It’s not too late for a fall color getaway in the Midwest.
Depending on where you want to drive you will find trees beginning to dress in golden hues and adding scarlet to their fringe.
Wisconsin: When viewing the latest fall report you see that Door County, a popular vacation destination in the northeastern part of the state is now at its peak color.
From good eating and fish boils to fun shopping and festivals, there is always something going on in the Door’s charming villages. Before crossing the bridge onto the main part of the Door Peninsula, stop at or call Destination Door County for a map and suggestions.
Illinois: If looking for an Illinois destination, consider historic Galena in the state’s north-eastern tip. The downtown boasts candy, ice cream and wine, restaurant stops and cute shops. Plus, it’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Start at the visitor center in the old RR Depot where you see the town rising, step-like across a small river.
Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park has a fall color trail destination. It is also near the wine trails of the Traverse City area. Both are worth visiting for views of Lake Michigan, Traverse Bay and snacking on Michigan cherries and apples.
Take a fall color break. Green is a fine summer color but to celebrate the change of season to autumn, drive to northern Wisconsin now or wait a couple of weeks to mid October. That’s when the scenery in southeast Wisconsin blends gold with copper and ruby reds.
But you need to make room or camp reservations now because places such as Door County and even Bay Field further north that are both only beginning to change, are already putting up “sold out” signs. Another popular destination is Eagle River.
The Iron River area Three Lakes show Land O Lakes and Minocqua already have high color
Don’t wait until you can’t reserve a room or camp site in Michigan. The state’s fall color map is already showing blazing color in the UP and rapidly changing leaves from the middle of the state north.
Here are just a couple of ideas to get you started.
The state, in itself, is a travel destination so you hardly can go wrong no matter where you decide to go but consider where you want to headquarter and when you can go.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois is the historic Mississippi hillside town of Galena. Its gorgeous fall color draws visitors from mid-September to Halloween, so if going then, book your stay now (weekdays are better).
But the shops, the mid-to late 1800’s structures, charming inns and good food make Galena a fun break in the routine pretty much any time of year. (Folks come here to ski Chestnut Mountain even if not every shop is open)
An easy three-hour drive from Chicago on I 90, the vacation begins when turning before Rockford onto US 20, General Ulysses S. Grant Highway when the four-lane expressway becomes a scenic two-lane road.
As you wind through the hills of Stephenson and Jo Davies Counties, you may realize you are on a ridge with grand vistas of lush valleys.
Although you can continue north through Galena to cross the Mississippi at East Dubuque into Iowa (and go the Field of Dreams baseball movie destination), Galena is a getaway destination, itself.
Go back in time
Indian tribes roamed the area. then it was settled by French traders and explorers. However, the town flourished in the early 1800s when galena ore (lead) boats plied the Mississippi River. It then became a gateway west when Ulysses S. Grant’s family lived and worked here in the mid-1800s.
Galena was on the stage coach route (there still are some stage coach signs). Then by 1854, the rail line went through making it a natural stop for Abraham Lincoln who used the balcony of the Desoto House Hotel on Main Street to campaign for John Fremont in 1856. The Desoto House was also the campaign headquarters for Grant. Go in to see its staircase and ask about a tour.
A couple of other good stops are the old railroad depot on the south side of the Galena River. It houses the Galena Area Tourism Bureau. Also on that side of the river is Gen US Grant’s home built for him as the town’s favorite son.
Ask about walking tours when at the depot. The Galena Historic District covers about 85 percent of the city and includes some 800 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Think food, boutiques and quirky shops when strolling downtown Galena’s Main Street.
When pulling onto the street from US 20 I spied the cheese and wine store that I knew was there. But the unknown treasure was Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn a few stores down. I loved the roosters and birdhouses in front. My husband was drawn to the antique toy trucks in back.
Another fun store was Celebrity Hats on the other side of the street. Go in. Find your style.
Among the taste treats on the street were two chocolate stores and a patisserie that also did cocktails and sandwiches. Really. Called Bread & Vine, it did good macarons, lovely desserts and yummy sandwiches including a Croque Monsieur and savory croissant with smoked salmon.
There are a couple of chains but most of the stores are unique.
Some folks journey to Galena just for the Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. You do need a reservation. The place is that popular. I made ours before leaving town. It is known for its steaks but we chose seafood because we know everything there is well prepared and we had meat before we left. The front of the restaurant is on Main Street but its outdoor space is behind it where people park. This end of the street is blocked off for outdoor, curb and street side tables.
Also good is the historic Desoto House. It has three restaurants that are open at different times of the day. For lunch we did the Green Street Tavern where I had the best garlic French fries ever tasted with a delish pulled pork sandwich. My husband had an apple and mixed berry salad with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette .
Our dinner the night before we left was at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill at the Irish Cottage where we were staying. I liked their beer battered cod and seasoned Irish chips. My husband liked the traditional corned beef.
Galena has several B and Bs. Check the Galena Country tourism stay/site for ideas. We liked the Irish cottage for its first-floor patio suites but there were several other places that also looked good including the Goldmoor Inn which is a Select Registry on the road to Chestnut Mountain and the Chestnut Mountain Resort. Both have good views and friendly service.
Avoid the heavy road traffic of Labor Day Weekend by taking your well-deserved escape mid-September to mid-October.
The scenery, shops hiking paths and wine trails of the northwestern edge of Michigan from Frankfort and Sleeping Bear Dunes to Leland and Traverse City are snapshot perfect. And they follow state and local Covid protection protocols.
Picture a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam in a county where visitors to its scenic towns often gather around huge outdoor pots to watch traditional fish boils.
It is Door County, a peninsula that separates the calm waters of Green Bay from turbulent waves of Lake Michigan and where the must-take-home items are chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies and the must-visit time of year is fall.
An easy drive from Green Bay’s airport, the route on the way to the Sturgeon Bay, the first vacation town on the peninsula, is dotted with the crimsons, golds and pinksm of changing leaves. And, as TV ads say, “But wait.” The colors keep intensifying, driving northwest along curving roads through picturesque villages.
Maybe it’s the talk of the Chicago Bears’ training camp. Or maybe it’s the ads for back-to-school supplies and end-of-summer sales. All of a sudden I’m thinking about where to go for a fall getaway that is withing six hours of Chicago. Planning the trip now helps get through the “dog days” of summer.
The itch to getaway to a colorful scenic vista is upon us. The weather is showing signs of fall with warm days and cool nights and some trees in the neighborhood are beginning to show tinges of gold and orange. But before you throw a suitcase in the car and drive off there are a few tips that could up the fall color experience.
1.Don’t use your neighborhood color changes as the definitive guide. Colors in states or area of your state to the north and west may be in full fall color palette or just beginning to change south or east. In the US check fall foliage map or weather map for where the foliage is turning. Some states have color reports. Among the best in the Midwest is Wisconsin.
2.Make accommodation reservations ahead of time. You’re not alone when looking for a fall destination but to avoid bumper-to bumper traffic go during the week, not om the weekend.
3. Take advantage of local Visitors Bureaus to find the best place for what you want. . As an example, Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and Traverse City in northern Michigan (below the Upper Peninsula) and Brown County (Bloomington and Nashville) in central Indiana keep tabs on what is available and know price points and type. The visitors centers’ websites also show where pets are welcome. Also stop at the Visitors Center for a map, brochures and suggestions because GPS will work some places but not all.
4. Because you are driving, not flying, throw those extra boots, hiking shoes, jackets, sun protector hats and sprays, water bottles, first-aid kits and backpacks into the car. Don’t be afraid to bring your own pillow for a good night’s sleep.
5. Don’t forget chargers for phones, ipads, cameras or whatever other electronics you take everywhere. Also check your accommodations before you leave, they already have enough chargers from previous visitors.
Picture a Midwestern river town that celebrates a favorite son with a presidential museum, its furniture history with a public museum, its appreciation of sculpture with an amazing garden and appreciation of art with a mega fall fair that awards half a million dollars in prizes.
Grand Rapids, Mi., a former U.S. furniture hub on the Grand River and childhood home of Gerald R. Ford is fun to visit year round. But come in the fall when the colors paint the scenery and ArtPrize paints the town. An art fair where the public gets to votes and thus, choose where some of the prize money goes, ArtPrize attracts artists from across the globe and visitors from across North America.
Unlike fine art exhibits that are confined indoors to one museum or outside to a single city plaza or street, ArtPrize blankets Grand Rapids from banks to bistros and breweries to bridges.
Because works are displayed throughout the city visitors walk through buildings and neighborhoods they may not normally get to on a brief vacation.
For ArtPrize 2018, the numbers as of mid-August were 1,417 artists working on 1,271 entries at 166 venues. The event runs from Sept. 19 through Oct. 7.
Among the places that have been venues in past years but are destinations anyway to put on the must visit list are the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Public Museum across the road from it downtown on the river and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on the eastern outskirts of town.
At the Ford Presidential Museum learn more about Watergate and Ford’s time in Congress, in the White House and at the University of Michigan. The museum is at 303 Pearl St. NW. Gerald Ford and wife Betty are buried on the grounds.
Cross the road to the Public Museum, 272 Pearl St., NW to browse through rooms of native American artifacts, treasured examples from when the town was the US furniture hub, stroll through some old Grand Rapids streets, sit at consoles as an astronaut and ride a 1928 Spillman Carousel.
Amble through the Sculpture Park and inside the main building to discover more than 200 pieces by well-known artists. Around every curve in the path come across works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Richard Hunt Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg, Jaume Plensa and other pieces to photograph and put on Facebook or Instagram.
There is also a terrific children’s garden that adults would love and a peaceful Japanese Garden. The Meijer Gardens are at 1000 East Beltline Ave NE.
BTW Grand Rapids is a good stop on the way up to Traverse City or when doing a triangle that includes Holland and Grand Haven, MI.