A Grand Tour of The Great Lakes
Waves as big as an ocean make you feel like you're on the beach when you overlook the vast deep Great Lakes. Formed billions of years ago when massive tectonic plates on the earth's surface began shifting to reveal giant crevices large enough hold one fifth of the entire world's fresh watere Great Lakes is the largest expanse of freshwater in the world with a unique and diverse landscape. This region which is the size of continental Europe includes the states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The shores of these inland seas can rival any coastline - Lake Superior alone is more than three hundred miles from east to west. Within the first hundred miles or so of the lakeshores, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, tens of thousands of smaller lakes and tumbling streams are scattered through a beautiful and unspoilt rural wilderness. The northern reaches of Lake Michigan offer stunning rocky peninsulas, tree-covered islands, mammoth dunes, and deserted beaches. Whilst the serene Apostle Islands National Seashore in northern Wisconsin is as contrasting as you imagine to the lively Chicago lakeshore. On this Grand Tour of the Great Lakes, you can enjoy them all.
- 'The Windy City' of Chicago
- Rockford's Anderson Japanese Gardens
- Bloomington - The Mall of America
- National Geographic Recommended Bayfield
- The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Grand Rapids
Vibrant, friendly Chicago awaits you. Enjoy everything and more this great city has to offer in the next days. The history of Chicago and Illinois comes alive when you take the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Architectural River Cruise. Learn why Chicago is known for its innovative architecture. Be sure to take in the Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago and Shedd Aquarium.
Chicago's premier Museum Campus of world class facilities includes the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum, home of the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered. You can get a great view of the city from the Sears Tower, the Skydeck Chicago and The John Hancock Observatory with it's sweeping views spanning the 4 states of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Also, don't miss the chance to have breakfast at Lou Mitchell's where the original Route 66 began. Arts lovers who enjoy the outdoors should plan to take a Chicago Architecture Walking Tour past all the great historic structures or take a Mercury Cruise out onto Lake Michigan to see the skyline from a different perspective.
Highlights: Explore the Magnificent Mile—a veritable mecca for shoppers. Walk miles of sandy beaches along ocean-like waters. Savor Michelin starred cuisine and browse works of art that begin in museums and spill into city squares and lakeside parks.
The city of Rockford is worth a visit for culture vultures and golfers alike. Known for its 'cultural corridor' of which the highlight is the Rockford Art Museum's stunning permanent collection focusing on 19th and 20th century works. There is also a wealth of private galleries and historical museums in the city centre.
Rockford is also home to a dinosaur named Jane, an award winning exhibit, "Jane: Diary of a Dinosaur," lets you explore the history of the a young T-Rex skeleton found by the Burpee Museum researchers. Don't miss the magnificent Anderson Japanese Gardens, which consists of two very different gardens. Rockford is also known for its many antique shops and markets, and the many golf courses in the city and vicinity that have earned it the title of Illinois' 'holey' city.
As the huge ice dam holding back glacial Lake Wisconsin burst, a catastrophic flood crashed through sandstone gates cutting deep narrow gorges and unusual rock formations, creating the Dells of the Wisconsin River in one fell swoop. Make sure to take a boat trip on the sparkling water to look up at 100 foot high pillars, cliffs, islands and other surreal shapes standing tall. The cliffs rise to 500 feet in Devils Lake State Park, a stop on the Ice Age Trail that traces the impact of glaciers on the region. For more heart pumping entertainment, Wisconsin Dells calls itself the "Waterpark Capital of the Nation." Whichever bodies of water you want to splash in, they have it.
Minneapolis is the heartbeat of the Heartland of America. Great architecture, great culture and world-class theater and art abounds. The Walker is considered one of the best art museums in the world and the performances in the Guthrie Theater are as astounding as the building. There are free walking tours during the summer led by expert guides to introduce you to the Victorian neighborhoods, Nicollet Island and the historic Warehouse District. Daily tours through the Minneapolis Institute of Art feature both museum treasures and special exhibits. You can hit the Walker on weekends for a guided tour of the exhibits. Couples love the romantic carriage rides along the Mississippi River. Local landmarks include the Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, the Mill City Museum and Boom Islands. Allow yourself a bit of time to explore the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, the only urban byway in the United States. Grand Rounds circles the chain of lakes that Minneapolis is built around, including trendy Uptown Lake Calhoun and serene Lyndale Park on Lake Harriet.
You don't have to be passionate about shopping to enjoy the Mall of America, the largest shopping centre in the USA, and the Western hemisphere! It is so big that seven Yankee stadiums would fit inside. If you spent 10 minutes in each store, it would take you 86 hours to make it through all the shops. Better yet, there is no tax on shoes or clothing purchased in the Mall. There's more to the mall than shopping though - you'll find a huge variety of restaurants, and family friendly attractions; including Nickelodeon Universe, FlyOver America, and the Sea Life Aquarium.
Once home to clanking trains, bustling docks and heavy industry, this old railroad town has transformed itself into an incredibly delightful destination. The entire waterfront has been recaptured with historic boats to tour, the Great Lakes Aquarium, the arts center and the Waterfront Sculpture Walk. Canal Place, filled with great restaurants and shops, leads to Minnesota Avenue which takes you out to Park Point. The drive up to Two Harbors on the lakeshore scenic byway lets you get up-close and personal with the constantly lapping waves on the edge of vast Lake Superior. If you don't want to drive, you can take the North Shore Scenic Railroad along the rugged Lake Superior shoreline and into the northwoods. Visit Glensheen to experience life with the Congden family, the exclusive elite of the lumbering industry who built this 39 room mansion encrusted with architectural details.
A beautiful lakeshore drive punctuated with rugged cliffs takes you from Duluth to Bayfield, sitting on a peninsula poking out into the Apostle Islands and designated by the National Geographic Explorer as a "Top Place to Visit." Bayfield serves as the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a National Park that includes 21 enchanting islands, 12 miles of scenic shoreline and the nation's finest collection of historic lighthouses. Deep in the awe-inspiring old growth forests, you'll discover windswept beaches and cliffs, pristine landscapes and protected wildlife. Madeline Island, only a 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield, exudes old world charm. Big Bay State Park features sandstone bluffs along nine miles of hiking trails. If you're feeling adventurous, plan to explore the world-famous sea caves, carved over thousands of years by lapping Lake Superior waves. Watch a magical glow fall over this landscape at sunset.
Another scenic byway takes you across Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the land of waterfalls, maritime culture and heritage, to Marquette, Upper Michigan's largest city. After a short walking tour through the town to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, visit the Marquette Maritime Museum to begin to learn about this intriguing place. The Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit features perhaps the most famous shipwreck on Lake Superior of all time. Cliff's Shaft Mine Museum preserves a shaft mine similar to those that drove the Michigan iron industry since 1844. Visit the Michigan Iron Industry Museum to learn more. Getting out of town, enjoy more than a dozen waterfalls cascading through Marquette County. It's not unusual to see a moose while meandering around, they are a normal part of life in this neck of the woods.
Sault Ste Marie
Located on the banks of the St. Mary's River, Sault Ste. Marie has been a natural stopping place since mankind began using the waterway shortly after the ice age. The names came from the French, describing a place to "jump" the St. Mary's river. Get a panoramic view of this junction from the Tower of History. Travel between the rivers requires a series of locks, which you can see from an observation platform with 1,000 foot freighters plying the waters below. A boat tour takes you right through the locks. Hear the voice of the river at the River of History Museum. The Agawa Canyon Tour Train takes you 114 miles north into the pristine Canadian northwoods. Once at the canyon you can hike to two waterfalls and to breathtaking overlooks.
Magnificent views of Lake Michigan from atop high dunes await at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, just outside Traverse City, which takes its name from an Ojibway legend. Sparkling waters form a stunning backdrop for very unusual landforms, abundant wildlife and a diverse ecosystem. ThePierce Stocking Scenic Drivewinds through 7 miles of dunes and woods. Twelve overlooks allow you to get up close and personal with nature. Three levels of trails at the Dune Climb will test your mettle.
Take a ferry to South Manitou Island for a departure into the lives of early settlers in the region. North Manitou Island is a wilderness experience.
En route visit prehistoric society occupied Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island shortly after the last ice age. The French arrived in 1634 and the British in 1780. By the 1880s, Mackinac had become a retreat for the sporting crowd. Today, when you step off the Island Ferry Dock, you'll find yourself in a living Victorian village. Enjoy the downtown hustle and bustle of the early 1800s, where horse and carriages were the transportation of the day. Don't miss the beautiful lakefront perimeter path that encircles the island.
Once known as the furniture capital of the world, today Grand Rapids has a reinvigorated downtown area and a thriving arts and cultural community. Visit the museum dedicated to native son Gerald R. Ford, 38th U.S. President, where interactive exhibits take you to the White House and the 1976 Republican National Convention.
Later on, join the locals and enjoy a cold beer at the Hideout Brewing Company or the Grand Rapids Brewing Company.
Spend one more day in this fascinating city before departing for home.
- Direct return flights from London (Please ask us about other departure airports)
- 15 nights hotel accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire
- A detailed travel pack with driving instructions and maps.
Daily Departures 01 June to 30 September.