Weekend Trips From Chicago?

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Deni

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Since my family and I moved back to Chicago about seven years ago most of our vacation travel has been international or longer distance within the USA. I've always neglected getting to know destinations that are an easy weekend trip from Chicago every time I've lived here.

So I'm looking for suggestions for places to visit for a weekend from Chicago on Amtrak. Tell me why it would be fun to visit, what you like about the place, and it's best features. There is an 8-year-old involved so kid-friendly is good but does not have to be kid-specific (like it's cool if there's a good amusement park but that can't be the only thing to do).

Interested in any kind of trip, either urban, or quaint small town, or outdoorsy fun. Would prefer to be able to do the trip without a car rental on the destination end, but that's not a deal-breaker (especially for outdoor adventures).

For urban areas I'm thinking things like good museums, good restaurants, craft beer, any other interesting fun thing unique to that place. For outdoor fun just some nice hiking trails and pretty scenery.

Best case is that we could get there by Friday night and be home in Chicago by Sunday night (Memphis is a cool idea but because of the overnight ride it has to be a non-weekender).

Love to hear your suggestions.
 

Lonestar648

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Take the PM to Grand Rapids area - Holland MI has a terrific Tulip festival with parade, food, actual Holland wind mill etc., There is the Ford Presidential Museum in GR.

Take the Hiawatha to Milwaukee for one of their many festivals, go to the lake and enjoy.

Take one of the Lincolns to STL to see the Arch, the downtown area along the mighty Mississippi, go on a river boat ride

Take the EB to Wisconsin Dells, a huge sprawling playground of fun for everyone.

These are just a few. There is Detroit and Canada, Sandusky, OH for the big amusement area in that town. Just open the map and look at all possible destinations. Chicago is a wonderful place to originate out of.
 

Bob Dylan

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Believe it or not Kansas City is a really cool place to visit, (Southwest Chief) as is St.Louis! (Lincoln Trains/Texas Eagle)

I especially enjoy the Beautiful Union Station in KC ( Rail Museum)and the Historic nicely restored Vine Street Black Entertainment District (Jazz Hall of Fame/Negro Leaugues Baseball Museum in the same Building) followed by some good B-B-Q at the original Arthur Bryants.

St.Louis has a very useful Light Rail as well as the Arch and the Museum below it,Riverboat Rides, the Budweiser Brewery Tour ( kids welcome), a Zoo,the Hill(Old Italian Hood),Casinos and Cardinal Baseball.

If you're into smaller towns with history, Galesburg ( Chief,Zephyr,Illinois Trains)can't be beat. Check it out here at AU (lots of trip reports and What to See Forum)!
 
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caravanman

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As well as visiting all the tourist sights Jim, such as Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges, I always fancied standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine, with a crazy little KC woman... Or, as I am older now, a fairly well mannered little KC woman. :D

Ed.
 
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KauaiJohn

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You can also take the Missouri River Runner train from St Louis to K C. It's not Teri by long and a beautiful trip. KC art museum has a world class collection as well.
 

Riverviewer

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A great small town served by the EB is Red Wing, Minnesota, on the upper Mississippi River...westbound EB arrives just before 9 pm (Central time), eastbound EB arrives about 12 hours later (just before 9 am)...find out more about Pretty Red Wing at http://redwing.org
 

Dan O

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Deni

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May 11, 2008
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Believe it or not Kansas City is a really cool place to visit, (Southwest Chief) as is St.Louis! (Lincoln Trains/Texas Eagle)

I especially enjoy the Beautiful Union Station in KC ( Rail Museum)and the Historic nicely restored Vine Street Black Entertainment District (Jazz Hall of Fame/Negro Leaugues Baseball Museum in the same Building) followed by some good B-B-Q at the original Arthur Bryants.

St.Louis has a very useful Light Rail as well as the Arch and the Museum below it,Riverboat Rides, the Budweiser Brewery Tour ( kids welcome), a Zoo,the Hill(Old Italian Hood),Casinos and Cardinal Baseball.

If you're into smaller towns with history, Galesburg ( Chief,Zephyr,Illinois Trains)can't be beat. Check it out here at AU (lots of trip reports and What to See Forum)!
My wife mentioned KC as a possible choice. I like the idea of the American Jazz Museum and the Negro League Hall of Fame and Museum as well.

Funny enough, Galesburg is actually one of the small towns in IL I know well, I went to school in Macomb so I've been to Galesburg a lot.
 

Deni

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303
A great small town served by the EB is Red Wing, Minnesota, on the upper Mississippi River...westbound EB arrives just before 9 pm (Central time), eastbound EB arrives about 12 hours later (just before 9 am)...find out more about Pretty Red Wing at http://redwing.org
This intrigues me a lot, thanks for the suggestion. And I used to live in Seattle so I've ridden the EB more than any other train besides the IL Zephyr and I'd love to take my wife and kid on it. I've never really been anyplace else in MN besides the Twin Cities.
 

Rockymtnchris

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As well as visiting all the tourist sights Jim, such as Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges, I always fancied standing on the corner of 12th Street and Vine, with a crazy little KC woman... Or, as I am older now, a fairly well mannered little KC woman. :D

Ed.
Apparently there is no 12th St and Vine anymore, at least in Kansas City.

http://kcur.org/post/news-flash-world-kansas-city-has-no-12th-street-and-vine-heres-why#stream/0
I guess there's not really a 21st and Wentworth On the South Side of Chicago, either...

https://www.jerryosborne.com/2-13-12.htm
 

tim49424

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Holland MI has a terrific Tulip festival with parade, food, actual Holland wind mill etc.,
Tulip Festival is next month, May 6-14, however there is a lot more to do in the area, including Dutch Village, Wooden Shoe Factory, Windmill Island, Veldheer Tulip Farms and of course, Holland State Park which is located on Lake Michigan. Just to the north about 20 miles, there is Grand Haven which is the Coast Guard City and they have the Coast Guard Festival, July 28-August 6. Grand Haven, as well is on Lake Michigan.

Further details can be found at:

http://www.tuliptime.com/

http://www.coastguardfest.org/
 

chakk

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La plata, MO on the SWC has a railroad motif motel by the train station and many railroad exhibits.

Manitowoc, WI has a great maritime museum and a WW II submarine open for tours. From there, you could ride the 1950's era car ferry across Lake Michigan -- no car required.

Or make a circle trip of train to Milwaukee, highspeed car ferry to Muskegon, Amtrak back to Chicago.
 
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blackpup

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The Wisconsin Dells is really nice in the summer. Tons of waterparks for the young and old alike. The train station is right downtown. Call for an Uber or cab and go where you want or to your hotel. Tons of hotels. Tons of places to eat. So much to do. I only live an hour from there, so that is my home station, and have been there tons of times, so if you need any more info just ask.
 

dlagrua

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The Wisconsin Dells is really nice in the summer. Tons of waterparks for the young and old alike. The train station is right downtown. Call for an Uber or cab and go where you want or to your hotel. Tons of hotels. Tons of places to eat. So much to do. I only live an hour from there, so that is my home station, and have been there tons of times, so if you need any more info just ask.
The Dells is one of the most lively places to visit during summer that we have been to. Boat rides on the upper and lower Wisconsin river ( watch the dog that jumps the high rocks), the H H Bennett Museum, arcades, water parks galore, a zoo, water shows, good restaurants and the great Circus Museum in nearby Baraboo. The Amtrak station is right in town. For a weekend, you will be busy from morning until evening.
 

KauaiJohn

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Once you are in the dells, get a rental car and go see Talliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's house and workshop. Really a must see.
 

tim49424

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Holland, MI
I did see a pamphlet on a train that goes along the river south of the dells. I'm not exactly sure of the details, however.
 
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ehbowen

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Houston, Texas
I'm looking for suggestions for places to visit for a weekend from Chicago on Amtrak. Tell me why it would be fun to visit, what you like about the place, and it's best features. There is an 8-year-old involved so kid-friendly is good but does not have to be kid-specific (like it's cool if there's a good amusement park but that can't be the only thing to do).

Interested in any kind of trip, either urban, or quaint small town, or outdoorsy fun. Would prefer to be able to do the trip without a car rental on the destination end, but that's not a deal-breaker (especially for outdoor adventures).
I put in a very, very strong recommendation for the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. I visited in 2004 with my father and my niece & nephew (then 7 and 9) and found it delightful. Greenfield Village was especially fascinating for all of us; the adults appreciated the recreations of historic buildings (and sometimes the actual original buildings relocated) and the kids loved the various rides from steam trains to working Model T's to a historic carousel. They also got to see glassblowers at work and to make their own brass candle holders using an original turret lathe. The museum had a comprehensive collection of American automobiles (as you would expect) but also several historic railway items, including a C&O 2-6-6-6 Allegheny...by some measures the largest and most powerful steam locomotive ever built.

It was a pleasant place from a visitor's standpoint, as well. Not sure if they still have this, but at the time you could get free refills on beverages all day with your receipt. Try that at Disneyland! The Dearborn Amtrak station is practically within walking distance. The complex is one of the few real tourist attractions in the Detroit area and the hotels know it, so if you ask and search around you might find some good packages...we took advantage of one which offered hotel accommodations, museum tickets, and a free hot breakfast every morning. The only somewhat negative advice I would give concerns the available River Rouge Plant tour...the kids really didn't have the tolerance for it and we didn't get much out of it. If your kids are young I would advise skipping it unless you have reason to believe they would really be fascinated by watching an assembly line. Older kids or adults might appreciate it a whole lot more.
 
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