This is my first post here, so I'm probably deserving of the newbie treatment... whatever that is!
I'm looking to burn some vacation time (about 4-5 days, which can stretch over a weekend, to be 5-7 days total) to take some time away from Chicago, and go somewhere I can have fun and be mellow. I'm a 21 year old male, whom would be traveling alone. I have previously taken a trip to Madison, WI, which I loved, mainly due to the feeling of being alone and on an adventure. I found the shopping to be fun, the people to be friendly, and the area to be nice (two different lakes, several parks, etc.) I guess you could say I'm more outdoorsy than anything else, and I love to take in attractions and whatnot.
Anywho, I'm considering driving to Toronto, ON, or Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities), MN. I have my passport, and have been wanting to go across the border for a while. I've heard a lot of good things about Toronto, including that it's a very culturally-diverse city, is known for being one of the cleanest cities anywhere, is overflowing with friendly people, and our dollar isn't as bad there, as it is in other countries, at the moment.
I don't know much about the Twin Cities, other than Mall of America is there. I've never been to Minnesota, nor anywhere farther west of Des Moines, farther north than Wisconsin, farther south of St. Louis, or farther east of Indiana.
I guess i'm looking for suggestions as to one or the other, and am more than willing to consider other possibilities. Any and all suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
I'm looking to keep the budget (gas+hotel+food+misc) no more than $500, if possible. I get about 400 miles to a tank on my car, which right now, a tank runs me about $55.