Canoe the Boundary Waters in Minnesota
This is about as Great Outdoors as it gets without John Candy. The largest wilderness area east of the Rockies, there are over a million acres of woods and more than 1500 miles of canoe routes. Not to mention, some insane sunsets.
Rocket out at Summerfest in Wisconsin
With around 800 bands playing in 11 days, this is the biggest music fest you can attend, pretty much anywhere in the world and the diversity of acts never disappoints. Plus, Milwaukee love to party. Oh, and nearby Madison… Well, it is one of the the 25 best cities in the country to spend the weekend. So much to do in Wisconsin.
Ride the Millennium Force at Cedar Point
Still one of the fastest rides in the game, Millennium Force was the world’s first-ever coaster to exceed 300ft in height. And no matter how much other theme parks have literally tried to keep up since, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, will always be the Beyonce of the group. Even if it does not get the respect it deserves.
See a Michigan game at the Big House
Sure, a case could be made for seeing the Buckeyes in Columbus, but come on, it’s “the Big house” for a reason. Like, it actually is the biggest college football stadium in the US. Better still, hit the UM-Ohio Stage game and take in one of America’s top sports rivalries. And when you are done, Ann Arbor is the quintessential college down. Stroll through the Diag, hit up Dominick’s for outdoor pitchers, and grab a bite at one of these spots.
Eat “food on a stick” at the Iowa State Fair
The genius of this state fair lies in the high level of culinary attention that’s directed at foods eaten on a stick — there are 75 of them on display! The ones to seek out: the deep-fried Milky Way, chocolate-covered chunky bacon, and the cornbrat (that’s a bratwurst dipped in cornbread batter). Also, do not leave without seeing the butter cow. And if you really want to take it up a notch, visit during a presidential election year.
Swim in a Great Lake
There are many reasons why the Great Lakes are better than any ocean and the ability to swim in water that’s fresh and clean and not totally salty is only one of them. Grand Haven in Michigan is a nice spot to take said dip, although any of these Michigan beach towns will do just fine.
Watch a sunrise in the Upper Peninsula
Crossing the spectacular Mackinac Bridge into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there’s a feeling like you’re entering a primal, Hemingway-esque world… because you are. There’s no better way to appreciate the rustic UP than being up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise over a Great Lake. St. Ignace, the first town on the north side of the bridge, offers views of sunup over Lake Huron; head to Manistique for epic sights of the sun rising over Lake Michigan; or venture further north to the shores of Lake Superior and hit Pictured Rocks, Marquette, or — for the truly adventurous — Copper Harbor, at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula/end of the world. And while you’re there, hit one of the best restaurants in the Upper Peninsula, and work it off with some of the best hiking you’ll find anywhere.
Hear the roar of the Indy 500
Only the greatest car race in America in one of its most underrated cities, the Indy 500 is a sports MUST. Even if you’re a bike person. Do your fair share of tailgating beforehand, but be sure to catch the race from the higher seats (according to our Indy insiders, the double-letter rows) for the best views. In fact, longtime fans recommend the front straight for pre/post-race activities, and either E-Stand (first turn) or NW Vista (fourth turn) for first-timers.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway…
… from Southern California to San Francisco. And take as long as possible to do it. This 500-or-so-mile stretch up the coast is one of America’s most iconic and scenic road trips. You’re gonna want to eat in all these restaurants, stay in some of these hotels, and absolutely make a pit stop at Big Sur. In fact, consider spending a whole day there and in neighboring Carmel.
Gaze at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
Obviously, Yellowstone in and of itself belongs on this list, but if you can only see one thing while driving through the park, make it that crazy geyser that shoots water almost 200ft in the air. Just think of all the “eruption” dad jokes you can make! You’ll no doubt be stopped by a herd of bison somewhere along your park journey (don’t get out of the car!), but once you’re moving again, head to the Grand Prismatic Spring.