navy pier chicago ferris wheel

Be charmed by Chicago on a weekend getaway. (Photo: Marriott International)

Weekend Getaways

Expect the Unexpected the Best Weekend Getaways in the U.S. Midwest

With thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline to explore, friendly cities brimming with culinary and cultural attractions, and outdoor adventures waiting around every corner, the Midwest is full of surprises. Follow our lead to some of the best Midwest weekend getaways in Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and beyond.

As always, check for travel guidelines and closures before planning your trip.

us midwest weekend getaway
(Illustration: Yeji Kim)

Chicago, Illinois

The nation’s third-largest city knows how to turn on a good time, whether you’re just in town for a weekend or can linger longer for all the delights Chicago dishes out.

With public art installations (including the highly Instagrammable “Bean”), a rock-climbing wall and the free, event-filled Chicago Cultural Center among the many attractions at Millennium Park, you could easily pack in an entire afternoon of exploring.

And when it’s a cool neighborhood that’s calling, get your fill of vintage boutiques, record shops and killer coffee haunts (like Colectivo Coffee) just north of downtown in stylish Wicker Park.

Whatever you do, make sure you find time to stroll down Navy Pier, aka the People’s Pier, and sink your teeth into Chicago’s legendary deep-dish pizza with a slice from Giordano’s, with a convenient location right on the pier.


Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

boats on lake geneva wisconsin
Head to the lake in Wisconsin. (Photo: Getty Images)

Delicious local beers, lakeside living and a down-home fish-fry meal are just a taste of what awaits when you plan a weekend getaway to the quintessential Wisconsin town of Lake Geneva.

Getting out onto Lake Geneva itself is obviously a must when the weather cooperates — whether you end up ogling posh lakeside homes during a cruise on the U.S. Mailboat Tour (during which residential mail will actually be delivered) or aim to hook a walleye during a guided fishing trip with Lake Geneva Fishing Guide Service.

Back on land, tackle a zip-lining course, get mystified during a magic show at Tristan Crist Magic Theatre or sink your teeth into cheese curds and knock back a proper Wisconsin bloody mary (the state is famous for those, too) at one of Lake Geneva’s many lively bars.

Start at standby Thumbs Up and ask the locals where to go from there. If you’re here on a Friday night, local restaurants will surely have a fish fry on offer, too.

Duluth, Minnesota

clock tower bridge duluth
Find watchtower views in Duluth. (Photo: Getty Images)

Outdoor-lovers from the Midwest and beyond know the appeal of Duluth, a buzzing town on Lake Superior that offers easy access to trails, rivers, mountains and lakes for all-season adventuring.

You can get up to some pretty awesome urban adventures here, too. Head to Canal Park to check out cafés, breweries and galleries that have sprung up inside abandoned warehouses. Don’t miss a caffeine and pastry pick-me-up while you’re there from Duluth Coffee Company, or hit the solar-powered brewpub and waterside patio at Canal Park Brewing Company for lunch and a local beer.

For a stellar scenic drive in the area, take to the road along the Skyline Parkway where you can detour to hike (or snowshoe during the winter) or simply soak in the views of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River while cruising the 25-mile route.

Madison, Wisconsin

downtown madison wisconsin
Water, water everywhere in Madison. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spend any time in the Midwest and you’ll hear it from people who are from here and who’ve moved here — Madison is simply awesome.

Surrounded by four lakes and endless trails for year-round outdoor fun, the state capital is home to the gorgeous University of Wisconsin, where you might want to start your explorations by pedaling a bike along the lakeshore path for nonstop Lake Mendota views.

During the warmer months of the year, from April to November, shop for local produce, crafts and — what else? — Wisconsin cheese at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, which spills across Capitol Square.

And for a fancy night on the town, book at table at Tempest Oyster Bar, a sophisticated spot serving up fresh seafood (oysters, Maine lobster and the like) alongside craft cocktails.

Columbus, Ohio

columbus ohio skyline
Take a waterfront stroll in Columbus. (Photo: Getty Images)

Another exciting Midwestern city by the water awaits when you plan a weekend getaway to Columbus, right along the Scioto River and brimming with quaint neighborhoods like German Village (with its historic pubs and cool café scene), as well as cultural and culinary highlights.

For a culture fix, Wexner Center for the Arts, revered for its outstanding collection of contemporary artworks; Hammond Harkins Galleries and the Columbus Museum of Art are among a handful of heavy hitters.

For a date night with Scioto River, fountain and skyline views, book a table at Milestone 229, where Ohio beef stars on the menu and the toffee bread pudding for dessert is worth the trip alone.