1. Murphin Ridge Inn
West Union, Ohio
When you hit Murphin Ridge Road, you know you’re not far from the secluded Murphin Ridge Inn in the Appalachian foothills of southwest Ohio.
The 10 guesthouse rooms and six woodland cabins are furnished with custom-made reproduction Early American furniture by Ohio artisan David T. Smith. Guesthouse porches offer rockers that overlook the ridge, while the cabin porches have swings.
Some rooms come with fireplaces,while all cabins have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. The inn restaurant serves scrumptious meals in an early 1800s brick house. Vegetables and herbs come to the table from the garden. You might find grilled pork tenderloin with autumn fruit chutney or a classic dish such as buttermilk fried chicken on the menu. For breakfast, guests often request foggy bottom pancakes served with a side of homemade applesauce.
There’s no need to leave the inn grounds for entertainment — you can find hiking trails, tennis court, pool and croquet onsite. But diehard shoppers will find Amish shops nearby, including Miller’s Bakery, Bulk Food & Furniture. It’s a onestop shop for something as little as a loaf of home-baked bread or as large as a solid oak armoire.
— Doris Larson
Murphin Ridge Inn
750 Murphin Ridge Road
West Union, Ohio
Rates for guesthouse rooms range from $104 to $135. Cabins are $170 to $225. 1-877-687-7446
2. Christopher’s Bed and Breakfast
Dreaming of a heavenly night’s sleep? Try Christopher’s Bed and Breakfast, a converted church whose stained-glass images watch over your slumber.
Innkeeper Brenda Guidugli bought the white, neo-Gothic Bellevue Christian Church in 1996, after its worshippers merged with another congregation. She worked with architects to divide the 1891 sanctuary into three guest rooms, retaining the stained glass and hardwood floors. Former church members were so pleased that they returned the antique pulpit.
Guidugli packages overnights with tickets to the Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Museum Center and the Newport Aquarium, or a riverboat dinner cruise on the Ohio. Newport on the Levee’s shops and restaurants are only a mile and a half away. Schneider’s Homemade Candies, famous for its shaved-ice cones combined with homemade ice cream, is even closer.
In the morning, it’s muffins and granola in a parlor crowned by two large stained-glass portraits of Christ. The images are appropriate for Christopher’s, literally “bearer of Christ,” and, of course, the traditional patron saint of travelers.
— Betsa Marsh
Christopher’s Bed and Breakfast
604 Poplar St., Bellevue, Ky.
Rooms range from $95 to $169, including breakfast. 1-888-585-7085
3. Roycroft Inn
East Aurora, New York
Staying at the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora, N.Y., is like going back to the time of Elbert Hubbard. The charismatic leader of the Roycroft Movement built the inn in 1905 to accommodate visitors enamored with the arts and crafts style of furniture, a refreshingly unpretentious successor to the excessive ornamentation of the late Victorian period.
Spacious public rooms and suites in this National Landmark property are appointed with Stickley and Roycroft furnishings. Each suite has a sleeping area, sitting area and bath. Decorative fabrics in the style of William Morris and simple lamps and sconces complete the period look.
In the Larkin Room, overlooking the courtyard garden, white linen and reproduction Roycroft china dress the tables. Wait staff wear flowing black cravats, a trademark of Hubbard’s wardrobe. Friday evenings feature fireside jazz and a light lounge menu. Sunday brunches are accompanied by a string quartet.
It’s a short walk from the inn to the clapboard and shingled Craftsman bungalow, site of the Elbert Hubbard-Roycroft Museum. And East Aurora’s tree-lined streets display superb Greek Revival, Federal and Victorian homes. — Doris Larson
40 South Grove St., East Aurora, N.Y.
Rates range from $120 to $230 per night.
4. Heartland County Resort
The Heartland Country Resort, nestled in the rolling hills of central Ohio, is a getaway for equestrians, true ones and wannabes. Guests are welcome to bring their horses. Or they can ride the resident horses on this 100-acre farm’s wooded trails year-round. Accommodations are offered in three log home suites built into a hillside or in the loft of a new barn.
The log homes, with their cathedral ceilings, Jacuzzis and fireplaces, appeal to rustic romantics. Meals are delivered, complete with candles, to set the mood. And when guests want company, they often find it on the porch swing, which is visited by farm dogs and cats.
Families feel welcome at Heartland too. They often choose to stay in the barn loft, which has space for four. On the lower level, a spacious gathering room offers board games and TV. Breakfast is set at the large oak table there.
Close by is Malabar Farm, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Louis Bromfield’s former farm, where visitors can go on tours and take wagon rides. The popular Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Mohican State Park are also nearby. Other attractions include golfing, birding and Amish country.
— Doris Larson
Heartland Country Resort
3020 Township Road 190, Fredericktown, Ohio
Accommodation rates range from $100 to $175 per night.(419) 768-9300
5. The Lodge at Fair Oaks
New Philadelphia, Ohio
The floor-to-ceiling windows at The Lodge at Fair Oaks flood its living and dining areas with light. On end tables, hardback journals hold the sentiments of past guests. And the country antiques, blond hardwood floors and lofted ceilings conceal its past as a home for wayward boys.
Like the nearby Amish, guests at the lodge have no telephones or televisions, unless they bring their own. They, like Thoreau, come to the woods to live deliberately. The secluded terrace is perfect for contemplating the deeper things in life, or simply escaping its usual trappings. The small putting green at the lodge brings out your inner Tiger Woods, while a moonlit soak in the private outdoor hot tub overlooking the Tuscarawas River Valley conjures your inner romantic.
While Amish Country goodies are only a short drive away, check the lodge kitchen for co-owner Mary Fotheringham’s surprise homemade delights, such as her scrumptious butterscotch pie.
Those with an appetite for local history can explore Zoar, a quaint, restored 19th-century German village. Lantern tours of the village’s haunted spots are offered on Fridays and Saturdays through October. Schoenbrunn, also close by in New Philadelphia, used to be a Moravian Indian Mission. The village has been reconstructed to look as it did when it was founded in 1772. Self-guided tours are available. — Becky Turman
The Lodge at Fair Oaks
1717 Seven Mile Drive, New Philadelphia
Rates range from $89-$235 and include breakfast.
6. The Inn at Cedar Falls
Not so long ago, hiking in Hocking Hills was a rustic affair — the only meal you could count on was the one in your backpack and the only bed was the sleeping bag you rolled that morning.
Now there are scads of lodges, cottages and inns up and down these rocky hollers. But one place has stayed true to the essence of the Appalachian foothills for 18 years. Or, if you factor in the age of the log cabins, for 160.
Shamble up the wooden steps into an 1840s cabin and you know that The Inn at Cedar Falls fits perfectly with the state park hugging it on three sides.
No phones, no radios, no blaring TVs. Just rustication aplenty, whether you’re bunking down in the barn-style building out back, in a secluded cottage or especially in one of the 1840s log cabins.
The inn is within three miles of Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave and its namesake Cedar Falls. After a vigorous hike, Eldora Owsley can fry you up a bologna sandwich with sautéed onions at Etta’s Lunchbox Café & General Store in New Plymouth. Just say those four magic words: hobo ham steak, please.— Betsa Marsh
The Inn at Cedar Falls
21190 State Route 374, Logan
Rooms are $99 to $259. Dinner is $17 to $35. 1-800-653-2557
7. Foxhollow Manor House Inn and Wetlands Spa
Places of pilgrimage come in all persuasions. For relaxation and healing, Foxhollow is the sanctuary of choice.
On 1,300 acres of historic farmland, Foxhollow is an amalgam of sites and services dedicated to wellness, from its organic menu to its medical seminars. Clients come from throughout the United States for the integrative medical care of its Paracelsus Foxhollow Clinic.
More come, though, for the sybaritic side of things: a LaStone massage, cranio-sacral work or a Soft Serenity manicure.
Foxhollow’s emphasis is on well-being from the inside out, and that might start with an organic lunch of chunky tomato soup, hummus and tuna wraps and a wicked chocolate-drizzled cheesecake, served in the cozy manor house built circa 1837 by the pioneering Eli Yaeger family.
After lunch, it’s off to the spa, about a half mile west on state Route 329, in another venerable building from 1900. Just look for the paddocks and the horses, for the long drive and the arching trees, and you’ve arrived.
Dinner might be updated Southern comfort food at Limestone Restaurant nearby in Louisville, and then back to the cocoon of Foxhollow. — Betsa Marsh
Foxhollow Manor House Inn
8909 State Route 329, Crestwood, Ky.
Manor House room rates range from $75 to $135, including an organic breakfast of fresh fruits, organic jams and organic eggs. Cottages also available.
8. Glenmoor Country Club
This chi-chi country club, located a surprisingly short drive from Interstate 77 in Canton, is just what the doctor ordered for work-weary souls who want to get a million miles away from the office but don’t have the time to do so. Check into one of the 76 well-appointed guest rooms in the clubhouse — a former Depression-era seminary built in the Gothic style — or villas, and you’ll have access to the full-service spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, four clay and two Deco Turf tennis courts, and the outdoor swimming pool. The spa offers four- and six-day packages of exercise classes, beauty treatments, spa cuisine and overnight accommodations.
Dining options include Scot’s Grille, which serves up healthy fare in a casual environment, and The Black Heath Grille, where guests and members alike enjoy steaks, chops and seafood in a handsome room worthy of King Arthur and his court. Guests looking for something to do off the grounds might enjoy the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
— Lynne Thompson
Glenmoor Country Club
4191 Glenmoor Road N.W., Canton
The rate for a standard room, single or double occupancy, is $139 until Oct. 15.
9. The Greenbrier
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
If you’ve ever dreamt of lolling about like a modern-day Scarlett O’Hara or Rhett Butler, cosseted and catered to in antebellum opulence, then pack your equivalent of a trunk and head to this four-star resort nestled in the verdant mountains of West Virginia. You can still soak in the sulphur waters, once believed to cure everything from rheumatism to tuberculosis, that first drew visitors from throughout the South more than 200 years ago. But the luxurious spa also offers a full menu of services, including selections for men and children as young as 6. Belles and beaux looking to whittle their waists can work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center, swim in an opulent indoor pool truly fit for a king or schedule activities ranging from the usual golf and tennis to hiking and mountain biking. The breakfast and dinner included in the per-person room rate are served in a dining room lined with huge arched windows and portraits of long dead ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy the evening repast, a blend of Continental and American cuisine, while a pianist and violinist perform classical selections.
Guests have been known to venture off the 6,500-acre property into surrounding Greenbrier County, which is loaded with Civil War history and antique shops. (The General Lewis Inn & Restaurant, in the quaint county seat of Lewisburg, is a popular stop for dinners of country ham, chicken and mountain trout topped off by homemade pecan pie and fruit cobblers.) But we’ve never understood why anyone would willingly leave here before checkout time.— Lynne Thompson
300 W. Main St., White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
Rates per person (standard room, double occupancy, includes breakfast, high tea, cocktail-hour hors d’oeuvres/soft drinks and dinner), $296 Sun-Wed, $324 Thu-Sat, through Oct. 31.
10. Chautauqua County New York
Chautauqua County in western New York is known mostly for two things: miles of vineyards along the Chautauqua Wine Trail and Chautauqua Institution, a cultural mecca where no alcohol is sold on the property — though guests may indulge in a fine bottle of, say, Chautauqua Blanc in the privacy of their homes.
Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent and Akron inventor Lewis Miller founded the gated community of Chautauqua in 1874 by pitching tents on the grounds and offering classes to Sunday school teachers. The successful concept of an educational vacation has since evolved into a full-scale cultural experience, including classes in religion, dance, theater, art and music. The institution itself has grown to include a stretch of Victorian houses and quaint cottages with plenty of gladiolas in the flower gardens. The institution has its own post office, library and police department, though the latter is hardly needed. September is a great time to behold the Athenaeum Hotel, with its stately columns and grand staircase, during the eighth annual Jazz at Chautauqua, featuring 30 jazz artists from around the world. Guests can stay at the hotel, other inns on the property or in one of the many bed-and-breakfasts along state Route 394. Those looking for a more rural getaway might enjoy the Brookside Manor Bed and Breakfast in Fredonia where owners Andrea Andrews and Dale Mirth offer charming rooms, a patio overlooking their plush garden and a fruit-filled breakfast.
Don’t drive down U.S. Highway 20 with your windows down unless you’ve got time to stop along the Chautauqua Wine Trail for free tastings — the aroma of grapes ripe for picking will get you there, believe me. With more than 125 acres of vineyards, Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield has visitors falling in love with its Liebestropfchen, or “Little Love Drops,” a semi-sweet white wine. Be sure to check out the Vinewood Acres Sugar Shack on state Route 5 for syrups, jams and butters made from blackberries, crab apples and other fruits.
Another attraction you’d be almost as silly as 1950s television comedies to miss is The Lucy-Desi Museum and Gift Shop in downtown Jamestown, the hom etown of Lucille Ball. Among the gift shop’s many items are snow globes appropriately immortalizing her grape-stomping episode.
— Kim Schneider
The Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau
1 Ames Ave., Chautauqua Institution
Welcome Center, State Route 394,
11. Kentucky Artisan Center
From pottery to quilts to dulcimers, Kentucky is famous for its handcrafts. Tiny Berea, whose college students have been crafting to pay their tuition since 1893, is the folk arts and crafts capital of Kentucky.
Presto! The perfect spot for the Kentucky Artisan Center, a limestone building with slate and copper roofs, styled to look like a bluegrass hamlet.
Inside, open rafters soar above sale areas, demonstration tables and the cafe, which serves up soup beans with cornbread, fried Kentucky catfish and bour bon bread pudding.
The centerpiece is the handcr afte d p otter y, g l a s s w a r e , w e av i n g , carving and stitching. Cher yl Powell?s hand sculpture, ?The Power of Make-Be-Leaf,? greets visitors at the glass doors. Chris Ramsey turns a chunk of wood into a wearable hat, setting it agleam with 20 coats of lacquer.
Kentucky musicians have their own listening station, from Rosemary Clooney to Ricky Skaggs. The bookshelves hold volumes by Barbara Kingsolver and Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemani.
Just down the road, artisans are selling crafts from dozens of workshops. The 1909 Boone Tavern scoops up spoonbread and turns down student-crafted beds, offering Southern hospitality for travelers as part of Berea College.
? Betsa Marsh
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea
975 Walnut Meadow Road,
12. Sunwatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park
At Sunwatch Indian Village, duck through the flap door, sniff the campfire and settle onto the dirt hearth. Close your eyes and let the centuries drop away, and soon it’s possible to recapture a hint of early Ohio life through the eyes of her first settlers.
A small band of Fort Ancient people created this village about A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1220 on the banks of the Great Miami. Sunwatchers used a celestial calendar to time their April planting and August harvest, making the difficult societal shift from hunting to farming. They built a sophisticated, planned village of huts laid out in concentric circles around a broad plaza. Giant poles in the plaza helped track the sun’s movement.
A wander around the museum helps you understand village life here, before stooping into the reconstructed huts themselves. On weekends, living history programs often set the campfires ablaze and welcome modern visitors to try skills vital to life nearly a millennium ago.
Sunwatch is a National Historic Landmark, what Bradley Lepper, a curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, has called “the Williamsburg of prehistory.”
For a more recent history lesson, visit nearby Carillon Historical Park, which celebrates Dayton from its founding in 1796 through World War II. Fast-forward through history by weaving in and out of 25 heritage buildings clustered along the Great Miami.
The curators are especially proud of native sons Orville and Wilbur Wright. The aviation pioneers flew their 1905 Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical airplane, for record-breaking flights at Huffman Prairie Flying Field outside Dayton. The century-old craft, enshrined at Carillon, is the only airplane designated a National Historical Landmark.— Betsa Marsh
Sunwatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park
2301 W. River Road, Dayton.
Admission is $5 per adult and $3 per senior 60 or older and students ages 6-17. Free for children 5 and younger.
13. East Carson Street
Pittsburgh’s East Carson Street, in the heart of the South Side, caters to college students and college-students-at-heart. This 15-block hub of boutiques, thrift shops and stores sells furniture, fabric, beads, books, luggage and guitars. After business winds down, the social scene revs up at many trendy restaurants, bars and cafes.
Enter a bright yellow world of nostalgia at Kharisma Vintage Fashions, where the owner handpicks her entire stock and updates it three times a week. Peruse her funky, eclectic collection that specializes in clothing from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and includes Daisy Mae, Kharisma’s own clothing line.
Two blocks away, Dave’s Music Mine, a music junky’s nirvana where customers can buy, sell or trade, offers a vast selection of new and used CDs, DVDs, videos, tapes and vinyl records from Creedence Clearwater Revival to BB King. Be prepared to lose hours in the tiny aisles of the used bookstore, CityBooks. And no mid-day break on Carson Street is complete without a stop at the Beehive coffee shop, Pittsburgh’s quintessential bohemian hangout. Always abuzz with activity, the Beehive has graffiti-covered bathrooms, old cigarette vending machines selling novelty snacks and its own art gallery. It’s a great place for a barbecue tofu sandwich and an iced Chai. Play a game of Jenga, and you’ll find all the game pieces covered in messages written by past players.
Break out of the college mindset (or at least out of the Ramen-again-for-dinner-is-OK mindset) by heading to Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. Watch the chef prepare your Hibachi sesame chicken over a tableside flame, sample seafood Maki rolls and sushi or sip down specialty cocktails or Japanese sake at the bar.
On the west end of Carson Street, Station Square, a renovated train station, will keep you up until light peaks over the Pittsburgh skyline with live music, comedy clubs and dance clubs. On the east end, SouthSide Works, an outdoor village of upscale shopping and restaurants, appeals to those with deep pockets and an afternoon to indulge. For lodging, check out one of South Side’s historic Victorian homes at Morning Glory Inn, a bed and breakfast. — Lydia Navatsyk
The Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau
Visitor information center located at 315 Grandview Ave.
14. Clifton Hill
Niagara Falls, Canada
So you’ve done Niagara Falls. You took some pictures, walked through the gardens, and wondered if it’s a coincidence the statue of King George V resembles Sen. George Voinovich. But you haven’t truly had fun at Niagara Falls, Ontario, until you’ve hiked up Clifton Hill.
A tourist trap on steroids, this strip features family-friendly and truly tasteless attractions. One of the most notorious is the Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum. Once content with displaying Bonnie and Clyde’s (reputed) “Death Car,” visitors are now introduced to life-size figures of mass murderers, such as Richfield’s own Jeffrey Dahmer peering into a fridge.
Clifton Hill is littered with haunted houses, such as Nightmares Fear Factory and the curiously named The Haunted House, but the “X-Files”-inspired Alien Encounter recently closed, and is now the site of the Classic Iron Motorcycle Museum. Dedicated to true motorcycle enthusiasts, look for rare Harleys on display, including the “hog” Dan Aykroyd rode to lead John Belushi’s funeral procession.
Scarier than all of the haunted houses and waxworks put together is the Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre, which features an informative history of the falls — and then sends you over the falls in a barrel.
From the unusual to the bizarre; Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum manages to feel a lot less pre-fab than the Guinness World Record Museum up the street, though each commemorates Robert Wadlow — the tallest man who ever lived — as a life-sized figure. Ripley’s dedicates more space to regional oddities and Niagara lore.
If all this leaves you and the kids feeling stressed, unwind at Dinosaur Park Miniature Golf, located behind the Ripley’s Museum, where you can play 18 tiny holes surrounded by growling, stationary dinosaurs.
— David Hansen
4960 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, Ontario. (905) 358-3676
15. Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
The ewe is dipping her head into the straw to munch just as her lamb angles her head up to nurse. It’s a full-circle breakfast bar this morning at Aullwood Farm.
The certified organic farm is a vestige of agrarian America near the Dayton airport and a teaching center for urbanites. City slickers can tour the barn and wander through the herb garden, but this morning Aullwood is much more fascinating as a nursery.
The lambs and kids are spring-new, clinging to their moms, and the calves seem spring-loaded, bounding around the field.
The farm is linked by a path, past a spring pool and muskrat marsh, to the Aullwood Audubon Center. Together with the Knoop Prairie, they offer 350 acres worlds away from city frenzy.
At the center, floor-to-ceiling windows look out from the bird-watching room to a cluster of thistle and suet feeders, today serving a red-bellied woodpecker, cardinals and downy woodpeckers. The rattan chairs are fine, but the two willow-back rockers are the best seats in the house.
And the best bed? It may be south in Miamisburg’s 1924 English Manor Bed and Breakfast, a grand Tudor gleaming with red oak floors, stained glass windows and Rookwood fireplaces.
— Betsa Marsh
Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
The center is at 1000 Aullwood Road, Dayton. The farm is nearby at 9101 Frederick Pike. Admission is $4 per adult and $2 per child ages 2-18.
Free for members of Friends of Aullwood and National Audubon Society.
16. Ohiopyle State Park
Let’s get this straight: The water slides at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands are not the half-tubes of plastic and pumped water that you’d find at one of those water-park resorts.
Instead, the rapid creek waters at Meadow Run twist and cut through its rocky banks to create one heck of an adventurous ride. And remember this: Meadow Run is near the white water on the Lower Youghiogheny River — which boasts class III and IV rapids for serious rafters — and you don’t even have an inner tube.
First-timers should stand on the rocks above and watch for a few runs to take a mental note of the deceptive waters. (Careful: The rocks are slick.) Then, begin slowly at the first slide, easing in from the slower waters farther upsteam. As the water lifts you off the bottom and pushes you quickly along, your backside bouncing off the creek bed, keep your hands free to push off the sides and maintain your balance until it dumps you into a churning froth of deeper water. (We positioned someone at the end of the first run to catch the riders before they were carried into the faster second run.)
Once you’ve found your comfort on the upper run, continue through that natural break to the second slide. Here you’ll be tested with some awesome-quick water, an S-bend with a tricky rock overhang and a fun drop into a deep pool. Ride them both and you’ll never be happy with those water-park slides again.
The perfect complement to the slides is a nice hike (about 3 miles) or drive to scenic Cucumber Falls. The kids can splash in the creek, climb behind the falls or follow the water to the Youghiogheny and watch the rafters as their guides teach the basics before heading into the rougher waters. Then chill out on the deck of the Ohiopyle House Café, which offers a relaxed atmosphere and a menu for every taste. — Steve Gleydura
Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau
120 E. Main St., Ligonier, Pa.
17. Peek’n Peak Resort and Conference Center
Findley Lake, New York
On a breezy summer night, the stars are just about the only thing out at Peek’n Peak. The Upper Course is quiet, awaiting tee-offs from tomorrow’s early risers. The resort’s eateries are shuttered, save for the Regency Pub. Days tend to end early here, and for good reason: There’s just too much to do during the day.
The four-season getaway sprawls through two golf courses and a 27-run ski resort. It holds condos, suites and luxurious clubhomes as well as the old-fashioned, European-style Inn at the Peak. Restaurants sprinkle the grounds. There are indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs and tennis courts.
For golfers, the summertime-only Woods ’n Wedges restaurant provides a view of the 18th green on the Upper Course, while the Regency Pub provides welcome refreshment year round. In the winter, skiing can be as easy as suiting up and locking in right outside your front door, since some condos sit at the top of the ski lifts.
The greens and the slopes are the crown jewels of Peek’n Peak, to be sure. But there are other gems inside the inn. One, the Champagne Sunday Brunch in the Royal Court Dining Room, features a revolving menu that, on a recent trip, included Bananas Foster, fresh sushi and jambalaya. The second is the bar inside the Regency Pub, distinctive for its height (low, low, low) as well as its surface (silvered, semiprecious stones backlit to sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow).
— Amber Matheson
Peek’n Peak Resort and Conference Center
1405 Olde Road, Findley Lake, N.Y.
18. Chicago, Illinois
You can gaze in awe at Chicago’s downtown, the skyscrapers reaching up from the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue, Grant Park a green sea washing up against a wall of offices and hotels. Or you can plunge into the Loop and get a sense of how it grew. Ever since Chicago rebuilt from the Great Fire of 1871, the city has been home to some of the world’s best architecture and design. The Chicago Architecture Foundation shows it off with a staggering 70 tours, including four dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright, one to Art Deco and one to Tiffany glass installations. Tours run almost every day of the year.
The foundation’s Architecture River Cruise is its can’t-miss tour. The boat heads up both branches of the river, then out to the locks at the lakeshore. You sit on an open-air deck as downtown’s 23 bridges pass by just above you. For about 90 narrated minutes, you get inspiring views of almost every skyscraper and pass through a neighborhood of creatively refurbished riverfront condos. The boat shoves off hourly from the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive daily through Oct. 30 and weekends through Nov. 20.
The Loop Tour Train threads in between the skyscrapers for intimate second-story views. A special reserved train takes visitors along the El’s elevated tracks for three circles around downtown’s Loop, while a guide points out design details and explains the buildings’ histories. The tour runs Saturdays through Sept. 24; tickets are free, but arrive (at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph) by 10 or 11 a.m. to pick them up.
Both tours will fill you with more Chicago knowledge than you thought possible. You’ll spot terra cotta everywhere and know it means “baked earth”; you’ll learn that Mrs. O’Leary and her cow