Midwest Vacation Ideas

Midwest Vacation Ideas #1: Experience the culture and romance of San Antonio, Texas.The Alamo and Mission Trail are full of the history of our nation.

Market Square is the biggest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. Spanish, Mexican and Native American heritage and culture blend together in the charming La Villita district.

For more modern Texas vacations entertainment there is Sea World San Antonio and the nearby Six Flags Fiesta Texas.


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Two Whooping Cranes
flickr.com/photos/finnadat

Midwest Vacation Ideas #2: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge - The world's only natural population of whooping cranes is located in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along Texas's Gulf Coast. A great Texas vacation ideas is to visit the nesting grounds of these nearly extinct birds.

In the summer they are up in Canada, but from November through April they return here to feed, court and reproduce.

You can drive through their habitat on a 16 mile loop road. The 40-foot tall observation tower gives a broader view. But the best way to see the cranes, and all the other assorted refuge wildlife, is to get out and walk.

There is a boardwalk through the marsh along with nine walking trails ranging from .3 miles to 1.25 miles. You can also book a guided tour on a shallow-draft boat.


Midwest Vacation Ideas #3: Wisconsin's Northern Highland-American Legion State Park has 225,000 acres of forest that attracts 2 million visitors every year for scenery and outdoor activities. This huge forest recreational area is up along the northern border with Canada.

There are hundreds of lakes that provide plenty of places for swimming, fishing and boating. You can go camping out in the forest or at a park maintained camping site such as Crystal Lake Campground. In winter the park becomes a playground for vacationers who like to ski, snowshoe or snowmobile.

Crystal Lake Wisconsin
flickr.com/photos/chefranden

Mountain bikers will love the 50 miles of mountain bike trails and the hundreds of miles of old logging trails. The Northern Highland-American Legion State Park is very popular with bird watchers. The park is home to almost 250 species of birds such as Wood Turtles and Cooper's Hawks.


Midwest Vacation Ideas #4: The Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor is a great outdoor adventure vacation idea. This is a 62-mile long trail that follows the route of the I&M Canal and is an excellent place for hiking, casual walks and also bicycling.

The canal was built in the 1840s and was very important to the development of Chicago as an industrial hub. There are two canoe trails. A fifteen-mile canoe trail runs from Channahon State Park and Gebhard Wood and a 5-mile canoe trail runs from Utica and LaSalle.

The complete canal route runs for 97 miles from the Chicago River at Lake Michigan down to the Illinois River near Peru, Illinois. The I&M Corrider makes a great place for a scenic road trip. You can get maps for your driving tour and other activities at the I&M Commission Office in Lockport. The I&M Corrider runs through four state parks - Channahon State Park, William G. Stratton State Park, Gebhard Wood State Park and Buffalo Rock State Park so there is lots of opportunity for outdoor family vacation activities. For a winter vacation idea, the canal towpath provides 62 miles of trail perfect for snowmobiling.


Rural Life Museum Baton Rouge Louisiana
flickr.com/photos/skatoolaki

Midwest Vacation Ideas #5: Rural Life Museum - You can learn about the working life on the iconic Southern plantation with a visit to the Rural Life Museum at Louisiana State University; located in Baton Rouge, LA. This is a 19th century plantation that has been recreated with 27 buildings that show the operation of a sugar cane and cotton plantation.

There is no grand mansion but the museum has slave cottages, an overseer's house as well as grist mill, blacksmith's shop, commissary, sick house and other buildings that detail the major activities of life on a 19th century Southern plantation.

The buildings, particularly the Exhibit Barn, house hundreds of tools and artifacts from the period. The Rural Life Museum is considered to be among the "Top 10 Outdoor Museums in the World".



Midwest Vacation Ideas #6: Quad Cities - The Quad Cities is in the Midwest heartland along the Mississippi River. The Quad Cities area is made up of Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa; Rock Island and Moline/East Molin in Illinois; as well as some surrounding communities.

The population of the area is nearly a half-million people. The Quad Cities is an easy 2½-hour drive west from Chicago, Illinois, or flight in to the Quad City International Airport.

Don't miss the awesome site of the mighty Mississippi River with a trip on the Channel Cat Water Taxi to the different cities or a cruise on the non-gaming Celebration Belle. Being out on the water is a great way for families to get together.

The Quad Cities is a great arts/culture area with performances, festivals, events, concerts, galleries, studios and more that both adults and kids can enjoy.

Moline is the world headquarters for Deere and Co. and John Deere Commons in downtown Moline is a wonderful place to learn about the history and future of farming.

There are hands-on exhibits and an array of machinery to climb on and sit in the cab of a real combine. The rest of the downtown is filled with shops to browse through and restaurants to eat at. It's all right along the river and the bike path follows it.

The locks and dams on the river are also an interesting thing to experience. The museum is a good watch point to see Lock and Dam 15 at work, the world's largest roller dam. In the winter the bald eagles flock to the open water near the dams. Bald Eagle Days in January celebrates these marvelous birds in the Quad Cities.

Plus, the Quad Cities has several museums, a family museum, an IMAX 3D Theatre, art galleries, shops, malls, great restaurants, professional sports teams, and the Quad City Botanical Center houses a tropical garden throughout the year. - Contributed by Jessica Waytenick


Midwest Vacation Ideas #7: Houston - Top vacation ideas in Texas include the seaport city of Houston. This is the biggest city in the state and that means lots of attractions for vacationers.

There is a thriving theater district downtown, lots of top-notch restaurants and excellent shopping. At the Houston Space Center, the city's number one attraction, you can touch an actual moon rock or experience moon-like gravity.

If it's a family vacation, head for the Children's Museum of Houston where the kids can learn while having a blast. At the Kemah Boardwalk you will find a huge array of things to do like the amusement rides, shops and eateries. The Kemah Boardwalk Marina is considered the Boating Capital of Texas with the largest number of docks and boats you will see anywhere.


Midwest Vacation Ideas #8: The Four Corners area of the American Southwest is a sparsely populated landscape of red-rock canyons, flat mesas and 1,000 year old native villages. You can find it at the juncture of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

The keystone of the archaeological treasures can be found in the Mesa Verde National Park. There’s also the Anasazi Heritage Center, Canyons of the Ancients, Cortez Cultural Center, Ute Mountain Tribal Park and Hovenweep National Monument. The best way to experience the Four Corners is to camp or RV. You can explore with a mountain biking or backpacking trip. Or, some areas require that you join an organized guided tour.

Far Out Expeditions offers guided tours to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and custom backcountry tours. Wild Rivers Expeditions offers whitewater rafting and other boating tours. For traditional hotel lodging you can find it in Cortez in Colorado, Bluff in Utah, Winslow in Arizona, Farmington in New Mexico.


Midwest Vacation Ideas #9: In the far southeastern corner of New Mexico you can find the famous Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This is a must-see when visiting the area but there are other sights too. The town of Lincoln is a window into the past where the legend of Billy the Kid was grown and the Lincoln County War played out.

The International Space Hall of Fame displays moon rocks, rockets, satellites and has a 2,700 square-foot planetarium screen. Enjoy the beauty of the desert landscape and explore archaeological sites at the Dog Canyon/Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Three Rivers Petroglyphs National Recreation Area and the White Sands National Monument.

A good spot here for hiking and bird watching is the Bitter Lakes National Wildlife refuge near Roswell. For some great fishing head to Alto Lake and Mescalero Lake. There are scads of motels in the area so cheap lodging is easy to find. The Lodge, in Cloudcroft, is considered one of the best in the area. A fun B&B is the 1850’s-era adobe home in Lincoln called The Ellis Store & Co. B&B.


Midwest Vacation Ideas #10: I love to visit Park City, Utah - but contrary to the popular demand, I am partial to its beautiful summer. Many people travel to Park City to enjoy the amazing ski and snowboarding experiences. Myself, I prefer the exquisite Park City nightlife on Main Street. You can't go wrong hitting up Downstairs, not to mention the outlet stores and all kinds of other great experiences.

I've always had a terrific experience staying at the Sky Lodge, located in downtown right on Main Street. Just walk outside and you're already enjoying the beauty that surrounds you! Keep in mind the Alpine Slides, Alpine Coaster and Zip Line located within walking distance of Main Street – you can purchase a day pass for around $40 and enjoy nonstop fun all day long! I’ve been enjoying Park City annually for the past 6 years, and I look forward to next year’s adventure even more! - By Al from Utah


Midwest Vacation Ideas #11: This might sound cheesy, but one of our family's favorite vacation destinations is Las Vegas, Nevada. It's easy to get around without a rental car (though I suggest renting one for day trips) and both the lodging and food options are generous, varied and reasonably priced.

For the adults, there are world-class shows, abundant shopping, and some of the best spas imaginable. This is in addition to the casinos, of course. What was most surprising for my family was how much fun my daughter had.

We rode roller-coasters and simulator rides, played many games of skill – our favorite was tipping a witch into a pot at the Excalibur – and saw lions, tigers and fabulous fountains. When the city gets to be too much, the Hoover Dam, Red Rocks and the Grand Canyon are just a car ride away. For us, Las Vegas wins by letting us lounge by the pool, sight-see, and visit a National Park in a single vacation! - By Leslie from Florida


Midwest Vacation Ideas #12: Georgetown, Colorado is a wonderful old mining town with over 200 Victorian buildings which have helped establish the whole town as a national historic landmark. This is a great place for a quiet relaxing vacation. Explore the town with a self-guided walling tour and stop in at the Hamill House Museum, Hotel de Paris Historical Museum and the Georgetown Energy Museum. The commercial district has plenty of shops and art galleries to explore as well as restaurants and cafes.

The Georgetown Loop Railroad offers a 70 minute ride on a vintage 3-foot narrow gauge track through spectacular scenery. Strike out on a hiking excursion on the Notch Trail that runs to Silver Plume or the old Argentine-Central Railroad railbed that runs to the Waldorf Mine and the summit of Mount McClellan. The Guanella Pass Scenic Byway is a 23 mile long road that is great for hiking and biking and boasts some really great scenic views of the area.

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