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Boston to Chicago

Melbourne, Australia
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Boston to Chicago

I would like your advice on our planned road trip. We are travelling from Boston to Chicago over 8 days in late September. There is my husband and I in our early 50’s and our 16 year old son. We are travelling from Australia and by this stage will have visited Hawaii, Washington DC and NY as well as enjoying what Boston has to offer. After Chicago we spend 2 days in LA before returning home. We have booked our car. We like nature (but not too strenuous), markets, cars, history. Our plan so far is –

Day 1 Pick up car in Boston and drive to Saratoga Springs (or ?Albany)

Day 2 Drive to Ithaca

Day 3 Drive to Niagara Falls, Canada. This is the only place where we have booked accommodation.

Day 4 Drive to Cleveland and stay 2 nights. There looks to be a lot to do in the city and surrounds.

Day 6 Drive to Walnut Creek and explore the Amish lifestyle

Day 7 Drive to Dearborn (Henry Ford museum) – possibly stay 2 nights or 1 night and then stay ??? Indiana Dunes State Park

Day 9 Arrive Chicago

We would like to know if there are other places we shouldn’t miss or better alternatives to what we have put together. We have looked at what to do at each place and there seems to be activities that will interest us. We are happy to drive and are used to driving long distances in Australia (albeit on the opposite side of the road!) but we want to spend time looking around, not just driving. Also, any tips re: tolls etc. We tend to like to have a plan rather than take pot luck.

We are very excited and look forward to hearing your advice.

Tanya

Cleveland
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1. Re: Boston to Chicago

Tanya, you may be the most efficient poster that I've seen, as you've seemed to utilize well your planning threads.

I have several concerns/cautions about the pre-NF portion of this leg.

1) If traveling the last week of September, you may run into the beginning of the Leaf Turn season. Reservations may be highly advisable, especially in the Ithaca area, where you also can run into Cornell University events in a rather limited lodging market. Football weekends would be a special concern in Ithaca if a home game is scheduled. Personally, I would book reservations for both Saratoga Springs and the Ithaca areas and reconfirm them once you're in the U.S. You always can cancel the reservations if you change your itineraries unless you try to save some dollars by booking non-cancelable reservations.

2) Beware that weather can be a big variable. As Aussies, to paraphrase Bill Cosby's famous Noah routine (BTW, Cosby provides some of the best America road trip entertainment extant), how well do you shed water? You might experience beautiful, vibrant weather, or you might experience chilly, steady rainfalls (true all the way to Chicago). Personally, I greatly enjoy the latter when it is light rain and you have parks entirely to yourselves. Have the right footwear as trails may be slippery. Light Gore-Tex outerwear is ideal. Lucifer Falls gorge at Ithaca has very steep stairways and special care is needed there, especially if the stairs are wet and slippery. Rain is your friend in the respect that it means that the water flows will be more pronounced.

You need a plan of attack for Lucifer Falls as you may not want to hike up, but if you hike only one way, how do you get your car moved between the upper and lower parking lots? Probably have one person hike part of the way down, then back up and move the car. This is just one place where having at least two phones could be useful. Hopefully, RJR will take note of this thread and comment, as NY, especially the Finger Lakes, is his special domain. Don't hesitate to ask him for tips and suggestions here:

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1480313-i12929-Fi…

You might want to check out Corning, the Corning Museum of Glass, Letchworth State Park (the "Grand Canyon of the East"), and Geneseo, as alternatives, especially if you encounter some unacceptable weather and decide to drive through it further west, skipping the Ithaca area.

An alternative to Ithaca in the event of bad weather may be exploring the historical attractions of the beautiful Hudson River Valley, perhaps starting somewhere south and working north to Saratoga Springs, taking into account operation hours at the time of your travel (e.g., can the Saratoga battlefield be toured until dusk, even though the highly recommended visitors center would be closed?). These attractions would include the likes of West Point, Kykuit (advance ticket purchases recommended), Hyde Park (Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site), and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (a great place to explore the Gilded Age).

3) Travel times/sightseeing. Beware that days will be shorter in late September, so, at the start of this leg, plan to maximize available daylight. Definitely familiarize yourself with the operating hours of desired attractions.

One appeal of Ithaca is Cornell University. This is one of the "Ivies," among America's top universities. It likely will have a robust event schedule in late September, and your son likely will be enthralled just in the evening walking around the campus, one of the most beautifully located in the U.S. So Cornell offers an evening activity in Ithaca, although familiarize yourself with the public parking options well ahead of time, perhaps even posting on the Ithaca forum for suggestions. If visiting Ithaca on a weekend, the farmers market at Steamboat Landing is one of my favorites in the U.S. It might operate on one or more weekdays. Cornell has both one of the top agricultural and top hospitality programs in the U.S. and is noted for the quality of its food, and it has well-respected student-operated facilities, including a hotel.

Other thoughts are whether you've considered the highly recommended Whirlpool Jet Boats that operate from both Lewiston, NY, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Sit in the front of an open-air boat to experience a rafting trip on steroids on one of the world's most powerful and fastest rivers (even experienced kayakers need hard-to-obtain permits to legally test the Niagara River). The Whirlpool Jet Boats would be best visited on your way to NF, and advance ticket purchases may be a good idea. Perhaps bring water shoes, but definitely have a change of clothing ready in the car, especially in late September.

Consider also taking the time to check out the amazing Welland Canal, where you might see ocean-going ships or mammoth "lake freighters" traversing the Canadian countryside.

Perhaps between NF and Cleveland, take a break at Presque Isle State Park, a beautiful National Natural Landmark, or at Lake Erie Bluffs of the Lake Metroparks system just east of Cleveland. Both are excellent places to explore the living Lake Erie, which effectively dies at NF.

ianadamsphotography.com/news/…

Of course, any time spent at these locations, or perhaps in Kirtland for the superb Mormon history attractions, especially the Kirtland Temple IMO, or Holden Arboretum, one of the largest and best in the U.S., in addition with several National Natural Landmark areas, will detract from time in Cleveland.

See Kirtland and Presque Isle discussions here:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g50207-s407/Cleveland…

Between Walnut Creek and Dearborn, take route 39 west to at least Loudonville, where you can catch route 60 to route 250 for a scenic drive through the Ohio country side, and perhaps faster than using interstates as you'll be cutting the hypotenuse. Check out Malabar Farm State Park in the Mohican region in the above travel article. It would be worth a stop if the Big House is open or if you would like to dine at the historic and excellent Malabar Farm Restaurant. After Malabar Farm, take a stunningly pretty drive through rolling hillsides of fields north on route 603 to route 30 to I-71 to route 250. Here, as on much of your trip, a GPS device will be useful.

Rather than taking the turnpike (I-90/I-80) towards Michigan, stay on route 250 to route 2. It's a beautiful freeway until Port Clinton (where you could catch a ferry for a quick ride to Put-in-Bay if you have extra time; see Lake Erie islands in the above travel article). Don't miss stopping in Port Clinton at the Jolly Roger, a unique fast food seafood restaurant that serves both Lake Erie yellow perch and walleye, regional delicacies. Check out the Magee Marsh Boardwalk further west on route 2, where you'll also drive shocking close to a major nuclear power plant. There's another wild beach there and you might catch part of a fall bird migration.

Have you ruled out a visit to Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world? On weekends in September and October, it additionally is the site of HalloWeekends, the extremely popular event that is one of the best "fright" shows in the U.S. Halloween has become one of the major holiday seasons in the U.S., especially in the Midwest and Northeast, where corn mazes, often "haunted," and "haunted hay rides" delight kids of all ages. Greenfield Village at Dearborn also hosts a premier Halloween event on weekends in Oct., and one where tickets should be purchased as soon as they are offered to the public.

For Dearborn, check out the operating hours of Greenfield Village at the time of your visit. IMO, you might be able to do GV in half a day, as some of the attractions are repetitive and not of much interest to foreigners as well as modern Americans. The highlight for me is Edison's Menlo Lab complex. By contrast, the Wright Cycle Shop is merely a small, empty building that Henry Ford relocated from Dayton, OH, as he did with many other buildings, typically the "homes" of famous Americans of the 19th and early 20th centuries. (The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and Dayton's Carillon Historical Park are far superior for exploring the Wright brothers and the genius of American inventors.) The Model Ts at GV are an enduring fascination that become more precious with every passing year. The Henry Ford Museum is gigantic and easily can consume a full day, especially if the theaters are visited. Check if Rouge production is taking place at the time of your visit (Ford is switching production of its famed F-150s to a revolutionary aluminum model); if so, IMO don't miss the Rouge factory tour.

If you decide what you want to see in Kirtland and Cleveland, post on the Cleveland forum and we can help you with your lodging options. Be advised with a new convention center and several popular attractions, Cleveland sometimes hosts conventions that can gobble up available rooms. Additionally, you might encounter a Browns NFL game weekend (a great joy with large tailgating parties in Sept./Oct.) or, given the emergence of "Lonnie [Chisenhall] Baseball," a play on the more famous yet unproven as a pro "Johnny Football" Manziel (re: the following linked article, nobody other than an ambitious sportswriter ever called Don Mattingly "Donnie") who will play for the Browns this fall, there's a possibility that the Indians still will be playing in late September and early October as a play-off participant, which also means big room demand. So consider booking reservations in advance for Cleveland, as recent visitors have reported at times tight lodging markets. For those with an interest in baseball:

…yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/lonnie-…

If you visit Cleveland while the U.S.S. Cod still is open, don't miss it. It largely operated out of Australia during WWII. The Steamship Mather both is an ASME mechanical engineering landmark, and the one-time queen of the Great Lakes, leading long convoys of ore freighters through the ice during WWII to provide the materials for round-the-clock war production. The Rouge and other Detroit-area factories provided over 30 percent of U.S. WWII war production, not even including the massive production taking place in northern Ohio and in the Erie and Buffalo regions of Lake Erie. E.g., the massive IX center in Cleveland originally was a WWII tank plant. Once I read that the Prince of Wales, or some other prominent member of the British royalty, visited Cleveland after the U.S. entered WWII. He went at night to the observatory deck of the Terrminal Tower (once again now open on weekend afternoons), then the tallest building in the world outside of NYC, where the Cuyahoga River Valley at the time was ablaze with the flames of continuous open-hearth steel furnaces, refineries, and chemical plants. (Cleveland, the home of John D. Rockefeller who is buried at Lake View Cemetery, was the initial center of the nascent global oil industry.) After staring for a long while, the royal's comment was that, "If Hitler had seen this, he never would have started this war." There are no refineries and only one steel mill left in the valley, but lucky visitors to the Terminal Tower still can see the choreography of bridge raisings as a massive lake freighter, now using thrusters (one of the Mather's great innovations) instead of tugboat tows, negotiates the winding river up to the mill with its load of ore.

Thinking back, that massive Cleveland tank plant, like the WWII Rouge, likely had a significant work force population of "Rosie Riveters." Few Clevelanders of my generation didn't know both WWII vets and "Rosie Riveters," all individuals greatly transformed and distinct from their peers and other generations by their war-time experiences.

One bit of advice: bring or buy binoculars. You can order them online from Wal-Mart, with other goods, for free delivery to a convenient store for pick-up. Also, don't neglect travel insurance given the potentially dangerous peculiarities of the American healthcare system.

OT: Sorry about the sports asides. I have a tendency to post sports commentaries, partially to amuse SWT, a forum DE. However, if you can schedule it, are willing to ante up the money for tickets online (stubhub.com), consider attending a game at the Big House at the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It's the largest stadium in the western hemisphere and will have all of the famed hoopla of a renown college American football program. Check out the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing for a worthy alternative, or perhaps even Northwestern University nearby Chicago (likely an easier and cheaper ticket perhaps available online directly from the university's website). Northwestern plays good football and sometimes is competitive with the powerhouse programs of the Big Ten conference, but, as one of the top universities in the U.S., it's famous game chant as the Wildcats go down to defeat is, "It's all right. It's OK. You'll work for us some day." But it's still sweeter when they're winning!

…chicagotribune.com/1996-08-25/…3

Check out Big Ten (which this fall will have 14 teams with the addition of the Univ. of Maryland and Rutgers; the "league that can't count" is hemmed in by legal trademarks held by more fore-sighted leagues) game day traditions here:

http://tourtheten.com/

…go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/10841/big-ten-…

Good planning!

Tacoma, Washington
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for Road Trips
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2. Re: Boston to Chicago

I would do this instead...

day 1 drive to Philadlephia area

day 2-3 Amish country in Lancaster, PA

day 4 drive to Ithica/Elmira

day 5-6 Finger Lakes

day 7 Niagara Falls

day 8 to Detroit

day 9 Museum, drive to Chicago.

There is Amish in Ohio and Indiana....but the largest numbers are in Lancaster, PA. there is abother small group located about an hr South of buffalo.

Vestal, New York
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for Auburn, Finger Lakes
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3. Re: Boston to Chicago

I would pick Saratoga Springs over Albany but Albany would be fine as well. The crowds will have left Saratoga by September but tick up again in late September when the leaves start to change. This usually occurs there around the very beginning of October give or take a week or two. So reservations wouldn't be a bad idea.

If you are interested in NYS history, the state museum in Albany is great. Albany also has a lot of beautiful architecture especially downtown as it is one of NYS oldest cities.

Leaf-turn in Ithaca doesn't usually occur until closer to mid-September; however there are two large colleges there so it will still be busy. I think you would have less of a problem finding lodging than Transcendental Eye indicates as Cornell football is many a local draw, IMO. It still is not a bad idea to reserve ahead. All three of the state parks in the area are worth a visit as is Watkins Glen state park, which is 20 miles distant. The best hiking is at Robert Treman state park; the gorge trail (4 miles total) is highly recommended. if you are not hikers, the big falls there (Lucifer) are easily seen by visiting the upper part of the park. The falls at Taughannock SP (215 ft) are a must see; it is a short, flat, pretty hike to them or you can simply drive to the overlook. Buttermilk Falls at the state park of the same name can be seen from the parking lot but the gorge hike there (about 2 miles total) is recommended. Watkins Glen is not a drive up park; the hike is about 3 miles total. It is also highly recommended.

Cleveland
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4. Re: Boston to Chicago

The travel article linked under the Ohio Amish Country discussion compares Ohio Amish Country with Lancaster County Amish Country. Ohio Amish Country, which covers parts of seven Ohio counties, is the largest Amish community in the world and certainly is much more convenient between Boston and Chicago than Lancaster County.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g50207-s407/Cleveland…

I haven't been to Lancaster County in several decades, but I know Tet, the dean of this forum, has said he preferred the Walnut Creek area of Ohio's Holmes County to Lancaster County. Eastern Holmes County is much more rural than Lancaster County and much more pervasively Amish.

amishamerica.com/where-do-the-amish-live/

Cleveland
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5. Re: Boston to Chicago

Weatherspark.com will enable you to check out the weather for any of your destinations, as well as sunrise/sunset.

weatherspark.com/averages/29769/9/Cleveland-…

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: Boston to Chicago

I would like to thank you all for your postings and advice, particularly Transcendental Eye. We have spent the weekend going back to our travel books and the internet and have booked accomodation at Saratoga Springs, Berlin (cheaper than Walnut Creek and close by), Cleveland and Dearborn where we will stay 2 nights so we can enjoy the sights between Berlin and Dearborn at a leisurely pace and then have a day at the Henry Ford museum and Rouge factory tour.

It even looks like we might be able to catch a football game at North West University - but we will leave looking at that to another weekend! Thanks again - we are feeling much more in control of our trip and look forward to enjoying all that the US has to offer.

Cleveland
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7. Re: Boston to Chicago

Who is Northwestern playing that weekend? If it is a football powerhouse with a large alumni base in Chicago, or located nearby, such as certainly Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, buy tickets in advance as the stadium may sell out. Nebraska and Iowa also may be big draws. If you really want to see the game, I would consider buying the tickets when they first go on sale. Seats nearest the 50-yard line and at least halfway up are considered prime, but probably all seats will be fine, although you don't want to be too low.

Are you staying two nights in each of Cleveland and Dearborn, or one night in each, in addition to one night in Berlin? Are you skipping a Cedar Point HalloWeekend? If you'll be in Dearborn on a weekend in October, Greenfield Village also has a large Halloween celebration and tickets sell out so buy them ASAP once they are offered to the public.

Cleveland
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8. Re: Boston to Chicago

Hopefully, you also will have an advance reservation in Chicago, even more so if Northwestern has a home football while you are there. There also may be NFL, MLB and conventions scheduled.

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: Boston to Chicago

Northwestern are playing Wisconsin - we have downloaded the northwestern athletics app so hopefully we can get tickets when they first go on sale. We booked accomodation in Chicago at the Days Inn. We are one day in Saratoga Springs, Ithaca and Berlin and two days in each Dearborn and Cleveland. We are at Dearborn on a weekday so we will miss out on the Halloween celebrations. We will be in Clevland during the week as well so the Cedar Point Halloweekend is probably not a goer either. We were told that the Cooperstown Baseball Museum is worthwhile - while we know next to nothing about baseball do you think we should put it on our agenda? So many attractions and so little time....

Cleveland
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10. Re: Boston to Chicago

It would be very helpful in giving you advice and suggestions if you posted a schedule for your Boston to Chicago leg showing the exact date where you currently plan to be each night. Is Greenfield Village open during the day at the time of your trip?

Where are you staying in Cleveland? If you're going to the Rock Hall, most hotels offer special Rock Hall packages. There also are combo tickets for the Rock Hall and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (see discussion below). To get a feel for historic Cleveland, definitely plan visits to the West Side Market and to Sokolowski's University Inn, the only James Beard Foundation "America's Classic" restaurant in Cleveland. It's a Polish-American cafeteria, is very reasonably priced, and there are no reservations.

As you like markets, definitely check out the Hartville Marketplace north of Canton. If you want a shopping destination, the Grove City Premium Outlets near the intersection of I-79 and I-80 is a regional mecca that draws shoppers from surrounding states and even Canada. PA has no sales tax on clothing or footwear, unlike many states, and the U.S. has no value-added tax.

If American estates and mansions interest you, one of the best is Stan Hywet Hall in Akron.

Re: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. Perhaps look through reviews of it to see if any Aussies or foreigners with little knowledge of baseball have visited it and whether they thought it was worthwhile. You didn't originally indicate any interest in sports, so I don't know the level of your general interest in sports. Interestingly, the Pro [American] Football Hall of Fame is in Canton, OH, just northeast of Holmes County Amish country, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield, MA. The basketball HOF honors some international players and coaches. So you have the opportunity to visit some of the best sports museums in the U.S.

Perhaps watch the Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary or the Kevin Costner film,"Field of Dreams." The latter is very entertaining, but if you enjoy the Burns documentary, then you more likely would enjoy the baseball HOF. The "Field of Dreams" is a fantasy celebrating baseball and life in a way accomplished by few films, and featuring film legends James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster in addition to Costner.

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/

press-citizen.com/story/…

Six Flags Great America is a large thrill park near Chicago that also has a Halloween fright show, but I don't know much about the park or the fright show. Post on the Chicago forum, if interested, and/or check Six Flags GA reviews (Gurnee, IL TA "Things to Do"?).

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g36087-i1807-Gurne…

I don't know how long you'll be in Chicago and what you want to see there, but you might check out the city's "city pass" to see if it would save money. You might be able to buy them at your hotel. Don't miss the Signature Lounge IMO; it's my favorite skyscraper lounge in the U.S., but perhaps redundant if you visit Chicago 360, the observatory atop the John Hancock Building.

http://www.360chicago.com/

Perhaps post on the Evanston forum for suggestions for the Wisconsin game. E.g., whether a sell-out is likely, and whether it would be better to drive or take mass transportation there from Chicago.

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g35972-i2416-Evans…

When in the destination forum, click on the destination's name in the upper left margin to get TA "Things to Do" for the destination.

tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g35972-Activitie…