Nomads eager to find their next eccentric vacation spot might not typically look to the midwest, but if you dig a little deeper than well-known attractions such as the Great Lakes and big cities, there are all kinds of quirky, one of a kind destinations to be found in the Midwest. Read more to learn about some of the most unique hidden gem vacation destinations in the Midwestern United States.
The village of Frankenmuth in southern Michigan is known for two things: Christmas and chicken. Frankenmuth is a Bavarian village that boasts the country’s largest Christmas store and traditional chicken dinners. Bronner’s, the Christmas store, is not only the size of 2 1/2 football fields, but is also lit up and decorated all year round. The chicken dinners take place in enormous halls like Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, with long, communal tables and traditional Bavarian food. The village is not only fun in the winter. Over the summer, the village hosts several festivals and events, including a Memorial Day celebration to kick off the season, complete with fireworks.
Kinnikinnick Farm, IL
Kinnikinnick Farm is part of the popular trend of vacation farms. Owned by Susan and David Cleverdon, the organic farm was started in 1994 near Chicago and is now established in Northern Illinois. Their popular Farm Stay program allows guests to stay in large tents on the property while enjoying organic food, lessons on how to care for the animals and the charms of farm life. The farm is a family friendly destination for those looking to escape the fast pace of the city and return to simpler times.
Founded in 1847 by a group of Dutch immigrants, this village has completely retained its Dutch ancestry. Situated in Central Iowa, Pella is home to working windmills, tulip gardens and a full sized drawbridge. The annual Tulip Time Festival takes place in the first weekend of May, and consists of three days’ worth of performances, costumes, parades, and of course, tulips. The festival even holds a world record for the most people dancing in wooden shoes. The Dutch village sports beautiful scenery and interesting sites year round.
Put-In Bay, OH
Put-In Bay is a village on the small South Bass Island on Lake Erie. The quainter-than-quaint town was founded by Commodore Matthew Perry, and includes Perry’s Monument, one of the world’s biggest columns. Put-In Bay is a popular summer tourist destination, packed with historical sites as well as a resort and a winery. Other attractions include the world’s largest geode at Heineman’s Crystal Cave, and the island’s Amusement Complex. The island is a unique blend of tourist trap, quaint beach town, and quirky attractions.
Story Inn, IN
Located in far eastern Indiana, Story Inn, originally founded in 1851, exists without the technology of the 21st century. The inn’s original architecture has been restored, so it feels like walking right into the 1900’s. There are no televisions, alarm clocks or phones in any of the rooms and cell service is few and far between. Their general store provides amenities and their restaurant provides prime Hoosier cuisine. For some excitement, check out the Blue Lady Room, the inn’s most famous accommodation; the ghost of the Blue Lady is rumored to haunt the room and the inn’s general store. Story Inn is not only an escape from everyday life, but an immersive experience.
Mount Horeb, WI
The village of Mount Horeb in Southwest Wisconsin was long ago settled by Norwegians, who brought with them a unique aspect of their culture: trolls. In the 1980’s, a new highway was built across the village, which was protested by residents by marking the site with troll statues. The “troll-way” is now a celebration of the village’s Norwegian-American culture, and has earned Mt. Horeb the name “The Troll Capital of the World.” Troll statues mark buildings in the downtown area according to what type of business is run there; for instance, the troll outside the dentist’s office holds an enormous toothbrush. Besides the unusual public art, Mt. Horeb has beautiful parks, specialty shops and outdoor activities like cave tours and skiing.
Written for Heartbeat Indiana by Molly Peck.