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Explore the Midwest with one of these five lake destinations for your next vacation!

By Kritika Iyer

Don’t get me wrong, the coasts have a lot to offer for a vacation getaway. I mean, there’s a whole ocean at your feet—the possibilities are endless. But, don’t let that prevent you from exploring places a little beyond your reach, like perhaps the Midwest?

As a Midwest native, born and raised, there’s a host of adventures out there that even I, in my 20 years of living there, still have yet to discover. The Midwest is filled with trails for hiking and biking, a plethora of canoeing routes thanks to its various streams and rivers, but, most importantly, an abundance of lakes.

Lakes are a great way to quench your thirst for a nice beach, while still having the opportunity to travel to a new state and tour new areas. Or, maybe you’re driving through on a road trip and want to stop to check out the local scene. Whatever the reason, here are five lake destinations to check out if you’re ever in the Midwest, in no particular order.

1. Door County, Wisconsin

If you’re a native of the East Coast and looking for a little familiarity, Door County is the perfect place for you. Door County is often compared to Cape Cod, with its large lighthouses and little towns. Door County has it all:If you’re looking for adventure, Door County has zip lining, parasailing, rafting, you name it. But, it also has local restaurants and shows to keep anyone entertained.

2. Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

For those who want to be more in touch with nature, Sylvan Lake is your destination. Sitting right in the middle of Black Hills National Forest, the lake alone is perfect for hiking, rock climbing, and canoeing. It’s also surrounded by mountains and forests, filled with something new to see every day. The beautiful landscapes will leave you mesmerized and beyond satisfied with your vacation choice.

3. Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois

If you are more of a city person, Chicago sits right on Lake Michigan. Chicago has many scenic beaches for relaxing, playing beach volleyball, or eating at the various lakefront restaurants. Chicago also has the Navy Pier, which, of course, has its many restaurants and shops, but the best part is its park rides, with their giant Ferris wheel. From the top of the Ferris wheel, you can look out over the city and the lake.

4. Traverse City, Michigan

Sitting right on the edge of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is a wonderful place to visit in the summer, if you’re looking for the ultimate Midwest festival experience. Every summer the city hosts the nearly 100-year-old National Cherry Festival. Most of Michigan’s cherry production is concentrated in this city, hence the tradition. This festival is filled with fun events, parades, farmers markets, and lots of cherries—and I mean lots. Other than the festival and the usual lake activities, Traverse City is the perfect destination for small town living. They have many art galleries, gift shops, and boutiques for the ultimate local experience.

5. Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks is a classic pick for anyone. There’s so much to do on the lake, from paddle boarding to jet skiing, or simply renting a boat, and chilling with your friends or family. Lake of the Ozarks also has many state parks, including Ha Ha Tonka State Park, where you hike to find the ruins of an old 1905 European style castle, as well as overlook the views of the lake. If that’s not enough, you can also book a helicopter ride to view the whole city. The best part of Lake of the Ozarks is that they have Waffle House restaurants nearby for the out of towners looking for the classic diner experience.

These are just five of the many lakes and other vacation destinations that exist in the Midwest. So, if you’re ever stumped and feel like you’re running out of places to travel to, don’t forget to look to the Midwest, and especially don’t forget to look for the lakes. You never know what you’ll find!

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