Chicago and the Great Lakes
We're seasoned USA road-trippers, having been visited on and off for 24 years. In that time we've seen most areas of the country. This year we're planning on going to Chicago and then around the Great Lakes area.
The rough plan is to stay a few days in Chicago, then head off to Minneapolis, taking in Iowa on the way (Davenport/Cedar Rapids or Dubuque?). After a few days in Minneapolis, head back east. Here we have a choice - cross Lake Michigan at Milwaukee (to Muskegon), or at Manitowoc (to Ludington), or drive around the lake via Green Bay and St. Ignace.
Crossing the lake may save us some time, but driving around may be more interesting and also gives us a chance to see a bit of Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
From the east side of Lake Michigan we would head back south around the lake to Chicago.
Can anyone offer any advice on where to go and what to see in this area?
Advice on Chicago and Minneapolis hotels would be welcome. We're considering Hotel 71 in Chicago. It's on the Chicago River and well placed. I've stayed before on East Huron Street, which was fine, but we'd like to stay near the river this time. Has anyone used this hotel or hotels near it?
Places to see in the Great Lakes
Having done the Minnesota, Chicago, Great Lakes trip dozens of times, most recently last summer, I can offer you up several suggestions.
I've never actually statyed in a hotel in Minneapolis, but as far as things to see. Take some time to walk along Nicollet Ave. in downtown, and stop for lunch at Brits Pub and play some lawn bowling on their roof top garden which offers spectacular views of the skyline. The commuter rail system in Minneapolis will take you to several places, including the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the Mall of America. Be sure to head up Hennepin Ave. to Uptown Minneapolis for some great eating and shopping, plus here you can rent bikes to ride the many bike trails that surround Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and Lake of The Isles, again offering spectacular views of the Minneapolis Skyline.
I would HIGHLY reccommend taking the roads along the lakes as opposed to crossing Lake Michigan. From Green Bay taking 41 up to Escanaba then route 2 along Lake Michigan offers wonderful scenery of wildlife and water. Many areas along the way offer chances to get out and enjoy the lakes sandy beaches and swimming. If you really want to see a bit of Lake Superior you can continue up 41 from Escanaba to Marquette, then head East on 28 to Munising, the entire time hugging the coastline of Lake Superior. After Munising you can head down 94 to Manistique, then continue East on Route 2 along Lake Michigan towards St. Ignace.
The Soo Locks, north of St. Ignace in Sault Ste. Marie are also a great attraction, as is St. Ignace itself. After heading over the Macinac Bridge stop in Mackinaw City for some great eating and attractions along Central St., and take a Shepler's Ferry out to Macinaw Island to see the Grand Hotel, which has the worlds largest porch.
From Mackinaw City you can take Rte. 23 along the coastline of Lake Huron all the way down to Standish, Michigan. A quick ride on I-75 South will take you to Frankenmuth, a completely Bavarian town in Michigan, with Zhenders Restaurant and the Bavarian Inn offering authentic cuisine.
From Frankenmuth you can take 69, to 96, to 196...which will then take you along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, and back to Chicago.
Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-02-2008 at 08:42 PM.
Reason: Added a link to our article about the Soos Locks
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
I was briefly back in that general area last year, but have driven over the top of Lake Michigan several times. As much as I love taking ferry rides, this is one case where I think the drive would be better, both because it gives you the chance to see a few more of the Lakes, but because of the things to be seen on a drive over the top. If you have the time, you should be looking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Lake Superior), a visit to the "Soo" locks (between Lakes Superior and Huron), and Colonial Michilimackinac (where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet). Coming down the east side of Lake Michigan, the highlight would be Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
By the way, I loved the confluence of things that led to your picking up your 50th state in our 50th state on your 50th birthday. I go my 50th in our 49th. What was stranger, though, was that having been to all 50, my next goal was to go back and 'pick up the spare' by driving in all 50, and I completed that by finally driving in the state of my birth - sort of an alpha and omega moment.
You've already been given some fabulous ideas, and there are even a few tips in there about Minneapolis that I might have to use myself on a future trip (I've never heard of the lawn bowling).
I could give you some advice about camping or hostels around Minneapolis and Chicago, but my hotel experience in either city has been pretty limited.
In addition to the great ideas you've already been given, I'll add the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque as a great stop, and nearby Dyersville has the Field of Dreams movie site which is a great place to spend a few hours if you are a baseball fan.
Leaving Minneapolis, you might also check out the St. Croix River Valley, through Stillwater and Interstate State Park. There's lots of scenery to enjoy and some small towns that cater to tourists looking to get out of MSP for a day or two.
I too would advise driving around Lake Michigan, because there are a lot of things to do and enjoy in the area. Between Pictured Rocks Lakeshore and Sault Ste. Marie there is the Great Lake Shipwrecks Museum. I haven't been there yet myself, simply because during my last trip to the area, I spend too much time at Pictured Rocks to make it over there, but I'm still hoping to check it out one day soon.
Thanks for the great tips. You've sold me the idea of driving around the lake.
When we've completed the 50 I think we'll have to go back and re-do some because we just passed through without stopping and setting foot in the place (generally the smaller ones, including Delaware and Rhode Island), and others we've seen too little of (New Mexico; North Dakota). We'll also have the luxury of being able to plan shorter drives with more time spent in interesting places, rather than taking lengthy detours to increase the tally (you must have done it yourself: "...but dear, if we just drive for four hours longer we can get West Virginia")
Where to stay and what to see in Chicago
If you can get yourself a good deal then you could do far worse than the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. As far as things to see and do are concerned, you might find one or two tips in this report. The one thing I'd definitely recommend is an Architectural River Cruise.
Originally Posted by jif001
Finally, this piece might be useful when it comes to choosing your hotel in Dubuque!
Those places are nice but the best great lake ride imo is the northern superior ride in canada...now were talkin wowwwww factor....lake huron...zzzzzz...
both up routes are fun but northern superior is a must do if you like scenery....just drive to duluth and hang on...its a blast..
Chicago to Minneapolis
We're in the process of planning a circular trip from Chicago to Chicago, via Minneapolis, the northern shore of Lake Superior and the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
Much of the route is decided, apart from the early part from Chicago to Minneapolis. On arrival in Chicago (July 31st, from the UK) we intend to pick up a car and drive to Rockford Illinois. This gets us on our way but is not a marathon drive. We'll be arriving at ORD at about 2pm, and allowing at least an hour to get out of the airport and into a car means we may hit the road at about 3-3.30pm. We should arrive in Rockford at 4.30-5pm, which for us will feel like 10.30-11 pm, hence the desire for a short drive. A short drive also helps us if the plane is delayed. An advantage of this is that we will get an early start the next day (6am will feel like midday!), so a long day's driving is OK.
From Rockford to Minneapolis there are two requirements - we don't want to do it via the quickest route in one day, and we must take in Iowa on the way. We're considering travelling to Dubuque, possibly via southern Wisconsin, and then either west to Waterloo or northwest along the Great River Road.
Can anyone offer advice on these or other routes? Are there any areas we should avoid because of the recent flooding?
Staying in Rockford should work pretty well for you, Its about an hour trip from ORD to the hotels along the interstate in Rockford, so your planning is about right. It will also set you up for a very nice trip along US-20, through Galena (President/General Grant's hometown and a popular weekend getaway for Chicagoans) and into Iowa.
There are no significant flood concerns in this area that would affect your travel right now.