Great Lakes Itinerary (15 Days)

This itinerary covered our two-week trip to the Great Lakes. We also refer to this trip as our Midwest Trip since we were pretty much covering the heart of Big 10 Country. It was an open-jaw trip that started in Minneapolis, Minnesota and ended up in Chicago, Illinois. In between, we did a lot of driving covering the North Shore of Lake Superior (going as far as Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada), going as far east as Youngstown, Ohio, and as far south as Indianapolis, Indiana. The reason for all this driving as primarily to visit the most worthwhile waterfalls that we could. And with waterfalling highlights like Kakabeka Falls, Upper Tahquamenon Falls, Bond Falls, and Gooseberry Falls among others, I think we were pretty successful on that front.

This was a very independent trip where we were mostly engaged in self-driving and self-touring. There were a couple of exceptions where we took a Pictured Rocks Cruise on Lake Superior as well as a ferry ride to Mackinac Island. Even though we were quite busy on each day and many of the days were contained long drives, we still had enough flexibility to weather unexpected disturbances in the itinerary such as a Pictured Rocks Cruise cancellation on the day we arrived (having to defer it to the next day, where we still had a long drive after that!). That said, if we had to do this all over again, I probably would've spent an additional night in Minnesota on the North Shore of Lake Superior (so we could've better enjoyed the Lake Superior scenery and some of the easy-to-visit waterfalls that we missed) as well as switching the second night in Mackinaw City for Traverse City (to make a Sleeping Bear Dunes visit less rushed).

This was probably one of the cheaper trips that we've done of this duration mostly because we took advantage of Delta SkyMiles on the flight to Minneapolis (MSP), and we took advantage of hotel points at one of the Holiday Inns (IHG) as well as a few of the Hyatts (it really paid off for us in downtown Chicago). We brought our daughter along, and in places where long hikes were involved, we did a divide and conquer approach where we let Julie and Tahia do the kid-friendly stuff while I engaged in the more demanding physical waterfalling-related activities solo.

Day Overnight Activity
1 Minneapolis, MN
Hyatt Place Minneapolis Airport
Travel, Car Rental Pickup, Willow Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Mall of America
2 Thunder Bay, ON
Holiday Inn Express
Big Manitou Falls, Little Manitou Falls, High Falls of the Pigeon River, Kakabeka Falls
3 Duluth, MN
Comfort Suites Canal Park
Kakabeka Falls, High Falls of the Pigeon River, High Falls of the Baptism River, Gooseberry Falls, Canal Park (eclipse viewing)
4 Paulding, MI
Running Bear Resort
Potato River Falls, Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls, Superior Falls, Bond Falls
5 Munising, MI
Holiday Inn Express Munising-Lakeview
Agate Falls, Munising Falls, Miners Falls, Wagner Falls
6 Paradise, MI
Magnuson Grand Hotel Paradise
Spray Falls, Pictured Rocks Cruise (including Spray Falls), Upper Tahquamenon Falls
7 Mackinaw City, MI
Clearwater Lakeshore Motel
Upper Tahquamenon Falls, Lower Tahquamenon Falls, Mackinac Island
8 Mackinaw City, MI
Clearwater Lakeshore Motel
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Colonial Michilimackinac Park
9 Cleveland, OH
Hyatt Regency Cleveland At The Arcade
Downtown Cleveland
10 Cleveland, OH
Hyatt Regency Cleveland At The Arcade
Paine Falls, Lanternman's Falls, Brandywine Falls, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Downtown Cleveland
11 Indianapolis, IN
Hyatt Regency Indianapolis
Upper Cataract Falls, Lower Cataract Falls, Downtown Indianapolis
12 Chicago, IL
Hyatt Centric The Loop
Cascade Falls, Car Rental Return
13 Chicago, IL
Hyatt Centric The Loop
Downtown Chicago (Millenium Park, Maggie C Daley Park, Chicago Riverwalk, Michigan Ave)
14 Chicago, IL
Hyatt Centric The Loop
Downtown Chicago (360 Experience, Maggie C Daley Park, Art Institue of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain [not running]), Field Museum
15 Home Travel

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