Three no passport spring vacation ideas

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI (J Jacobs photo)
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI
(J Jacobs photo)

 

Don’t wait for the first robin or crocus to pop up to plan what to do or where to go for a spring vacation. Hotels and good B and B’s may already be booked and airlines will have few seats at the price you want. Make plans now

Good as Washington DC is, student groups may already have plane seats and hotel rooms so consider that destination for another time. Instead, Spring Break is a good chance to splash in a pool, visit and cross off a presidential museum or find an unusual children’s museum in a town not yet visited.

The suggestions listed here are Midwest destinations within a day’s drive of Chicago. The city’s schools are out April 6-10 and most suburban districts are out March 23-27 in 2020.

 

African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)
African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)

Indoor Pool

Arguably among the best indoor water parks are the ones at the Kalahari Resorts. If living in the Midwest, consider the African-themed one at the Wisconsin Dells. The resort really is a combination amusement park, movie and dining destination and games emporium.

I like the Dells as a summer or fall escape when the weather is predictable but spring is a good time to enjoy a resort that has so much to offer, guests might not feel the need to leave.  Also check out other Wisconsin Waterparks for a spring Break.

An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)
An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)

Fascinating presidential and public museums

Located in Grand Rapids, MI, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum combines his University of Michigan background, Nixon’s resignation, Betty Ford’s contributions and a replica of the Oval Office.

Across the road is the Grand Rapids Public Museum which has fun explorations and a merry go round ride. From American Indian displays to inventions, an old-time streetscape and a giant clock, there is enough here to spend the day.

 

An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)
An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)

Where a dinosaur and orangutans hang out

People outside of Indianapolis may not know the city has a remarkable Children’s Museum charmingly guarded by a huge dinosaur and that the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the few places in the country that boasts a specialized orangutan center where visitors can watch these intelligent animals play and practice their cognitive game skills.

I love the Childeren’s Museum’s Take Me There exhibits. When I visited it was to China. Currently it is to Greece. And there really is a simulated flight there.  And I was fascinated by everything the orangutans could do.

Also worth a visit when in town are the Eiteljorg Museum of American indians’ Western Art and the Indiana State Museum next door that has a wonderful Rube Goldberg inventions exhibit. See Visit Indy for more information.

 

Snow sculptors face off in Lake Geneva

 

Snow Sculpting Championship, in Lake Geneva, WI. (Chamber of Commerce photo 2019)
Snow Sculpting Championship, in Lake Geneva, WI. (Chamber of Commerce photo 2019)

To see some the country’s best snow sculptures and vote for your favorite, drive up to Lake Geneva, just over the Illinois border into Wisconsin on Hwy 50, this weekend.

Fifteen award-winning teams from across the United States are competing in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship for the national title, this week.

They start work midweek when snow is delivered to their stations in the Riviera Plaza , 812 Wrigley Drive abutting Geneva Lake (Yes, that is the lake’s name).

The teams sculpt their creations through Friday night to be ready for the judging after the “tools down” bell at 11 a.m. Saturday. Visitors can vote for the People’s Choice Award, Saturday until 2 p.m.

The snow sculptures are amazing but also stay to see ice sculptures in town. Youngsters may want to stop at a children’s tent at 201 Wrigley Dr. in Flat Iron Park where there are games and the Boy Scouts are selling cider donuts and hot dogs.

Visitors who stay over Saturday will want to see the free Laser Light Show on the ski slopes of the Grand Geneva Resort, just south of the downtown at WI7036 Grand Geneva Way.

The light show goes from 8:30 to 10 p.m. For more information call (312) 218-3848 or visit Laser fusion shows.

For more Winterfest events visit Lake Geneva/Winterfest.

 

A Wisconsin fall getaway

 

Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)
Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)

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.

Continue reading “A Wisconsin fall getaway”

The Wright trip for stage and scenery

Peck's Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)
Peck’s Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

A fall vacation that is not the same-old, same-old awaits 189 miles (about 3 hrs., 20 min.) northwest of Chicago in Spring Green, WI.

Water bottles, check. pillow ( I like mine), check. Phone, cords and bathing suit, check. Well, there is a lap pool at The House on the Rock Resort, my weekend retreat.

On the agenda is see a show at American Players Theatre which everyone calls APT,  tour Wright’s Taliesin, explore the hilly countryside and stop at Peck’s Farm Market East on the way home for yummy, fresh corn. The town is surrounded by farmland so visitors will be treated to true farm-to-table products that are not just a nod to today’s popular menu phrases. Continue reading “The Wright trip for stage and scenery”

Famed Oshkosh air show almost here

 

Airshow. Military. F-22. Raptor. (Photo by Nick Moore and courtesy of EAA AirVenture)
Airshow. Military. F-22. Raptor. (Photo by Nick Moore and courtesy of EAA AirVenture)

 

If looking for a different experience this summer consider going to the spectacular EAA (Experimental Aircraft Assoc.) AirVenture Show July 22-28 in Oshkosh, WI., a historic lumber town on Lake Winnebago at the Fox River.

 

About half a million aircraft and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world fly in for the show which will feature historic military aircraft to today’s sophisticated  machines  – all at the Wittman Regional Airport. Best plan is to start looking now for a place to stay in the region.

 

Early in the week, highlights include the Warbirds of America show when a B-29 Doc and FIFI will fly together and the United States Air force Heritage Flight fly-overs of an F-35, A-10. and two P-51s. There will also be a salute to World War II ace Bud Anderson so all flying P-51s in the U.S. have been invited to participate.

 

In addition, U.S. Navy fighter aircraft, including F4U Corsairs, the gullwing fighters that were a key asset in the Pacific Theater will be on hand and there will be an observance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day with aircraft that participated in the actual invasion on June 6, 1944, as well as C-47 airplanes that will have just returned from a historic anniversary flight to France.

 

Later in the week is a tribute to the Apollo 11 flight.on its 50th anniversary  when Apollo command module pilot Michael Collins will be the main guest, joined by Apollo astronaut Joe Engle at a program hosted by space shuttle astronaut Charlie Precourt.

 

“Even a half-century later, the Apollo 11 mission stands as one of the great human achievements of all time,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions.

 

An additional theme will be aerial firefighting sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service with support from aircraft operators and manufacturers.

 

Activities are planned with the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, EAA Warbirds of America, and individual aircraft owners. Every afternoon will have flight-precision aerobatics plus there are daily programs and workshops.

 

Air Show Hours: Daily – July 22-27, 2019: 2:30-6 p.m. & Sunday, July 28, 2019: 1-4:30 p.m.  Night Air Shows – Wednesday, July 24 and Saturday, July 27: 8-10 p.m.

 

To see headliners and times visit features attractions and schedule.  Also find more information at EAA Airventure.

 

 

Five fall getaway tips

A back road drive in Door County.
A back road drive in Door County.

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.

Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

 

The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos
Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go. Continue reading “The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name”

A Grand girls getaway in Lake Geneva

View from balcony at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI. (Jodie Jacobs photos)
View from balcony at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI. (Jodie Jacobs photos)

When “The world is too much with us… late and soon, as English poet William Wordsworth said with a poem that continues with “we are out of tune” you know it is time to take a break.

A good place to get back in tune is to plan a girls’ getaway where the view out the balcony door stretches across water and hills, where stress is forgotten over cocktails and delicious food and tension is massaged away by experienced hands.

My sister and I found such a place when we chose Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, WI for our annual spa getaway.

This year, my sister flew into O’Hare from Dallas so we could drive from my home in a northern suburb of Chicago. It took about an hour which is the same amount of time for someone flying into Milwaukee’s airport.

The resort is just on the eastern outskirts of Lake Geneva so we first parked downtown for a bit of boutique shopping then headed to the Grand Geneva to unpack and unwind. FYI, the lake is called Geneva Lake and the town is Lake Geneva.

Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI
Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI

The resort has lots of accommodation options ranging from deluxe rooms and suites to condos. We loved our deluxe double on the third floor of Building 3 with a view of a lake on the property.

BTW Grand Geneva has 1,300 acres that include ski hills in winter turned into an adventure spot in summer, golf, horseback riding and plenty of paths to hike and bike.

I liked the lap pool in the spa and fitness facility across the lane from our building. My sister liked the fitness center where she could work out with the type of equipment she used back home.

While waiting for our spa services in the women’s locker room, we heard happy chatter from girlfriends enjoying the spa’s whirlpool. Another waiting area open to males and females, was a quiet relaxation space with good fruit juice, crackers and cheeses.

We booked massages for one day and mani-pedi services, the next. Definitely recommend both.

The resort had two top notch dinner restaurants, the Geneva Chop House and Ristorante Brissago. Both have good food and good service. The night we ate at the resort we were in the mood for Italian flavors and loved our choices of a pumpkin bisque, Osso Bucco  and eggplant parmigiano.

Pumpkin bisque that is sweet and savory with the added balsamic.
Pumpkin bisque that is sweet and savory with the added balsamic.

The resort’s Sunday morning brunch in its Grand Café was tempting but after a weekend of eating we ordered light breakfasts from the menu.

We left on Sunday but heard there was a shuttle that went into Lake Geneva on Monday for a tour of the town that included lunch. Maybe will do it next time.

I’m thinking the resort would be a good place to visit next Valentine’s Day or birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day.

But regarding our experience, best of all was that everyone at Grand Geneva seemed to really care about the guests.

For reservations and more information visit Grand Geneva.

 

Visit Great Smoky Mountains for fall color and terrific crafts

 

I love all parts of Tennessee but if you only have time for a color drive through one section you won’t go wrong choosing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)
Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers more than 800 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and wonderful fall color. (Tennessee Tourism photo)

BTW if you see bear cubs, pull to the side to take photos because “bear jams” instead of ordinary fall color “peeps” make it hard for people merely driving through the park from Nashville to get to Ashevill, NC.

Put Sugarlands Visitors Center (above Gatlinburg) into your GPS to start the color drive. It’s a short drive south of Gatlinburg on US 441.

Ask there about road closures. You should be able to continue up to Clingman’s Dome for an amazing view and a fun picture op

At 5,048 feet you can stand with one foot in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina. The Tower is closed but the parking lot which also has great views is open.

After going back down to Gatlinburg, drive the eight-mile Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community loop on Glades and Buckhorn Roads.

The art in the studios complement the park’s natural wonders.

You are likely to return home with great photos and probably a well-turned bowl or gorgeous painting.

For more information call (865) 436-1200 or visit the park headquarters at 107 Park Headquarters Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

 

For fall color drive along the other Minnesota river

 

Pair fall color with a town worth at least one overnight stay and a drive that is scenic any time of year.

Take a paddle boat excursion on the St. Croix River. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Take a paddle boat excursion on the St. Croix River. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

A fun getaway is to drive along the St Croix National Scenic Waterway and Lake Superior’s North Shore after first starting in Stillwater, MI.

Overlooking the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side of a waterway that also borders Wisconsin, Stillwater has several historic B and B’s, antique shops and cafes.

I stayed at the Rivertown Inn for its romantic rooms, great breakfasts and charming hosts. However, there are several other good B&Bs.

A good way to see color from the town is a paddle boat excursion.

When ready to look for a long color drive, head north on Highway 95 to follow the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Both sides of the highway are state parks. The scenic byway goes from Point Douglas near Hastings to north of Sandstone, MN.

If you didn’t take a paddle boat in Stillwater you can do so from the Minnesota side of Taylors Falls. From Taylors Falls continue north on M35 and then I 35 to Duluth where you pick up M61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The route takes you to Grand Marais. The North Shore is a nationally designated “All American Drive” for its scenic overlooks, fall color, hiking trails and waterfalls. Be sure to make an overnight reservation ahead of time.

A fun lodge is the Naniboujou.  Or check out the lodges at the William Obrien State Park site.  For more information visit Explore Minnesota.

Remember to charge the phone because lots of good photos await.