy line the high-end racks.

Reid, who has one Midwest location already in Chicago, was drawn to Edina's location. (The shop is in the Nolan Mains development in the 50th and France business district.) "Everyone's super excited about the neighborhood,"Reid told the Edina Sun Current. "We're looking forward to just being part of the community there."

A Path Through the Past, Chicago

Chicago is ... resilient. Mysterious. Complex. A meandering new path behind the Chicago History Museum takes visitors on a tour of the Windy City's multifaceted identity, with eight stops embodying different words and worlds. There's a pedestal inviting elocution ("Chicago is ... yours"), sculptures evoking community, and a chunk of melted iron from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Richard M. and Shirley H. Jaffee History Trail also features a native species garden and 148 new trees specifically selected to attract birds and butterflies. Might be time to add a ninth stop on the Jaffee History Trail: Chicago is ... tranquil.

black is beautiful portrait
Credit: Courtesy of Kwame Brathwaite

Breathtaking Beauty, Detroit

A stunning new exhibit of 40 photos at the Detroit Institute of Arts whisks viewers to 1960s Harlem. Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, the first major show dedicated to the artist, reveals Brathwaite's keen eye for detail and offers a window into the second Harlem renaissance.

Brathwaite's photographs contributed to the Black Is Beautiful cultural movement of the '60s and '70s, when white beauty standards were rejected and challenged. The photographer cofounded Grandassa Models, a black female modeling agency, as well as the African Jazz Arts Society and Studios (a group of artists, playwrights, designers and dancers). Many of the large-format portraits in the exhibit feature subjects from both organizations.

After immersing yourself in the mid-century, take a leap forward 60 years to greet Brathwaite's modern contemporaries in The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, opening mid-December.

Stay

Small Cabin, Big Fun, Fall Creek, Wisconsin

Domino's Pizza doesn't deliver here, and there's no PlayStation5 included, quips Danny Lindstrom, speaking about the second tiny cabin he designed and built in Fall Creek, a small town 20 minutes outside of Eau Claire. "But it's kinda cool," he says. Make that really cool. Guests at his Off-Grid Inn describe the two microcabins as magical, unique, peaceful and cozy. Huge picture windows frame the forest outside, revealing magnificent views year-round—snow- laden branches, rust-color leaves, grazing deer. Firepits offer cooking options beyond the small indoor kitchen areas, while spare but functional bathrooms contribute to the glamping experience. (Don't miss Unit 2's Technicolor lighting.) Intrigued? Book early. Off-Grid Inn topped Airbnb's roundup of most wish-listed homes in Wisconsin last year.

A Star on the Mag Mile, Chicago

Step out the doors of Pendry Chicago and onto the Magnificent Mile. The new property, located inside the historic Carbide and Carbon Building, welcomed guests for check-in this past spring. The Michigan Avenue hotel offers a spotless blend of gilded luxury with a heavy influence of Art Deco in its 364 guest rooms. Pendry's on-site French brasserie, Venteux (windy in French), was named oneof the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year, due to chef Donald Young, a Chicago native with a Michelin star. Guests can enjoy oysters and champagne followed by steak frites in a dining room marked by deep jewel tones and rich textures.

hotel indy guest room
Credit: Courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane, Indianapolis

The "concrete cube" is no more. This local moniker for a downtown Indianapolis building that was particularly squat and drab doesn't suit the new occupant. Hotel Indy, part of Marriott's Tribute Portfolio boutique hotel collection, gave the building a massive face-lift, adding extra oomph with the addition of a sixth floor—and the city center's newest rooftop bar.

The property has 90 rooms with luxurious finishes, as well as a hidden patio called The Paddock. That's one of several nods to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located nearby. The Hulman, the hotel restaurant, is named for the racetrack's most famous family, while The Cannon Ball Lounge celebrates Erwin "Cannon Ball" Baker, who won the speedway's first motorcycle competition. Artwork in the hotel keeps the track top of mind, but leave the racing to the professionals: This is a place for slowing down.

By Kelsey Schagemann and Kelsey Yandura