I’m a Midwest girl through and through. I was born, raised and educated in the heartland, and now I live in Minneapolis. If it’s one thing that Midwesterners know how to do, myself included, it’s enjoy the outdoors as much as possible during the few months it’s nice enough to be outdoors. And, in my experiences living and road tripping around the Midwest, I’ve developed a repertoire of favorite summer places in various cities.
I grew up visiting family in the Chicago suburbs and started taking the train in on my own as a teenager. The Windy City is very near and dear to my heart, and nothing beats summer afternoons on Oak Street Beach, impromptu picnics in Millennium Park, Wrigleyville bar-hopping before and after Cubs games or the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. I have yet to try the infamous Rainbow Cone, but I’ve stuffed myself silly with every other notorious Chicago food, especially pizza. Lou, Uno, Gino, I love you all.
Summer in Milwaukee is one continuous party, as one festival turns into another, including Irish Fest, Indian Summer Festival, Riversplash! and one of the world’s largest music festivals, Summerfest. I particularly enjoy strolling along Lake Michigan and spending an afternoon cooling down inside the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by one of my favorite architects, Santiago Calatrava.
Madison is gorgeous in the summer. I especially love strolling along State Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare that runs from the University of Wisconsin to the Capitol, and popping into the many independent shops. Locavores will love the Dane County Farmers Market, one of the best in the country. And when I was a kid, every family trip included a visit to Ella’s Deli for Blue Moon ice cream and a spin on the 1920s carousel.
When I lived in Missouri, I was a regular on the patio at Flat Branch in Columbia for a nightly dose of their own Honey Wheat beer and chokes & cheese dip. In St. Louis, the City Museum is fabulous for the young and the young at heart. For a super-spooky experience, go after 10 p.m. on Friday or Saturday night when the museum dims the lights—bring a flashlight!
Now that I live in Minneapolis, I have another city’s greener areas to explore—and there a lot of them in the Twin Cities. One of my favorite activities is running downtown along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and stopping for a breather on the scenic Stone Arch Bridge (pictured above). I haven’t found my favorite patio yet to sip or snack, but the frontrunners so far are Tuggs Tavern on the Mississippi for the relaxed, backyard barbecue feel and Stella’s Fish Café for its great views of the Minneapolis skyline. Suggestions are welcome, Minneapolis readers!
My Midwest summer adventures continue this month with a trip to Des Moines. I’ve driven through the city on I-35 plenty of times, but it has never crossed my mind that there may be something worth stopping for. My colleague, Jason, assured us all this past January that Des Moines is fabulous in his blog post. I’m looking forward to discovering a new patio bar or a scenic running path!
Photo courtesy of Meet Minneapolis