With the political spotlight on trade dealings between the U.S. and China, most people don’t think of the Great Lakes region as an epicenter of international trade. The truth is, however, that if the region were its own country, it would have the third largest economy in the world. With that impressive financial statistic comes a booming tourism industry that is not to be overlooked. A mere five hours by car, Chicago, on Lake Michigan, and Cleveland, on Lake Erie, are fantastic cities full of character and culture.
While there is no shortage of luxurious hotspots in the area, there are wonderful experiences to be had on a budget. The Great Lakes area was established as a capital of industry and shipping when the United States was in its nascency. The area is steeped in history, not least of which is its architectural presence. With a little research beforehand, you can create a walking tour of each city’s stunning architecture without paying a dime, leaving money for other fun experiences.
Chicago: Historic Buildings by Day, Happy Hour at Night
Architecturally, Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. One of the most popular attractions, there is an architecture tour by boat along the Chicago River, but you can create your own tour from the street side of the same buildings with the plethora of resources available on the subject. Many of the historic buildings and homes have markers to indicate their importance, and plaques explaining their histories.
Unlike many of the other U.S. cities on the Great Lakes, Chicago did not experience the economic decline that others did, particularly in the Rust Belt. For this reason, perhaps, it is one of the more expensive cities to visit. To stick to your budget, take advantage of Chicago Happy Hour after a day of sightseeing. You could also make up your own taco bar crawl, especially on Tuesdays, when tacos are a steal.
Cleveland: Free Art and a Foodie’s Dream
Cleveland is often overlooked as a city worth visiting due to its sordid past (burning river, anyone?). Once a thriving metropolis, home to many of America’s wealthiest families, the art and architecture of the city truly is something to behold. A city held in high regard by its residents, there are many websites dedicated to the history of the city, making building your own architectural tour a cinch. While you’re taking in the buildings in University Circle, stop into the Cleveland Museum of Art, which is always free.
Cleveland is known for its food scene, so after a day of art and architecture, look into some of the best cuisine in Ohio. Although many celebrity chefs have high-end establishments in the area, some of the best food can be found for reasonable prices. If you’re into hot dogs, diner breakfasts, or farmer’s market food stands, you’ll absolutely be in the right place.
While the West and East Coasts of the U.S. might be the first tourist destinations that come to mind, the Midwest and particularly the Great Lakes Region has much to offer, especially for budget-friendly travel. A little research ahead of time can lead you to the free cultural offerings of each city, and you might just find something you would have missed otherwise. To save money and tailor your trip to your interests, you can access the multitude of online resources available to plan your own walking architectural tours of Chicago and Cleveland, two cities whose buildings are magnificent.