Midwest

Plant Yourself in Madison Without Pruning your Savings

Posted September 10, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Madison Madison holds its place as one of the greener cities in the U.S. by preserving 6,000 acres of parkland and offering nearly 100 miles of bike trails. Best of all, you don't have to touch your life savings to experience the "eco" side of the city. You can take a class on sustainable home gardening, dine at a restaurant serving home-grown organic comfort foods, and rest easy in an eco-minded hotel that caters to outdoor lovers.

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Olbrich Botanical Gardens: Olbrich is more than just a pretty flower garden. Its events lineup features a lecture series on sustainability topics such as eco-friendly garden design, perennial grasses, and using rain water to efficiently water your garden. The gardens are free to explore, and most classes cost between $12 and $15.

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Harvest Restaurant: Designated as one of Gourmet Magazine's top farm-to-table restaurants, Harvest serves fresh food for every season. Tami Lax is not only the owner, but also the founder of the Madison Slow Food chapter. Using organic and local ingredients, the restaurant features a range of simple yet inventive dishes such as porcini-salt-rubbed Angus tenderloin or local grass-fed beef steak. Menus change with the seasons, and entrees cost between $18 and $42.

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Arbor House: A former tavern and stagecoach stop dating back to 1853, the Arbor House has come a long way, winning several awards for its eco-friendly practices. Each of the eight rooms comes equipped with organic mattresses, energy-efficient lights, and water-saving appliances. The hotel also provides complimentary mountain bikes for daily activities. Rates start at $110 per night.

To search for flights and compare prices to Madison, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/ Borislav Yankov)

Find Affordable Family Fun in Indianapolis

Posted August 30, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Indianapolis With a museum devoted to education through entertainment, a hotel with a built-in water park, and a restaurant that serves breakfast all day, Indianapolis is the perfect place for a family getaway that won't break the piggy bank.

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The Children's Museum: With 11 galleries displaying exhibits and "hands-on" learning stations, a visit to the Children's Museum is an outing the whole family can enjoy. Here, kids get to walk in the land of dinosaurs, travel through space, become a mad scientist, and hear tales of other inspirational children. Adults will be amazed by the permanent display of Dale Chihuly's 43-foot tall blown-glass tower sculpture. Tickets cost $15.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids, but admission is free for families the first Thursday of every month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Stay
Holiday Inn North: Now, families can literally play and stay under one roof at Holiday Inn. Adults and kids delight in Caribbean Cove, a 50,000 square-foot indoor water park attached to the hotel. The Children's Museum also offers a package deal that includes one night's stay at the Holiday Inn, four tickets to the museum, and admission to the park starting at $189.

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Cafe Patachou: Ever since it whipped its first eggs into an omelet, locals have equated Cafe Patachou with fresh and savory breakfasts. Now, with four locations in the city to choose from, you can snack on morning items—including the daily free-range omelet and the cafe's homemade granola—all day long. The restaurant also serves a range of sandwiches and salads. Breakfast items start at $4.50.

To search for flights and compare prices to Indianapolis, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Indy.org)

Great finds in Minneapolis/St. Paul

Posted March 17, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Minneapolis You've gotta love a city with a sense of humor. When you're as metropolitan as Minneapolis/St. Paul, you could easily put on cosmopolitan airs. But that's not the case here. The Twin Cities deliver whimsical twists at every turn. Eat organic at a bowling alley, find kitschy home decor, and take in a show in one of the city's renowned theaters.

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Bryant-Lake Bowl
: This hip retro-style bowling alley, restaurant, bar, and live theater venue in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood is a Minnesota institution. You'd never expect locally sourced organic menu items or a wine-and-beer list this good at a bowling alley. BLB is packed on weekends, but absolutely worth the wait. Try the bison hash ($9) or beans-and-guacamole breakfast burrito with jalapeno fries ($7.25). Monday is Cheap Date Night, when you get two special entrees, a bottle of wine, and a round of bowling for $28.

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Patina
: Featured in oodles of national and local magazines, Patina defines Minneapolis style. Take one look at the unbelievably affordable handbags and jewelry at one of the six locations in the Twin Cities, and you can't help but say "cute!" in a must-have kind of way. Beware of getting sidetracked: The store also brims with fun gadgets, games, and kitschy home decor.

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Guthrie Theater
: With more theater seats per capita than any other U.S. city outside New York, you're bound to find a play or musical that suits your tastes. Drop in at the Guthrie Theater, where plays from Shakespeare to modern classics are held on the three stages. After the show, you can take in the fantastic views of the Mississippi from the Guthrie's Endless Bridge, a cantilevered lobby that extends more than half a block from the building.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Minneapolis/St. Paul from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Photo: iStockphoto)

Nordic Fun in Grand Marais, Minnesota

Posted March 15, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Grand Marais Pull out that wool sweater you got last Christmas. The Grand Marais wild is calling, and it's not easily offended by knitted reindeer patterns. On the shores of Lake Superior, Grand Marais sits at the doorstep of Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Bundle up for Nordic adventures that will rosy your cheeks and give you chance encounters with wildlife. Stay in a woodsy lodge, explore the outdoors on skis or snowshoes, and warm up at a local java shop.

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Gunflint Lodge
: When Gunflint Lake ices over and snow covers evergreen branches, Gunflint Lodge looks like a classic North Woods postcard scene. Wood-burning fireplaces made of stone and knotty pine walls and ceilings add to the rustic feel in each of the 23 cabins. Forest trails start right from the lodge, where you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing and join excursions under the Northern Lights. Follow moose tracks or gear up for dogsledding, skijoring, or ice fishing.

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Bear Track Outfitting Co.
: Find everything you need for an outdoor adventure at Bear Track Outfitting Co. During the spring and summer months, you can rent canoes and sea kayaks, but winter months offer the chance to explore the wilderness on foot. Rent cross-country skis, poles, and boots for $20, or strap on snowshoes from $12.50. And if you plan on camping out beneath the stars, you can also rent an arctic sleeping bag that will keep you cozy down to 15 degrees below zero ($20).

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Java Moose: Maybe the best place to eavesdrop on locals unraveling tales of 12-point bucks and 12-pound browns is at The Moose. You'll hear plenty of ya-sure-you-betchas in this cozy, den-like coffee shop, a local scene that visitors describe as "moosey." Sip lattes from a seat on the boardwalk overlooking Lake Superior or thaw out with soup and sandwiches inside. It's an ideal place to fuel up for backcountry adventures.

You can use our tool compare airfares to Thunder Bay, Canada, the nearest major airport, from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Explore Minnesota Tourism/Paul Stafford)

Chicago Makes Being Green Fashionable, but Not Spendy

Posted March 9, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Chicago With several plans in the works, including an eco-bridge, that will make the city greener, Chicago is well on its way to becoming a top environmentally friendly destination, but without the high prices. Come shop for goods made from recycled materials and grab a slice of organic pizza before saving green by going green at a eco-friendly boutique hotel.

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Grasshopper 510
: If the words repurpose, recyclable, vintage, organic, sustainable, reclaimed, and all-natural speak to your greener side, then this eco-boutique is right up your alley. The name—inspired by the prosperity and wisdom of a grasshopper, as well as the color measurement of green—conjures a sense of appreciation for the natural world. Here, you will find an array of environmentally-friendly items spanning a slew of categories, such as home decor, baby necessities, jewelry, and beauty essentials. Prices vary by product.

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Crust
: Don't be fooled by the name. There's more to this pizza joint than just its crust. As the first certified organic restaurant in the Midwest, Crust adheres to a strict policy of no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and no genetic engineering in any of its products. Come enjoy a flatbread pizza fresh from the wood-burning oven. Pizzas such as the wild herb and cheese start at $12.

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Allerton Hotel
: After serving guests for 85 years, the Allerton Hotel recognizes the importance of preservation in all areas of life, and has become one of the city's leading green places to stay. The property started a "green team" to maintain its environmental initiatives, including using only energy-efficient lighting and equipment, as well as biodegradable and recyclable products. Plus, the hotel rewards guests who help in its cause by offering a 10 percent discount if guests forego housekeeping services during their stay. Rooms start at $80 per night during the low season.

To search for flights and compare prices to Chicago, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Jim Jurica)

Roller Coasters and Country Quilts in Sandusky, Ohio

Posted February 26, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Sandusky Need an adrenaline rush? Head to Sandusky, Ohio, where one of the best amusement parks in the world has 17 heart-stopping roller coasters. Ride them all, if you dare, then grab some downtime at a funky bistro and a local store with a country touch.

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Cedar Point Amusement Park
: Indulge the kids (or your inner child) at an amusement park with more roller coasters than any other park in the world. For unsurpassed views of Lake Erie, hop on the Top Thrill Dragster, one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world. At 420 feet high, it whisks passengers around at speeds up to 120 mph. If roller coasters aren't your thing, there are mellower rides and a chance to get your feet wet on water rides. Check The Point Online for special deals on passes, regularly $43.99.

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Zinc Brasserie
: Sandusky's downtown is home to Zinc Brasserie, a popular French-style bistro. Save some cash and forgo the pricier dinner menu for a delicious lunch. The stars of the lunch menu are the mouthwatering sandwiches. Try the Cuban panini with Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, roast pork, and dijonaise or brasserie burger on toasted ciabatta.

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Lake Erie Gifts & Decor
: If you're into country, nautical, or Victorian decor, don't miss this charming shop. Country Sampler Magazine featured Lake Erie Gifts & Decor's starry snowman doormats and pinwheel quilted bedding. You can also take home Amish jams and salsas, country quilts, placemats, bedding, braided rugs, and lighting.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Cleveland, the nearest major airport, from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Cedar Point)

Great Deals in Wisconsin Dells

Posted June 24, 2009 by Jamie Moore

Ws-dells-yogi-def Billing itself as the Waterpark Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells has more than enough watery (and dry) ways to thrill and delight tourists. Check out these inexpensive spots for water park fun, a beer and burger, and Yogi Bear-themed lodging.

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Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park: Take on the 37 waterslides, two adventure rivers, wave pool, and surf pool at this Greek mythology-themed experience. The surf pool, new last year, is the country's second largest and churns out the world's tallest waves—up to nine feet high. A one-day pass to the water and theme park runs $39.99 ($35.99 if you buy online). Visiting other area attractions? Spring for a $70 Dells City Pass including three-day admission to Mt. Olympus and entry to eight other popular spots.

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Monk's Bar & Grill: The Minneapolis Star Tribune raves about the burgers at this legendary badger-themed sports bar a half hour outside Madison's University of Wisconsin. Grab a beer and try the 1/3 lb Original Monk's Burger or something more offbeat: a Pizza Burger, Black & Bleu Burger, or Jalapeno Cheddar Burger. It's a fun place to watch the Brewers beat the Cubs (or the Cubs beat the Brewers if you're not local) on the big screen.

Stay
Yogi Bear's Camp Resort: Finding affordable lodging in the Dells is a challenge, but this campground and resort is the answer; that is, if you don't mind a daily visit from Yogi Bear. Stay in a yurt ($39 to $89 per night), cabin ($59 to $119 per night) or bungalow ($79 to $159 per night). From these, it's a short walk to the bathroom, but there are other lodging options only a bit more expensive that feature indoor plumbing. Admission to the on-site water park and a full schedule of activities are included in your stay.

To search for flights and compare prices to Madison, which is home to Wisconsin Dells’ nearest airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau)

Mackinac Island's Quiet and Inexpensive Pleasures

Posted June 18, 2009 by Jamie Moore

Michigan-MackinacIsland Mackinac Island is famous for its annual June Lilac Festival, a 10-day celebration of the island's ancient, abundant, and fragrant trees. But it's worth a trip any time during the summer to experience a car-free getaway, Mackinac (MACK-in-awe) style. This peaceful island in Lake Huron doesn't allow vehicles, so locals and visitors travel by real horsepower, walking, or cycling. Take a carriage seat and tour Mackinac, stopping for afternoon tea at a grand hotel or lunch in a lakeside bistro.

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Mackinac Island Carriage Tours: Clip-clop your way through Mackinac's quaint streets in a traditional horse-drawn carriage. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours has been hitching up horses to entertain visitors for more than 100 years. In fact, it's the oldest and largest livery in the world, and its horses consume 1,250 tons of hay per season. The 1.75-hour tours run throughout the day for $23.50 per person. To really ride in style, find some friends and hire a private carriage for a few dollars extra.

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Grand Hotel: Movie stars and presidents have marveled at the view from this 19th-century hotel's 660-foot porch. Some even attended its elegant dinners in chic evening wear and stayed in the elaborately furnished rooms. You can experience the luxurious atmosphere for a fraction of the price by stopping in between 3:30 and 5 pm for afternoon tea ($25 per person). Step into the parlor and sip tea, sherry, and Champagne; nibble on tiny finger sandwiches and fresh-baked scones; and listen to a soothing chamber music recital.

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Mary's Bistro: Mary's Bistro has lakeside tables for water lovers, street-side tables for people-watching enthusiasts, and a menu of mouth-watering dishes for everyone. The chef uses local ingredients—there's even Michigan hardwood firing the grill—and serves delicious entrees like spit-fired chicken basted in garlic oil and wood-grilled Portobello mushroom with aioli. Dogs are welcome on the terrace and served water and sometimes treats. Breakfast and lunches start at $6.50; dinner entrees at $10.95.

To search for flights and compare prices to Pellston, which is home to Mackinac Island’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Mackinacisland.org)

Find Affordable Family Fun in Indianapolis

Posted April 16, 2009 by Kate Hamman

IN-Indy-CholdrensMuseum-DEF With a museum devoted to education through entertainment, a hotel with a built-in water park, and a restaurant that serves breakfast all day, Indianapolis is the perfect place for a family getaway that won't break the piggy bank.

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The Children's Museum: With 11 galleries displaying exhibits and "hands-on" learning stations, a visit to the Children's Museum is an outing the whole family can enjoy. Here, kids get to walk in the land of dinosaurs, travel through space, become a mad scientist, and hear tales of other inspirational children. Adults will be amazed by the permanent display of Dale Chihuly's 43-foot tall blown-glass tower sculpture. Tickets cost $14.50 for adults and $9.50 for kids, but admission is free for families the first Thursday of every month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Stay
Holiday Inn North: Now, families can literally play and stay under one roof at Holiday Inn. Adults and kids delight in Caribbean Cove, a 50,000 square-foot indoor water park attached to the hotel. Rooms start at $179 per night, and include admission for up to five guests to the water park. The Children's Museum also offers a package deal that includes one night's stay at the Holiday Inn, four tickets to the museum, and admission to the park starting at $209.

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Cafe Patachou: Ever since it whipped its first eggs into an omelet, locals have equated Cafe Patachou with fresh and savory breakfasts. Now, with four locations in the city to choose from, you can snack on morning items—including the daily free-range omelet and the cafe's homemade granola—all day long. The restaurant also serves a range of sandwiches and salads. Breakfast items start at $7.25.

To search for flights and compare prices to Indianapolis, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Indy.org)

St. Louis Combines Family Fun and Culture at a Low Price

Posted April 3, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Missouri-StLouis-Daytime There's so much more to St. Louis than the giant arch, especially for those with families. Best of all, you won't have to spend a fortune to entertain your brood. Bring your kids to this Midwestern city to learn about nature, drink luscious hot chocolate, and eat at a diner devoted to pop culture.

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Missouri Botanical Garden: One hundred and forty-nine years after it first opened, the Missouri Botanical Garden is now a National Historic Landmark, which stands as a testament to its devotion to preserving nature. Within its 79 acres, you can explore a tropical rainforest, a Japanese strolling garden, a center for home gardening, and a Victorian district. Plus, the little ones will have plenty to do at the Doris L. Schnuck Children's Garden, open from April through August. Tickets cost $8 for adults and nothing for kids except a $3 charge for the Children's Garden.

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Bissinger's: A Chocolate Experience: With more than 300 years of making handmade chocolates, Bissinger's has taken its confections to indulgent new levels. Here, you can relax with a decadent mug of hot chocolate or delve into a piece of chocolate truffle tart. Kids will get a sugar high just from looking at the range of expertly made sweets. Parents can unwind with liqueur served in a chocolate cup or a glass of wine paired with a dessert. Hot chocolates start at $3, and include flavors such as triple chocolate and Caribbean spice.

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Blueberry Hill: Come get your fill of diner eats and pop history at Blueberry Hill. Known for its hamburgers and live shows, the restaurant has been serving and entertaining hungry patrons since 1972. The menu includes standbys such as hot dogs and sandwiches, but also offers a few specialty items like trout almandine and jerk chicken. There's never a dull moment, as the walls are covered in collectibles, including Simpsons, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, Elvis, and Beatles memorabilia. Hamburgers start at $5.25.

To search for flights and compare prices to St. Louis, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission)


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