Can’t get more vacation time but want to go on a fun adventure? You can, as long as you use your weekends wisely. If you’re in the Midwest, here are some nearby trips to go on. (And if you’re not in the Midwest, you should still explore these destinations.)
As for housing, if you don’t camp at the below, I’d choose Airbnb. That way, you can get extra sightseeing tips from a local. Then again, you should be out exploring most of the time, anyway! Here are four easy-to-get-to weekend trip destinations, so start packing.
1. Traverse City, MI
The entire state of Michigan is a big summer go-to no matter what city you visit, but Traverse City is one of my favorites. It’s renowned for being the cherry capital of the world, growing 70-75 percent—aka 3.8 million trees’ worth (!)—of America’s tart cherries. Around town, you can try everything cherry, from fresh cherry ice cream and cherry wine to cherry honey mustard and cherry salsa (hungry yet?). Plus, the National Cherry Festival is coming up soon, from July 2-9. With events like cherry picking and a “Very Cherry Pancake Breakfast,” you don’t want to miss it. But, cherries aside (gasp!), Traverse City has enticing scenery, too. For instance, the national park Sleeping Bear Dunes has 64 miles’ worth of overlooks, beaches, and hiking. See you there!
2. Indiana Dunes – Porter, IN
If you want a relaxing escape not far from cities like Chicago, the Indiana Dunes may be for you. With over 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and more than 70 miles of biking and hiking, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities. All in all, the state park is over 2,000 acres, but there’s a bigger national park around it—the entirety of the Dunes is 15,000 acres. You can try to climb the tallest sand dune in Indiana, Mt. Tom, which stands at 192 feet, or try to spot one of the 350-plus species of birds flying around. Aside from nature-made attractions by the water, the Dunes have a lot more to offer, from a bison farm to watching baseball bats being made to a railway garden. Need another incentive? The beaches at the Dunes were ranked among the top five family-friendly beaches in the U.S. Pretty impressive.
3. Mammoth Cave National Park – Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
I don’t know about you, but nothing beats a cool cave, and if you haven’t been to Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, you’re missing out. You’ll find 70 miles of nature trails, as well as 30 miles of waterways to canoe, kayak, fish, or camp alongside on the Green or Nolin Rivers. The caves are a great way to reconnect with nature, as well as to escape the summer heat. In the summer, the park is open from June 11-August 14 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. CST and reservations are recommended. You can find directions here.
4. Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, TN
Dollywood—yep, Dolly Parton’s theme park—is 150 acres of fun for people of all ages. (Just check out these reviews to see for yourself.) “I can remember looking up at the Hollywood sign the first time I was in L.A. and thinking I would like to change that H to a D,” Dolly Parton once said. So, Parton did it—but in Tennessee instead of California. In 1986, she partnered with the Herschend family to redevelop a theme park near her hometown in eastern Tennessee. There’s over 40 rides, 15 shows and various festivals that take place throughout the year. And it has great Southern food. Aside from the appeal of the theme park itself, it’s nestled into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. You can also pay a visit to Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park. And if you don’t stay overnight at the resort, there are cute cabin options nearby. In summer, the park is open from June 11-August 7 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, with fireworks every night.