Stunning in both size and appearance, North America’s Great Lakes are totally worth a visit or five – one for each lake, that is. You may not even be aware of some of the fantastic attractions that surround these awesome bodies of water, so we’ve compiled some of the must-see stops for any road trip through this incredible region.
Lake Superior really has it all: mountains, forests, and even volcanic activity! In season, rock climb at Palisade Head, or just drive the gravel road off of Route 61 to experience its breathtaking views. History buffs travel back in time at Tom’s Logging Camp, an entire compound dedicated to recreating life in the 1900s – complete with tradesmen’s shops, museums, and hiking trails.
For world-class food, entertainment, and shopping, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Chicago. Lake Michigan runs through the Windy City, and provides a fantastic backdrop for all of the city’s attractions … not to mention, a number of fun activities for water lovers. Many of these can be found at Grant Park, which hosts major festivals throughout the year and serves as home to the Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute. On land, reach for the stars at the Adler Planetarium, or walk on the wild side at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
The theme song for The Drew Carey Show may have summed up this Rust Belt city best: “Cleveland rocks!” Sitting on Lake Erie, it’s home to the world-famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and and renowned cultural institutions like the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall, which hosts the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. You can also continue on to Northern Ohio and explore Amish Country, where old-fashioned charm abounds at family-run inns, intimate live music venues, and small boutiques offering handmade goods and plenty of mouthwatering cheese, chocolate, and wine.
If you’re pressed for time on your journey, head to Michigan, as it borders four out of the five Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior. No matter which part of the state you visit, there’s plenty to see and do. On the Upper Peninsula, you can explore Hiawatha National Forest, admire a number of waterfalls, or take a drive across the Mackinac Bridge to enjoy unparalleled views of the Straits of Mackinaw. Beach bums head to the Southwest part of the state for Sleeping Bear Dunes, where they can lounge on gorgeous stretches of sand. If you’re planning a trip to Michigan, we recommend our Lake Michigan Road Trip.
Rochester, New York is an ideal place to experience Lake Ontario. Spend the day at Durand Eastman County Park on the sandy, tree-lined beaches of this Great Lake. We also recommend scenic drives west of the park along Lake Shore Blvd, and east of the park on Lake Drive. Nearby tours of the Erie Canal will allow you to cruise down the historic waterway as it winds its way toward Niagara Falls. Speaking of Niagara Falls, you don’t want to miss this natural wonder, flowing between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.