Forgot to plan a great escape for the upcoming holiday weekend? Pack the car for a road trip to one of these four destinations that hardly feel like a last-minute idea, presented here in order from farthest away from the city to staycationing in Chicago. Tip: Call today to snag a room at the hotels mentioned, which at post time all had availability.

1. Food fest in Traverse City, Michigan

Drive along Michigan’s sunny west coast and, in less than five hours, you’ll reach Traverse City, the fun-packed town wrapped around Grand Traverse Bay. The reason to go: the three-day Taste of Traverse City from August 29 to 31 (tickets from $45), with culinary events ranging from a downtown grub crawl to winery tastings.
Where to stay: The 900-acre Grand Traverse Resort and Spa (from $269 plus a $14.95 nightly resort fee) is the venue for the festival’s Saturday events, including a masked Dining in the Dark experience and a White House dinner hosted by former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib.

2. Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

At the Milwaukee Art Museum, catch the final weekend of Kandinsky: A Retrospective, a major exhibition featuring paintings and other works by the Russian abstract artist from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. For objects of another kind, cruise to the Harley Davidson Museum and check out its Custom Bike Show. Order a burger at Sobelman’s Pub & Grill or, what the hell, the 80-ounce, “chicken fried” Bloody Mary topped with a whole fried chicken ($50).
Where to stay: Nearby, the historic Pfister Hotel (from $199) is another showcase for art: The work of sculptor Niki Johnson, Pfister’s artist-in-residence, depicts fairytale heroines cast in small porcelain bathtubs.

3. Cheese in Arthur, Illinois

The family-friendly Amish Country Cheese Festival awaits in Arthur, Illinois, about a three-hour drive south of Chicago. Match cheese galore—samples of the creamy dairy stuff, a “Big Cheese Parade,” and a cheese eating competition—with a visit and a meal at a working Amish farm, and shopping at custom Amish furniture stores like The Woodloft.
Where to stay: Check into the simple 18-room Arthur Country Inn (from $74), recently remodelled with locally made Amish furnishings.

4. The lakefront in downtown Chicago

The city’s official beach season ends on September 2, so squeeze out that last bit of sunscreen and hit the shore. For a splurge, stay at the Thompson Chicago and book the hotel’s new Beach Butler service for a full-service day at Oak Street Beach. Butlers go early to secure a spot; set it up with water, sunscreen, towels, beach chairs, and an umbrella; transport you when you’re ready; and, for an extra cost, serve you a picnic lunch from Nico Osteria. The Chicago Jazz Festival takes over Millennium Park from Friday through Sunday, so pack a blanket and soak up some free culture with a view of the lake.
Where to stay: The 247-room Thompson Chicago still has rooms for a Friday or Sunday night stay from $219 (Saturdays available only in a suite from $859).

Travel News

Now Is the Best Time to Book Thanksgiving Air

According to a survey by the travel site Hipmunk, you’ll find the best deals on Thanksgiving airfare by booking before Labor Day; tickets for the holiday weekend sell for an average of $424 when bought before September. “That's a savings of about $140 over last-minute fares that Hipmunk says could hit an average of $561,” writes editor Paul Brady. Read more at Condé Nast Traveler.

It’s Also a Great Time to Score Early Bird Ski Deals

Winter is coming. Face the inevitable and book your ski trip now to save. Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort has one of the best deals for both lodging and air. Save 25 percent on lodging reservations booked by September 15, 2014, and 20 percent on lodging booked by October 15, 2014. For reservations booked by October 15, the resort will give an airline credit from $100 to $400 per ticket into Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC). The exact airfare savings amount is based on the month you travel (January is best with a $300 credit) and the date you arrive (Mondays and Tuesdays give you an additional $100 credit).

Indy’s Survival Guru Stars in Fat Guys in the Woods

Survival expert and Indiana resident Creek Stewart is the host of the Weather Channel’s new reality show, which premiered earlier this month. In Fat Guys in the Woods, Stewart escorts average Joes into the woods and teaches them how to live there. Stewart is also the owner of Willow Haven Outdoor, a wilderness survival school just outside of Indianapolis and a favorite Chicago summer escape. Catch Fat Guys in the Woods on the Weather Channel, Sundays at 9 p.m.

Get Your Celebrity Luggage Here in Chicago

Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Iggy Azalea got theirs yesterday in their celebrity gift bag at the MTV Video Music Awards. Now coveting the lightweight nylon luggage from Lipault of Paris? Check out the colorful bags at the brand’s online store or in Chicago at Flight 001 (1133 N. State St.), That’s Our Bag (38 S. Michigan Ave.), and Kaehler.