If a grand tour of Europe is not in your budget this year, you
can still get the feel of those great capital cities without
leaving the Midwest.
New Glarus, Wis., calls itself "America's Little
Switzerland" for good reason. A trip to the Swiss Historical
Village Museum allows families to explore more than 14 buildings,
including a school house, general store and the town's first log
church. For a real taste of Switzerland, sample the offerings at
New Glarus Bakery. They've been making Stollen, morning buns and
apple cake for more than 100 years. Complete the weekend with a
stay at Chalet Landhaus Inn, where kids will appreciate the indoor
pool and Swissland, an 18-hole miniature golf course.
The Swiss Historical Village Museum (May-October)
New Glarus Bakery
Chalet Landhaus Inn
New Glarus Chamber of Commerce
Housed in Minneapolis' castle-like Turnblad Mansion, the
American Swedish Institute is a great place to learn about Nordic
culture. If you head farther north, you can get an authentic taste
of Sweden at Lindstom Bakery or the Swedish Inn Restaurant in
Lindstrom, "America's Little Sweden." In June, take part in the
annual Midsommar Celebrations, a traditional Swedish festival
complete with costumes, fiddling, folk dancing and family
If you can't make it to Minnesota, try Geneva. Illinois' six-day
Swedish Days Festival, June 19-24, may not be a trip to Sweden, but
families will find music, games, carnival rides and even rosemaling
(Norwegian decorative painting.)
American Swedish Institute
Swedish Days Festival
The Milwaukee area has great Germanic food, museums and
even entire villages. Germantown has a name that says it all. Just
outside of Milwaukee, the Dheinsville Settlement includes original
half-timbered buildings. Visit Bast Bell Museum in a restored barn
to see Wisconsin's largest publicly displayed bell collection and
artifacts of the Germantown Volunteer Fire Company. Eat a hearty
German meal at Mader's, on Old World Third Street in Milwaukee. The
city's German Fest, held on the lakefront in July, is the largest
German celebration in North America. Old World Wisconsin is the
nation's largest outdoor museum of rural life, with three German
homesteads from around Wisconsin. The site's curators and
interpreters give visitors an authentic experience. Families can
try their hand at flax processing or experience old-fashioned
baking at a wood-burning oven in the bakehouse on the Schottler
Old World Wisconsin
Located in the heart of the Midwest, Holland retains a
great deal of Dutch architecture and ambiance. Watch Dutch artists
hard at work on authentic blue and white delftware at the DeKlomp
Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory. Visit 10 acres of Dutch
architecture, canals and gardens at Nelis' Dutch Village. Kids can
slide down a giant wooden shoe, or take a ride on the popular
Zweefmolen (swing ride). Spend a couple hours on Windmill Island,
home to DeZwaan, the only authentic Dutch windmill operating in the
United States. A painted Dutch carousel, costumed guides and an
Amsterdam street organ complete the picture.
DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory
Nelis' Dutch Village (open April 28)
Norwegian history and architecture make up Little Norway
just west of Madison, Wis. During the 45-minute guided tour, you'll
visit eight homesteads, including the fascinating Norway Building
modeled on a 12th century Norwegian church (stavkirke). The
structure was originally built in Trondheim, Norway, and
transported to America for the World's Columbian Exposition in
Chicago in 1893. It houses Little Norway's collection of
museum-quality artifacts. Families can also wander the settlement
on their own for great pictures.
The nearby town on Mt. Horeb, also known as "Troll City," is a
great place for lunch and photos. Stop in at the Visitors Center
for a "Troll Way" map and then hunt down a variety of troll
Little Norway (May-October)
Village of Mount Horeb
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.
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