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  1. Default Brief Chicago Vacation

    Hello Everyone,

    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.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Great Choices

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You've got two great choices, as both MSP and Toronto are two of my favorite cities to visit. Both have lots to do and are pleasant places to be.

    I think you've described Toronto very accurately. There are lots of museums and other cultural attractions, plus the Lakefront, and all sorts of things in between. The one thing that would really hold me back from visiting there right now is the cost. The Dollar is basically 1 to 1 with the Loonie right now, where at the start of the decade you could get nearly $1.50CAN for each US Dollar. That means you'll end up paying a lot more for anything you'll buy there right now, including gas which is around US$5/Gallon when you do the conversion.

    Minneapolis really has many of the same things going for it as Toronto, but the area does feel a like a smaller city. It too has many museums, parks, lakes, and of course the riverfront. Behind New York and Toronto, its one of the best places in North America for Theatre. There is also a lot more for shopping than just the Mall of America. The Nicolett Mall is an outdoor area that you might compare as a bit more upscale version of Madison's State Street.

  3. Default

    Thank you Midwest Michael!

    So if I understood you correctly, it sounds like Toronto may be a more enjoyable experience due to its size, but the exchange rate might make the financial side of things a bit painful. The Twin Cities offers most if not all of what Toronto can offer (except an overwhelming amount of Canadians, I assume) except it's smaller. I was also thinking if I went to Toronto, I'd go and explore Niagra Falls and whatnot. There's also the town of London, ON between Detroit and Toronto, but I'm sure it has very little in common with London, UK. ;)

    If you don't mind me asking, what ARE your favorite cities to visit (in order) in the Midwest?

    A few places I've considered but probably ruled out at this point are:

    Denver, CO : The Democratic National Convention will be going on when I'm wanting to travel, thus making the area probably more touristy than normal, hotels are all sold out, etc.

    Memphis, TN : Though it's famous for it's music and excellent food, along with the scenery of the Mississippi, I've heard it's very run down in some places, and not the safest place after dark. (compared to Toronto, anyways).

    Indianapolis, IN : I've also hard Indy can be a bit shady after dusk, and that you can find yourself in not-so-nice areas if you're not familiar with the area.

    What are your thoughts? I apologize if I've given a bad name to any of the above places, as having not visited any of them, I cannot speak for them. These are all things I've heard from word of mouth, however.

  4. Default

    Another place I might consider visiting is Columbus, OH. I'm attending online classes at one of the universities there, and wouldn't mind visiting and actually seeing my campus, take a tour etc. Is there much to do in Columbus, or is it not the kind of place people would probably go to on vacation? ;)

    Any recommendations from above?


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default more

    I haven't spent much time in Columbus, other than driving through it. I do think Cincinatti is a very nice city, however. You could certainly do one or both of those places on a short trip.

    Cleveland could also be fun. The Rock and Roll HoF is one of a number of nice things along the Lakefront. You could also visit any one of the number of theme parks in nearby Sandusky.

    Another city I've always enjoyed spending time in is Kansas City. I'm actually going to be heading there myself in a couple weeks.

    Having said all of that, I'm not a huge city sightseeing person. If I'm traveling to a city, its usually to do something specific like seeing a show or a ballgame. While I'm there, I might spend some time looking around, but I rarely go to a city just to spend a weekend there and explore. I'm more likely to look for a nice place outdoors, like a state or national park, to explore.

  6. Default

    I just discovered this site, and jumped on your thread because I am also trying to plan a road trip out of Chicago. I'm actually from Columbus, so I thought I'd weigh in.

    Cbus isn't a bad place. It's especially fun if you know someone going to Ohio State, who can show you around to all the cool hole-in-the-wall places on campus. But if you don't, I'd say there are still some fun things to do. the Ohio State Fair is coming up in august, if you're into that. There's a couple of jazz festivals in the summer. There tends to be great theatre in the area, if you're into that, and the Short North (downtown, High Street) is a fun place for nightlife. I enjoy sometimes lesser-known gems like the Franklin Park Conservatory (lots of plants, a butterfly room - I once saw a Chihuly glass exhibit there), the art museum downtown, and the Ohio Historical Society (I forget where it actually is, but I went there on a field trip once). North Market is a fun place to eat. The Columbus Zoo is, I think, the home of Jack Hanna and is pretty fabulous.

    I don't think it's super exciting, but I've lived here most of my life. You'll pass some fun things on the way - the Indiana dunes and (no, I'm not kidding) the RV/Motor Home Hall of Fame. You'll also pass the University of Notre Dame if you take 80/90 S, which is beautiful and the second largest tourist attraction in Indiana.

    Anyway, hope this helps. :)

  7. #7


    Hey, I'm from the Chicago area too and have recently been to both of those cities and I'd have to say my preference would be Toronto. If you like big cities and if you like Chicago then you'll definitely love Toronto. Minneapolis reminded me of a mini version of Chicago. If you feel like something a little more low key then I'd say Minneapolis would be your choice.

    London is a nice small town, and downtown Detroit is worth checking out for the architecture. I would definitely recommend Niagra Falls also. The only bad thing I experienced in Ontario was the driving. People were tailgating and cutting people off all over the place. If you feel like a more unique experience then you should certainly check out Toronto.

    I've never been to Denver, and I'd say Memphis is a bit overrated. If you've had good food in Chicago, then you don't really need it from Memphis. And yes there are some pretty shady areas there. Indianapolis was ok, although it seems like a pretty boring town.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Over-rated?

    I've never been to Denver, and I'd say Memphis is a bit overrated. If you've had good food in Chicago, then you don't really need it from Memphis. And yes there are some pretty shady areas there. Indianapolis was ok, although it seems like a pretty boring town.
    Everybody I've known who have been to Memphis have loved it. I haven't had the pleasure myself.

    Ya know, there are shady areas in every city and town of any size in this country. I would venture, even in Chicago. ;)

    We have a saying here "there are no boring roads". No boring towns or cities either. Every place has something to do and has its charms. I'm sure Indianapolis has a lot of fun options. Nobody would live there if that wasn't true.

  9. #9


    I realize I was a bit harsh, I just had a pretty bad experience in Memphis and in Tennessee in general. We tried this rib place in Memphis that was supposed to have the best ribs in town, but they didn't compare to the ribs here in Chicago. The one place we did find that had great food wasn't in any of the books and was off in a sketchy neighborhood. It was some diner that I can't remember the name of.

    And I'm sure Indianapolis has it's charms, I just didn't get to see them.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Too bad on the bad ribs

    But maybe others would like the Memphis ones more than the Chicago ones? So they may be disappointing to you but yummy and the best to others. And I bet most people wouldn't like the type of ribs I like best because I dislike hot and spicey, preferring the natural flavor of the food itself. Most people think it's bland. So it's all relative and a matter of taste.

    But no need to explain or apologize. It was your experience, after all. And we encourage people to share their honest experiences. I probably knee-jerked a bit. I just think every place has good/bad and strengths/weaknesses.

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