The Best Thing to Do In Every State This Summer: Midwest
If you're looking for exciting things to do in the American Midwest this summer, you've come to the right place. From hipster shuffleboard to sleeping in a tricked-out treehouse and more, here's how to live your best life in the Midwestern states. Interested in more U.S. regions? See here for the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest.
Get in Line for Taiwanese Street Food
This summer, it's all about experiencing America's best Taiwanese food in...'er Wisconsin? Two Taiwanese expat friends kick-started an edible ode to the street meats of their home country at Taiwan Little Eats, which is now among the most buzz-worthy spots in Madison thanks to its fruit teas with coconut jellies in flavors like lychee or jasmine with chia seeds. You’ll regret not ordering the Tainan braised pork over rice with soy-stewed egg, but not as much as you’ll regret not getting the aptly-named Coffin Toast—a chicken pot pie coddled in sturdy fried toast.
Take a Trip to Italy in the Twin Cities
The recently opened Alma Hotel took its cues from Italian pensiones: each of the seven rooms is idyllic enough to steal scenes from Under the Tuscan Sun, with their custom local white-oak furniture, Milanese fabrics, and vintage rugs and furs. Sneak downstairs for a meal by James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts; grilled quail with sausage fritters and celery root cream soup may pop up on the three-course menu.
Play Shuffleboard. Really.
Grannies everywhere are onto something (beyond comfortable footwear)—which is exactly why Brooklyn’s famous Royal Palms shuffleboard club just opened in the Windy City this spring. Royal Palms Chicago is a Golden Girls dream sprung to life, with cheeky cocktails (you want The Glenna, made with Northshore Vodka, Pamplemouse Rose, pineapple juice, and Tiki bitters) and a stripey blue and white interior that calls to mind Miami circa 1955.
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Ride the Rails
If Murder on the Orient Express inspired you to dust off your traveling togges and board a train bound for glory (not to mention make good with your enemies), don’t fret: you don’t need find your passport to get a luxe train experience. Just hop aboard Indiana’s Spirit of Jasper, which wends through farmland and railroad tunnels before arriving at the West Baden Springs Hotel—a circular 1902 grande dame that was architecturally inspired by European grand spas.
Bunk in an Old Schoolhouse
Iowan hipsters scooped up a 1921 middle school with 15-foot-high vaulted ceilings and remade it into a veritable West Elm catalogue in the form of Hotel Grinnell, named after the college town—Grinell—it's located in. Rooms are fitted with clean-lined custom canopy beds made from local steel and the lobby features an oversized wall Scrabble that’s the thrill of cocktail hour. Head to The Periodic Table, their in-house restaurant, for dishes no cafeteria lady could ever have imagined—thai zoodles; Kalua pulled pork—or take your drink outside to the fire pit to toast summer properly.
Hole Up in Five-Star Luxury
At the just-opened, 132-room Fontaine Hotel, you can rest in Manhattan-worthy splendor for a song. Rates start at just $199 a night for a stay that pampers in every way: the lobby is fitted with Venice-made hand-blown glass chandeliers, guest rooms feature a Carrera marble-lined bathroom with a rainfall shower, and there's a rooftop pool where cocktail hour overlooks the cityscape. Check in for a week, throw on a fluffy white robe, and finally learn the meaning of the word "chillax."
Eat Flaming Steak Sushi
It's not often an NYC expat moves to Nebraska and opens one of the best sushi spots out west. Hidden within Lincoln’s 1904 former Court House and Post Office (which still retains their sea of terrazzo, marble, maple wood, and brass finishes), you’ll find one of the more inventive sushi restaurants on the plains: Gray Whale Sushi, run by chef Hui Guo. On the menu? Black rice sushi rolls, all manner of sashimi (from Scottish salmon to Masago caviar), and—certainly the most “lit” of all—the Cowboy Roll, a no-holds-barred bundle of tempura shrimp, cream cheese, and sirloin steak that’s ferried to your table on a flaming tray.
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Scream for the Coolest Ice Cream
South Dakota isn't known for its ice cream, but that's about to change. Top Chef: Just Desserts winner Chris Hanmer just opened Parlour Ice Cream House in Sioux Falls, with nostalgia-inducing flavors crafted in small batches. We love that he’s captured both Americana (Opening Day features brown butter ice cream with lemon pound cake and blueberry jam) and the extra innovative (sorbet flavors include coconut kaffir lime and white peach ginger).
Sip at the Cidery
Fargo is famous for its star turn in its namesake 1996 Coen brothers movie, but there are more reasons to go than cinema history. Our favorite? The just-opened Wild Terra Urban Cidery and Cider Bar, where kombucha and hard ciders made from Michigan apples are served up in a 1905 former stable. Not into cider? They also maintain a great mead list (order the Big Lost Crazy Woman, made of hibiscus and hops) and—this being the Midwest—a 50-cent “local” La Croix.
Ogle Art in a New $19 Million Center
Opened late last year in Wichita: Mark Arts, a nearly 100-year-old arts center now housed in a glass-and-metal modernist building decked by waving native grasses. Within the 40,000-square-foot space, you’ll spot a culinary arts studio that will make you feel like a contestant on Top Chef and even an open art storage vault inspired by those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Book a weekend-long workshop in advance to learn all manner of art forms (German artist Brigitte Landgrebe is hosting a class on geometrical shape paintings in July).
Sleep in a Tree House
Matthew McConaughey recently stayed at The Mohicans—so you know it’s good. The property's six lofted tree houses, designed by Discovery Channel's “Treehouse Masters” show regular Pete Nelson and built with the help of area Amish craftsmen, are scene stealers themselves. We particularly love the Chanel-lipstick-red Little Red Treehouse, accessed by 30-foot extension bridge; amenities include a 5-foot stained glass window, charcoal grill, and a summertime-only outdoor shower on the wrap-around deck.
Cycle Through a De Facto Art Gallery
Detroit may be best known for its automobiles, but it's the bipedal modes of transport that have us plotting a trip this summer thanks to the Dequindre Cut Greenway. This cyclable, newly-paved, two-mile patch of the former 1830s Grand Trunk Railroad Line just north of the Detroit River—expanded in 2016—is now home to some of the Motor City’s most Instagrammable “urban artwork” (read: graffiti). Love it enough to want to move right in? This summer, they’re offering their first-ever Camping on the Cut overnight. BYO s’more fixins.
What to bring when you go.
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