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Trip Ideas

50 States of Awesome: Midwest

Trackside glamping. Camp for grown ups. Insanely cool pop-up art. Welcome to summer in the midwest. Krystin Arneson gives us the scoop on the 12 most exciting things happening in the heartland.

See recent posts by Krystin Arneson

Read more: the Northwest, Southeast, Southwest and Northeast.

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Photo courtesy of Camp No Counselors


Wisconsin: Let your hair down at grown-up summer camp in Madison

Admit it: Being an adult has its downsides. Who doesn't dream of reliving the reckless freedom of your younger years? At the grown-up sleepaway spot Camp No Counselors, you can do just that. Go waterskiing, take a moonlit hike in the woods, dance, and flip cup your days away. Or even better, meet the camp hottie at midnight behind the canoe shed. Don’t forget the bug spray.

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Minnesota: Get your art fix in Minneapolis

The achingly cool Walker Art Center is at it again with another killer exhibition. “International Pop” is a highly curated collection of Pop Art from the 1950s to the ’70s that abandons the usual focus on NYC and London to explore the scene worldwide as it tied into movements like Anti-Art (Japan), Concretism and Neo-Concretism (Brazil), and the Art of Things (Argentina). If that still doesn’t do it for you, swing by on August 12 for the International Cat Video Festival, because, come on, who doesn’t love hilariously cute cat vids?

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Illinois: Cruise from Chicago to Montreal in style

If you’re jonesing to get out of Chicago but don’t feel like hopping on a plane, head north to très cool Montreal on one of this summer’s brand new 10-day river cruises, which depart from downtown. Guests on the small but mighty M.S. Saint Laurent, a 105-stateroom, four-star ship run by Great Lakes Cruise Company, will cruise up Lake Michigan, stopping at Mackinac and Manitoulin Islands, before sailing through Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. There’s plenty to keep you busy onboard, from canapé-and-cocktail hours to cooking classes and nightly cultural performances. And once you dock in Montreal, of course, the fun has just begun.

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Indiana: Go glamping at the Indy Motor Speedway

Step up your trackside cred and hit up NASCAR this summer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Or kick it up a notch and go pre-game glamping on the motorway's infield at the INDY 500 in May. Cornhole, cozy firepits and private tents with plush beds are all on hand for the event. Just remember to pack your own booze cooler.

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Iowa: Get all hopped up in Cedar Rapids

Iowa’s best-kept boozy secret is Cedar Rapids, where the city’s Lion Bridge Brewing Co. is quickly making its mark on the national craft beer scene. The English-style ale Workman’s Compensation is sooooo good that co-founder and brewmaster Quinton McClain took home the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Keep an eye out across the state for McClain’s other brews, including a Czech pilsner and a Jamaican strong ale.

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Missouri: Immerse yourself in art in St. Louis

Attention art lovers: St. Louis’s Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts recently reopened after a yearlong hiatus with two new galleries, which means more space for its edgy, groundbreaking programming (past shows have included retrospectives on drag queens and break dancing). This summer’s Press Play series flips the notion of “museum” on its head with a flash mob–style vocal performance, meditative drawing and walking experiences set to hip-hop, and movement and sound classes for babies.

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Photo courtesy of Grane


Nebraska: Get your pour on (from a vending machine) in Omaha

Yeah, yeah, Omaha has a great zoo, but whiskey will always — always — trump zebras at Grane at Midtown Crossing, the city’s newest concept bar. It’s the first whiskey bar ever to use automation — just preload a card and insert it into what’s essentially a classed-up vending machine with taps instead of racks. Locals love the self-service sampling and cool speakeasy vibe — and if small pours aren’t your thing, the bar is employing yet another mixology innovation: It has Prohibition-style Old Fashioned on tap.

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South Dakota: Get back to Mother Earth near Sioux Falls

South Dakota’s newest state park, Good Earth, has opened up southeast of Sioux Falls, and it’s not just about nature trails. The 588-acre site is one of the oldest places of long-term habitation in the U.S., having been a gathering place for tribal trade and ceremonies from the 1300s to the 1700s. If you’re really into your Native American history, the upper Midwest’s largest Oneota community was discovered here. Take it all in as you bike, hike or go for a guided walk through the prairie landscape.

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North Dakota: Get all viking up in your stein

Craft beer is going strong across the nation, but leave it to North Dakota to get all hipster and break out the Vikings’ favorite drink: mead, which may just be the next big fermented thing. The place: Fargo, specifically Prairie Rose Meadery, which opened in May. The brains behind the brew took the gold medal last year in the traditional mead category at the National Homebrew Competition, and with the new outpost, they're expanding to fruit mead and spiced mead, using ingredients grown in-state.

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Photo by Sam Fentress


Kansas: Spot a T. Rex (and then some) in Kansas City

It’s easy to never venture farther west than Kansas City (that’s Kansas City, Missouri), but it’s worth the 30-minute journey across the state line to the new Museum at Prairiefire, in Overland Park. This sister of the American Museum of Natural History forgoes a large permanent collection, instead playing host to cool traveling exhibitions like "The Wild Horses of Sable Island," a photography exhibition by Roberto Dutesco, and "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids." The one long-term resident: a bone-for-bone cast of the first T. Rex ever discovered.

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Ohio: Step up your fashion game in Columbus

Let’s be honest, Columbus, Ohio, isn’t exactly the first place to come to mind when you think “runway fashion.” But the state is kicking things up a notch (or three) with this year’s Fashion Meets Music Festival, September 5-6, which combines the coolest emerging local designers, like Bryston Walters, Michael Drummond and Bend Active, with national music acts; St. Vincent, Awolnation, Andy Grammer, Ludacris, OAR, and Young the Giant are all in so far. This city never looked so good.

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Photo by Jesse Knott


Michigan: Dine with the elusive “Corktown Jesse” in Detroit

The Motor City’s much-loved chef "Corktown Jesse" (real name: Jesse Knott) has ditched a permanent residence for pop-up appearances at some of the city's most happening kitchens. His cooking style is a mix of international influences and handmade ingredients; as a semifinalist in the Top Chef: Detroit Coney dog competition, he entered an Incan/Peruvan-inspired hot dog called the Machu Picchu. The superstar toque does do a regular brunch at Detroit City Distillery on Sundays, but tracking him down at the pop-ups is worth the effort for his always intriguing creations.



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