The ideal staycation lets you conveniently experience the joy of getting away for less cost and less hassle. None of that means you have to skimp on luxury. In the Midwest in particular, you don't have to travel far to be pampered in a first-class hotel, served a gourmet meal, and amazed by world famous attractions. From a culturally diverse metropolis to a romantic island getaway, Midwesterners have plenty of options in their own backyards. For your next trip, gas up with a travel card, and hit the road to one of these Midwestern cities for the ultimate luxury staycation.
Whatever your preference, city or nature, there is much more to explore. You can plan the perfect family trip or romantic weekend.
Although nicknamed the Second City, Chicago certainly takes a backseat to no other city in the Midwest. It is home to iconic architecture, renowned museums, and an acclaimed culinary scene on par with any city in the country. As you can expect from a major city, it has a plethora of travel options to suit anyone's taste and budget.
For a unique experience downtown, stay at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. This former men's club has a lot of history but has been fully modernized. It offers some of the best views of the city and is centrally located to many of the city's most popular attractions. Cruise through nearby Millennium Park or get your cultural fix at the Art Institute of Chicago. If you have a few dollars to burn, take a short cab ride to the shopping mecca that is the Magnificent Mile.
What makes Chicago truly great is its diverse neighborhoods. The Guesthouse Hotel on the North Side in Andersonville, for example, offers spacious suites that make you feel as if you're at home in your own apartment. No matter what your poison, you'll find it within walking distance, such as the huge craft beer menu at Hopleaf or Lady Gregory's novella size whiskey list.
Home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison is one of the premier college towns in the Midwest. It is also one of the most beautiful, with a lot of green space, which makes it a great staycation spot for families. Sandwiched between two large lakes, Madison is practically a beach town in the summer. There are 13 different beaches to choose from.
If you have kids in tow, don't miss the Henry Vilas Zoo, which spans 30 acres and features a wide variety of animals. Best of all, admission is free for everyone, so you can save money. If you would prefer something indoors, visit the Madison Children's Museum. This hands-on museum is the perfect place to learn and burn off energy. With an entrance fee of only around $7, it's certainly worth it.
If the great outdoors is your thing, check out the Mackenzie Center, a 250-acre nature center just north of the city. It's nature trails take you through an array of habitats, from prairie to forest land.
For a tasty treat at the end of the day, head to Ella's Deli. This local shop boasts a large selection of ice cream flavors that are made in-house. The colorful inside is filled wall to wall with vintage toys, animatronic figures and other fun, kitschy decorations. It also has a full-size carousel.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Rising out of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet, is Mackinac Island. To reach the island, visitors can take a ferry, which offers sweeping views of the 26,372-foot-long Mackinac Bridge connecting Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. You can also hop aboard a small plane and get there by air.
Arriving on Mackinac can feel a little like being transported back in time. Automobiles are prohibited on the island. Instead of cars, the roads are busy with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles. The main town features fine dining, a vibrant nightlife with live music, plenty of unique shops and hotels, including the famous Grand Hotel, which boasts the world's longest porch. The island is also populated by various resorts tucked away in the hills and woods and can reached by horse-drawn shuttles.
The island is an outdoor-lover's paradise. It is surrounded by pristine blue waters and covered by tall, dense trees. You can explore the island on foot on one of its man hiking trails or bike around its several paved roads. With its quaint village area and undisturbed landscape, Mackinac Island is the perfect staycation destination that refreshingly feels as if you're traveling to a whole different country.
The Buckeye State's capital is a hotbed for cool and interesting staycation ideas, especially for families.
Explore the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens only a couple miles from downtown Columbus. In addition to its botanical biomes and sprawling gardens, it features year-round art exhibitions.
Speaking of art, kids can get into the Columbus Museum of Art for less than $10. Admission is free for children under four. The museum's collection includes works by iconic artists, such as Normal Rockwell and Henri Matisse. Events and programs throughout the year include kid-friendly workshops, food tastings, classical music, and even yoga.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library is constantly hosting free activities for families. Visit around Christmas time to see the Huntington Holiday Train, a large model train display with working tracks, tunnels, bridges, a castle, and even a waterfall.
Of course, a staycation in Columbus wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium – home to 10,000 animals. In the spirit of its director, Jack Hanna, the zoo provides a fun yet highly educational experience for both kids and adults alike.
Ultimately, these are just some of the various things to do when on a staycation in these Midwestern cities. Whatever your preference, city or nature, there is much more to explore. You can plan the perfect family trip or romantic weekend. Your hometown may be more exotic than you realize. Best of all, many popular attractions are available for free or low cost. That way, you can have a truly luxurious staycation. When you're thinking of a fulfilling vacation but on a budget, look no further than the Midwest.