A Few Summer Ideas

At the request of a friend looking for somewhere sort-of wild to go camping this summer, I listed a few places a day’s drive from the big city. My bias for the summer is north (mostly because I hate heat and humidity). Do you have a favorite summer camping spot? If so, let us know in the comments.

Ludington State Park (Michigan Coast, about 6 hours away)

Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park

This is a new favorite place for us and we have yet to sample it in the summer (this is what we wrote a few months ago). Summer here should be a lot of fun too ’cause it has a big lake for contemplation and a smaller one for swimming and canoeing. There also is a lighthouse, bike trails and rentals, and a pretty cool nearby town.

Kettle Moraine South Unit (near Whitewater, WI. About 2-3 hours away)

Henna and her friend Nicole at Kettle Moraine South Unity

Henna and her friend Nicole at Kettle Moraine South Unity

Along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, this park was awesome for us and several other Edison Park families one late May weekend. It has a great lake with a smallish but decent enough sandy beach, good fishing, and a roomy campground that lacked electricity (yeah, more stars at night) and plumbing (I swear the nicest vault toilets ever). The park is known for mountain biking which people do on the cross-country ski trails.

Sparta-Elroy Bike Trail Area(Northwest Wisconsin; 3 hours away)

Situated in the Driftless region of northwest Wisconsin (the area of Wisconsin not flattened by the glaciers) the area boasts a very long, mostly flat crushed limestone bike trail that weaves in and out of the hills. So you bike a few miles through farmland then come into a small town where you eat some ice-cream before hopping back on your bike. Along the trail there are three tunnels with one so long that it is pitch black in the middle. Closer to Elroy there is a great private campground that also offers bike rentals.

Near the Sparta-Elroy trail

Near the Sparta-Elroy trail

South Haven Area, Michigan (2.5 hours away)

Covert KOA

Covert KOA

Not a big fan of the very noisy and crowded state parks around South Haven. As a good alternative, try this wonderful family run campground. You are going to have to drive to the beach, but they have blueberry picking and a very nice pool to go with their wood lodge like facilities. Last time we camped the bugs in the tent area were pretty bad, but maybe it was just the season. The cabins make a nice alternative and have AC. If you go, check out the scene at St. Joseph (very cool public beach and a so-so Children’s Museum).

Pike’s Peak State Park (North East Iowa, 3-4 hours away)

View from Pike's Peak

View from Pike’s Peak

Named after the same Pike whose peak in Colorado exceeds 14,000’, this peak is not quite as tall. But the views of the Mississippi are pretty cool. And the ancient burial mounds making up Effigy Mounds are something that has to be seen to be believed. Again, our only experience here is in the fall (where the Great River Road’s foliage has to rival anything in Vermont), but Summer is likely just as good a time to visit. Noel

Happy Summer everyone and hope you find time to follow us on travel northeast all the way to Newfoundland!

Some Great Playgrounds Out There

Sure, nature makes a great playground, but so does man (and woman).  Here are some of our favorite mechanical attractions.

The Missoula County Fair

Corey and I have been there twice, but only once with Henna (the first was as newlyweds on our return trip from Alaska).  In the ten or so years between visits we changed much, the fair not so much (although we did miss the horse racing present on our first trip).  That is a good thing.  Both times there we wandered through prize cows and llamas as well as other questionable western livestock and dined on funnel cakes and other tasty fried treats.  Corey does not like things that spin her, but Henna does and the two of us enjoyed watching rainbows from the Ferris wheel.

St. Jospeph, Michigan

Where there was once a religious retreat there is now an awesome beach, playground, and carousel.  All of it sits below the down town area where ornamental cannons stand guard.  Upstairs (at grade level) is an OK children’s museum as well as several ice cream shops.  Parking is cheap or free, no beach fees at all, and the carousel will not cost you more than a few dollars.  What is there not to like?

The Carousels of Oregon

Salem and Albany Oregon both have sister cities near the east coast and love things that go round and round.  In Albany volunteer workers have been spending the last several years carving and painting works to complement a restored 1909 Dentzel machine that will ultimately power their creation.  Donations and visitors are always welcomed and our short time there felt like being in a dream factory.

Salem residents and tourists have been enjoying their carousel for some time.  The carousel is housed in a small building within a larger green park a short distance (but a busy street crossing) from the downtown area.  Incidentally, the Salem visitor center is the only center I know that sells bottles of wine from a nearby winery. 

Millennium Park, Chicago

We have not made the final selections yet, but I think we are going to omit this park from our Great City Park list (the Lakefront though is still in the running).  As consolation prize, we will mention our hometown park on our great man made attraction list.  The reason for this lofty honor, the cool off factor.  Not much in Chicago is free, but standing under a giant waterfall and dodging underground sprinklers is.  And we love it.

Do you have a favorite playground?  Please, Hennacornoeli minds want to know.