Budget travel: A midwesterner's guide to 4 states in 1 week
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Are you a midwesterner looking to get away?
Let's say you live in Iowa City, Iowa. Maybe you're a college student or a resident with a full-time job. Either way, you only have a week of vacation to burn and you don't want to fly anywhere. What do you do?
You're in luck! We'll explain how you can see four Midwest states during a weeklong vacation without breaking the bank. Fire up your printer, take notes, and get planning.
Wake up and get on the road by 9 a.m. Set your GPS to 616 W. Arlington Pl in Chicago and almost four hours later step into the Chicago Getaway Hostel, a hip and clean property smack dab in the middle of Chicago's posh Lincoln Park District. The place has free breakfast and free Wi-Fi, with private rooms starting as low as $50 per night. You can get even better rates if you opt for a shared room.
Public transit is fantastic in the city, so get familiar with the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), and take it everywhere you need to go. Before you get on a train, though, walk less than a mile east to Lincoln Park, Lake Michigan's shoreline, and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to the public.
From there, make your way down to Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. The Magnificent Mile. Here you'll find shops, restaurants, street performers, and excellent people-watching opportunities. Walk to South Michigan and visit Millennium Park, a 24.5-acre park that includes an outdoor amphitheater, ice skating in the winter, art installations (namely Cloud Gate, or "The Bean" to locals), and a vast garden that makes you feel like you're in the middle of a field, as opposed to the third-largest city in country.
Directly next to Millennium Park is the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, a museum that is absolutely worth going to if you're any kind of art lover. Inside, you'll find everything from paintings by Van Gogh to contemporary photographs and ancient sculptures. Admission is $25 for adults.
On your way back to the hostel, stop for dinner at Brick's located at 1909 N. Lincoln for a thin-crust pizza pie (Chicago does more than deep dish), starting at $12.
Start your day with your complimentary breakfast at Chicago Getaway Hostel and head over to the city's museum campus where you will find Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Pick one of these for the day and make a note to come back to the other two on your next trip. If the weather is warm, consider going on a Segway tour, a bike tour, or a river cruise.
Affordable dining options abound in Chicago. Solid choices include Good Stuff Eatery (can't-beat burgers for $6.50), and Piece Brewery and Pizzeria (yes, pizza is a theme in this town). After eating, take in a show at the Second City and listen to live, or sing-a-long music at the Zebra Lounge.
Wake up early, grab a bagel for the road, and head about 150 miles northeast to Holland, MI an adorable town right on Lake Michigan. Settle into a room at the DoubleTree Holland (rates start around $129 per night), and grab a free chocolate chip cookie from the front desk before heading out.
The beach is the place to go, regardless of the time of year. Remember to bring your camera, and walk along the shore and take some social media-ready photos in front of the Holland Harbor Lighthouse (a.k.a. "The Big Red" to locals). From there, stroll along downtown Holland (check online before you go for event listings), and walk into a variety of independent boutiques. Stop at the New Holland Brewing Company for a swig of Dragon's Milk (the name of a Stout beer), and Paleooza (a delicious Michigan pale ale) before going back to the DoubleTree to swim in the indoor pool and calling it a day.
Wake up at 7 a.m. and head over to Deboer's Café and Bakery, one of the best breakfast places in town, known especially for their bread creations. Grab a scone or try some Blue Raspberry Bliss Cakes and Sugar Bread. Take a few pastries for the road and then set your GPS for 10 East Market Street in Indianapolis. Nearly four hours later—just in time for lunch—check into the Hilton Garden Inn Indianapolis Downtown. Rates here run around $150 per night, but the cost is worth it for the central location right next to Monument Circle.
After dropping off your bags, set out on foot. Make a left out the hotel and another immediate left on N. Pennsylvania Street. Walk one block north and make a right on W. Ohio Street, where you will find the wildly popular Punch Burger. Here, everything is locally sourced and the tastes are out of this world. Build your own burger and don't forget to get some sweet potato tots and a chocolate milkshake.
Walk less than a mile west to White River State Park, a 250-acre park in the middle of town that houses some fun museums and offers tons of events all year long, so be sure to check the online calendar before you go for festivals and concerts. There are too many museums for just one afternoon, so pick two and come back tomorrow. Try the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art ($13 admission for adults), or Indianapolis Zoo (admission is $8.20 for adults and sometimes cheaper if you purchase online in advance).
Eat dinner at Bakersfield Mass Ave, a restaurant that serves delicious tacos and drinks in mugs shaped like cowboy boots. End the night a few blocks away at the Rathskeller, a restaurant that also regularly features live music. Check the online calendar for event listings.
Wake up at 9 a.m. and walk over to 225 W. Washington Street. Grab a seat at Patachou, a restaurant that has arguably the best brunch in town. Get a broken yolk sandwich, a helping of cinnamon French toast, or an omelet with a side of fruit. You won't be disappointed.
As long as the weather is nice, consider going on a walking or biking tour with ActiveIndy Tours. Call in advance about availability and then enjoy a few hours of checking out different city neighborhoods and major attractions.
Spend the rest of the day back at White River State Park, visiting the NCAA Hall of Champions ($5 admission for adults and $3 for kids, but check online for hours in the winter), and the Indiana State Museum ($9.75 for adults; $6.50 for kids).
End your last night in Indy with a delicious cocktail at Ball and Biscuit, just a few blocks away from the Hilton Garden Inn.
Eat a hearty breakfast and get on the road by 8 a.m., heading north toward Wisconsin. About four hours and 15 minutes later, check into the Aloft Milwaukee Downtown, a modern boutique property with rates starting around $108 per night.
Just in time for lunch, walk over to 1247 N. Water Street and get a table at AJ Bombers, home of the Milwaukee Burger, a winner of the Travel Channel's "Food Wars." After lunch, stretch your legs with a stroll along the Milwaukee RiverWalk, a two-mile stretch of shops, theater venues, restaurants and outdoor art exhibits. There are events here all the time, so check online for the latest listings.
Make your way over to Discovery World Science + Technology Center ($18 for adults, $14 for kids), to check out some interactive exhibits that are fun for the whole family. For dinner tonight, check out the Milwaukee Brat House, within walking distance to the Aloft.
Wake up around 8 a.m., grab a bagel from Bruegger's Bagels on Water Street and check out of your hotel. You have time for one more attraction and since you will be in the car for the rest of the day, opt to go for a walk at Juneau Park and Veterans Park, both located right on Lake Michigan. Throw a Frisbee or relax under a tree for a while and then get ready for your four-hour drive back to Iowa City.
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