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Travel Guide

Great Lakes

Lakes as big as seas, Chicago skycrapers and a lot of corn fields

The Great Lakes region is perhaps the farthest away from what most tourists imagine when they decide to plan a trip to the United States, but the authenticity and the surprising beauty of these places are truly unmissable. Don’t think of this region as just a land of lumberjacks, orchards and wooden cabins high up in the mountains! With lakes as big as seas, Chicago skyscrapers, corn fields with unexpected Tibetan temples sprouting from them and the genuine life of the Great Lakes, you won’t miss the East and the West Coast a single bit.

Which states does it include?

Illinois
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Indiana
Michigan
Ohio

When to go?

Late spring and sumer are best moments for the Great Lake area, temperatures are warm and pleasant. Be careful during the fall/winter period, temperatures below zero and iced landscapes (lakes included)

Recommended tours by Xplore

Here’s a fact to help you realize just how immense the lakes like Ontario, Erie, Huron and Lake Superior are: they make up some 20% of the entire body of fresh water in the world and 95% of fresh water in the United States. The Great Lakes states offer a total immersion into the wildlife, from beaches and sand dunes to lakes and national parks in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota, where you can see brown bears, moose, wolves and eagles and or go rick climbing. The big cities appear in the middle of nowhere with their skyscrapers and…their breweries!The cities in this region are famous for their craft beer production, influences probably by various communities of German origin. In the summertime or during winter, in a kayak or on a motor sled, the Great Lakes area is waiting for you to discover it!

Illinois

Lakes, praires, strange things and Chicago!

Illinois is the state of Ernest Hemingway, of Al Capone, corn dogs, drive-ins and the beginning, or the end, of the legendary Route 66. The absolute king of the Prairie State is, of course, Chicago, with its skyscrapers, breweries, blues and golden beaches on the Lake Michigan that will make you fall in love.
Chicago is a true open-air museum, with futuristic sculptures and monumental fountains right next to the vast green spaces like the Grant and the Millennium Park, which, again, hosts some of the most famous design works such as The Bean, reflecting the city skyline. If you don’t suffer from vertigo, you should go all the way up to the 103th floor of Sears Tower to admire the view of the city, but if you want a truly different point of view, then you should definitely try Tilt. Tilt is a new observation deck in John Hancock Center, with windows that are tilted or inclined outwards offering a 360° view of the Windy City!

Chicago is the starting point of the mother of all roads, Route 66, with its over-the-top places and attractions along its entire course. In Illinois, you will also find Gemini Giant, a 8,5m fiberglass astronaut, and Log Cabin Inn, a restaurant that, when the road was realigned, was picked up, rotated of 180° and repositioned so as to make face the new route. It is only logical that in the state of corn dogs, delicious deep-fried meat skewers, you will also find a gigantic ketchup bottle, the one in Collinsville, almost 52m high, is the largest ketchup bottle in the world. In Oak Park, the birthplace of Earnest Hemingway, you can walk among many buildings designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Next, head out to Springfield to find out all you ever wanted to know about Abraham Lincoln. The state capital has a profound respect for this historic president and you can pay your respect to him as well, by touching his already shiny and worn-out nose on the statue in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  

See the suggested tours in this area:
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3.471
12 days / 11 nights
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4.083
8 days / 7 nights
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1.690
15 days / 14 nights
Motorcycle tour
4.494

Minnesota

The best representative state of the Great Lakes area

With its 11.842 lakes, Minnesota is the ideal representative of the Great Lakes region. Ideal for those looking for wild and isolated places, the North Star state will launch you to a colourful dimension where the only light at night comes from the stars and the only noise are the howls of wolves.
Voyageurs National Park has more rivers and water courses than roads and because of this, it is barely accessible by car. You can walk or use a motor boat to travel the routes used by the French fur traders who were the first to explore this region. Another extremely pristine area are the Boundary Waters, where you can experience wonderful adventures and see some wolves and moose, or, for those looking for solitude, you can camp out in a place so remote you won’t have to share it with no other human presence. In the Itasca State Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the state, you can reach the spring of the gigantic Mississippi river.
But Minnesota is more than just isolation and wild lands – it also offers an extraordinary cultural and artistic panorama, especially in the cities. The small capital city of Sr. Paul offers many museums, the cathedral that dominates the city and gorgeous parks along the Mississippi. In the winter, you can try one of the most popular local sports – curling.
Did you know that, in addition to the Big Apple, there is also a Mini Apple in the United States? It’s Minneapolis, which follows New York’s suit in terms of theaters, restaurants, museums, art galleries and events.
Minneapolis is also known as the City of Lakes, due to a chain of lakes that surrounds the city center: in the summer, these lakes can be explored in a boat, and in the winter they turn into big ice skating rinks.
Not far from these “twin cities” you will find the largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America. Inside this mall not only will you find numerous stores but also an actual amusement park with 30 attractions and the largest aquarium in Minnesota!

See the suggested tours in this area:
8 days / 7 nights
Motorcycle tour
1.087
8 days / 7 nights
Motorcycle tour
1.690
21 days / 20 nights
Car tour
6.422

Wisconsin

From the dairy industries in the hills to Frank Lloyd Wright buildings

Forward! Follow the official state motto of Wisconsin, the America’s Dairyland and the capital of cheese. Throughout the seasons, Wisconsin offers a wide array of attractions and activities: whether you are looking for an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of nature or an intense urban experience, this state succeeds in balancing perfectly tradition and avant-garde, always on the prowl for new ways of having fun and living better!

The residents are so proud of their state, they voluntarily took on the nickname of “cheeseheads” and insist on wearing hats shaped like a slice of cheese during important events. One of the most famous ones is Racing Sausages, in which people dressed like, well, giant sausages invade the baseball field of the Milwaukee Brewers, throwing the audience into ecstasy! Did you know that in Milwaukee you can find the original Harley-Davidson factory? It is right here that motors for various bikes are made and assembled, and the museum shows some of the vintage motors that you can climb on for a photo.
After this centaur experience, you can visit the local breweries in guided visits complete with tasting of the amber nectar, often accompanied by fried fish and polka music. The most beautiful landscapes are hidden in the heart of Wisconsin, from the densely populated hills to the cheese factories and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and from the scenic roads along the Mississippi to the Mirror and Devil’s Lake parks.
If your dream is to visit New England, the Door County will give you a taste of it with its tiny towns and beautiful lighthouses on the western coast of Lake Michigan, which in the summer sprinkles with sails from the fishing and recreational boats. Those who are interested in boat trips should definitely see Apostle Island on Lake Superior, where you can explore some amazing underwater caves.
Before leaving, make sure you master the distinct accent of Wisconsin, and you just might pass for one of their own!    

See the suggested tours in this area:
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Car tour
6.086
8 days / 7 nights
Motorcycle tour
1.087
8 days / 7 nights
Motorcycle tour
1.690

Indiana

The Crossroads of the United States

Birthplace of auto races, Michael Jackson and James Dean, the Crossroads of America has some pleasant surprises for you. Although nicknamed “Naptown,” Indianapolis definitely has its attractions, such as the Speedway, the track where Indianapolis 500 takes place and the museum of the same name that displays race cars from various periods. If you are looking for a rush of adrenaline, you can even try to complete a lap on the circuit on a bus running 60km/h!

After this speed rush, the White River State Park is the perfect place for a nice, relaxing walk, with interesting places such as the zoo, the gardens along the canal and the NCAA Hall of Champions. This last one is a witness to the great american passion for sports, especially basketball, which is particularly successful in Indiana thanks to the NBA team Indiana Pacers.
The gigantic picture of James Dean painted on a water tower is a sign you’re entering the city of Fairmount, the birthplace of the famous actor that is absolutely dedicated to his memory. Here you can see find his tombstone, covered in red lipstick marks from all the lips that kissed it. And we bet you’d never expect to see an actual Tibetan stupa in the middle of the United States? Well, Tibetan culture is so important and present in Bloomington that the city has two meditation centers, covered by goudy traditional prayer flags.
Also, make sure to plan a break in the elegant Columbus, explore the ancient Wyandotte caves and take a trip down history in Shipshewana, the seat of one of the largest Amish communities in America. Indiana Dunes parks along Lake Michigan, very popular among the locals, are ideal for a bit of rest during the warmer days, or for a nice hike.
The residents of Indiana bear an interesting nickname of “Hoosiers,” probably because in the days of the early colonists the typical answer to a knock on the door was “Who’s here?” 

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13 days / 12 nights
Car tour
3.471

Michigan

Not only engines but amazing landscapes and great outdoor activities!

The image of Michigan seems to be unbreakably connected to the automobile industry, dominated by giants such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, surrounded by related tourist attractions.
Michigan, however, is so much more than that: divided by the eponymous lake into Upper and Lower Peninsula, the Wolverine State has an amazing position tucked in between four of the five Great Lakes and offers surprising sights and activities. Although a bit decadent and definitely not what it used to be, Detroit still has its unique charm, dark but intriguing.
It offers many attractions, such as Motown and Henry Ford Museum, the museum of contemporary art and the zoo that features the largest polar habitat where polar bears swim around literally above your head. If you want to enjoy some open air, there is no better place than the Gold Coast along the western shore of Lake Michigan, that has a longer succession of beaches than the entire Atlantic Coast, as well as vineyards, orchards and parks. You can sunbathe in some popular summer beach front resorts, slide down the sand of the Sleeping Bear Dunes and try the best cherry pie in the United States. For a modest sum of $2.50 you can try the Big Mac…no, not the famous sandwich from the popular fast food chain, but the Mackinac Bridge, friendly called “Big Mac” by local residents. From this 10km bridge that connects two peninsulas you can enjoy a breath-taking view of the lakes and hundreds of islands floating on them. On the other side of the bridge, a ferry will take you to Mackinac Island, a very popular tourist destination where in 1896 all “cars not pulled by horses” were banned. Even today, you can only explore the island on foot, on a bike or a horse.
The Upper Peninsula, with its few urban centers, numerous forests and miles of solitary beaches, is one of the most beautiful regions in the whole North America. From Tahquamenon Falls to the multi-colored cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Park, it will feel like a world in itself! 

See the suggested tours in this area:
21 days / 20 nights
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6.086
8 days / 7 nights
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1.087

Ohio

The state with the greater number of Presidents of the United States

Ohio is known as the state of the cows, considering the high concentration of cattle farms, but don’t let the locals hear you call it that way, because they insist the tourists remember their state for other things. For example, Ohio has given birth to as many as seven presidents of the United States, which is why sometimes they call it “Mother of Presidents,” and it is the home of Thomas Edison, Steven Spielberg, the Wright Brothers and the first professional baseball team.

The beating heart of the state is the university city of Cleveland, on the shore of Lake Erie, whose most important attraction is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum. Here you can find the most extraordinary rock and roll memorabilia, such as the glasses that belonged to Ray Charles and the Porsche driven by Janis Joplin. Vibrant downtown offers many establishments, such as the Great Lakes Brewing Company, where you can still see the holes in the wall from a shootout involving Elliott Ness, the agent of the Untouchables who hunted down Al Capone.
Lake Erie and its islands are among the most beautiful areas in the whole of Ohio, famous for their summer homes and plenty of possibilities for hiking, fishing, kayaking and camping in the middle of nature. From this oasis of serenity you can easily pass to more adrenaline-loaded entertainment with a ride on the highest rollercoaster in the world! The Top Thrill Dragster in the Cedar Point Amusement park has over 17 rollercoasters! Moving inland towards the Hocking County, the landscape becomes richer with waterfalls, creeks, caves and fairytale-like towns. The National Air Force Museum in Dayton exhibits a vast aviation collection, from presidential aircrafts to the Stealth, from astronaut food to various means of military propaganda.
At the border with Kentucky, the wild city of Cincinnati is perfect for catching a game of baseball, having fun and trying some five-way, a local specialty made of chili, spaghetti, onions, beans and cheese!

See the suggested tours in this area:
13 days / 12 nights
Car tour
3.471