Now that summer has officially begun, Afternoon Shift thought it was high time to plan a few weekend getaways. Tough economic times have kept many people cooped up at home the last few years—but no more! The majority of Americans are planning to take a summer vacation this year, according to a recent consumer survey. And the majority of said travelers plan to get away by car!
So the Afternoon Shift decided to plot out some easy escapes. I figure less than 10 hours of drive time is ideal because once you hit double digits, you double the likelihood of a backseat brawl. I don’t have a ton of research to back that up--but I can tell you that when my family road tripped to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the summer of ‘93, stopping at every ballpark along the road to Cooperstown, I considered hurling myself across the Canadian border as we trekked from the old Tiger Stadium to the Montreal Expos spaceship dome. Around hour 11, I was desperately seeking asylum from the middle seat between a pair of thieving, card-shark brothers.
Host Steve Edwards exchanged ideas for some easy getaways with former Eight Forty-Eight contributor and travel writer Jerome Pohlen and Time Out Chicago associate features editor Marissa Conrad. And we ask listeners—and the Afternoon Shift team to share their picks too. Where do you like to go to get away in the summer? Call 312-923-9239.
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Host Steve Edwards Picks: 5 Towns Worth Visiting
This historic community in the south suburbs sits along the Old Plan Road Bike Path and is home to a weekly Sunday farmer's market, movies on the town green and numerous outdoor festivals.
Some call Buchanan “the next Three Oaks, Michigan” which, depending on how you look at it, could be a great thing or impetus to visit now before it’s overrun by Chicago-expats. Either way, you’ll find great architecture, a quaint downtown district (on the National Register of Historic Places) and a perfect perch from which to explore the outdoors.
Historic Pullman District – Chicago, Illinois
OK, it’s technically not a small town anymore, but the feeling is all the same. To stroll the streets of the community created by George Pullman for the workers in his adjacent factory is to walk into another era. It’s living history that’s often overlooked. Mark your calendars now for the historic house tour in October.
Located along the Lincoln Highway, the town square is still the central business district and the historic heart of the community that’s home to Popcorn Fest, Valparaiso University and the county seat of Porter County, Indiana.
Woodstock has been featured in several major motion pictures, including Groundhog Day and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, thanks to its remarkable town square and towering Opera House. Well worth a visit for its farmer's market and its traditional City Band Concerts on the Square.
Jerome Pohlen, author of Oddball Illinois: A Guide to 450 Really Strange Places Top 10:
1. Coin-Operated, Fire-Breathing Dragon, Vandalia
2. World's Largest Sock Monkey, Rockford
3. Friendship Shoe Fence, Cornell
4. Horrorbles, Berwyn
5. World's Largest Abe Lincoln Statue, Ashmore
6. General Santa Ana's Wooden Legs, Springfield and Decatur
7. Mini Solar System/Maxi Model, Peoria et al
8. Rosario's Italian Sausage, Chicago
9. Boo Rochman Memorial Park, Carbondale
10. Truck Stop Marionettes, Morris
Wisconsin native and Time Out Chicago associate feature's editor Marissa Conrad's Picks:
Conrad says she ABSOLUTELY loves the Dells and could talk about it for hours. Web producer and New Yorker Kate Dries plans to brave the Dells' rapids this summer, mostly just to say she's done it and, she says, "because [I'm] 12 and like water parks." Dries also loves state fairs and Minneapolis--she wholeheartedly recommends stopping at Al's Breakfast.
A lot of cool stuff going on right now, including a zoo exhibit where over 500 exotic birds are flying around you...they'll land on your arm and walk across your head!
Conrad says it's a great resort spa destination for couples.
Conrad hopes to head south to check out Nashville's booming foodie scene recently profiled by the New York Times
Home of the world's largest ball of twine, it's this tiny town of 247 and they are all so proud of the ball of twine! There's the Twine Ball Restaurant, Twine Ball Inn, etc. But it's also super close to the Mall of America and Twin Cities, so it's legit to make a whole weekend out of it.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Conrad was wary to share this pick--obviously! But, she says, Lambeau Field and the Packers Hall of Fame are worth a visit.
Milwaukee's also tops producer Carrie Shepherd's list: I think Milwaukee is a quick, great escape from the city. I’m more of an urban rat than a nature seeker so I don’t head north for the hikes and canoeing like other Chicagoans. I like that Milwaukee has city amenities, but is really manageable. You can rent a car, be there in under 2 hours and there’s ample parking. The Milwaukee Museum of Art is architecturally beautiful and sits right on Lake Michigan. There’s also great eating in the city, far beyond your stereotypical brat and beer fare…two things I tend to avoid. Well, more the former. Before my last visit, Milwaukeeans recommended a visit to the Historic Third Ward, an area of revamped old warehouses with cool bars and boutiques (on my last visit, I actually got some good stuff at a shop owned by a Chicago expat). The Milwaukee Public Market is in that area, too, with a huge selection of foods from every corner of the globe.
Not everyone is big on Milwaukee. Producer and Wisconsite Eilee Heikenen-Weiss prefers the cheese state's more rustic locales: Topping Eilee's list is Devil's Lake. It has tons of hiking, rock climbing, camping, boating (no motors, tho). Easy access to Wisconsin Dells attractions without having to stay in the Dells, which is horrible. And, she says, if there's no on-site camping available, stay at one of the nearby inns. Lots of cute ones outside the Dells. Eilee recommends checking out Dr. Evrmor’s Art Park, the Circus World Museum, the International Crane Foundation and picking fruit at local farms while you're there. And, she says, Dodgeville, Wisconsin is worth a stop too: Great camping, visit the land of trolls at Mount Horeb, hit up a nearby nude beach and Peck’s Farm Market, especially, Eilee says, "for the petting zoo...climbing goats."
Producer Joe DeCeault likes to hit the bike trails around Argonne National Laboratory.