Such as Duluth. Yes, it’s slightly off the beaten path. But they have some wonderful parks, pleasant weather and maritime museums (it remains an active port). They have a passenger train that will haul you along the shoreline of Lake Superior. If you’re in the mood to walk, instead, you can hike to your heart’s content 310 miles from just south of town to the Canadian border along the Superior Hiking Trail. Be mindful of bears, even in town – last fall one spent an entire day climbing trees next to the downtown Radisson hotel.
Staying with the Great Lakes theme, you can spend an entire summer alongside Lake Michigan in Milwaukee celebrating the many immigrant groups that have come to make up this city. Lakeside parks host fests for Poles, Mexicans, Germans, Scots, Italians, African Americans, etc. Conveniently filling in weekends when there is no migrant festival are a slew of beer fests in a city that is, after all, all about beer.
Tired of lakeside beer and brats? Head into the lake itself, for fishing charters to chase down brown trout and salmon. License will be included with your charter fee.
If you want to look down on water rather than splash about in it, try St. Louis and the St. Louis Gateway Arch, overlooking the Mississippi River from an observation deck open to one and all if you don’t mind riding 630 feet into the air in a tiny elevator.
A westward glance from the Arch will show you the stadium for the storied Cardinals baseball team, always a fun way to spend an afternoon. Beyond that are two great, world-class attractions – a zoo that rivals San Diego and the Missouri Botanical Garden, which has been showing off flora and fauna since 1859. And there is some great food to be had in St. Louis – try “The Hill” neighborhood for down-home Italian fare.
Busting out of the Midwest, check out Portland, Ore. Here, you can soak in vistas of the Cascade Mountains and Willamette and Columbia rivers astride a bicycle as the city is honeycombed with biking paths (ranging from blocks in length to 51 miles). There is a strong farm-to-table movement here, so you can easily indulge your locavore habits. At the end of the day – or earlier, why wait? - you can sip wine at one of the hundreds of wineries that dot the Willamette Valley, starting on the southern outskirts of town. Some of the country’s top pinot noir and pino gris come from here.
You also can taste some decent local wines in Amarillo, Texas. Honest. They come from an area called the Llano Estacado, and could make for a perfect pairing to giant Texas T-bones they like to charbroil around here. Before dinner, check out the quirky Cadillac Ranch on the western edge of Amarillo – the one that showcases all those old huge-finned Cadillacs buried nose first into west Texas dirt.
The Cadillac Ranch sits alongside the historic U.S. 66. In the city itself lies the U.S. Route 66-Sixth Street Historic District, now featuring no end of shops and old time filling stations to remind you of the early days of motoring.
Speaking of motoring, drive south of town a bit to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. There is a scenic highway that winds mile after mile through the second-largest canyon in the United States. Though not nearly as famed as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, here you can actually drive though it and in spots look upward 800 feet in spots.
Over your own glass of wine, or beer or coffee, pull out an atlas and map out directions to one of these safe trips. Or let your fingers do the walking on the map and search out your own summertime destination.