Our Staffers' Favorite Fall Escapes
Get inspired by the fabulous road trips our staffers and their families took last year. Each staff member shares ideas for food, ways to play and relax outside, and activities they'd like to try next time.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
"My husband and I had wanted to visit the western part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a while; the pandemic proved the perfect motivation to make the 9-hour drive from our home in Des Moines. Our week-long stay took us from Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the south to Copper Harbor at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We found the Keweenaw remote, surprising and beautiful, just the way we like our vacations. Even at peak fall color, it rarely felt crowded." — Ginger Crichton, Senior Editor
St. Joseph, Minnesota
"I hadn't been to St. Joseph in my home state of Minnesota since performing a concert at St. John's University during my college days (more than a decade ago). Even during our choir's short visit to the campus, we were enchanted by its natural blend of quiet landscapes and unique architecture. It sounded like the perfect medicine for cabin fever during the pandemic, and my partner had never been, so we decided to make the easy 70-mile drive up Interstate-94 from Minneapolis to St. Joseph. We're so glad we did." —Jess Hoffert, Project Editor
"I grew up in Galena, and my family still lives there. There's something about the chill in the air and changing of the leaves that has me longing for home every time October hits. Growing up, the change of season kicked off with a caramel apple, followed by my neighbors transforming hay bales into Halloween decorations, the community volunteering at the Country Fair, and marching in theannual Halloween parade. My visit during the pandemic was much different, but it made me appreciate the things we could do together, like take sunny bike rides, make impromptu roadside stops and cook salted caramel apple skillet cake at home." — Erin Keeffer, Senior Designer
Black Hills, South Dakota
"My husband and I tend to be day-trip people, but last year, we decided to take a longer road trip from our home in Rockford, Illinois. Inspired by pandemic travel tips in the fall 2020 issue of Midwest Living as well as a South Dakota fact-checking assignment, we set our sights on the Black Hills — an eight-day adventure over a total of more than 2,500 miles." — Helen Karakoudas, Fact-Checker
"I've visited Saugatuck several times, but I hadn't considered it as a family destination until my husband, Nick, and our girls (ages 5 and 8) piled in the car and drove there from Iowa. After seven hours and 7,000 Mad Libs, we arrived at our rental for a few days of Lake Michigan bliss. Our top discovery: Old Pike Cottages. Freshly remodeled rentals. S'mores kits. Docks for fishing. And a lakeside pool heated until November." —Kylee Krizmanic, Editor in Chief
North Shore, Minnesota
"My retired parents, 11-year-old daughter and I all wanted a vacation—but not more alone-time with our households. So we agreed to fully quarantine for two weeks, then rented a minivan and schlepped tents to Lake Superior in Minnesota. (P.S. We had never camped together before.) Hiking on the North Shore is a joy—a string of easy-access state parks dot MN-61 from Duluth all the way to Canada, each with tumbling rivers, miles of trails and thin crowds once you get north of Split Rock Lighthouse." — Hannah Agran, Executive Editor
"As an Iowa native, I have been to Decorah before and knew it would give my husband, Cory, and I the change in scenery we craved after months cooped up at home. We've done a longer weekend at an Airbnb here before, but this time chose a chain hotel for a quick one-night getaway. Decorah has a different mood from most Iowa towns—a little funkier and more outdoorsy, with a streak of Scandi pride." — Allison Vancura, Content Editor
"During the pandemic, I developed a habit of walking off my worries, pulling my husband, Tom, along for state park hikes throughout Iowa. Looking for an out-of-state getaway with our great traveling friends, Jeff and Jenny, I convinced the group to take a jaunt to the new-to-us woods and hills of Southern Illinois. Once your inner-kid scrambling needs are fulfilled, pick a spot to settle in and watch the sunbeams shift through rocks and over golden trees." — Diane Penningroth, Copy Editor
One-Day Autumn Adventures
Last year, the pandemic nudged us all to find fun outdoors—and rediscover why fall in the Midwest really is the best.
Mary-Beth Rouse, Creative Director Bellevue, Nebraska My daughter and I spent a heartpounding day with a friend at TreeRush Adventures in Fontenelle Forest near Omaha, exploring the canopy on rope ladders and swinging bridges. We're hoping to go back for Glow in the Park!
Cynthia Earhart, MWL Writer Around Ohio My husband and I made a habit of exploring suburban or countryside breweries with outdoor seating. (He's a huge craft beer fan, and I've learned a lot—not that I had a choice!) Our treks included Homestead Beer Company in Heath and Dalton Union Winery and Brewery in Marysville.
Amanda Doyle, MWL Writer St. Louis I helped the nonprofit We Stories develop a self-paced scavenger hunt called SEEK STL. My kids, mom and I explored several clues, including the Old Stone Meeting House, a church in Frontenac rumored to have been an Underground Railroad stop.
Helen Karakoudas, Fact Checker Pottawattamie County, Iowa An event called Goat Trek and Treats? Sign me up! At Honey Creek Creamery in the Loess Hills, my husband and I hiked 2 miles with 50 kids. Then we noshed on goat cheese poppers and goat gelato at Stanley's Snack Shack, a shipping-container eatery on-site.
Debbie Leckron Miller, MWL Writer Flint Hills, Kansas My husband and I brought back the Sunday drive! We'd cruise in our pickup on the most remote gravel roads, often ending by water. One favorite—a solitary stroll at Tuttle Creek Lake near Manhattan, topped off by takeout Jamaican food from The Little Grill.