An easy start to a day in Lafayette is a walk around the Purdue Campus
, but don't spend too much time, you've got a lot on your plate. Your first destination is the beautiful Haan Mansion Museum
. The museum is an original building created for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The mansion itself is an attraction and could stand alone as a destination, but it is also home to an array of local Indiana art.
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If you would rather spend your day outdoors, there is plenty of that to go 'round in Lafayette. History buffs can spend some time at the first European settlement in the state, Fort Ouiatenon
. While the building we see today is a 1930s replica of the original 1717 fort, it is still exciting to be in the place where our state was birthed.
Sometimes you just want to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day, so take a walk through the Jerry E. Clegg Botanical Garden
. The mile-long trail weaves its way along Wild Cat Creek
and is the perfect place to enjoy the summer sun.
After a day out and about with no sustenance, you're going to need to fill up. If it's lunch time and you're in Lafayette, there is one place to go and that is South Street Smoke House
. It's not the nicest looking place in the world, but the best BBQ places never are, just ask Frank Underwood. Order some brisket and onion rings and don't be frugal with the sauce, it's all about the sauce.
If it's a bit later in the day by the time you're looking to eat, and you're not tailgating for a Purdue football game, there's no better bet than Mountain Jack's
. This old-school steakhouse, complete with fireplaces and more meat options than any one restaurant needs, but the dish to get is the prime rib. It's a glorious thing to dip a big slice of prime rib in port au jus with a bit of creamed horseradish sauce to kick up the heat. Pair it with a bottle of Cabernet and you've got a meal fit for royalty.
The late night scene in Lafayette has a vast number of bars to choose from, it is a college town, but if you're in a city with the oldest bar in the state, that should be the place to go. The Knickerbocker Saloon
holds that title for the state of Indiana, this place has been going since 1835 and it's no replica. It's a perfect place to dive into nostalgia and listen to a local band over a glass of whiskey or a bottled beer.
If you're looking for a more hip bar to end the night, the Black Sparrow
is an awesome little bar that has maintained the old architectural character of the building and the cocktails are good and the beer selection is great. Chat with the locals (mostly college students) over a shot or two and enjoy the night.
We're going to jump from one college town to another, after 149 miles of driving you will be pulling into the home of the Hunchback's, I think that is the team name.
South Bend, IN
Okay, okay, it's home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame
and also the most stunning church in the state, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart
. Stand in awe of the incredible craftsmanship that went into the construction of this breathtaking building, if you've ever read or watched Pillars of the Earth, you will truly have an understanding of the creation of such a structure. Pay close attention to the exquisite artwork throughout the church, it is truly some of the best in the state.
Once you're done inside the basilica, exit through the rear doors and stay to the left for your next stop. The Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes
is a wonderful, serene sanctuary to sit and reflect. It is an exact replica of the grotto in Lourdes (in France) and even has a stone from the original. Whether you're Catholic or not, it is worth it to pay the two dollars to light a candle, even if it's just to add to the beauty.
Before making your way to the next spot, it might be the perfect time to grab a quick lunch. Cafe Navarre
serves the best lunch in the city and maybe the best restaurant. It is a bit pricey, but the cafe makes a delicious bowl of wild mushroom soup and their ham and cheese is absolutely incredible. If you're looking for a cheaper, heartier option, the Fiddler's Hearth
has an extensive menu of Celtic cuisine and they do it justice. The Steak & Guinness Pie is out of this world good and surprisingly it goes down perfectly with a Guinness.
The after-meal spot to go to is The History Museum
, you'll want a meal in you because you will be here for quite a while. The museum is actually multiple museums in one, it is a tour of the magnanimous Oliver Mansion
, which gives you a glimpse of the lives of the millionaires of the late 1800s. You also get to see how disparate the lives of the working class was in the 30s at the Worker's House
. Car lovers and history buffs alike, will enjoy the Studebaker National Museum
, which tells the company's history, from making wagons in the 1800s to closing down in 1964 when they were making Studebaker automobiles. It even includes the final Studebaker ever produced.
Any sports fan knows Notre Dame is always an exciting team to watch, no matter the sport. The Notre Dame Stadium
is one of the most electric stadiums to watch a football game in the country. Play Like A Champion Today!
Time to spend the day at the beach, yes there are beach towns in the Midwest, with a quick 157-mile drive to New Buffalo, Michigan.
New Buffalo, MI
The first exit off I-94 as you enter Michigan is New Buffalo. This little beach town is bout as quaint and enjoyable as it gets and the little shops and restaurants up and down Whittaker Street
are just as chintzy and cute as you can imagine. A trip here is relaxing and reinvigorating, you really don't need to do much. Park your car and spend the day lazily walking the street, and maybe stopping for a quick ice cream from Oink's Dutch Treats
, popping into this store and that until you make it to the beach.
Now it's time to relax on the beach, soak in the sun, and pretend you're sitting along the Atlantic coastline. If you get hungry there is a perfect place for some grub and a drink. Sitting on the rooftop lounge at The Stray Dog
, drinking a daiquiri or a beer with a lime in it, while munching on some fish tacos is about as perfect as it gets, especially if the sun is setting over Lake Michigan
Once night falls, there are two things to do in New Buffalo. You can either try your luck at the Four Winds Casino
, or if you're like me, you pack up into your car and drive over to Munster, Ind. for the best beer in the world (it literally won this award) at Three Floyd's
. Surprisingly, the food may be better than the beer and the hotels in Merrillville are cheaper than in New Buffalo.
Our final stop of the tour of the North is a popular destination for tourists around the world. It's a place Kanye met when he was three years old, it goes by the name of Windy and sits 183 miles north of Monument Circle. Welcome to Chi-city.
I could write for days about this city. If you can't find something to do in Chicago, then you shouldn't be traveling. But, since I'm feeling generous, here is a quick rundown.
If you're a tourist and want to do touristy things go to the Magnificent Mile for (shopping, museums, landmarks, an aquarium and planetarium, Soldier Field, the Sears Tower [it's always going to be the Sears to me], Navy Pier, and all that jazz).
If you're a hipster or a self-proclaimed foodie, hit up Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, or Logan Square. There are too many restaurants and bars in this city to even come close to picking the best or top, but here are a few to checkout (Longman & Eagle, The Violet Hour, Lost Lake, The Aviary, Girl & The Goat, Alinea, Fat Rice, The Angry Crab, Pequod's (best Chicago pizza, IMHO), Lula Cafe, and no trip to Chicago should go without a combo with hot peppers and a side of gravy from Portillo's).
Go to Chicago, and then go back, there is so much to see and do.
That's it for one tank trips. Away we go!
Our final stop of the trip takes us to the north, land of the Stark's and The Night's Watch. Wait, wrong world. Let us go 63 miles up to the realm of the Boilermakers.