Did you mentally read that title with the cadence of a bro urging, “Chug it! Chug it! Chug it! If not, you should have, because going on a road trip is at least as exciting and morally gratifying as knocking back a brewski as fast as possible and finishing with a burp to announce that yes, you really are a man.
Seriously, though. There is nothing more exciting than a road trip, and maybe, this summer, your idea of “Chicago travel” means traveling from Chicago. So whether you want to tack on a day trip to your brief tenure here, or whether you live here and really need to cash in some vacation chips, take a look at some of the drive-worthy destinations in Chicago’s outer orbit…
1 hour, 39 minutes: Lake Geneva
Did you miss out on growing up in the sort of trust-fund WASP family that comes with a house in the Hamptons or on Martha’s Vineyard? Sad, isn’t it? Luckily, a such experience awaits you right outside Chicago. Lake Geneva, while obviously situated on a land-locked body of water, retains the feel of a quaint, New England seaside town. The boats bobbing in the harbor, the well-maintained beaches, and the happy-go-luckies strolling about licking ice cream cones might as well be a montage set to Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” There are both the indispensably kitschy tourist shops (why yes, you absolutely need another tye-dyed swimsuit cover-up; how could you even ask?) as well as unique, classy places like Cornerstone and Notice.
Tip: For half an hour of pure bliss, hit up Boatyard Bagel Company for an organic whole wheat honey bagel with banana Nutella cream cheese (or, if your taste runs to savory, an Everything with sundried tomato and basil), take a seat by the harbor, and slowly savor as you watch the sun catch the waves while the boats come in and out.
5 hours, 12 minutes: St. Louis
Sure, sure, it’s the natural choice for an out-of-Chicago trip. But between the Arch and the Zoo are a couple things that truly make St. Louis worth the drive. The primary one is the City Museum. Do you miss climbing on jungle gyms and swinging over the foam pit in childhood gymnastics? Are you completely disenchanted that tree houses no longer seem as far from the ground as they used to? The City Museum (the world’s best misnomer) is the answer. You can swing from ropes, slide down ten-story slides, climb across an enclosed bridge far above the city, and do so much more, all for only $12.
Another St. Louis treasure is the MUNY. This outdoor musical theater in the heart of Forest Park puts up seven musicals a summer, ranging from classic to contemporary, with show biz’s best in the casts. Recent guests have included American Idol’s Justin Guarini, Phyllis Smith of The Office, and Norm Lewis, from Broadway’s most recent revival of Les Mis. There’s nothing quite like Sondheim or Schonberg under the stars.
All day, all night: The USA
If you have the time and the adventurous inclination, there are forty-eight states comprising your road trip oyster (forty-nine if you’re feeling really dedicated, and fifty if your car is Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang). For ideas, check out the blog of Country Inn and Suites (yep, they have one) for themed trip ideas like “Cruise the Cascades,” including a caffeine fuel-up at Seattle’s Pike Place, or the “Ocean Drive” itinerary, which pretty much speaks for itself and awards you honorary Beach Boy status upon completion. You can check out http://blog.countryinns.com/hit-the-road-country for both ideas and the chance to win one of the road trips.
Even a good pint of Guinness can’t compete with that.