A guide to the must-sees and maybe-sees as you road trip to Buffalo for the Frozen Four
Fasten your seat belts, Bulldog fans. At this point, the least expensive way for you to get to directly from Duluth to Buffalo, N.Y. for this weekend's NCAA Frozen Four is probably powered by your own motor vehicle.
Here's the math: According to the internet maps, it takes less than 16 hours to get from your front door to the Keybank Center — home of the Buffalo Sabres and an upcoming Cher concert — but also where the University of Minnesota Duluth plays Providence in the tournament semifinals at 4 p.m. CST on Thursday.
But that's only if you don't stop.
You want to stop.
Should you choose to drive, your big decision will be: the Illinois-Indiana-Ohio way in all its Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame glory or The Canada Way in all its Great Lakes glory.
The News Tribune solicited points of interest from friends, neighbors, and travel gurus. Here are some of the must-stop stops — some obvious, some obscure, according to your peers.
ROUTE 1: Wisconsin-Illinois-Indiana-Ohio
Pinkie the Pink Elephant (and pie)
One of the great parts about Midwestern travel are the roadside oddities — especially in Wisconsin, where they can be paired with cheese shops, quirky gift shops and fireworks. Pinkie the Pink Elephant is a photo op near a Shell station in Deforest, Wis. The landmark is tall, the trunk is straddle-able, and the attraction is wearing Buddy Holly frames that are both fashion forward and fashion backward. Meanwhile, just down the road, there is a Norske Nook — a franchise known for its homemade Norwegian granny-like pies. (April's pie of the month is Sour Cream Blackberry.)
Cloud Gate or "The Bean"
The best way to let people know that your feet have touched Chicago soil — regardless of how briefly — is to capture your reflection in the piece of art affectionately called The Bean, but actually called Cloud Gate. This bean-shaped piece of stainless steel by Sir Anish Kapoor is in Millennium Park. You can touch it. You can take artistic photographs of the Chicago skyline. You can sit back and watch other people interact with it. Then promptly post your selfie to social media.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Here's your chance to play "Is our Great Lake greater than Your Great Lake?" Indiana Dunes is a stretch of national park on the south shore of Lake Michigan. The beaches are primo and so is the bird-watching. If you're all about the epics, this is where you will find the 3 Dune Challenge. Race yourself to the top of the three largest dunes, collect swag, brag.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Hey ho, musicheads, let's go ... to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a popular — albeit divisive point of interest en route to Buffalo. It's regarded as both "just a bunch of guitars" or a musical mecca. We're hot off the Class of 2019 inductions, a grouping that included something for every kind of Gen-Xer: The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies.
ROUTE 2: THE CANADA WAY
St. Ignace, Mich.
Whether we own it or not, we are a people attracted to bridges: mainstream stuff like the Blatnik or Bong, or curiosities like the Oliver or Aerial Lift. With this route comes the Mackinac Bridge — a suspension bridge between Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas. Friends refer to it as the Mighty Mac and from the right angle, it looks like sophisticated string art.
This small German town is billed as Little Bavaria — and that's what the tourists dig, whether it's Oktoberfest, the schnitzel or the Franconian-style architecture. It's also the home of Zehnder's, a restaurant that could seat the graduating class of a Duluth high school. It's famous for its chicken, which is par-broiled — according to the Lansing State Journal — then coated in light breading. Another destination: Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, which is superstore sized.
John Kinder Labatt, an Irish immigrant to London, Ont., brewed up a beer that is synonymous with Canada: Labatt. It has an interesting history that includes Prohibition-era brews. Email email@example.com to make reservations for the 2-hour brewery tour.
This is a long way to drive and not visit Niagara Falls. Maybe decide that great U.S.-Canadian debate: which fall is the grandest of all. There are plenty of ways to get a look — whether its plain old walking, taking a helicopter or boat, or going over it in a barrel. Is that still a thing?