Solo Trip to Mid-West

Aug 3rd, 2017, 04:55 AM
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Solo Trip to Mid-West

Hi there! I am a single 25 year old woman living in Connecticut. I've been wanting to travel to the mid-west for a few years now and would like to stay somewhere with beautiful scenery (mountains, a lake, fields, etc.). I want this trip to be rejuvenating for the mind, body and soul. Since I plan on going by myself I would prefer a hotel, dude ranch, inn, lodge etc. that has some community aspect like evening bonfires, hot tubs, group dinners etc. Anyone have any suggestions? I'm thinking a 4-5 day trip with a $1,000 budget.
jillianec is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2017, 05:06 AM
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Mountains are gonna be tough in the midwest--maybe rolling hills. You have at LEAST 2 days of driving, there and back. Gas will take a couple of hundred maybe, depending on your car--probably less but still an expense.
Around mid-Indiana is Brown County renowned for its covered bridges--maybe somewhere there.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 4th, 2017, 03:52 AM
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Gretchen, you may be thinking of Parke County, Indiana in terms of covered bridges (they have 31 compared to Brown County's 2). Parke County hosts a covered bridge festival in October.

The OP might take a look at this

Given the OP's time frame and budget, I have to wonder if something closer to home might be better. Perhaps in the Poconos or Adirondacks. It's not clear from her post when she plans to travel and whether she plans to fly. As Gretchen points out, the drive itself could easily consume much of the trip. Maybe I'm jaded as a midwesterner, but if I wanted something restorative and scenic, I'd be inclined to go farther west.
indyhiker is offline  
Aug 4th, 2017, 09:40 AM
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I'll certainly bow to a native for that info!

i am originally from Ohio so maybe share IndyHiker's idea.

The OP wishes to go somewhere she hasn't been--but we know not those places. For mountains, there is Virginia and West Virginia on down the Appalachians--on the east coast--that might have the mountains, lake and maybe even a "dude ranch"--look in the Smokies.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 4th, 2017, 09:41 AM
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Or now that I think about that, there are the Georgia mountains around Cashiers, NC that might have a lot of what she is wanting.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 6th, 2017, 08:09 AM
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"I've been wanting to travel the Midwest..." That covers a range of states central in the US. One area that comes to mind is South Dakota's Black Hills; areas inside Custer State Park fit the bill. Does your budget include travel costs? If so, you may need to save up a little more...
HotWheels is offline  
Aug 7th, 2017, 03:34 AM
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Thanks everyone for your feedback! Living on the East Coast I have done most of my traveling here. The only state out west I have gone is Idaho (which was gorgeous!). I am very open when I say Mid-West. I would plan on flying as anything further than Indiana is a significant hike. My budget does include travel costs (which I'm quickly seeing is a tall order).
jillianec is offline  
Aug 7th, 2017, 05:04 AM
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Hot wheels brings up a good idea. I would look at where Southwest or Jet blue flies and see what that will fit into your budget--and then a car rental.
You might be able to fly to Rapid City SD and see the Black Hills from there.
I would suggest looking further west than Indiana etc. You may get more bang for your buck, IMO, although there is beauty everywhere.

I think it is doable on your budget, but planning will be key in finding cheap air and car.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 7th, 2017, 07:41 AM
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What time of year?

I think you'll run into trouble finding that 'community aspect'. I was going to suggest the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park but that caters more to family reunions and groups, and I don't think that would work well for a solo traveller.

Have you thought about a hostel? That would really help your budget and pretty much guarantee social interaction. I don't think a dude ranch would fit into your budget...

National parks usually have evening ranger programs at campgrounds and daily ranger talks/hikes with groups of people. That kind of fits into the social aspect as well.

Take a look at these 2 hostels:
It is right outside Glacier National Park. I would spend your entire 4-5 days at Glacier. Definitely not midwest though.
That one is inside Itasca State Park in Minnesota. Good for 2-3 days, then drive over to Duluth and do some sightseeing up/down the North Shore of Lake Superior. Flights to/from Minneapolis should fit your budget.

Alternatively, if you're comfortable camping that also helps the budget and opens up a lot of options. It might be good to pick a few areas that have been suggested, look at the cost of airfare/lodging/rental car and see if your budget is realistic.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Aug 9th, 2017, 07:42 AM
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You definitely need to increase your budget.

Plus, outside of the largest cities (such as Chicago), public transportation in the Midwest is very limited, if existent at all. So you would have to include a rental car in that budget.

And you don't have a lot of time. When you consider that travel will entail at least 2 full days of your 4-5, what do you have left?

What I would suggest to you is this:

Take Amtrak's Cardinal from New York to at least Charlottesville, VA or even West Virginia. There's some mighty purty country out there - just the type for which you are looking.

I think you might still find my trip report when I visited Charlottesville, VA - and I didn't have a rental car when I visited. Click on my avatar and see what I did, albeit it was several years ago.
exiledprincess is offline  
Aug 9th, 2017, 08:17 AM
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I don't agree that you can't do it for that budget--and most of the objections above have been covered.
Yes, Virginia is pretty (sic)

Take a look at Southwest Airlines map and choose a place. I had you flying out of Hartford and into Albuquerque, for example and you could do that for under $300, by choosing your travel days--mine were Friday to Wednesday.
Car rental could be under $200.
Airbnb could be a place to stay. This isn't what you wanted but you could build your trip this way.
The Black Hills may be out via either Jet Blue or Southwest.

Denver could be a really good destination--a LOT to do IN town and a lot out of it.
Some place in Wisconsin or Minnesota could be pretty.

And if you haven't been, Charleston, SC is a winner. It is also very much a "young person's town"--as well as for us seniors.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 9th, 2017, 08:48 AM
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You might also look into organized camping tours. Granted, the season in the western states is coming to an end, but there are a variety of group camping optoons in the national parks, some of which would fit into your budget (depending on the cost of your flight and length of the trip). With an organized backcountry trip, you'll get the scenery you want, along with the ability to socialize with others. Here's a link to one in Glacier to give you an idea.

Or look at a festival with a camping option. I don't know what kind of activities you're into, but there may be somethng out that might fit your interests. Just as for instance, we have a big mountain bike festival in Brown County, Indiana in October. Lots of people camp, there's music and food. Heck, even if you't not e a mountain biker, you could still enjoy the park and the festival atmosphere.

Just trying to think outside the box a bit to balance your interset in both scenery and socializing.
indyhiker is offline  
Aug 12th, 2017, 05:22 AM
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East Coast people don't vacation in the Midwest so you're going to have put more energy into it.

Lutsen Resort may fit your criteria

It's a 5 hour drive from Minneapolis, but it's a coastal Maine type experience.

The western parts of N/S Dakota NE KS are dry ranching country so really West, not Midwest, although if you want mts and dude ranches then look in the West.
tom_mn is offline  
Aug 13th, 2017, 02:21 AM
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Denver is not the Midwest.
Christina is online now  
Aug 13th, 2017, 03:32 AM
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To go with what where are we suggested...

Yosemite bug hostel might be right up your alley if you have any interest in seeing Yosemite NP. Easily done via transit, may be in budget if you have airport choices.

North cascades nature center (that may not be its exact name) has "camps" or workshops that involve hostel lodging. However, I have a car so I haven't looked into whether or not it's reachable by transit.

Lots of great state parks in the east. Vermont, New Hampshire. You could drive and that would be cheaper. Cabins are pretty common, hiking looks good, I know at least one is on the lake. Not the social atmosphere you were looking for, but close.

Whistler and Vancouver is another option maybe. (If you have a passport). or elsewhere in Canada. The transit tends to be better, the hostels are a lot cheaper, and the exchange rate is in your favor. Nova Scotia, PEI, or Newfoundland maybe? All reachable, pretty sure all have hostels.

I personally think your budget is rather low for what you want. Midwest and west nature means either rental car or time consuming transit or expensive flights. Amtrak can be as expensive- or MORE expensive than flights And hostels are rare enough that the popular ones can be difficult to book at short notice or expensive or both.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Aug 13th, 2017, 04:34 AM
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Christina, (as usual). We do realize that but we also thing the OP might get more bang for her buck in what she is looking for further west.
I offered some things IN the midwest. Did you? Or is it just geography lesson for the "rest of us".
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 17th, 2017, 04:05 AM
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Thanks everyone for your very helpful replies! I will start doing my research and hopefully be headed out west soon.
jillianec is offline  
Aug 17th, 2017, 05:43 AM
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Let us know as you do the plan.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 19th, 2017, 10:14 AM
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I disagree with several of you. I still think this lady *HAS* to increase her budget.

There are four main components to any travel budget: Transportation, lodging, food and entertainment.

For example, if her flight tickets were merely $300 RT and she had to get a rental car (say $150-200) for a more remote location, if she were to only spend $100/nt. for lodging (not including the local taxes and fees) - which isn't likely in a lot of places, she's already over the budget. Nothing left for food or entertainment.

If she chooses to travel by train or bus, of course, it takes longer and she has much less time at her ultimate destination. The cost may be less - if she opts for just coach - or even more expensive, if she gets a sleeper accommodation on Amtrak for example.

If she was to go camping, she has to have the appropriate gear (tent, sleeping bag, etc.) - and lug it around somehow on the transportation to/from that destination - unless she waits until she gets to the destination to buy it (but she has to spend $$ regardless). Plus this being the end of the season, she might not be able to find vacancy. NOTE: I have read articles stating that many national and some to all state parks are going to begin requiring reservations for *all* types of stays - and they are filled months, perhaps a year, in advance. It's the end of just stopping in along the way, folks.

Take a look at Yosemite's website and you will see what might be/will probably be the future of other national and state parks.

If she were going to a major or larger city, such as Chicago, she does have the option of staying in a traditional hostel - but their costs are fast approaching $60-75+/nt. pp, even with shared accommodations. Of course, there are now some hostel/hotel hybrids - but their cost is getting close to what a traditional hotel's is.

However, the big plus in choosing a locale such as this is that she doesn't have to get a rental car and can rely on public transportation, which is a lot cheaper on the budget. Cannot do that in smaller or rural locales, as it is just not even available in many cases. Of course, the bigger cities normally have higher costs of living - and normally higher tax rates - so the food budget would have to be expanded.

You have to do *A LOT* of research with getting a unit using Airbnb or any similar website. Practically all locales nowadays have ordinances pertaining to them, meaning you first have to make certain they are legal - in addition, of course, to all the other research you did before about the location, etc. Chicago, for example, is cracking down on illegal ones. In addition, a very large number of condos and apartments prohibit that type of occupancy by benefit of their bylaws or leases. You cannot any longer just skate by by simply reading a bunch of reviews.

@OP: Let me give you a scenario - but you cannot go just any time. You have to let the city's convention/event calendar be your guide. Choose a time when there *isn't* a big convention or event, which drives up the prices.

Chicago. You can probably fly there fairly cheaply. You can get a hostel which is right downtown (Hostel International Chicago). You can use public transportation. Chicago sits right on Lake Michigan and the whole lakefront is one continuous area of parklands, harbors and beaches (although the beaches close Labor Day).

You could even take a day trip out to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park for $17 RT via the South Shore and South Bend Railroad for your scenery. The Millennium Station is right downtown as well.

Chicago has a lot of free or low-cost events. I'll give you just one example coming up:

Chicago is a *huge* theatre city - over 250 theatrical troupes and venues. You can take a look at Hottix for discounted tickets.

Chicago has been named by Bon Appetit as the Restaurant City of 2017. (You can read their August 8, 2017 article, if you wish.) And we are *not* talking about deep-dish or stuffed pizza, Chicago-style hotdogs or Italian Beef sandwiches, although you could always try one of them if you absolutely have to. However, stay away from the most often-mentioned pizza parlors or hotdog stands - because they are almost always chains - many not even headquartered in Chicago.

Since you have 4-5 days, you can explore the various neighborhoods of Chicago. And - you specifically mention this being a solo traveler and wanting something where you would not be alone - I would strongly suggest that you utilize the absolutely free Chicago Greeter service when you are exploring a Chicago neighborhood. 10 days advance registration required. Note also the free InstaGreeter service, for which no reservations are required, of the Loop or Millennium Park, originating from the Chicago Cultural Center.

The Cultural Center has many free exhibits and performances throughout the week as well.

Now, I'm giving you pure gold here - but there is something I hope you would give in exchange, if you go to Chicago. Please, please, please don't just go to chain restaurants. You have too many wonderful options for that. Don't cheat yourself.
exiledprincess is offline  
Aug 19th, 2017, 10:17 AM
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Sorry for the additional post...That is Hostelling International Chicago.
exiledprincess is offline  

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