5 Essential New Midwest Travel Experiences for Summer 2022

1. New in the Valleys: The Land of Natura and Medusa’s Slidewheel

Wisconsin Dells are known for their water park innovations, but this year they may have outdone themselves. The all-new Natura land, dubbed Nature Adventure Park, is set to open in July in Lower Dells. Phase one of the $60 million project consists of a man-made five-acre naturally drained lake — the Wisconsin Dells Lake — with a floating water park, a 1,100-foot self-guided canopy tour, and more than 10 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails. . In true Dills style, the floating water park, canopy tour, and naturally filtered lake are all touted as the largest or longest—in the United States, North America, and the world, respectively.

The park also includes 2,000 feet of Wisconsin River shoreline, a beach with a volleyball court, kayak rentals, and food trucks serving local specialties. There is also Mount Natura. This man-made mountain floats along the lake, with waterfalls and slides ranging from 100 to 150 feet that take you directly to the lake. The 150-acre Natura plot is expected in three to five years, and will remain open in winter for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. (landofnatura.com.)

Meanwhile, at the resort of Mt. Olympus in Dells: Medusaa’s Slidewheel is the country’s first “spinning waterslide.” Raft rides consist of serpentine tube water slides running through a spinning Ferris wheel that propel riders forward, backward, and sometimes airborne. The accompanying 22,500 square foot indoor water park expansion is the largest investment for Mount Olympus in its five-decade history. (mtolympuspark.com.)

Melanie Radziecki McManus

2. New in Split Rock: Shipwreck Creek and Split Rock Wilds

Arguably Minnesota’s iconic and visual No. 1 symbol in 1910, Split Rock Lighthouse No. 1 in Minnesota stands high at the front of one of the state’s most iconic parks. Now this park is cutting the ribbon on a new modern camping site to help increase the popularity of the North Shore, while also promoting the rise of mountain biking along Lake Superior.

Shipwreck Creek Campground—which refers to the historic marine disasters that necessitated the lighthouse’s construction—has 46 indoor drive-through camping sites with power hookups amid a rocky landscape, adding to Split Rock’s existing supply of shopping carts, backpacking, and kayak-friendly sites. Shipwreck Creek’s first campers will set their stakes from June 1 to October 23, and it’s no surprise that most of the summer is already long gone. (Think of Mondays or September.)

With the opening, the state park will also provide access to Split Rock Wilds: 21 miles of insanely easy challenging mountain bike trails carved into scenic rocky hills, with 2,170 feet of drop. It’s all part of the thriving Lake County mountain bike trail network.

Want to ride a bike but can’t get a camping site? The Red Raven Bike Café crew is putting the finishing touches on the Red Raven North outpost in nearby Beaver Bay, with eight new basic motel rooms now listed on Airbnb. A bike rental shop/cafe will follow this summer. If anything like the original Red Raven near Cuyuna Lakes, it should help turn Split Rock into the North Shore mountain bike mecca.

Simon Peter Grobner

3. New Pipestone Galleries Embrace Aboriginal Culture

For the first time since it opened in 1958, the Pipestone National Monument Visitor Center features new and interactive exhibits, developed with input from 23 tribal nations. The extensive reconfiguration, which quietly debuted in 2021, has shifted the focus from artifacts and discoveries by early European explorers to the site’s continuing spiritual significance for modern tribes.

Native Americans have made pilgrimages to this quiet part of the prairie in southwestern Minnesota for at least 2,000 years. Generations of families with quarry licenses allow hammering and drilling through pink quartzite outcrops to reach layers of deep red lime tubes. Limestone is soft enough to carve into pipes to burn tobacco and sweet grass so that the smoke can carry prayer to the Great Spirit or Creator.

Visitors can listen to oral history, attempt to hoist a quartz pail weighing 50 to 75 pounds, and watch the sculptors at work. Parks interpreters, including two Aboriginals, host Lakota and Dakota storytelling weekly, teach words in their language, and plan special events like Founders Day (August 25) with traditional dancing and dressed horses, and Aboriginal Peoples Day (October) 10 this year) with musicians and luminarias along the Circle Trail.

“We hear a lot about how quiet this place is,” said Gabe Drabo, interpreter and Yankton Sioux tribe member. “[First-time visitors] Don’t expect the track and everything to be very beautiful. (nps.gov/pipe.)

Lisa Myers McClintick

4. Vikings sail the Great Lakes and the Great River

Viking Cruises is synonymous with elegant European river cruises and luxury expeditions to the poles. Now the cruise line is bringing the prestige to our Vikingland for the first time, in two very different ways.

First, Viking Expeditions’ 378-capacity polar-grade Octantis, newly in its first season in Antarctica, is launching its “Undiscovered Great Lakes” with summer sailing between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Milwaukee — and makes its Duluth debut This Sunday to port of call. Travelers can check out Glensheen Palace or ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad before continuing on their eight-day trip of three lakes.

Next, Viking River Cruises’ 386-guest Viking Mississippi will embark on its first 15-day cruise on the Great River from New Orleans to Minnesota, arriving and departing St. Paul on July 23 with ports of call at Red Wing, La Crosse, and Wis. and beyond. There are also six late summer sailing trips between St. Paul and St. Louis.

All of these cruises are bucket-list experiences on the latest ships with Scandinavian design and luxury amenities, and are priced accordingly. Raft Hack Finn, this is not so. But the biggest development of Minnesota’s population may come when Duluth becomes the starting and ending point of a cruise in 2023. That’s when the Octantis sail all the way from Minnesota to Toronto (and back) on the Great Lakes group for 15 days. This one starts at $13,995. (vikingcruises.com.)

Simon Peter Grobner

5. Reopen Canada

Why go to Canada in 2022? Well, because we can. After 19 months, the world’s longest border reopened to tourism late last year. The Canadian government’s online survey of travelers concluded that foreigners with a full and approved vaccine “are likely to be allowed to enter Canada,” an ideal Canadian response.

Banff in Alberta is a good answer to the best national parks in the western United States. Air Canada and Delta are introducing a new non-stop service from Minneapolis to French-flavored Montreal, for a European-style vacation in North America. Or you can hop on Minnesota’s busy North Shore to get to more of North Thunder Bay.

The closest foreign town to the Twin Cities – a six-hour drive away – TBay is something a little more subtle than Duluth. But the city is dwarfed by the Sleeping Giant, a provincial park on an imposing peninsula across from the port. Stroll to the top of the giant boardwalk for panoramic views of the Superior. Across town, the 130-foot-high Kakabeka Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Ontario, and has earned the nickname “Niagara of the North.”

There’s a small urban heart with a lively waterfront in summer, aboriginal art, delicious Sleeping Giant Brewing, plenty of poutine, and a beloved local pastry called Persian. It’s not for nothing that TBay is the departure port for Viking’s Great Lakes’ new eight-day cruise to Milwaukee (see above). Accommodation in the area is modest, but the new luxury Delta Hotel by Marriott on the waterfront epitomizes a city on the rise. (www.n Northernontario.travel.)

Simon Peter Grobner

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