Top places to go in the Midwest in 2022
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Chicago's North Shore
These affluent suburbs that border Lake Michigan consist of tranquil gardens, upscale restaurants, and gorgeous architectural gems, many of which are rich in both art and history. The chilly fall and winter temps are the perfect time to bundle up and check out a Northwestern football game or take the kids on a trip to the Kohl Children’s Museum. The museums’ interactive learning exhibits and activities are sure to keep the little ones entertained for hours.
Serenity is just one of the many perks that can be enjoyed on the North Shore and the award-winning Rosewood Beach. Renovated in 2015 with a new boardwalk design, beautiful landscaping, and ecological improvements, Rosewood has locals coming from near and far to grab their slice of peace by the water. The Baha’i House of Worship is another location that is not only an architectural masterpiece known for its Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and Islamic elements, but a place for spiritual solace (even if you aren’t of the Baha’i faith). Finally, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a place where wellness enthusiasts and plant lovers meet for Tai Chi, yoga, and horticultural classes.
The area has no shortage of great places to dine, but The Homestead Room is the newest restaurant. Located inside the Graduate Hotel, this spot prepares American comfort food and John Hughes-inspired cocktails like the “Wet Bandits”—an ode to his classic film Home Alone, which was shot in the North Shore. For a more high-end dining experience, check out The Summer Inn–the mixture of indoor and outdoor seating, which includes a wrap-around patio with fire pits and a marble bar, makes it a perfect date night visit.
The accommodations along the North Shore have price points for every budget. For a quaint stay close to the Northwestern campus in Evanston, the historic Margarita European Inn is a great choice. This 46-room bed and breakfast has a wood-burning fireplace and unique French doors that make guests feel like they’ve been transported to the early 19th century. A more elaborate option is the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling. The facility provides gorgeous views along the Des Plaines river, five restaurants, a fitness studio with an indoor heated pool, and is in close proximity to shopping, the summer Ravinia music festival, and Six Flags.
The winters in Chicagoland can be brutal. And although the North Shore has plenty to do even when it’s cold, the summer is the best time to maximize your visitor experience. From music festivals to outdoor gardens and alfresco dining, the warm temps make it easier to see more of the North Shore’s beauty.
Signing up for the Chicago’s North Shore newsletter gives a monthly inside scoop on new restaurant openings, tours, hotel deals, and a host of other important happenings in the area.
The pandemic did not slow the creative and economic growth of this city. Tucked in a small valley on the border of Kentucky and Ohio houses the arts and culture hub of Ohio: Cincinnati. With new restaurants, hotels, and plenty of small businesses popping up, there is always something new to do within the metropolitan area.
Locals love to attend the festivals throughout the year, with some of the favorites being Oktoberfest Zinzinnati and Taste of Cincinnati. The arts scene is what truly makes this city so notable. For contemporary art lovers, galleries such as Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) showcase immersive experiences for all ages. For historical art and literature, don’t miss the Mercantile Library, a serene library located Downtown that honors the history of the city and boasts some of the best views of the skyscrapers and the Ohio River. While walking through Cincinnati’s many neighborhoods, there are breathtaking murals around each corner, making the art alone a top reason to visit.
Picking a place to stay in Cincinnati can be difficult because of all the unique hotels throughout the city and the surrounding neighborhoods that are always worth a visit. For something different, stay at the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, the hotel above the CAC that features a luxury spa. For a more affordable stay, look at Homewood Suites By Hilton Cincinnati Midtown, which is close to the breweries in Oakley and not far from the second oldest zoo in the country, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The lack of humidity and long, sunny days make summer and fall the best times to go. The lush parks outside of Downtown that overlook the city are filled with people enjoying the views of each season.
The Cincinnati Bell Connector, or the city’s streetcar system, is now permanently fare-free. Travel on the 3.6-mile loop to explore The Banks, Downtown, and Over-The-Rhine.
As an index-finger shaped peninsula jutting north from “mainland” Wisconsin, Door County has the distinction of being one of the few places in the country where you can easily enjoy both a sunrise and sunset over water–on the same day and without leaving the county…or traveling very far. This throwback of a vacationland destination pointing upward into Green Bay and Lake Michigan is, at its widest, only 18 miles from shore to shore (two miles wide at its skinniest).
It’s also a unique four-season getaway offering dramatic naturalistic adventures including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the dead of winter, peeping autumn’s colorful leaves while cave kayaking in the fall, and chillaxing during the heat of a summer day on your very own patch of any of the 300 miles of shoreline wrapping around the peninsula.
Whether it’s your 50th or first time here, Door County feels like old times, welcoming and friendly, a place where the sands of time seem to drip a little bit slower from the hourglass; it’s an escape from the grind of your everyday routines. After the last two years we’ve endured, who doesn’t need some of that?
You can go as bougie or down-home with your accommodation choice as you wish here. The sleek and thoroughly Scandinavian Dörr Hotel in Sister Bay is the county’s newest hotel, having opened in May ’21. Like a fancy Ikea you can actually spend the night in, each of the property’s 47 rooms has a balcony and is styled in a fashion that pays homage to the region’s Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian heritage. Just ten miles south in Fish Creek sits the The White Gull Inn, spiritual birthplace of the famed Door County fish boil. In addition to hosting one of the most entertaining dinner parties in America, the Inn offers up rooms and cottages papered in floral patterns, and stocked with canopy beds, dark wood furniture, and cozy fireplaces.
Door Country is at its most delicious in mid-July, when the famous local cherries are ripe for pickin’ and the requisite cherry margaritas are ready for drinkin’. But slices of pie are still being dished out in fall, and fish boil flames are still touching the sky during summer’s shoulder season. An early autumn visit also means occupancy rates (and prices) at area hotels will have begun to drop with the leaves, meaning you can enjoy water sports, hiking trails, and going back in time on this idyllic peninsula sans summertime crowds.
Even if you’re stuffed to the gills after dining on fish boils, fried cheese curds, and half-pound pecan rolls from Grandma’s Swedish Bakery in Ellison Bay, you must get an ice cream cone from Wilson’s in Ephraim, but not only that, you must then get to the bottom of your dessert. Scooping up sweets for locals and visitors alike since 1906, this landmark drops a little surprise into each cone before your Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream and Door Country cherry topping is piled on top. Reaching this extra treat is all part of the local experience.
Fort Wayne's The Landing
The Landing is a one-block neighborhood in the heart of Downtown Fort Wayne and one of the oldest commercial districts in Indiana, home to the city’s first hotel, post office, theater, and railway station, all built in the 19th century. Today, it’s the epicenter of a riverfront revitalization project incorporating public art, shops, a coffee roaster, brewery, and a half dozen new restaurants. There’s a young, new energy and plenty to eat and drink in what’s become Fort Wayne’s new food district. Start your day with a cup of Utopian Coffee, a local roaster dedicated to equity in the coffee supply chain, then choose between Asian, Mexican, or wood-fired pizza for lunch after getting HGTV-level design inspiration for your home at House to Home. Summer weekends are especially busy, with First Fridays live musical performances and regular pop-up vendors.
The Bradley, designed in partnership with Vera Bradley, opened last summer, and the art and décor are as colorful and creative as the entrepreneurial designer’s quilted bags and paisley prints. This is Provenance Hotels’ first hotel in the Midwest, and rooftop bar Birdie’s offers a great birds-eye view of The Landing and downtown Fort Wayne paired with Midwestern favorites like deviled eggs, crispy mac n’ cheese, and pretzel hot dogs.
Visit during summer and pair a canal boat tour or kayak trip with a walk around Promenade Park. The Landing is only a block away from the action-packed riverfront.
You can walk the 5.5 mile Wabash & Erie Canal Towpath Trail that leads to The Landing in Downtown Fort Wayne. The asphalt trail follows the canal route where boats used to be pulled along.
A trip to what Midwesterners call “the U.P.” (short for Upper Peninsula, divided from Lower Michigan by Mackinac Island and where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet) is a step into Ernest Hemingway’s beloved wild and rugged landscape, whether on a hike, mountain bike, Nordic-ski trails, or kayaking in Lake Superior. But fortunately, thanks to Northern Michigan University’s college-cool culture, sweet coffee shops and cutting-edge chefs and microbrewers buffer the remoteness in a town of 20,000 residents where the nearest airport (Sawyer International Airport) has only been flying in passengers since 1999.
Nearby national, state, and county parks are true gems and natural wonders, from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Isle Royale National Park, and Presque Isle Park. Cultural attractions range from touring Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, a cherry-red beacon that dates back to 1853, and its sibling, Marquette Maritime Museum.
You won’t find a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons and that’s precisely the point: Authenticity and individuality thrive here. Steer clear from cookie-cutter, mid-priced chains in favor of the 66-room Landmark Inn downtown, dating back to the 1930s and snug on the waterfront. Next door to NMU, the 39-room Superior Stay Hotel opened in 2020. Check into your own cabin at Rippling River Resort, along the Carp River and at the base of Marquette Mountain. There’s always Airbnb or VRBO–bonus if it’s on the water or near a cross-country ski area or park, of which there are many options.
Opt for when Marquette’s weather is its most extreme—chilly winter (ever stepped into a snowglobe?) or hot summer (temps rarely soar higher than 70° Fahrenheit). Spring can be damp and cool and, outside of early autumn’s colorful foliage, naked trees and dark days come fall. The Northern Lights is a huge draw in March, April, October, and November.
Flights are limited, which every Yooper (term for locals) knows, with the only options to or from Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul (on Delta) or Chicago’s O’Hare (on American). Except for Chicago, consider using that last leg as a road trip for the full U.P. experience.
Often overlooked for the iconic Chicago skyline, Milwaukee blends its bustling beer community with a cultural food and arts scene that showcases the eccentricity of local talent and diversity in the city.
In the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, grab a bite at Tostada by Maranta, the newest food truck run by the Black and Brown-owned Maranta Plant Shop, then shop down the street for clothing, art prints, handmade jewelry, and herbal body products at the Bronzeville Collective. At Zócalo, Milwaukee’s first and only food truck park, eat at any of the 10 small businesses including Mazorca Tacos, Ruby’s Bagels, and Modern Maki sushi-ramen. Opt for indoor dining at Black-owned businesses in the Sherman Phoenix, or hop on an official food tour with Milwaukee Food Tours.
If the foodie and shopping life isn’t for you, get creative at the Milwaukee Art Museum, make candles and drink cocktails at the new Glassnote Candle Bar, or head to The Space MKE for special events of live music, poetry, and other local artistry. Motorcycle aficionados can rejoice at the Harley Davidson Museum and history buffs can appreciate America’s Black Holocaust Museum, making a comeback in 2022. Another new addition is the new 3rd St. Market Hall which is bringing local food and fun games such as shuffleboard and top golf to Downtown. With new openings buzzing, Milwaukee is certainly a city to watch next year and beyond. And yes, it’s always possible to indulge in beer culture at Lakefront Brewery or dabble in distillery delights at Central Standard Crafthouse & Kitchen with a rooftop for extra ambiance that just launched in summer 2021.
The accommodations are as creative yet laid back as the city itself. Boutique hotel lovers will love Dubbel Dutch, Milwaukee’s latest addition to the hotel scene. Dubbel Dutch marries history and modernity in this renovated 1898 double mansion with an English Renaissance flair. A luxury yet vibrantly artsy choice is Saint Kate Arts Hotel, or uncover Milwaukee’s German roots at the Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast. If you want to truly embrace your inner traveler—urban garden glamping, anyone?— Airbnb and VRBO options can be found in many of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods.
Summertime, weekends in particular, is when Milwaukee comes alive with festivals and events. Concertgoers indulge in over 800 musical acts at Summerfest, while culture enthusiasts enjoy Black Arts Fest, Mexican Fiesta, German Fest, Asia Fest, and more. Farmer’s markets such as Shorewood Farmer’s Market and the new Deer District Market pop up throughout the city highlighting farmers, artisans, and more. For outdoor adventurers, choose from more than 50 trails such as the Hank Aaron State Trail or Oak Leaf Trail connecting biking and walking routes towards the Lakefront. But don’t forget to have a beach day at Bradford Beach on the Lakefront too!
A slew of recently developed offerings ushers in a new era for Minnesota’s largest metro, especially in its vaunted food and beverage space. On the riverfront, Minneapolis’ original neighborhood, Owamni by The Sioux Chef has opened to much fanfare as one of the few U.S. eateries solely dedicated to Indigenous cuisine. The Prospect Park neighborhood has bloomed with additions like O’Shaughnessy Distilling Co., an inspiring whiskey operation headed by a former Jameson Master Distiller, and the Market at Malcolm Yards, a diverse food hall featuring multiple locally-owned eateries. Sooki & Mimi, the newest spot from James Beard Award winner Ann Kim, is a welcome addition to Uptown. Downtown, the Dayton’s Project aims to elevate local talent with its forthcoming Minnesota Maker’s Market.
Stalwart cultural institutions like the Guthrie Theater and the contemporary Walker Art Center, with the most extensive urban sculpture garden globally, remain beacons of this creative community, while the 50th anniversary of Twin Cities Pride is set to be the biggest LGBTQIA+ celebration yet.
A milestone for Minneapolis accommodations is happening in 2022, with the debut of the city’s first-ever five-star property, the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences. This luxury experience is set to open in the summer. Another upscale offering is the four-star favorite Hewing Hotel, located in the North Loop, a.k.a. the hip, converted warehouse district; be sure to schedule some sauna time at this Nordic-inspired haunt. Plus, don’t miss the new-ish Rand Tower Hotel, an Art Deco dream complete with a rooftop restaurant and an approachable mid-level price point. Tons of Airbnb and VRBO rentals round out the Minneapolis overnight options, sure to welcome travelers with pets, families, and more.
Although summertime best shows off the City of Lakes’ abundant natural beauty, it’s unsurprisingly high tourism season so crowds can be a factor. Fall is another lovely time of year, as the leaf-peeping in and around Minnesota’s largest city offers an alternative to New England’s autumnal reign. Lower prices and a hardy Scandi spirit make winter an option as well, while spring awakens the metro with the return of America’s pastime (and rising temps).
Don’t be intimidated by a winter trip—Minnesotans embrace both hygge and outdoor recreation during the colder months. Think snowshoeing in a city park followed by spiked hot cocoa. Hotel prices are far lower in this quieter season, and special programming like festivals helps The Cities shine in the wintertime.