Typically, when we think of a “dream vacation” there’s the thought that it has to be somewhere exotic, and that usually means international. Why is that the case though? We live in a HUGE country. It can’t be that the only destinations worth visiting are outside this 3.8 million square mile hunk of land. Even when we think domestic, it’s still on the outskirts of the country: New York, LA, D.C. How is it that the entire heartland of our country gets discounted as a viable travel destination?
A couple weeks ago I got a chance to spend 8 days in Wisconsin. Any time I told someone I was going on vacation to Wisconsin, I was met with puzzled looks. I started to feel the need to tell people that I was “only going for my boyfriend’s family reunion” as if there was something wrong with going to the midwest just for fun. Boy, are people missing out! Not only did I have a great time, but I got to experience a lot of the things that people typically look for on vacation: local cuisine, stunning architecture, and cultural traditions.
When we first landed in Milwaukee, we found out that there was a make-up Cubs game happening in Chicago that day, so we grabbed the rental car and made the hour and a half drive down to the Windy City (hey, we had already been traveling all night, what’s a little more?). Even though it was a make-up game on a Monday, Wrigley Field and the surrounding area were electric. We stayed at a little inn about a mile away from the stadium and walked to the game, where we were met with incredibly friendly and welcoming Chicagoans! At the game, we ate real Chicago dogs and drank Old Style, the official beer of the Chicago Cubs–not haute cuisine by any means, but definitely authentic local cuisine! We sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch, a tradition almost as old as Wrigley itself. Best of all the Cubs won in the bottom of the 9th! We took to the streets with the rest of the fans and celebrated in a Cubs bar. It was a really great afternoon and evening!
The next day, we made our way back up to Janesville, WI. It’s a small town for someone like me, but in-state it’s a pretty big one. Here is where I saw some of the most breathtaking architecture of our trip. We even passed by a condo building that was registered as a National Historic Place. One thing I really couldn’t get over was how beautiful all the churches were, with their huge, sloping steeples. I’m terrible about remembering to get my camera out, so I didn’t get any shots of my own, but the internet is a wonderful place:
While we were there, we ate at some really great places. My favorites were Time Out Pub and Grill which had the best fried cheese curds I’ve ever had, and Citrus Cafe, a place famous for their fresh-squeezed OJ. I don’t know what they do to that orange juice but it is fantastic. It’s perfectly sweet and tart, and had I not ordered a huge breakfast scramble I probably could’ve downed a pitcher to myself!
We got a chance to hang out with my boyfriend’s family on their farm. I quickly learned that I am all kinds of city girl! So much of what they were talking about was completely foreign to me–like calling the cattle by their number. I did learn that cows love cucumbers though! All the food they made for us was so delicious and so fresh. They had some really amazing cheeses (although I was informed that that wasn’t the “good swiss.” I can only imagine how heavenly that must have been!) and we feasted on all sorts of meat, buttery garlic potatoes, and a host of other home made sides and desserts. Midwest kindness is no exaggeration. I had never met these people before and they welcomed me right into their home and treated me like part of the family. You could say that it was just because it was my boyfriend’s family, but it was pretty much what I experienced the whole trip. Everywhere we went we were treated like old friends.
About halfway through the trip we took the day to go up to Wisconsin Dells, a town that is touted as the waterpark capital of the world. There are so many parks and attractions loaded into this town it’s crazy! It is a bit of a tourist trap, but we visited Mt Olympus, which was having a special which allowed us access to all four of their parks for $7/person. Almost every park is part of a resort as well, and admission is included with your stay for most of them. I am terrified of heights, but they convinced me to go on most of the rides and we had a blast!
Probably the piece de resistance of our trip was the chance to go see a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field. It was only a preseason game, but we had so much fun! As a lifelong Packers’ fan, my boyfriend was especially excited because he was living out a childhood dream of his. The Packers lost, but the experience could not be beat.
We also spent a day in Steven’s Point, WI, which was a town I had visited before and fallen in love with. It is a small college town that is full of locally owned businesses. The most important stop of the day was The Coffee Studio, which we stopped at in the morning for Nutella lattes, and then came back that afternoon for fresh-squeezed blackberry lemonade–with real blackberries! I spent way too long in a 3-story consignment/vintage store that has something for everyone.
So next time you’re thinking about a fun vacation, I’d suggest thinking about a destination you don’t know much about! Of course, do some research first, but those “fly-over states” have a lot to offer that will give you a fun trip and probably save you a few bucks. You might even find that you enjoyed it way more than you thought–like me :).