Planes, Trains and Automobiles (And Kayaks, Bikes and Boots): Let’s Talk About Summer Travel

What do a yurt, a tipi, a retro mountain resort, a small town apartment and an urban hostel have in common?

They’re all on my summer travel itinerary — along with two kayaking trips, a few National Parks, several hikes, a few cycling jaunts, a train trip and my first Chicago Cubs game. I’m checking out at least seven states this summer and fall (and maybe more!) and I need your input on what to see and do.

But first, let’s talk about you! What are your summer travel plans? What do you need help with? Do you need inspiration? Advice? Nitty gritty travel planning assistance?

E playing in Lake Michigan, with the Chicago skyline in the background

I’m writing this post just before the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer travel season for those of us in the U.S. and I know that lots of us have travel on the brain.  If there’s something you want to read or learn more about, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below. Lots of you have reached out with questions and comments and that is directly shaping the kind of stories I share with you this summer.

The recent Winnipeg Jets  playoff run has generated new interest in one of my favorite prairie cities, so I’ll be bringing you a few new stories about Winnipeg in the coming months.  I’ll also be showing you a few destinations in Montana and expanding my western North Dakota coverage (my most popular request), as well as partnering up with other Midwestern bloggers to share favorite road trip destinations in their home states.

And I’m really excited to tell you about some of the trips I have planned. I’d love your help and advice as well. If you’ve taken any of the trips I’ll be going on this summer, don’t hesitate to tell me what you liked and what you wish you’d skipped, as well as any tips or tricks I can share with other readers. We’re all trying to maximize our vacation days and get the most for our money, so trust me, your advice helps.

A little more Chicago goodness…

After a much-needed day trip to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota to celebrate Memorial Day weekend (work has been crazy busy), I’m off to Chicago by train. I got a little bit obsessed with train travel during this trip on Amtrak’s Empire Builder last fall and I’m excited to repeat the trip for a story. (And I’m even more excited that I can work and take a nap instead of driving and bring my friend Naomi along for the ride.

We’ll be staying in Chicago long enough to see our first Cubs game (yay!) and eat what I hope will be a ridiculous amount of deep dish pizza. We’ll be exploring the Wrigleyville and Lakeview neighborhoods, so if you have any hidden gems to recommend or tips for how to get the most out of our first Cubs game, we’d love to hear them. Also, if you have questions about train travel, I’d be happy to answer those too.

Then it’s off to Fort Wayne, Indiana for kayaking, craft beer, street art, more baseball and summer festivals. I’ve never been to Fort Wayne, but I’m excited to talk to locals about their city and see how it’s been changing and growing. If you have favorite Fort Wayne spots, let me know!

Closer to home, I’m excited to (finally!) get a chance to paddle the Missouri River at Cross Ranch State park near Bismarck, North Dakota for a story that is going to be an absolute blast to write. As added bonus, my friend Jo is tagging along and we’re going to stay in a yurt! Coincidentally, Jo came with on my last ill-fated hiking and yurt camping adventure. I’m pretty sure we won’t encounter a freak snowstorm this time, though. (Fingers crossed.)

Travel planning is fun! I’m a brand ambassador for these collapsible water bottles, so if you want one, just enter ALICIA15 at check out for 15% off.

Jo is just as excited about exploring the state parks in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota as I am. We made a pact to spend as much time as possible outdoors this summer, so please tell us the trails we should hike first and what we should check out along the way.

Later this summer, I’m taking off on an epic multi-generational road trip to my cousin Katie’s wedding in Colorado. We’ll be taking our sweet time getting there, cruising along I-90 in South Dakota, doing this whole slow travel thing right. We’ll be taking in all the classic stops (Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park etc.), stopping to hike a little, snack and see what the craft brewers in the Black Hills are up to.

I’ve been to a lot of the touristy spots in South Dakota before, but I’m looking forward to seeing them through my son’s eyes. And I’m really interested in experiencing this place in a quieter way, from the trails and side streets instead of just jumping from line to line. (We’ll be tipi camping at one point on this trip, so that gives you an idea of just how chill we’re hoping the trip to be.) So if you have any tips and tricks on the best times to visit, the prettiest views or the best hiking trails, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Horse Tooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, Colorado

We’ll be continuing through Wyoming (stopping to explore Cheyenne and Devils Tower), before trying our first true mountain hike in Rocky Mountain State Park in Colorado. I’ve hiked near Fort Collins before, but E is older now and I’m curious to see how he handles a longer hike at that altitude. And (spoiler alert!) I’m pretty sure we’ll pop into Denver and Fort Collins to visit family and have a few (dozen) craft beers as well.

If you have hiking advice or insights specific to Rocky Mountain State Park or high altitude hiking, I’m all ears. Ditto for advice about what to see in Cheyenne and around Devils Tower. I haven’t been to Wyoming since I was tiny, so it will basically be all new to me.

After that, I’ll be arranging work trips to Wisconsin and possibly to the East Coast around my North Dakota beer book tour. It’ll be a bit of a whirlwind until fall and I’m going to be filing a lot of stories from trains, hotel rooms and the passenger seat in the coming months. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer is short. Let’s do it right.

The Denver capitol building

So what about you?
Where are you traveling this summer? (It doesn’t matter if you’re going abroad or staying close to home, I want to hear all about it!)
What advice do you have for my summer travels?
What do you want to learn about train travel? Yurt and tipi camping? Kayaking and hiking?
What kinds of stories do you want to read next?
Which cities and states on my itinerary are the most interesting to you and why?
How can I help you maximize your summer travel?

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