Join Us In Milwaukee April 21-23, 2017 For #WITS17

We are excited that Midwest Travel Bloggers is a Media Partner for the Women In Travel Summit. The summit is in Milwaukee April 21-23, 2017. We would love to see you at the conference and get to know each of you on a more personal level.

Lisa and Sara

 

If you have never attended an event like this, we have put together our reasons as to why we think you would benefit from attending.

It’s fair to say that we were very excited to learn that #WITS17 was headed for Milwaukee.

Use this discount code when purchasing your ticket: MTB10 

The beauty of blogging is the fact that every blogger is in the space for different reasons. Some enjoy it as a hobby and others want to build a business. We firmly believe that there is a place for everyone in the blogging space, as everyone has their own voice. The Women In Travel Summit offers you the opportunity to be professional and learn alongside bloggers that have the same interests as you.

WITS Opening Party
Photo Credit: SocialPhoto.Com for Women In Travel Summit by Wanderful

We hope to see you in Milwaukee and connect in real life. Those real life connections do matter. Without a phone call and a meeting in person, MidwestTravelBloggers would not exist.

We want each of you to be successful and proud of the content that you produce. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful community. We look forward to seeing you at the Women In Travel Summit.

Tickets are limited so join us and make sure to register today. Use code MBT10 to get your special Midwest Travel Bloggers discount.

 

 

 

 

Convenient Lodging: Crowne Plaza Hotel Kansas City Downtown

Kansas City is becoming a midwest destination of choice for many as it is deatination on the radar of many. The Crowne Plaza Hotel located in the heart of Downtown Kansas City offers a location unlike many others. Here you will find yourself a hop, skip and a jump away from the Kansas City Streetcar and the vibrant Power & Light District.

We drove into Kansas City and were able to find the Crowne Plaza Hotel relatively easy. One tip that we would give you, is that the parking ramp is located to the right of the main doors and the valet drop off area. It would be easy to drive by if you were not aware of its location.

The check in process was smooth and the staff was very friendly. Upon entering our room, we found it to be spacious with a stunning view.

Crown Plaza Hotel Room

Anytime we stay in a downtown property, we often find the views to be tremendous. What’s not to love about sunset?

Sunset from Crown Plaza Hotel

Staying in the heart of Downtown Kansas City during the holidays also has special perks.The Christmas lights are abundant and it’s a sure sign that the Christmas spirit is in the air. The Crowne Plaza lobby was also decked out for the season, as there were packages here and there.

packages at Crowne Plaza

The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Kansas City prides itself on offering 14,614 square feet of meeting space. With 10 meeting rooms and one that will hold 325 people, this property offers a great venue for companies looking for a place to meet.

Other amenities on the property are:

additional outlets

  • Restaurant and Starbuck’s are on site
  • Outdoor swimming pool

Kansas City is a town that is rich in architecture and history. Once you park your car at the Crowne Center Hotel in Downtown Kansas City, you can easily explore on foot and use public transportation.

Power and Light District

The Power & Light District, is a couple blocks away, and offers entertainment and an opportunity for you to explore the different types of food that Kansas City has to offer. From BBQ to seafood, Kansas City has a wide variety of foods to sample.

We have more to share of our recent visit to Kansas City, so stay tuned. The Crowne Plaza Hotel makes for a great base camp, as the rooms were clean, inviting and in the heart of Kansas City.

Have you explored Kansas City and its outlying areas? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience.

*A special thank you to Visit Kansas City for hosting us during our recent stay.

 

Holiday Favorites From The Midwest

The holidays are fast approaching and we want to share some of our holiday favorites with all of you. We love to travel and are passionate about what the midwest has to offer. From experiences to products that we love, we hope you find our holiday guide to be helpful and fun. Be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered into a drawing for several prizes to be given away throughout the holiday season. Enter to win prizes through November 27, 2016.

UDDERLY SMOOTH

Udderly Smooth is based out of Ohio and we love their products. We personally love the hand cream, as it’s some of the best we have ever used. Your chapped winter skin will appreciate the hand/body lotion.

hand body lotion

 

Udderly Smooth is not a greasy lotion, it goes on smooth and immediately soothes your skin. Do you have a loved one in your life that is battling cancer? Udderly Smooth offers a soothing experience for those with skin issues brought on by different types of cancer treatments.

CHRISTMAS BY THE LAKE: CLEAR LAKE, IOWA

Celebrating 22 years of holiday tradition. The Clear Lake community welcomes thousands of visitors to the annual Christmas By The Lake celebration Dec. 2-4, 2016, in Clear Lake right off of I-35.

Christmas By The Lake Fireworks

This is the place to be if you enjoy holiday fellowship, fun and festivities, music, food, games,movies, carriage rides, and oh yes, a lighted Christmas parade and fireworks display. Don’t forget to dress warm.

HENDRICKS COUNTY, INDIANA

Hendricks County is home to the Martinsville Candy Kitchen in Martinsville, Indiana. Here you can view candy canes in the making, all year long.

Martinsville Candy Kitchen

There’s something to be said about a place you can indulge in a holiday favorite, the candy cane.  Hendricks County has much more to offer throughout the holidays, including the Winterland Christmas Light Show.

The lighting of Danville’s Christmas tree also marks the grand opening of the Winterland Christmas Light Show just down the street at Ellis Park. Drive through the park with the family while listening to Christmas music on the radio that is synchronized with the light displays. I can’t even begin to guess how many thousands upon thousands of lights there are in this display, highlighted by a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree. The light show is open daily from Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, closed on Christmas Day.

 

 

OMAHA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: OMAHA, NEBRASKA

The Omaha Children’s Museum is all about bringing families together through educational opportunities and fun. With more than 45,000 square feet of museum space, creative minds are encouraged to flourish. With several unique areas to learn, your visit will leave you wanting to plan a return visit.

The Omaha Children’s Museum Vision for Creative Arts:
At the Omaha Children’s Museum, children and families are allowed and encouraged to be creative and authentic through art experiences. The museum strives to provide a healthy balance between art processes and product, fostering inspiration and expression. Visitors will have opportunities with an array of experiences that are fun, engaging, meaningful and community oriented. The entire family is welcome to participate in all the art experiences that the museum offers.

The Omaha Children’s Museum offers a little bit of Santa’s Magic, November 23-December 23, 2016.

Santas Magic Crew

 

RED CEDAR LODGE: CHARLES CITY, IOWA

Red Cedar Lodge offers a luxury lodging experience in Charles City, Iowa for families of all sizes. Located in North Central Iowa, a short drive from the Des Moines and Twin Cities Metro areas. We love the atmosphere that is offered in this small rural community. If you need a place for a family gathering or are looking for a couples get-a-way, this is your go to resort. We also know that gift giving is also a tedious thing and families are looking for experiences.

Red Cedar Lodge from above

How about a gift certificate for a couple night’s lodging in 2017? Red Cedar Lodge can put a nice gift package together for you and you will give the memory of a lifetime. A quick phone call to 641-228-3444 will make your holiday shopping easy.

CABIN COFFEE COMPANY: CLEAR LAKE, IOWA

Cabin Coffee is one of our favorite go to coffee shops in the midwest. In fact, they are even expanding out of the midwest and have shops in Georgia and Colorado. Cabin Coffee’s mission is one that we are proud of. We can attest to top notch service and a quality cup of coffee every single time we have set foot in their stores.

Cabin Coffee

Cabin Coffee Company’s mission: “Creating and sustaining a warm and inviting environment while providing the highest quality products and service.”We are dedicated to creating a warm and inviting environment for both customers and our team members.  We value every team members’ individuality and personality, and believe that empowering our team members will ensure the best service for every customer.

Here’s a great idea for your holiday giving. How about coffee from Cabin Coffee Company? We know your recipient will love this, as it’s some of the best coffee around in the midwest.

This is a small sampling of all that the midwest has to offer this holiday season. Enter the Rafflecopter form below and you may win one of the prizes listed here:

  • (2) Family Four Packs To Visit Omaha Children’s Museum In Omaha, Nebraska
  • (1) Basket of Clear Lake, Iowa Items
  • (1) Basket of Udderly Smooth Products

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Plan Your Spectacular 2017 Adventure Across The Midwest

The summer 2016 season has wrapped up. We have been inspired all season long and we would like to inspire you to travel in 2017. Here are some of our favorite things from 2016. This is a glimpse of what the spectacular midwest has to offer. Each state truly has a little slice of paradise for every single person.

Sunset: Clear Lake, Iowa

Badlands National Park: South Dakota

Badlands National Park South Dakota

Bicycles for Rent: Lake Erie Island & Shores

bicycles for rent

Theodore Roosevelt National Park: North Dakota

North Dakota Road

Mount Rushmore: Keystone, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

Mill Creek: Youngstown, Ohio

Mill Creek Park: Ohio

Old Market: Omaha, Nebraska

Old Market Omaha

Sculpture Walk: Northwood, Iowa

Northwood Iowa Sculpture Walk

Tips For Enjoying Your Branson, Missouri Vacation

This year our family vacation adventures took us to Branson, Mo. Now, that we’ve been back for several weeks, I’ve had time to reflect on our trip and how fantastic it was! Fantastic and yet exhausting and wonderful. I’ve compiled a few tips for you and your family to help you assure that you enjoy your Branson vacation AND have a great time, just like we did:

Become friends with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Early on in our planning stages, I communicated with the Explore Branson people about a visitor’s guide, recommendations, etc. They were so helpful and answered any and all questions that I had. It was great to know that I had someone on my side to help make sure our trip went off without a hitch.

Budget. I know this may be obvious to some, but there is so much to see and do in Branson that spending can easily spin out of control. We had planned on spending so much and spent more! Because there were additional things we wanted to see and do it added to our cost, but in the end it was worth it. Be aware of admission prices to the places you want to go and the age cut-offs between kids and adults. Most everywhere in Branson, the cutoff is 12.

Plan time to relax. This is one of my tips for any vacation, but especially in a destination like Branson. The main part of the city is so busy and vibrant and there is so much to see and do that it’s easy to keep going and going until you’re all exhausted. But, both the kids and you (the parents) will be in much better moods if the kids get pool time and you get some downtime. It’ll make your excursions that much better.

Lost Canyon WOWM
Lost Canyon

Get outside the city. There is so much to do within Branson that in essence you don’t need to leave, but I assure you that you will want to! On our last day exploring Branson, we headed outside the city to Top of the Rock and Lost Canyon. We are so glad we did! It was great to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy nature. The boys also partook in a fishing adventure on Table Rock Lake that took them away from all the excitement and they enjoyed that just as much.

Visit The Landing. While the main part of Branson and its attractions are where the theaters and museums are (along Hwy 76), there is a fantastic are along Lake Taneycomo called, “The Landing”. It’s an open mall consisting of stores, restaurants, pop-up vendors, a few little adventures, and the fountains. The fountain show is complete with fountains, fire, and music. It’s also only a few blocks from historic downtown Branson which is another great area to explore. It’s different than the rest of the city, but all four of us thoroughly enjoyed our time at The Landing!

the landing WOWM
The Landing

There is so much to see and do that it’s easy to be overwhelmed! Hopefully these few simple tips will help make your trip a success! Let me know if you do venture to Branson, I’d love to hear about it!

14081347_10153650927742237_71061657_nKaty blogs at Learning As I Go about life as a wife, a step-mom, and an adult. Follow her adventures around Iowa and the midwest with her family as well as their love for gardening and food! 

An Insider’s Guide for Savoring Iowa’s Hidden History

Pop quiz—where in Iowa you can dine at a James Beard award-winning steakhouse? Any idea where to find Iowa’s own distinctive style of potato chips, which might be the world’s best chips? What if you want to step back in time and enjoy a slice of homemade pie at an Iowa icon that first opened in 1852?

You’ll pass the test with flying colors—and impress your friends—when you discover Iowa’s hidden history. Okay, it’s not really hidden, if you know where to look. If you have an appetite for adventure, you can’t do better than Iowa when it comes to history, culture, and one-of-kind culinary experiences. And yes, contrary to popular belief, Iowa does have distinctive food traditions, as revealed in my new book, “A Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More.”

(In case you’re wondering, the steakhouse is Archie’s Waeside in LeMars—see page 56; the chips are Sterzing’s from Burlington—page 144 has the scoop; and the 1852 restaurant is Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown near the Mississippi River, page 92).

Relish the tantalizing tidbits you missed in history class.
This hunger for all things Iowa started decades ago. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been a “Roads Scholar,” with my work as a freelance ag writer and marketing specialist taking me across Iowa’s back roads year-round. As a lifelong history buff and food aficionado, I’ve made it a point to visit every mom-and-pop café, museum, and food festival I encounter in my travels.

I also love sharing what’s great about Iowa and often post stories, photos, and recipes form my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my blog. I’m old-school, though, and still love printed books. After working with Arcadia Publishing in 2015 on my first book, Calhoun County, which tells the story of small-town and rural Iowa through the eyes of those who lived it, I was hooked.

I was thrilled when The History Press offered me a contract the day before Thanksgiving 2015 to write “A Culinary History of Iowa” I freaked out, though, when my editor wanted a draft of this 190-page book by late February 2016. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?

From Al Capone to Jell-O
Never one to back down from a challenge, I channeled my inner “Roads Scholar” again and headed across Iowa. First stop? The historic Hotel Julien Dubuque, where I dined on incredible Banana Bread French Toast at Caroline’s Restaurant (named in honor of one of Iowa’s first female entrepreneurs) and heard tales of infamous gangster Al Capone and his ties to the hotel. (Want the whole story—and maybe stay in the luxurious Capone Suite? Check out page 120.)

Amana.kitchen.210.51.018.low res

All this whet my appetite for more. Iowa’s delectable cuisine is quintessentially Midwestern, grounded in its rich farming heritage and spiced with diverse ethnic influences. Then there so many tantalizing Iowa originals, like the world-famous Iowa State Fair, where a dizzying array of food on a stick commands a nationwide cult following. You can’t forget Maid-Rites, the moveable feast known as RAGBRAI, Steak de Burgo, strawberry-rhubarb pie from the Amana Colonies and other Iowa classics.

And then there’s Iowans’ mystifying love affair with Jell-O. (See page 45 for the surprising story.) Want to spark a heated debate? Ask an Iowan to decide whether Strawberry Pretzel Squares with Jell-O on page 46 is a salad or a dessert.

Pretzel Jello dessert (2)
Feel like raising a few eyebrows? Ask Iowans (and non-Iowans) what they think about serving chili with cinnamon rolls. As a friend fromMinnesota told me (with an air of disgust), “Chili and cinnamon rolls—together? That makes about as much sense as birthday cake and scrambled eggs!” Only to the uninitiated, my friend.

Chili cinnamon roll low res
Don’t miss the world’s best cinnamon roll recipe (which can also be adapted to make the world’s best caramel rolls) on page 154. I can vouch for the awesomeness of Mom’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls from my friend Jerry Schleisman, who farms near Lake City. Jerry’s mom, Loraine, was a school cook when I was growing up, and I still remember how fabulous her homemade caramel rolls were. I promise you—no one skipped school lunch when it was chili and caramel roll day!

I invite you to dig in Iowa’s tastiest traditions through “A Culinary History of Iowa” and make time to explore my home state, from our small towns to the cities. You’ll relish the tantalizing tidbits you missed in history class!

Our Iowa Maulsby1.Nov.2015-001Darcy Dougherty Maulsby grew up on a Century Farm near Lake City, Iowa, and still lives in this area, where she runs a marketing/communications company and is working on her next book. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, where you can visit her online store to order “A Culinary History of Iowa” and “Calhoun County.” Darcy’s books are also available on Amazon.com.

12 Midwestern Historical Re-Enactments

I recently went to a historical re-enactment at a former military fort near my hometown, and I surprised myself. I really enjoyed it! And so did my children – even though they were too young to grasp timelines or significance of things mentioned. It didn’t matter. The theatrical and sometimes hands-on nature of a re-enactment was fascinating enough.

I’ve been on the lookout for similar experiences since then. Lucky for me, there are several Midwest travel writers who’ve sought the same thing.

Here are 12 historical re-enactment experiences you can find in the Midwest:

Midwest Historical Experiences

Iowa

  • Living History Farms (Urbandale, Iowa) – Three farms demonstrate different eras of farming on the plains, with costumed characters, animals and interactive opportunities elevating the experience. There’s also an 1880s town to explore. Don’t miss the blacksmith! The visit to the Living History Farms was part of my Great Iowa Road Trip, which you can read about here. The Walking Tourists also wrote the farms here.

Kansas

  • Old Cowtown (Wichita, Kan.) – Old Cowtown is an outdoor living history museum in Wichita, Kan. The Walking Tourists take readers on a tour, exploring the 23 acres and more than 50 buildings on site. They visited the museum twice, sharing pictures from a holiday event depicting celebrations in the Victorian era.

Michigan

  • Wolcott Mill Metropark (Ray, Mich.) – Midwest Guest visited Wolcott Mill Metropark in Michigan’s Macomb County to watch and photograph living history enthusiasts recreating part of the Siege of Petersburg. Every year, Wolcott Mills Civil War Days event focuses on a specific Civil War battle to recreate.
  • The Henry Ford (Dearborn, Mich.) – Midwest Guest also happens to be a member of the National Historic Landmark The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, and has written about it several times. In this post, she explores the outdoor campus of Greenfield Village. Some of the fun touring options there include a ride on open-air railroad cars drawn by a vintage steam locomotive or riding in a chauffeur-driven restored Model T car. There’s even a vintage carousel for children to ride. In a separate post, she wrote about the War of 1812 Muster that took place there.

Minnesota

  • Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (Preston, Minn.) – Thrifty Minnesota recently explored Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, where they checked out Historic Forestville, a living history “town” with actors in period costume. Forestville is modeled off a pioneer town in the mid-1850s.

Missouri

  • Shoal Creek Living History Museum (Kansas City, Missouri) – You can visit Shoal Creek Living History Museum anytime for FREE, but if you plan your trip well, you can go when there are actors re-enacting life in 19th century Missouri. We toured the grounds early summer when there weren’t any actors on hand, and it was still a beautiful place to explore (be sure to check out the bison).

Nebraska

  • Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (Fort Calhoun, Nebraska) – Life at Fort Atkinson in the 1820s comes to life on the first weekend of the month from May to October (plus a special holiday event). Costumed characters talk about life on the battlefield, in the kitchen and on the prairie. Highlights include a fun Q&A scavenger hunt for kids and cannon fire.
  • Indian Cave State Park living history cabins (Shubert, Nebraska) – One of Nebraska’s prettiest state parks has a small living history area where you can interact with various makers, including a soap maker, blacksmith, candle maker and broom maker. The Indian Cave State Park living history cabins are open Memorial Day through October on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ohio

  • Heritage Village (Cincinnati, Ohio) – Adventure Mom Blog wrote about catching a Civil War re-enactment at Heritage Village inside Sharon Woods Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. There was cannon fire, men on horseback, and gun battles fought by men in authentic period costumes.
  • Sauder Village (Archbold, Ohio) – Midwest Guest visited the living history museum, Sauder Village, in Archbold, Ohio. The 80-acre non-profit is Ohio’s largest living history destination and even has a kid-sized area for little ones to explore.
  • Canal Experience (Providence, Ohio) – In Providence, Ohio, travelers can see what it’s like to take a canal boat ride in Ohio in 1876. Midwest Guest wrote about the Canal Experience and was entertained with the crew who stayed in character the entire time. The tour lasts about 40 minutes.

Kim is the woman behind Oh My! Omaha, a travel blog celebrating fun things to do in Omaha and beyond. Her work has appeared in Omaha Magazine, Old Market Encounter and Omaha Home.

Here’s How To Do South Haven Along Michigan’s Sunset Coast

One of my favorite beach towns along Michigan’s Sunset Coast is South Haven. I love this town so much that we got married there, atop a bluff, with the sounds of Lake Michigan’s waves for accompaniment. But there’s more to do in South Haven than get married (whew!). It’s a quintessential Michigan beach town, with plenty of shopping, good eats, great coffee shops, the National Blueberry Festival, the Michigan Maritime Museum, and two wide, expansive, and clean sandy beaches.

South Haven revolves around the water, being right on Lake Michigan, and flanking both sides of the Black River. On the north side, you have the Michigan Maritime Museum and its tall ship, Friends Good Will, which goes out at sunset every night, as well as for other lake cruises. On the south side, there’s a boardwalk that goes from downtown to the beach, as well as shopping and restaurants.

Tall ship south haven at sunset

Here’s how to do South Haven…

First: ice cream (of course!). Just west of the highway is Sherman’s Dairy Bar, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer. It will be difficult to choose a flavor, because there are so many great ones. Such hardship…now you’re fortified!

rooftop cows, shermans dairy, south haven

Then head up the road to downtown, park, and explore – there are restaurants and shops galore. You can stock up on beach toys, Lake Michigan-themed clothes and gifts, fudge, wine, blueberry items at the blueberry store, and more.

beach shack snacks

Once you’ve eaten and shopped to your heart’s content, head to either beach for some swimming and a gorgeous sunset. On both north and south beach, there are small snack shacks with restrooms to change in. They will close around 9-9:30pm in the summer, before sunset has finished. If you want to change back out of your swimsuit before you leave, be sure to do so while they are still open. If you still have energy after sunset, check out showtimes at the historic movie theater downtown.

North Beach:

This beach is longer than South Beach, and has a locals’ only vibe. There is a setup for volleyball, but most people swim, picnic, and hang out here. The water is slightly warmer than on South Beach. If you like to walk, this is the beach to do so. It’s very long, and the coastline curves pleasingly.

south beach
Pier & lighthouse at South Beach

South Beach:

heading into downtown, on the way to the beach
Heading into downtown

Most people go to South Beach, for several reasons. There’s the boardwalk from downtown, of course. You can fish from the pier, and swim in the lee of the pier – the sandbar is quite near to the shore. Your kids will love the play structure, and there are a few picnic tables and a roofed pavilion near the bathrooms. But perhaps the highlight of South Beach is the ability to walk the pier. The lighthouse at the end is a gathering point for people, boat, and wave watching. When the sun sets and the pier lights come on, make your way back to shore, along with the many boats coming in from a day on the big lake. If you’re an early morning person, there is yoga on the beach here.

Clementine's
Places to eat downtown include:

Coffeeshops:

Idler Riverboat at Old Harbor Village
Idler Riverboat at Old Harbor Village

For more information about South Haven:

http://www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org/

http://www.southhaven.org/

https://www.instagram.com/visitsouthhaven/

Jessie Voigts has a PhD in International Education, has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. Jessie is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, and is passionate sharing the world through her site, Wandering Educators. She founded and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program, teaching teens all around the world. She is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Uncorking Minnesota Wine Country

If the term “wine region” conjures up images of quintessential French cottages dotting the hillsides of Burgundy, or expansive coastal vineyards of California — close your eyes and picture this: lush, rolling pastures of Midwest farmland, painted with vineyards. It’s not a dream, with 70+ operating wineries just in the state of Minnesota, you likely don’t need to travel far to visit one.

MWTravel-insidetastingroom

One rule you need to know
Not sure about what kind of Minnesota wine you might like? (Or not sure what kind of wine you like in general?) With over a dozen varieties of grapes thriving in Minnesota’s vineyards (not to mention fruit wines and blends) there’s sure to be a wine to please every palette, and here’s the one rule you need to know before you step into a winery: if you like it, it’s the right wine.  
There is nothing else that people eat or drink that has the perception of being “wrong” in quite the same way as wine. Precedents for proper pairings, hard to pronounce names, and a wide range of price points can make the wine world difficult to navigate.  Beer aficionados don’t seem to anguish over the “right” beer, but drink what they like — so, why wine?

MWTravel-explorevineyards

Explore

When visiting a winery you can enjoy a “wine tasting” (small samples of several wines) for just a few dollars, which allows you to try and compare several wines.

Don’t like it? Dump it out! (Hint: that’s what the “dump” bucket on the wine bar is for). Contrary the “Minnesota Nice” mentality whereby we smile and tell the chef the hot-dish is delicious (when it’s not) — it is not impolite to dump out the wine, or even spit it out, if a sip isn’t to your liking. A wine tasting is all about discovering what you like.

Most locations also have bottle shops where you can purchase wine to take home — a fantastic opportunity to try before you buy!  (Pro-tip: Special legislation allows the sale of wine on Sundays, a day when liquor stores are otherwise closed in Minnesota).

Yes, Minnesota’s wine country is rife for exploration: in addition to navigating the many flavors of a wine tasting, many locations welcome — if not encourage — sightseeing in the vineyard grounds themselves, so take a hike and enjoy the vistas of Minnesota’s unique wine country!

Family friendly? Absolutely! Many wineries have events and activities for families and youngsters — not to mention, are live operating farms with plenty to see and do. Consider packing a picnic (not all serve food, and many in are in rural areas), and make a day of it!

MWTravel-sign

Where to start?

Minnesota Uncorked™ has a comprehensive map of area wineries, and we’ve included a chart below that may help you to understand cold-climate wine varieties (compared to more commonly recognized favorites).

wine-sweetness-chart-minnesota-wine


Minnesota’s Budding Grape Crops

Minnesota is yet a fledgling when it comes to its history as a wine region. Barely over a generation old, the first grapevines were planted in Minnesota soil in the 1970’s (compared to other American wine regions established in the mid-1800’s.) In that short time almost 70 wineries have opened regionally!

The University of Minnesota has one of the top programs developing “cold-climate” grapes, meaning grapevines that survive Minnesota’s extreme cold winters. To put it simply: the U of M has developed and continues to develop new varieties of grapes which thrive despite cold winters and produce excellent wine (an important fact, since not all grapes will make good wine!).

There are a total of more than 20 grape varieties native to the state of Minnesota, 9 of which have been developed by the U of M.

Lauren Voigt

Minnesota Uncorked™‘s mission is to encourage exploration of Minnesota through wine-related experiences. Founder Lauren Voigt launched the project after working on initiatives for clients in Minnesota’s wine industry, and developing a strong belief that there is little else that people eat or drink that is perceived to be “wrong” in quite the same way as wine.  So, why wine?  She believes, if you like it, its the right wine! 

 

The Top 10 Iowa Oddities: Unique Attractions Across the Hawkeye State

When I first relocated to central Iowa from Chicago, I was worried there wouldn’t be a lot of things to do among the cornfields of America’s heartland. But over the years, Iowa has proven not only to be a great place to live but also a state full of offbeat attractions.

So to honor the weirdest and wackiest the Hawkeye state has to offer, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 Iowa oddities. Next time you’re planning a trip, be sure to add one of these popular places to your itinerary!

Albert the Bull

Albert the Bull

Located in Audubon, Iowa, Albert the Bull is a 45-ton Hereford with heart. Built in the 1960s as a way to honor the area’s cattle raising history, Albert the Bull has become an area icon over the years. Towering 30 feet above the cornfields, this Iowa attraction has had his fair share of publicity—not only does he appear in the movie Beethoven’s 3rd but he also was an answer on “Jeopardy” and even got a mention in “The West Wing.”

American Gothic House

American Gothic House

Even if you aren’t an art enthusiast, chances you’ve heard of the artist Grant Wood. Next time you visit Iowa, you can do one better and visit the site where he painted one of his most iconic works: American Gothic. While it’s previously served as a home to artists, caretakers, and even a pie baker, today the American Gothic House is tenantless. However, the home is still occasionally open for visitors to explore along with the interactive learning center located adjacent to the site.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

“Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” And there’s nothing more Iowan than the Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner may be long gone, but you can still visit the iconic ballfield plopped down in the midst of the eastern Iowa cornfields. Be sure to bring your own ball, bat and gloves since the site is fairly minimal, and be ready to soak up some of the field’s famed magic.

Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk

Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk

Calling all Trekkies: Did you know that in the year 2228 Captain James T. Kirk will be born in the small town of Riverside, Iowa? While we wait for his arrival, you can visit his future hometown and even attend their annual Trek Fest in late June. Be sure to pop into the Voyage Home Museum for a look at Captain Kirk memorabilia from over the years.

Grotto of the Redemption

Grotto of the Redemption

Built using an estimated $4.3 million of stones and precious gems, the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa is a jewel like no other. Construction on the grotto began in 1912 and lasted for more than 40 years in the small northwest Iowa community. Today more than 100,000 people visit the world’s largest man-made grotto annually and marvel at the intricate work done by the priests of West Bend’s St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

Maasdam Wheel Art

Maasdam Wheel Art

Towering 60 feet over Iowa cornfields, Leonard J. Maasdam’s wheel art was constructed using more than 200 steel wagon wheels. Located just south of I-80 near Lynnville, Iowa, this piece of art is not only beautiful but also impressive—the artist completed the piece when he was 90 years old.

Matchstick Marvels

Matchstick Marvels

Home to master craftsman Patrick Acton, Gladbrook, Iowa has a unique claim to fame: it’s the home of Matchstick Marvels, a collection of large-scale models made entirely from matchsticks. Acton has been creating the models since 1977 and has created everything from the U.S. Capitol to the Iowa governor’s mansion Terrace Hill. Still not convinced? This year’s addition is a two-headed dragon that not only lights up and roars but also flaps its wings.

Snake Alley

Snake Alley

You’ve probably heard of San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street, but did you know that an alley with a more precarious pitch exists in Iowa? Once recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the Crookedest Street in the World, Snake Alley is a must-see stop if you’re traveling through Burlington, Iowa. Cars are still allowed (weather permitting) on the winding road so thrill-seeking tourists can chance a trip down the steep hill.

Volkswagen Beetle Spider

Volkswagon Beetle Spider

Sometimes the best type of roadside attraction is one that simply allows you to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and snap a few photos. And southwest Iowa’s Volkswagen Beetle Spider let’s you do just that. Located just south of I-80 near Avoca, Iowa, this vintage Volkswagen Beetle turned eight-legged attraction is a quirky, quick stop if you’re just passing through.

World’s Largest Popcorn Ball

World's Largest Popcorn Ball

Located in northwest Iowa, Sac City is a town with a passion for popcorn. So much so that the community has built not one, but four World’s Largest Popcorn Balls over the past 20 years. Most recently, Sac City residents completed an almost 10,000-pound behemoth earlier this month that they hope will be sticky enough to hold the record for World’s Largest Popcorn Ball.

Top 10 IA Oddities Pinterest Graphic

What are a few favorite offbeat oddities in your state?

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and digital media strategist based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not admiring local art or in search of a stellar iced latte, you can find her writing about road trips, adventures, and world’s largest things on Olio in Iowa and Wandering the World’s Largest.