Fifteen or so months into the pandemic, it’s safe to assume you’re familiar with the feeling of being trapped within the confines of your daily routine. But with vaccines rolling out (yay, science!), the time has finally come to take your mask on the run (following state guidelines, of course). The best part? Naperville is perfectly positioned for road-tripping: We’ve got Michigan and Wisconsin up north, Minnesota to the northwest, Indiana to the east, St. Louis and the Ozarks just southwest … the list goes on.
The only problem? With so many incredible destinations to choose from, deciding what type of trip to take—not to mention where to go—can be downright dizzying. You’ve been through a lot this year, so we’ve done the hard work for you. Just follow our flow chart on the next page, pick the spot that speaks to you, et voila: the summer vacation
of your dreams.
By Cara Sullivan
Illustrations by Devin McSherry
Rugged & Rustic
W5453 Lake View Dr., Elkhorn, Wisconsin
92 miles from Naperville
Equal parts no-frills childhood summer camp and Wes Anderson movie set, stays at this dreamy destination are blissfully agenda-free. Fancy fresh flowers? Grab a bucket and mosey over to the cutting garden. Craving s’mores? Hit the camp store for supplies. (Fun fact: It’s housed in a former Prohibition rathskeller.) 262.742.4811, wandawega.com
SEE IT Two words: The treehouse. A design nerd’s dream, it’s the perfect perch for coffee drinking, book reading, bird watching, nap taking…
TRY IT Test your courage on a night hike—no lights allowed!—through the woods with a knowledgeable guide April through November ($15/person).
Garland Lodge & Golf Resort
N. Red Oak Rd., Lewiston, Michigan
378 miles from Naperville
Sure, there’s more to do than drive, chip, and putt at this Michigan resort—but with four championship courses to choose from, Garland is a hole in one with golfers for good reason. Pro tip: When you’re not scoring birdies, keep your eyes to the sky; you’re in bald eagle territory. 877.442.7526, garlandusa.com
SEE IT Take a 15-minute drive to Coopersville Old West Town, a replica Main Street with everything from a general store to a saloon.
TRY IT Fine-tune your swing with a 10-
minute private tune-up before you hit the links—it’s just $10 at the pro shop.
Ludlow’s Island Resort
8166 Ludlow Rd., Cook, Minnesota
567 miles from Naperville
Escape to a private island without leaving the country? Yes, please! Guests of this family-run Minnesota resort have full run of the place—especially little ones, thanks to Ludlow’s “let kids be kids” motto. Most everything you stumble upon—from the zipline to the Finnish sauna, is included—and you’re even invited to bring your own boat. 877.583.5697, ludlowsresort.com
SEE IT Ask staff to point out the island’s famous pair of mated loons—they swim with their babies on their backs!
TRY IT Take a ride in the resort’s classic white Amphicar; it’s one of just 3,878 in the world, and it’s free for all guests.
Stonewater Cove Resort
1257 Sunset Timbers Trail, Shell Knob, Missouri
558 miles from Naperville
Private? Check. Luxurious? Double check. All-inclusive? Triple check. Throw a jaw-dropping Ozark location into the mix, and you’ve got the recipe for a trip you won’t soon forget. (Did we mention it’s within driving distance?) 800.792.3956, stonewatercove.com
SEE IT Take a day trip to Waterfall
Hiking Trail, a scenic, splashy 1⅓-mile footpath along Roark Creek through
the forest in nearby Branson (about
75 minutes away).
TRY IT Get a bird’s-eye view of the
Ozarks from the resort’s own zipline course, a 1½-hour joyride through the forest ($125/person).
Stout’s Island Lodge
2799 27th St., Birchwood, Wisconsin
386 miles from Naperville
Modeled after Adirondack logging camps and constructed with beams imported from Germany’s Black Forest, this unique resort—a collection of rooms and cabins spread over 12 gorgeous acres—has both a storied past and a storybook setting: an island on Wisconsin’s Red Cedar Lake, accessible only by ferry. 715.354.3646, stoutsislandlodge.com
SEE IT Allot some time for an hour spin around the lake on the lodge’s wooden Elco boat, a cozy whisper-quiet electric outboard ($25/person).
TRY IT In lieu of lunch in the dining room, seek out a quiet shady spot to enjoy a chef-prepared picnic basket.
Wet & Wild
Breezy Point Resort
9252 Breezy Point Dr., Breezy Point, Minnesota
548 miles from Naperville
Tucked into the shores of one of the best fishing lakes in the Midwest, this resort (a mix of hotel rooms, apartments, and private cabins) offers clear, shallow waters and sandy beaches kids will love. And with three indoor pools, it’s rainy-day-proof to boot. 800.432.3777, breezypointresort.com
SEE IT Board the Breezy Belle, the resort’s own paddle-wheel excursion boat, to experience Lake Pelican from the water ($20/adult, $14/kid).
TRY IT Fancy a fishing trip? Hire local guide John Blong to captain a Brainerd Lakes charter that virtually guarantees fish in the boat—gear and gutting included (from $375, brainerdguide.com).
Chase on the Lake
502 Cleveland Blvd., Walker, Minnesota
592 miles from Naperville
Adventure comes in many forms in Walker, Minnesota. In addition to boating, biking, or golfing at this Northwoods lakeside resort—which was used as a morgue during the Battle of Sugar Point in 1898—is said to be haunted. Water sports by day and ghost stories by night? Sounds like summer to us. 888.242.7306, chaseonthelake.com
SEE IT Take in the beauty of Leech Lake from the back of a Sea-Doo jet ski—rentals start at just $100 for half a day of water sports.
TRY IT Boat to the reef complex around Pelican Island where in-the-know anglers go to catch (and, yes, release) muskies.
Madden’s on Gull Lake
11266 Pine Beach Peninsula, Brainerd, Minnesota
542 miles from Naperville
Every parent knows that the best family resorts are those that offer guilt-free respite from All. That. Together. Time. Enter Maddens, a lakeside escape with an award-winning spa and golf course, mouthwatering dining options, and—drumroll, please—an Adventure Cove Day Camp for kids ages four to 12. 800.233.2934, maddens.com
SEE IT Head 20 minutes up the road to Nisswa Family Fun Waterpark, home of the 465-foot-long Super Shoot Body Slide.
TRY IT Itching to waterski? Wakeboard? Madden’s ski school offers one-on-one lessons for all levels.
Royal Starr Resort
19222 Echo Ridge Dr., Nevis, Minnesota
589 miles from Naperville
A stay at this casual, no-frills resort, a string of 13 well-maintained cabins dotted along 1,400 feet of sandy shoreline, is every exhausted mother’s dream camping trip come to life (read: #nottents with AC, modern appliances, and private bathrooms). 218.652.3821, royalstarrresort.com
SEE IT Stop in town to snap a selfie with the world’s largest tiger muskie (spoiler: it’s made of wood).
TRY IT Launch yourself into the lake from the bongo raft, a giant inflatable complete with a roll log and climb-on platform.
Wildman Adventure Resort
N12080 Allison Ln, Athelstane, Wisconsin
299 miles from Naperville
Nestled into the whitewater section of Wisconsin’s Peshtigo River, each campsite and cabin at this picturesque sprawl comes equipped with a natural sound machine: roaring rapids. Whether you’re into paddling, hiking, or simply reveling in Mother Nature’s splendor, a stay here is as close to immersion as it gets. 715.757.2938, wildmanranch.com
SEE IT Keep those binoculars close—Wisconsin’s Marinette County is prime eagle, loon, heron, deer, otter, and black bear territory.
TRY IT Want the best of both air and water worlds? Book the resort’s signature Zip and Raft package (around $100/person).
The New Cruise
Despite the total shutdown of the cruise industry in 2020, new research reveals that two out of three cruisers plan to get back on the water this year. Cruise lines are working hard to assure passengers of onboard safety, and many have implemented strict health procedures: embarkation testing for crew and passengers, mask wearing and physical distancing, air management and ventilation strategies, as well as enhanced medical capabilities.
Small-ship cruises, shorter sailings, and onboard experiences are predicted to be popular in 2021, as will changes in dining options (read: no more self-serve buffets). Cruising the Great Lakes is a freshwater, closer-to-home option to consider this year. The five lakes—carved by glaciers 10,000 years ago—form the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet, touching eight U.S. states and Canada’s Ontario province. In addition to visiting a diverse set of historic, cultural, or big-city ports, Great Lakes cruisers have the opportunity to travel through a series of locks, depending on the itinerary. Here are five options to consider:
Rest & Relaxation
Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
999 N. 2nd St., St. Louis, Missouri
272 miles from Naperville
The vibe here is as chic as it gets—so much so that it’s easy to convince yourself you’re somewhere a little more far-flung. (Seriously, gaze out from the rooftop, squint a little, and tell us that the sweeping Mississippi River view doesn’t look suspiciously like Miami.) Take in the views from a poolside cabana. 314.881.5800, fourseasons.com
SEE IT Walk through historic Laclede’s Landing to Gateway Arch park, then take a tram 63 stories up into the Saarinen–designed arch itself.
TRY IT Hit the spa for a KNESKO eye mask to go ($25), then book a poolside cabana to depuff in private.
The Lodge of Four Seasons
315 Four Seasons Dr., Lake Ozark, Missouri
415 miles from Naperville
Sitting pretty above the shores of Missouri’s Lake Ozark, this resort features unparalleled water views and 36 holes of championship golf—plus a 16,000-square-foot Japanese-inspired Spa Shiki featuring steam rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool, and a menu of services designed to relax and restore. 866.721.1365, 4seasonsresort.com
SEE IT Snag a seat at the Fire Pit Overlook just before sunset—it’s a view you won’t want to miss.
TRY IT Send tension packing with the Golfer’s Massage: a neck, back, and shoulder rub even nonathletes enjoy.
MGM Grand Detroit
1777 3rd Ave., Detroit, Michigan
304 miles from Naperville
Everybody’s definition of downtime is different—and if you love massages and your partner prefers poker, you’ll want to set your sights on this Vegas-style Midwest hot spot. Between the mouthwatering new steakhouse and the indoor infinity edge pool with private cabanas, you might never want to leave. 877.888.2121, mgmgranddetroit.com
SEE IT Hike the 2.2-mile Blue Heron Lagoon trail on nearby Belle Isle for
a peek at the William Livingstone Memorial Light, the only marble lighthouse in the country.
TRY IT Get your glow on with a pre-dinner customized hydrafacial at the MGM’s very own Immerse Spa.
Sundara Inn & Spa
920 Canyon Rd., Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
192 miles from Naperville
Every amenity at this award-winning inn was designed with utter relaxation in mind. And when you consider the meditation trail, fire-lit pools, waterfall hot tub, swim-up bar with craft cocktails, and farm-to-table dining, it’s safe to say the treatments are only the beginning. 888.735.8181, sundaraspa.com
SEE IT Escape to the serene Woodland Refection Room to be one with the forest via floor-to-ceiling windows.
TRY IT Indulge in the spa’s brand-new Lavender Lemongrass CBD Body Treatment, a 60-minute rubdown designed to ease pain and reduce stress ($200).
Turkey Run Inn
8102 Park Rd., Marshall, Indiana
172 miles from Naperville
The 61-room lodge at this quaint inn-in-the-park was built in 1919, but the property has since expanded to include a smattering of private rooms and cabins. Amenities include the Narrows restaurant, known for its Hoosier Tenderloin sandwich, a game room, and an indoor heated pool. It’s no five-star joint, but the forest beckons right outside your door. 765.597.2211, turkeyrunstatepark.com
SEE IT Head for trail 10, a moderate 1.4-mile hike, to check out the park’s famed suspension bridge.
TRY IT Explore the park on horseback; a 50-minute guided trail ride is just $20 at the Turkey Hill Saddle Barn.
Hitting the road? No matter who you’re sharing car space with, these podcasts have the power to show boredom who’s boss.
Nobody Panic A pee-your-pants how-to from comedians Stevie Martin and Tessa Coates on “becoming a fully functioning adult without screaming all the time.”
The No Sleep Podcast Love true crime? Delve into the world of horror fiction with this anthology of (truly) scary stories pulled from the subreddit of the same name.
Dying for Sex A balls-to-the-wall true story about a woman named Molly who’s diagnosed with stage 4 terminal breast cancer, leaves her marriage … and starts chasing orgasms.
The Habitat The fascinating true story of six strangers who volunteer to live together on a fake planet Mars habitat in Hawaii for a year.
Marriage and Martinis Real-life married couple Danielle and Adam dispense sage, yet deliciously irreverent advice on the myriad issues faced by long-term partners.
Limetown A jaw-dropper that dives deep into the mystery of a small town in Tennessee where over 300 people inexplicably vanished 10 years ago.
WOW in the World Ever wondered how astronauts poop in space? Enter this Ms. Frizzle–approved science podcast, NPR’s first foray into kid-focused programming.
Dream Big Podcast An inspirational interview series, hosted by a 10-year-old girl and her mom, that introduces kids to professionals who love what they do.
Smash, Boom, Best Dragons vs. Unicorns? Pizza vs. Tacos? Each episode in this debate podcast takes two cool things, pits them against each other, and lets a kid judge settle the score.
Photo by Bob Coscarelli (Camp Wandawega)