At first glance, the Great Lakes region of the United
States - encompassing the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota - appear to
be a patchwork quilt of cornfields, speckled with an occasional
barn or factory, and nothing more. But this north-central
region of the United States, located in the 'heart of it all,'
has continually represented the essence of America's history
and rich cultural diversity.
One of the great presidents - many say the greatest - Abraham
Lincoln grew up and lived in Illinois and Indiana.
Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of the National Football
League, now boasts the Pro Football Hall Of Fame,
devoted to the country's most popular spectator sport and
Cleveland houses the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Surviving
stretches of the infamous Route
66 span across Illinois, offering a step back
in time to when thousands drove down these twisting roads
in the 1920s in search of a better life. Mark Twain
depicted life in America's heartland in his novels, often
set on the legendary Mississippi River which forms
borders between Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
And let's not forget those Great Lakes - inland fresh-water
seas which make up fifteen percent of the Earth's fresh water.
Formed tens of thousands of years ago from glacial till and
melt, they provided transportation for immigrants to pour
into the region during the nineteenth century and establish
themselves for future generations. Today, Lakes Superior,
Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario offer breathtaking
scenery, relaxing getaways on their many islands, and numerous
outdoor pursuits. Activities in the Great Lakes are endless:
whitewater raft on the rivers and streams of Wisconsin
and Minnesota, sunbathe on the sandy beaches of Indiana's
National Lakeshore, roll down the giant sand dunes
of western Michigan, admire the countless historical lighthouses
decorating the shorelines, and sail - or if you're
feeling adventurous, water ski - on the Great Lakes.
Not yet exhausted? Trade the great outdoors with the thriving
nightlife of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and
Milwaukee to find out what keeps America's heartland
"Wait a day and the weather will change", is a
fitting description of climate in the Great Lakes region,
especially in the spring and fall, because the region is affected
by both warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico and
cold, dry air from the Arctic. The weather typically
varies from hot and humid summers to icy winters. Late spring
(April to June) and early autumn (September to October) are
ideal times to visit with mild weather and crowds kept to
a minimum. Summer months, considered the high season for Great
Lakes islands, are prime for boating and partaking in other
water sports to cool from temperatures that can reach 90F.
Vibrantly changing autumn foliage provides the perfect scenery
for driving, trekking, and camping.
The currency is the US dollar ($).For up to date currency information, check the Currency
Accommodation costs vary throughout the Great Lakes states,
and range from $40 for a budget motel to $100 a night in city
centers like Chicago. Camping sites cost much less
but many close for the winter months.
The best way to get around here is to rent a car. With a
car of your own, you can steer your holiday any way you choose,
driving from city to city or enjoying the quieter country
roads of the region. You need to be at least 21 with a valid
international driving license. Ferries are also frequent between
the Great Lakes islands and the mainland. To visit islands
like Put-in-Bay in the Lake Erie Bass Islands,
you can leave your car in the ferry parking lot in Port
People and language
The official and most widely spoken language in the United
States is English. In historically ethnic neighborhoods
of the larger cities, you might overhear a bit of Spanish,
Italian, Slovenian, or other languages.
You can find just about any ethnic dish you might crave here,
where the population consists of descendents of the waves
of immigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Family restaurants line quaint ethnic neighborhoods in the
cities like Little Italy in Cleveland, while
hearty home cooking can be found on country roads. More variety
will be found in cities, including restaurants specializing
in vegetarian cuisine featuring hummus dishes, falafels,
and other tasty meatless alternatives.
All foreign visitors will need a US consulate visa, but in
most places this can be done via a travel agent. Your passport
must be valid for 6 months after your point of entry into
There are no serious health risks associated with visiting
this region, but visitors to America will require travel
insurance with full medical cover as even basic medical
treatment is expensive and private.
Tour the Great Lakes
For the more adventurous traveler who can't seem to get enough
of these great inland oceans, they can hop on their bicycles
and circumnavigate North America's Great Lakes in six weeks.
The route begins in Alliston, Ontario near Toronto,
Canada, and transcends national boundaries as it makes its
way clockwise into the United States around Lake Erie.
This challenging journey (it is recommended you ride 10,000
miles the spring of the year of the event in preparation)
takes you through everything from majestic wilderness to summer
resorts, industrial cities and farmlands. Nights are spent
in campgrounds nearby or in University residences when available.
For more information, visit
the Cycle Canada website.