Soaring skyscrapers and roaring motorbikes, the US’s largest shopping and entertainment centre and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the home of Abraham Lincoln, America’s most-famous president, and the music of Motown – they’re just some of the great attractions the Great Lakes states have to offer.
Minnesota may be the Land of 10,000 Lakes but to many Brits it’s better known as the home of the Mall of America, which, with more than 500 stores (including a massive Lego shop), Nickelodeon Universe theme park and Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium, is the largest shopping and entertainment centre in the US. The state’s water parks, zoos and amusement parks focus on family fun but there are also excellent art, history and science museums, while more and more wineries and breweries are open for tours and tastings.
In Illinois, no visitor can fail to be impressed by Chicago’s stunning skyscrapers. Soar to the skies at the Skywalk, the open-air platform on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Observatory, or The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, which is 1,353 feet and 103 floors up the Willis Tower – and extends 4.3 feet outside the building! Back on the ground, the terrific architectural river cruise gives another view of the city.
Farther afield, in the state capital, Springfield, there is the largest collection of authentic Abraham Lincoln historic sites in the world, from the award-winning Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to his home, where he lived from 1844 to 1861.
In Indiana, the spirit of America’s West comes alive at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, where past diverse exhibitions have included both the histories of pistols and motorcycles in Indianapolis. Head out of the city to Lake Michigan and take a hike up the Indiana Dunes along the National Lakeshore to complete the 3 Dune Challenge. Indiana varies greatly from the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan to the rolling hills in southern Indiana and the lush farmland in between. Between those borders lie areas both urban and rural, with plenty to do from amusement parks and hiking to wine trails and nightlife.
The Beatles, on the other hand, are one of the main features in a permanent exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
The state can lay claim to two No 1 attractions – the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, north of Columbus, the state capital, which was named America’s top zoo (it has almost 9,000 animals) by the USA Travel Guide in 2009, and the Columbus’s Center of Science and Industry, which, with 300 interactive exhibits, was voted the No 1 science centre by Parents Magazine.
And Cedar Point theme park in Sandusky, overlooking Lake Erie, is reckoned to have the most roller-coasters and thrill rides of any park in the world. Its 2014 new attraction is the Pipe Scream ride.
Detroit in Michigan may be best known for its traditional links with the car industry but, from 1959 to 1972, it was the home of Motown Records. The Motown Museum in the Hitsville USA building, that original home, traces the record label’s remarkable story. Another fascinating Michigan attraction, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, combines an exhibit on the history of the car, a village with recreated historic districts, a factory tour of a working Ford assembly line, and 3D films.
You won’t find any cars, however, on Mackinac Island, where transportation is limited to horse-and-buggy, bicycle or foot to maintain the island’s Victorian ambience. Contrast that with the roar of motorbikes at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which includes a bike that belonged to Elvis Presley in its 400-strong collection. Elvis ‘features’, too, at the Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, where the wooden Zippin Pippin ride, moved from its former home in Memphis, was his favourite roller-coaster.
But if that’s all too much for you, why not take time out for rejuvenation? Wisconsin has some of the nation’s best health spas, such as Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, or Osthoff Resort’s Aspira Spa at Elkhart Lake.