It’s that time of year: snow is falling, temperatures are below freezing, and you’re looking for a brief escape to forget about all of the shoveling, salting, and shivering. If you’re not jetting off to somewhere sunny, consider embracing the cold and enjoying a winter weekend getaway in the Midwest.
Experience a different kind of vacation and embrace all the Midwest has to offer this time of year. There’s skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and plenty of other icy activities to excite you and your family. Or, you can stay in a comfy cabin or luxurious resort with your partner and just soak up the warmth of a roaring fire. Whatever you choose, there’s something for everyone during winter in the Midwest.
Here are 6 locations in the Midwest that are great for a winter weekend getaway. The best part: they’re all within about 3 hours of Chicago!
Travel Time: 2 hours 52 minutes
If you’re looking for an escape unlike any other in the area, head to Galena. While prehistoric glaciers flattened most of Illinois, Galena remained untouched. As such, the area is rife with deep valleys, steep bluffs, and hills. Spend a day at Chestnut Mountain Resort and ski the slopes; you’ll feel like you’ve traveled much farther than Northern Illinois.
Not a big skiing fan? The town itself has a rich history: 85 percent of its buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places! Stay at one of the charming inns–such as 305 N Main–and enjoy the lively downtown district filled with shopping, dining, and more. Don’t forget to visit the home of General Ulysses S. Grant while you’re in town!
Lake Geneva, WI
Travel Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
A favorite among Chicagoans, Lake Geneva is only 90 minutes northwest of downtown, but its small-town atmosphere leaves you feeling as though you’ve traveled hours into northern Wisconsin. Whether you enjoy spending your time shopping, touring breweries and distilleries, or even observing ice castles, Lake Geneva has an activity to please everyone in your party.
If you don’t have a full weekend to get away, Lake Geneva is perfect for a day trip: grab some food at Oakfire or another lakeside restaurant, get coffee at Avant Cycle Cafe and wander the downtown district, or bundle up and follow the Lake Geneva Shore Path before heading back home.
Travel Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Just 100 miles southwest of Chicago, Utica is an old mining town that sits along the Illinois River. Although central Illinois is notoriously flat, the scenery around Utica is stunning, with Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks boasting canyons, thick forests, and rolling hills.
Stay in the beautiful, historic cabins at Starved Rock for a romantic getaway. Or, bring the whole family and spend the weekend at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort, where the kids can roam the waterpark while you hit up the Lazy River or soak in a hot tub.
Travel Time: 2 hours 46 minutes
On the east side of Indiana is a little town called Angola. Located in Steuben County, Angola is surrounded by 101 lakes, so it’s a great place to bring your boat during summer. However, there are plenty of winter activities that also make Angola a fun place to sneak away for a day or two.
For instance, you can visit Pokagon State Park and take in the icy beauty of nature, enjoy some cross country skiing, or slide down the 90-foot toboggan run at about 40mph. If you’d rather stay indoors, you could try ice skating at the Thunder Ice Arena or shop to your heart’s content at the Outlet Shoppes at Fremont. Looking to stay the night? Book a room at the Potawatomi Inn on the shores of Lake James and sit by the fire as you reminisce about your day.
Travel Time: 3 hours
Nestled on the banks of Lake Wisconsin, Merrimac is the winter wonderland you’ve been looking for, with some of the coziest-looking cabins in the state! Book a weekend at Rustic Ridge Log Cabins with your significant other and enjoy some alone time.
Or, stay at Devil’s Head Resort, where you can ski the slopes or stay indoors and enjoy the pool or game room. There’s also Devil’s Lake State Park where you can borrow some free snowshoes and hike among the frosty pines.
Grand Haven, MI
Travel Time: 2 hours 53 minutes
Grand Haven is a town full of history on the shores of Lake Michigan. Originally a fur trading and lumbering town, the scenic lakeside locale now attracts people from every state who enjoy the natural beauty and lifestyle it offers. Although Grand Haven is a perfect place to visit during summer, there’s plenty to do even when it’s chilly outside. The town even holds a Winterfest in January complete with every winter activity you can imagine!
Grand Haven has many offerings for those adult group getaways, such as brewery tours, tastings at wine rooms, and close proximity to Vander Mill. It also has some of the coziest Airbnbs, many of which offer that sweet lakeside charm that makes Grand Haven so unique.
Hopefully, you’ll visit one of these awesome towns for a winter weekend getaway with your family in 2020. If you’re looking for information on the local housing market during these chilly winter months, contact me today for more information.
Traveling during the holidays can be complicated, and the thought of leaving your home may make you anxious. In fact, ensuring you’ve prepared your house for your departure on top of gift shopping, cooking, and packing can be downright exhausting.
Not sure you’ve remembered everything? Here’s a list I’ve compiled of 10 ways to prep your home for your absence. I’ve even included a printable version at the end of this post for your final walkthrough!
Make it Look Like Somebody’s Home
Have someone keep an eye on your house
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or neighbor, let someone know you will be gone. It’s best to give them a key so they can take care of the little things that will give the appearance that someone is home. This can include retrieving your mail, moving your trash cans to and from the curb, and watering plants. Doing so can also be helpful in the event of snowfall or a rainstorm so they can maintain your lawn and sidewalks to avoid fines (or lawsuits).
Install light timers and floodlights
There’s nothing more tempting for potential burglars than a constantly dark, empty house. I recommend putting 1-2 lights on a timer to make it look like someone is home. Or, you can try these handy smart plugs that connect to your phone so you can control the lights while you’re away.
Take All Necessary Plumbing and Electric Precautions
Unplug all appliances in your home and adjust your thermostat
It’s wise to unplug all electrical appliances in your house that will not be in use while you’re away. As a result, you save a bit on your energy bill and lower your risk of a fire during your travels. To save even more money, adjust your thermostat to an “energy saver” mode and avoid heating an empty house. A Nest can even help you control your home’s temperature from afar.
Protect your water pipes and turn off your main supply
Consider turning off your main water supply to prevent frozen or burst pipes when you return. You may also want to leave a faucet in your basement or bathroom running just slightly. That way, water is continually moving through your pipes and drawn out of your lines.
Prepare Your Home for Your Return
Clean the house and finish all laundry
It’s never fun to come home to a dirty house, so try to tidy up before you leave. Finish all of the laundry in your home to avoid throwing in a load when you come back. Doing so will not only allow you to return from your relaxing vacation to clean living space, but it will also prevent unpleasant smells or critters from settling in.
Clean out your fridge
We’ve all done it: you leave for an extended vacation and forget to remove leftovers from your fridge. Upon returning, you open the refrigerator door and feel the waft of stinky, rotten air as it hits your face and climbs into your nostrils. Do yourself a favor and remove any perishable items from your refrigerator BEFORE you leave.
Make arrangements for your pets
If you have furry friends in your home, make sure you leave them with a kennel or sitter that understands their needs. Write a list of medications, common behaviors, fears, and favorite treats for them so your sitter can provide the best care possible for your pets in your absence. If you use a sitter from Rover, they’ll even send daily photos to let you know your furballs are safe and happy!
Check all locks on doors and windows
Before leaving, make sure you’ve secured all of your windows and all door locks are properly in place. It only takes one unlocked door or cracked open window for someone to sneak in. As previously stated, consider leaving a spare key with someone who can check up on your home.
Check your smoke detectors
Ensure your smoke detectors are working properly in case of an emergency. If your pets are being watched by a sitter in your home, it may be a good idea to change the batteries in your smoke detectors before leaving to avoid that heart-stopping beeping that seems to drive dogs nuts.
Hopefully, you’re feeling more secure about your travels after reading this list. Don’t forget to pick up your PDF version of this list here, and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!