Great Places – Upper Midwest USA

     For this entry, I have included Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as Upper Midwestern States. There is not a wealth of significant tourist attractions here, but there certainly are a few which deserve mention. See my descriptions below, which will be followed by a photo album in the near future.
     1. Chicago, Illinois
            Chicago, Illinois is a world class city on the banks of Lake Michigan. It has long been associated with working class America because of its stockyards and meat-packing plants. Later, it was known for organized crime with the likes of Al Capone, etc. But Chicago has emerged from its sometimes storied past as a beacon of culture and prosperity. The public places in the city are adorned with fountains, sculptures and other artwork, and the quality of the museums rivals any city in the United States.
            Its Skyline, certainly one of the most beautiful in the world, is particularly dramatic because it is fairly compact and rises directly above the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive. It is most dramatic from the water, but, nevertheless, beautiful from several piers or land masses which jut out into the lake (in particular, the area beside the Adler Planetarium and the Navy Pier). The skyline is even more appealing at night when the lights of the buildings complement one another.
            The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s best natural history museums. It is located just off Lake Shore Drive, near Grant Park, a lovely setting on the banks of Lake Michigan. The museum contains literally millions of specimens, including the most complete skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex, nicknamed “Sue”. There are sections of the museum devoted to Gems, Native American Cultures, and Ancient Egypt.
             Chicago also has great restaurants, probably the result of the many ethnic communities within the city.
             For spectacular views of the city and Lake Michigan, take the elevator to the Skydeck of the Sears Tower, which, for several years, was the tallest building in the world (110 stories/1350 feet/450 meters).
             A walking tour of the downtown will always include a stroll down the Magnificent Mile, a high-end shopping area in downtown Chicago, as well as a promenade along the waterfront. Where else in the world can you see men and women in suits take their lunches across Lake Shore Drive to eat them on the beach with its skyscraper backdrop.
             Chicago is also a city which contains many green areas. Particularly popular are Lincoln Park which also houses the city zoo, and Millennium Park, right on the lakefront.
             Stop by the Water Tower, one of the few buildings to survive Chicago’s devastating fire which began in O’Leary’s barn, in 1871. Its juxtaposition near numerous skyscrapers is dramatic.
     2.  Wisconsin Dells
             Wisconsin Dells refers to an area of the Wisconsin River which has created a fascinating and scenic chasm in the surrounding sandstone. Many different companies offer boat excursions up and down the river. In addition, because of the popularity of the Dells, numerous recreational opportunities are now available in the vicinity, such as, water parks, amusement parks, museums, etc. The “dells” have become the major tourist destination in Wisconsin and the ultimate “honky-tonk” locale. Here is an example of a beautiful natural area being spoiled (ruined) by capitalism and commercialism. Yet, thousands of people still love the area and return again and again.
     3. Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota
            The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the USA’s largest retail/entertainment complex. It covers almost 80 acres and, besides the usual mall denizens (stores and restaurants), it has an amusement park, Knott’s Camp Snoopy, and an indoor aquarium, Underwater World.
            Bloomington is a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the state’s largest city and the home of the Metrodome. The city offers a Mississippi River cruise which travels through the famous locks which enable the river to remain navigable this far north. The neighboring community of St Paul is the state’s capitol and a pleasant area to explore. Notice, in particular, the Art Deco City Hall and the State House.
    4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
            Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, along the southeastern coast of Lake Superior, showcases an area of dramatic cliffs, up to 70 km (200 feet) high, along the lakeshore. Federal lands extend from Munising to Grand Marais, MI. There are numerous trails for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing or snowmobiling in the winter. The cliffs are referenced in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha.
     5. Cahokia Mounds State Park, southern Illinois
             Travel across the Mississippi River bridge into nearby Illinois to visit the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville which preserves the site of an ancient Native American city that flourished here from approximately 900 – 1500 A.D. The mounds are thought to be the remains of earthen pyramids, erected throughout the city for various purposes. Excavations below the mounds have confirmed at least their ceremonial purposes. This society, named the Mississippians, relied heavily on trade. Evidence on the site indicates the people traveled as far north as Canada and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. The Cahokia Mounds have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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