For many Chicagoans, summer travel isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. As the days grow longer and the temperatures climb, people get the urge to move. They just need to be pointed in the right direction.
That’s where Chicago comes in. Here are more than a dozen destinations, all accessible by car and, in some instances, by plane (there’s even a leisurely Great Lakes cruise). We introduce you to some of the region’s plushest resorts, hotels, and B&B’s, as well as to the plum restaurants, cultural attractions, and recreational activities nearby-inland treasures all. So this year, when summer beckons, you’ll know exactly which road to follow. Photography by Matthew Gilson
Key to Summer
Where To Stay
Things To Do
How To Get There
Greencrest Manor Battle Creek, Michigan
Built for the family of George R. Burt, the son of a Michigan lumber baron, Greencrest Manor might be a chateau in Normandy rather than an elegant B&B overlooking the rolling meadows that lead down to St. Mary’s Lake. Of the eight rooms, six have private baths, and one-the VIP Suite-also has a double whirlpool and a fireplace. Rooms start at $95 and include breakfast in the dining room (6174 Halbert Rd.; 269-962-8633).
The Columbus The Great Lakes
The largest ship on the Great Lakes, which it has visited almost annually since its 1997 launch, the 472-foot-long Columbus offers its passengers an opportunity to explore several big cities (Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago), to marvel at a variety of manmade wonders (including the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal), and to revel in the natural beauty along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior, Ontario, Erie, and Huron.
What’s more, as you cruise the Midwest’s inland seas, your hotel room travels along with you, eliminating the need to pack and unpack as you move from place to place. Owned by the German company Hapag-Lloyd Cruises-the cruises attract Americans and Germans alike and are fully bilingual-the Columbus has 197 cabins (140 with outside views) and eight suites, in addition to a swimming pool, a fitness center, a sauna and hair salon, bars and a dance lounge, and several different dining options. The ship also offers live entertainment, sports activities, and lectures (both offshore and on), as well as opportunities to visit such destinations as Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Toronto’s sky-high CN Tower, and the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit ( more about Cleveland and Toronto). The Columbus plies international waters for much of the year, returning to the Great Lakes only in early fall-but the time to book a cruise is now. There are three options (and the exact itinerary can vary slightly from cruise to cruise): sail from Toronto to Chicago, September 20th to 30th (starting at $2,139 per person); sail from and return to Chicago, September 30th to October 11th (starting at $2,352 per person); or sail from Chicago to Toronto, October 11th to 21st (starting at $2,210 per person). Airfare to or from Toronto is additional.
A former Chicago TV weatherman who spent parts of his boyhood fishing on Lake Wahdoon, Dan Dobrowolski returned to Wisconsin’s Indianhead region in the early 1990s to open Canoe Bay, the magnificently well appointed resort that is the only Midwestern entry in Relais & Châteaux’s prestigious international lineup of lodgings and restaurants. With his wife, Lisa, Dobrowolski bought the 280-acre property (which had been a Seventh-Day Adventist camp from 1964 to 1979) and reinvented it as a solitary, high-end getaway. Each of the buildings reflects the Prairie-style influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, especially the Rattenbury cottage and the Edgewood house, which were designed by Wright’s protégé John Rattenbury. Other lodging options include guest rooms in the Lodge (where there is also a fitness center and a large library) and a variety of stand-alone cottages, some with private saunas. A two-person whirlpool, a fireplace, a private bath and deck, a mini-fridge, a TV, and DVD and CD players are standard for each unit. Rates range from $325 to $1,800 (for the 2,000-square-foot Edgewood) per night, with a two-day minimum on weekends. Neither children nor pets (nor smoking) are allowed (W16065 Hogsback Rd.; 715-924-4594).
The American Club Kohler, Wisconsin
One of the Midwest’s most luxurious resorts-it possesses a coveted five-diamond rating from the American Automobile Association-The American Club outside Sheboygan had its origins in 1918 as housing for immigrant workers who made toilets and other bathroom fixtures. Today this posh palace clearly caters to a tonier crowd, with weekend rooms for two starting at $323 a night and soaring to $1,152 for the presidential suite (419 Highland Dr.; 920-457-8000).