help me find a vacation destination

Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 04:49 PM
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help me find a vacation destination

Hi everyone. It has been what feels like forever since the last time DH and I were able to even consider a vacation. Now it may be an option within the next year and I have no idea what to consider anymore. The things we used to love that would be in the budget I'm not so sure are appealing options anymore and exotic tropical vacations are out of the question due to finances.

Places that we have been before that would be possible with the budget include the following: Gatlinburg, TN, loved it, but I don't think we could handle the crowds now. We didn't used to mind crowds, but the thought of fighting hordes of people does NOT sound relaxing at all. We have been to Myrtle Beach, SC before and loved it too, but again with the crowds, plus it is a very long drive. We have also been to Niagara Falls, Canada and it was great, but we don't want to do that again. We have been to Colorado, which was awesome, but a very long drive. We live in Illinois and want to vacation somewhere within an easy day of driving (preferably within an 8 hours drive, with less distance being best, since we have limited time and don't want to waste a lot of time in the car).

We love hiking in cooler weather and lazing on a beach in hot weather. It will just be the two of us vacationing together, no children involved. We don't want to fight crowds and would prefer somewhere calm and peaceful. I am seriously considering Saugatuck, MI in June 2014 and staying at the Lake Shore Resort, which looks nice and is only a 4.5 hour drive. Does anyone know if the water temperature for Lake Michigan at that time of year will allow for swimming, as that is my biggest concern for June?

We are considering taking a small trip in October 2013 if funds allow (but could move it up to mid-September if we do a beach vacation and funds allow), but I have been having a terrible time planning something this time. I considered Gatlnburg, but the crowds are a major turnoff. I considered Southern Illinois, as I have never been down there and I hear it is pretty and it sounds peaceful, but I'm having trouble figuring out where to stay so we aren't criss cross driving all over Shawnee National Forest. Plus, I'm not sure that we would save much money by staying in the state. So I am very open to suggestions, both for the possibility of an October vacation and any trip we may plan for next year. We just aren't the same people we used to be, so the things we used to plan for vacation now sounds a bit stressful (or financially impossible). Flying is out of the question and a very long drive sounds miserable and stressful to me too. Keep in mind finances are a consideration as well.

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions. I never in all my life even considered that I might not have any ideas about what to do for a vacation, but with our aversion to crowds, tourist traps, and limited finances, I definitely could use some suggestions to check into. It seems most people in this area all choose the same places to vacation, most of which are tourist traps, and that doesn't sound appealing either. We have explored some nearby big cities during day trips and enjoy that for day trips, but not for the possibility of a "real" vacation. We want to spend time enjoying the beautiful world together, relaxing, crowd-free,and affordable, either hiking or lazing on a beach. Thank you all so much for your assistance.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:34 PM
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Since you like Gatlinburg, have you ever thought about Asheville, NC? There are so many areas around there for hiking and exploring and the food in the area is great(Black Mountain and Brevard to name a few). Fall would be a nice time to visit the Asheville area and I will tell you that it is very easygoing. We live nearby and travel over there many times each year. Good Luck.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Kentucky is pretty in the fall and has some excellent state parks. You could drive down I-75 to Lexington and see some horse farms, visit the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, on to see the restoration of Fort Harrod, on to Louisville for museums and good food, and back north up I-65. Nashville, Indiana, in Brown County on the way to Indianapolis is fun but may be crowded. You can Google it. The Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park in KY are good for hiking and won't be crowded.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 09:40 PM
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You could ride the Amtrak California Zephyr from Galesburg, IL to Glenwood Springs Colorado and return for $500 to $600 in October (coach-23 hours). The Aspens should be at peak color sometime in the month. There are two big old hotels across the Colorado River from the Amtrak station. The worlds largest hot spring fed swimming pool is right there.
There is a good bus service from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.
The best scenery I've seen from a train is the Glenwood Canyon just east of Glenwood Springs.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 04:29 AM
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What about the Sand Dunes of Michigan?
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 09:00 AM
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You didn't say if it was northern or southern Illinois since that would make a big difference on the 8 hours. You also are not saying how long - 1 week or just several days. Just something to consider.
As for Saugatauk, it's laid back with lots of shops. The water may still be too cool to swim, but beach lounging should be ok.
Another place to consider would be Indiana. I know most people don't think of Indiana as a vacation spot, but since you're looking for laid back and some hiking, I would suggest the Angola area. You could stay there or next door in Pokagon State Park with lots of hiking. There are several very nice lakes there as well. A day trip could be to Shipshewana, home of the Amish with lots of shops and food. You can also watch cheese making (pretty exciting) as well as several other things. The Blue Gate Restaurant has lots of live shows (Clint Black is coming in August) so there's entertainment as well.
I would also put in my vote for Asheville, NC if that's doable. We were at the Biltmore in May and would love to go back and spend more time in the town.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 09:31 AM
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Mackinac is really nice - cute shops, horse drawn carriages, you can tour The Grand, tour the fort, etc.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 02:00 PM
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It has been our experience that Lake Michigan is pretty cold in June.
I could suggest Hocking Hills in Southern Ohio. There are thousands of cabins in the woods and most all of them have hot tubs. You take your own food to the fully funished cabins, many with fireplaces. http://www.lazylanecabins.com/Hockin...s_Ash_Cave.htm However, we have never stayed a full week, don't know if that would be too long.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 02:35 PM
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Saugatuck is beautiful and could be a great pivot point for day trips to Grand Rapids, Holland, South Haven, the Sand Dunes. Lake Michigan will be too cold for swimming and depending on the weather, it may be too cold for the beach. The weekends can be crowded, especially later in June.

Depending on the time period in June. Traverse City would be nice. Plenty to do and not too crowded in the beginning of June.

We just returned from Wisconsin Dells. Beautiful area. The downtown area is a bit amusement parkish but the surrounding area is beautiful.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 07:01 PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses. I think Asheville, NC sounds awesome! The searches I did on it make it look a lot like Gatlinburg in some ways. Which leads me to a question about Asheville. Is Asheville crazy busy and touristy like Gatlinburg? It looks very beautiful, but Gatlinburg is very beautiful too; we just don't want to fight hordes of people.

We live in east central Illinois, if that helps with an idea for how far of a drive anything would be for us.

Does anyone have any beach suggestions within around an 8 hour drive of east central Illinois? (Aside from Michigan, as we are already planning that possibility.) We would be willing to drive longer if needed, but it MUST be driveable within one day and flying is not an option. We would insist on an oceanfront hotel, clean, quiet, with a beach we could lay on and an ocean safe to swim in. Ideas?
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 07:03 PM
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Oh, I forgot to add that Hocking Hills in Ohio reminds me a lot of Starved Rock State Park in Illinois from the descriptions and the pictures I viewed online. I love Starved Rock and am sure I would enjoy Hocking Hills, but in reality, I wouldn't drive all the way to Ohio when I can drive a couple of hours to Starved Rock. I have also considered that at some point DH and I may end up spending a a couple of nights in Starved Rock State Park lodge sometime. We really enjoy the hiking there, the waterfalls are so pretty. I could spend several days there and not run out of new things to check out on the hikes and enjoy the exploring. So very pretty...
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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I did some more searching for ideas last night and came across Orange Beach, Alabama. Anyone know what it is like there? Is it very pretty? Crowded? From what I was looked at last night it looks pretty and much less crowded than some areas. Suggestions? I know it is a much farther drive, but if it was worth it we would do it, especially as it can still be done in one day. Thanks.
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:13 PM
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If you are thinking about Alabama, check out Lake Martin near Alexander City. It was pretty nice 47+ years ago when George Wallace came to speak to us at the National Campers & Hikers Assn. convention. I don't know what has happened to the lake since then.
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:32 PM
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Have you considered Door County, Wisconsin?
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 12:35 PM
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Or perhaps the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. I do not suggest Branson, as crowds there would be a problem, I think. Lake of the Ozarks is more spread out. I'm in WEST central Illinois, and the drive to the Ozarks for me is about 5 hours. I like the Osage Beach/Bagnell Dam area best.
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 01:20 PM
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Oh, and yes, southern Illinois is pretty. DH and I both went to SIU in Carbondale. We'd have stayed in this part of the state if jobs would have been available for us upon graduating.
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