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  1. #1
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    we live in dc and are planning a trip to the near midwest (chicago, madison, minneapolis) for two weeks in august. i'm already considering the lake and museums in chicago. we love the beach, natural scenery, maybe some low-key hiking, but city fun as well.

    what's good to see? where are the best places to eat on a frugal budget? how long will the driving take? any advice would be greatly appreciated

  2. #2
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    I have traveled that exact route before in reverse, and I've done the Chicago to Minneapolis thing nearly a dozen times.

    Assuming that you are going to take I-81 up to I-80 in Pennsylvania...here are some of my favorite stops along the way...Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which is a GREAT stop on Lake Michigan, about 25 miles east of Chicago in Indiana; the Wisconsin Dells, between Madison and Minneapolis are an interesting collection of waterways through some very nice scenery.

    You're looking at about 24 hours of driving time in each direction, but that will be very comfortably broken up by your stops along the way. I can tell you that Madison is a little under two hours from Chicago, and that Minneapolis is a good five hours from Madison.

    Also, if you are near the following towns/cities at the end of your driving day, I recommend them as good places to stop for the night (lots of motel and restaurant choices): Youngstown and Elyria, in Ohio; Mishawaka and South Bend, in Indiana; Elgin and Rockford, in northern Illinois; and Janesville and Tomah in Wisconsin.

    Good places to eat in Minneapolis: Manny's is a great steakhouse; Fuji-Ya for sushi; Chino Latino for a delicious mix of cuisines (located in Saint Paul); and if you are so inclined, the Blue Nile for Ethiopian.(Minneapolis has a very significant Ethiopian and Somali population. It is one of the best cities to enjoy their very flavorful cuisine.)




    Good luck and safe driving.

    AB

  3. #3
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest

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    When you're in Madison, I'd highly recommend taking a stroll down State Street, a pedestrian mall that runs from the steps of the Capitol to the University of WI campus. While you're in Wisconsin, I'd highly recommend Rocky Rococo's Pizza. Its a regional chain with the best deep dish pies I've ever eaten and its fairly cheap.

    When you're headed from madtown to the Twin Cities, I'd recommend taking I-90 to LaCrosse, instead of the more direct I-94. From LaCrosse head up US 61 along the MN side of the Mississippi all the way to St. Paul. 61 runs right along the edge of the river for most of the trip, and its a 4 lane expressway with 65 mph speed limit. I'd say it would add about an hour to the trip. From my experience taking I-94 between Madison and Mpls only takes 4 hours (250 miles).. so the river route would take you about 5.

    Other things worth stopping at... If you like waterslides, Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells has a ton of them. LaCrosse has a nice overlook from Grandad Bluff where you can see the River Valley. There are also some nice little towns along the way like Wabasha, MN... which bills itself as home to Grumpy Old Men (even thought the movie wasn't actually shot there).

    Once you get to Minneapolis there are tons of things to do and check out. Most people don't know it, but other than NY and Toronto, the Twin Cities has one of the best theatre scenes in North America. Both Mpls and St.P's downtown areas are very nice and worth checking out. And of course there's the monstrosity that is the Mall of America, in case you wanted to know that the Sam Goody in your hometown mall has the exact same selection as the one at the world's largest shopping center.


  4. #4
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest

    Default

    When you're in Madison, I'd highly recommend taking a stroll down State Street, a pedestrian mall that runs from the steps of the Capitol to the University of WI campus. While you're in Wisconsin, I'd highly recommend Rocky Rococo's Pizza. Its a regional chain with the best deep dish pies I've ever eaten and its fairly cheap.

    When you're headed from madtown to the Twin Cities, I'd recommend taking I-90 to LaCrosse, instead of the more direct I-94. From LaCrosse head up US 61 along the MN side of the Mississippi all the way to St. Paul. 61 runs right along the edge of the river for most of the trip, and its a 4 lane expressway with 65 mph speed limit. I'd say it would add about an hour to the trip. From my experience taking I-94 between Madison and Mpls only takes 4 hours (250 miles).. so the river route would take you about 5.

    Other things worth stopping at... If you like waterslides, Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells has a ton of them. LaCrosse has a nice overlook from Grandad Bluff where you can see the River Valley. There are also some nice little towns along the way like Wabasha, MN... which bills itself as home to Grumpy Old Men (even thought the movie wasn't actually shot there).

    Once you get to Minneapolis there are tons of things to do and check out. Most people don't know it, but other than NY and Toronto, the Twin Cities has one of the best theatre scenes in North America. Both Mpls and St.P's downtown areas are very nice and worth checking out. And of course there's the monstrosity that is the Mall of America, in case you wanted to know that the Sam Goody in your hometown mall has the exact same selection as the one at the world's largest shopping center.


  5. #5
    imported_Transplanted Midwesterner Guest

    Default

    When you're in Madison, I'd highly recommend taking a stroll down State Street, a pedestrian mall that runs from the steps of the Capitol to the University of WI campus. While you're in Wisconsin, I'd highly recommend Rocky Rococo's Pizza. Its a regional chain with the best deep dish pies I've ever eaten and its fairly cheap.

    When you're headed from madtown to the Twin Cities, I'd recommend taking I-90 to LaCrosse, instead of the more direct I-94. From LaCrosse head up US 61 along the MN side of the Mississippi all the way to St. Paul. 61 runs right along the edge of the river for most of the trip, and its a 4 lane expressway with 65 mph speed limit. I'd say it would add about an hour to the trip. From my experience taking I-94 between Madison and Mpls only takes 4 hours (250 miles).. so the river route would take you about 5.

    Other things worth stopping at... If you like waterslides, Noah's Ark in Wisconsin Dells has a ton of them. LaCrosse has a nice overlook from Grandad Bluff where you can see the River Valley. There are also some nice little towns along the way like Wabasha, MN... which bills itself as home to Grumpy Old Men (even thought the movie wasn't actually shot there).

    Once you get to Minneapolis there are tons of things to do and check out. Most people don't know it, but other than NY and Toronto, the Twin Cities has one of the best theatre scenes in North America. Both Mpls and St.P's downtown areas are very nice and worth checking out. And of course there's the monstrosity that is the Mall of America, in case you wanted to know that the Sam Goody in your hometown mall has the exact same selection as the one at the world's largest shopping center.


  6. #6
    Guest

    Default Mall of America and the Sculpture Garden


    If you're not going there to shop, the Mall of America is an excellent choice of places to see (particularly if you get a bad weather day.) There are MANY different things packed into the "monstrosity" including: A million-gallon aquarium, an entire floor dedicated to restaurants and bars, an 18 theater cineplex, etc. I don't necessarily recommend it if you have beautiful weather the entire time.

    You MUST see the Walker Art Center and the Sculpture Garden located JUST outside of downtown Minneapolis. The same day, consider a drive/walk around the nearby lakes Harriet and Calhoun. Very pleasant scenery in one of America's least well-known beautiful cities.




    AB

  7. #7
    Guest

    Default

    thanks guys! now i'm getting really excited about our trip :)

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