Midwestern Getaways Your Southern Girlfriends Will Love
Deadwood, South Dakota
Frontierswoman Calamity Jane first rolled into Deadwood in 1876 with some of her friends, and women have been heading there to recharge ever since. The town has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and there’s so much to do: gambling girls can enjoy testing their luck at Gold Dust Casino & Hotel and the active crew can hit The Mickelson Trail via bike, horseback, or foot under the watch of spruce and ponderosa pine forests.
For more information, visit deadwood.com.
It's not a stretch to call Columbus the "Nashville of the Midwest." Beyond a vibrant songwriting community (catch rising stars at Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza), you'll see live acts at many restaurants, jazz clubs, and various venues around town. Musicians also dot the street during Gallery Hop, a monthly tradition of celebrating art after hours in the Short North Arts District. For lodging, swap Music City's trendy Germantown for low-key German Village. There, you can stay at German Village Guest House in the heart of this district where brick-lined blocks hug historic buildings. The girls can take a floral crown or bouquet class at newly opened Flowers & Bread which combines both of those favorites fresh from the soil and oven, respectively—plus coffee—under one roof. We'd be remiss if we didn't send you to Katalina's, a hybrid of Southern and Latin food, where the Nutella-filled pancake balls will convince you to book your encore trip.
For more information, visit experiencecolumbus.com.
The inviting mid-1800s downtown, which runs parallel to the St.Croix River (read:sunset booze cruise), has more than 70 stores pedaling crafting supplies, antiques, home decor, spices, candy, and more. Take Stillwater by foot with a guided food tour or throw on apron and cook up a storm during a hands-on class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. Take a knitting or crocheting lesson at Darn Knit Anyways, and don’t miss the homemade turtle fudge at Tremblay's Sweet Shop. For lodging, snag a block of rooms at The Lowell Inn, which was founded in 1927, and is on the National Historic Register.
For more information, visit discoverstillwater.com.
Door County, Wisconsin
Dangle your Southern toes over the crystal waters of Sturgeon Bay as the crew gathers at this lively vacation spot. In addition to a wealth of waterfront activities, a fan-favorite in "The Door" is cherry picking, since the climate and soil here are as good as it gets. Speaking of the fruit, you'll never forget a Cherry Train Tour on Washington Island, a year-round island with a quirky culture and traditions ranging from fish boils to literary festivals. Book a stay at Ridges Inn in the town of Baileys Harbor and grab a drink at former general store and butcher shop, The Blue Ox. For an unforgettable excursion, rent bikes or mopeds from Edge of Park and cruise over the gravel on the (relatively flat) Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park.
For more information, visit doorcounty.com.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Time has a way of slowing down amidst the ten acres of grapevines at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery. Let afternoon tastings linger into dinner over a few wood-fired Three Little Pigs and Truffled Mushrooms pizzas. Catch a show at the splendid Paramount Theatre—upcoming acts include The Avett Brothers and comic Rodney Carrington. If your travels take you to Palisades-Kepler State Park consider booking a cabin or two (each hold four) where the group can cook supper together after a day on the trails. If connecting with nature isn't your thing, try the Belmont Hill Victorian Bed & Breakfast reminiscent of a grand 19th-century estate you'd spot in Charleston. Meet y'all at the farmers market!
For more information, visit gocedarrapids.com.
Petoskey area, Michigan
Natural beauty is at every turn in a motley collection of Great Lake State resort towns, including Boyne City, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Bay Harbor dotting Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. If you love a good Main Street, head to Boyne, which is also the perfect excuse for booking a spa treatment at Boyne Mountain Resort. Don't miss the Victorian architecture, the Historic Gaslight District, and the scenic water views in Petoskey proper. To stay a stone throw's away from it all, check into Stafford's Perry Hotel. For our favorite group excursion for the gals, venture on the Ernest Hemingway's trail. Sure, it's no Key West, but the writer had a summer house on Walloon Lake and there's a lot of fascinating history to unearth.
For more information, visit michigan.org/city/petoskey-area.
You may be more familiar with Southern stretches of the Mississippi River, but Winona gives travelers plenty of reasons to explore its Northern bluffs. Snap a group picture at Garvin Heights Overlook while the dirt on your hiking boots is still fresh. For lunch, enjoy a spread on one of the picnic tables or stay at ground level and enjoy an old-fashioned meal at Lakeview Drive Inn, where the root beer is served in an old-fashioned frosted mug. For a city of around 27,000, Winona's Minnesota Marine Art Museum well exceeds expectations with waterway-themed paintings from Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, and others. For a midday pick-me-up, it's hard to outdo a fresh doughnut at Bloedows (we recommend the Bavarian Cream-filled pastry). And for a solid night's rest, you can't beat the Alexander Mansion B&B, which dates back to the 1880s, and may very well inspire some Victorian-style renovations at your own home.
For more information, visit visitwinona.com.
On June 22nd, 1945, Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene." After visiting this welcoming small town, you’ll see why. If you can time it, visit during the twice yearly (April and October) Reitz & Rust Vintage Market. There, you can scout over 200 vendors selling antiques and art, as well as tour quirky vintage campers during the Vintage Camper Show. If you can’t schedule your trip around market-time, there is still plenty of antiquing to do (Abilene is home to more than 150 antique shops). Other local favorite to-dos include the Abilene and Smoky Valley dinner train (arrive early to see the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum) or dine at Three One One, called the “Key West of the Midwest”, which serves hits like mahi mahi tacos and yes, wonderful key lime pie. Another evening, book a table at Brookville Hotel for their famed family-style fried chicken dinners rounded out by baking powder biscuits and sweet-and-sour slaw. Come bedtime, get comfortable at Engle House Bed and Breakfast, a restored home from 1910.
For more information, visit AbileneKansas.org.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Enjoy a slower pace on this Lake Huron oasis, where you can only get around on foot, bike, or horse and buggy. For group getaways, consider timing your travels around the annual Lilac Festival, which runs every June for 10 days. In addition to wine tastings, live concerts, a 10k race, and giant parade, you can also wacth the coronation of the Lilac Queen and Court, much like San Antonio's famed Fiesta. Don't skip town without paying a visit to Fort Mackinac, an 18th century fortress on the bluff, which offers regular tours and exhibits. For our absolute favorite way to spend an evening, relax on an Adirondack chair and savor the sunset at Mission Point, an 18-acre resort. For larger groups craving more privacy, consider their pet-friendly Straits Lodge, which is also located closer to town.
For more information, visit mackinacisland.org.
Oak Park, Illinois
You'd never guess you were only 10 miles outside of downtown Chicago in this town brimming with architectural marvels, independently-owned shops, and small-town hospitality. Check out the world's largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, and then scope out Unity Temple, one of his recently restored works. While in town, bookworms should definitely plan a visit to Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace and Museum, a marvelously maintained Victorian home where the novelist was born. Meanwhile, green thumbs should consider a trip to the Oak Park Conservatory to delight in a vast assortment of flora and fauna. Everybody will enjoy a meal at Citrine for Mediterranean-inspired bites and $6 cosmos and martinis on Wednesdays for Ladies Night. Southerners will also feel right at home at The Carleton of Oak Park, where orders of crab cakes and gumbo fly out of the kitchen at Poor Phil's.
For more information, visit visitoakpark.com.
Rapid City, South Dakota
There's more to the Rapid City and Black Hills area than checking Mount Rushmore off of your bucket list, though you can certainly do that, too. Kick off quality time with a festive dinner at kōl, where you can watch your food being made in a 10,000 pound coal-fired oven. For a night cap, we're torn between Blind Lion, a basement speakeasy inspired by the roaring 20s and Vertex Sky Bar, an elegant rooftop bar at the recently renovated Hotel Alex Johnson. The next day, hit the rolling prairies and take in the views at Custer State Park via an open-air Buffalo Jeep Tour. End your trip with your best girls by your side and 7,500 stars above at Badlands National Park for a stargazing session.
For more information, visit visitrapidcity.com.
Snow lovers will enjoy this easygoing Northwestern town in the Badger State. In the winter, set your sights and skis on the Birkie Trail, a 62-mile path that weaves you through breathtaking forests. In the fall, swap skis and snowshoes for mountain bikes or sneakers as you take in the foliage. There are plenty of great camping spots in Hayward, or for a wilderness-lite experience, reserve a few rooms at LCO Casino, Lodge and Convention Center. Wherever you stay, enjoy a taste of home at Old Southern BBQ, with some of the most glorious ribs North of the Mason-Dixon.
For more information, visit haywardlakes.com.
If you're in Indy on a Sunday during football season, you're tailgating. Start by wandering down Georgia Street—even if you don't have a ticket to catch the Colts, it's always a can't-miss party. Afterwards, head to Slippery Noodle Inn, a historic venue with live jazz and blues nightly. Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, you'll want to head to the back bar for the best people watching and dancing. There's no finer way to recover from a spirited evening than sitting on the patio at Gallery Pastry Shop with hot chocolate and macaroons. Rest up in the Broad Ripple neighborhood (it's only 10 minutes North of downtown) at Hotel Broad Ripple. They frequently host movie nights in the backyard and have a cozy wine bar / living room downstairs perfect for reliving memories from yesteryear with old pals.
For more information, visit visitindy.com.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
That time your crew went ice skating, hopped aboard a Christmas train, and caught a magic and illusion show all in the same day? Safe to say you'll be talking about it for years to come. In this friendly resort town you could also easily spend a few days never leaving your hotel. Try the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa where a three bedroom villa with fireplace is perfect for lounging. When you're ready to toast your bond of friendship "off campus," journey to Apple Barn Orchard & Winery, an open orchard and farm where you can pick your own strawberries, apples and pumpkins seasonally.
For more information, visit visitlakegeneva.com.
First stop: Get your sugar rush at Butt Drugs, a charming old-fashioned pharmacy with soda fountain. Explore Harrison County's wonderful wineries, with a country backdrop that rivals the best of Southern wedding dreams. Count sheep at Kintner House Inn (if you're squeezing in last-minute girlfriends, one roll-away bed or cot is free), ideally situated in the downtown area. If you dare to venture below street-level, take a tour with Indiana Caverns of Indiana's longest cave. When you resurface, gather your spelunkers for tea and scones at the Darling Old Capitol Tea Room. P.S. It's no surprise that Corydon will remind you of the South, it's only a half an hour outside of Louisville.
For more information, visit thisisindiana.org.