Best Last-Minute Labor Day Vacation Spots Near Chicago

August 17, 2013 7:00 AM


Did you think you were going to wing it and it ended up being the American idle summer? Perhaps you’ve had a road trip or two but yearn to squeeze one last glass of lemonade from the quickly fading summer of 2013. You’ll be ready for fall after chilling at one of these nearby destinations over Labor Day weekend.


(Credit, Jacqueline Runice)

Ann Arbor Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
120 W. Huron St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(800) 888-9487

Wistful about those heady days of college as autumn inches nearer? Head to Ann Arbor, Michigan where you can enjoy the vintage shops, ethnic restaurants, outdoor recreation and sense of possibility that permeates a college town (minus beer pong and ramen). Get schooled in a good time as you stroll Nichols Arboretum on the UM campus. Try finding all of the tiny art installations scattered in the downtown area. Have a corned beef or pastrami sandwich at Zingerman’s Deli then sign up for a hands-on strudel, bread, gluten-free or pizza-making class at Bake! Zingerman’s Bakehouse. Labor Day weekend offers the free Dancing in the Streets festival, a gigantic German picnic and a University of Michigan football game. Look for updated lodging specials online. On your way back, stop in one of Dearborn’s Middle Eastern bakeries (Yasmeen Bakery is a sure bet), and since Michigan is the apple capital of the Midwest, pickings are anything but slim at orchards dotting the road home.



Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
201 Wrigley Drive
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(262) 248-4416

History fans will want to take the Black Point Estate Tour by boat. One of the oldest mansions on Geneva Lake (1887), the Queen Anne was built as a summer home for its owner and his brood with 13 bedrooms and a four-story tower. To see how the other half lives in the 21st century, walk some or all the 21-mile Geneva Lake shore path – you’ll step through the backyards of stunning century-old mansions and eyeball some of the biggest cribs in the Midwest. Golf on any of 22 courses, some designed by Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino and Dye. When it’s time to eat, you can’t beat casual Popeye’s On Lake Geneva for the view as well as chicken flame-roasted on an outdoor rotisserie, fish fry, burgers, brats, beer and an inventive pulled lamb sandwich. Visit the 164th Walworth County Fair, one of the oldest fairs in the state, for carnival rides and games. Families will want to look into lodging at The Cove, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark at Grand Geneva and Lake Lawn Resort’s Labor Day weekend packages. Good bets for couples include historic Baker House, Abbey Resort & AVANI Spa and The French Country Inn on the Lake.

Canoe Bay
W16065 Hogback Road
Chetek, WI 54728
(715) 924-4594

For a real getaway from bosses, children, in-laws and other irritating badges of adulthood, check in at Canoe Bay, near Chetek, Wisconsin. Designed for just two people, dreamy cottages ring Lake Wahdoon on 300 acres of lush hardwood forest and are definitely more Frank Lloyd Wright than Jellystone Park. Amenities in guest rooms, cottages and the villa may include fireplaces, private decks, king beds, whirlpools-for-two, wet bar, microwave oven, coffeemaker, stemware, dishes, small refrigerator and audio/video systems. Peruse the award-winning wine list and ready the taste buds for a sumptuous dinner featuring local ingredients in the lakeside dining room. Breakfast arrives to your abode so you can spend a lazy morning reconnecting in this romantic, rustic retreat.

Related:  Best Travel Agents In Chicago


(Credit, Jacqueline Runice)

The American Club Resort
419 Highland Drive
Kohler, WI 53044
(800) 344-2838

A Forbes Five-Star destination, one of 76 worldwide and the first and only in Wisconsin, the American Club Resort is one nice stack of bricks. Choose among a variety of activities from golfing on any of Kohler’s four championship golf courses (all ranked among the best in the US); indulge in unique spa treatments at Kohler Waters Spa; browse the Shops at Woodlake; sign up for Yoga on the Lake; and try your hand at horseback riding, kayaking, fishing or trap shooting. On-site dining is varied from pubs to exquisite fine dining (order the carrot martini). Book a three-day getaway, Friday to Sunday, and receive 25-percent off each night stay. This offer is valid at Carriage House, The American Club and Inn on Woodlake. Labor Day weekend rates start at $299 at the Carriage House and $279 at The American Club.

Racine, Wisconsin
14015 Washington Ave.
Sturtevant, WI 53177
(800) 272-2463

Close by, cheap and with a peach of a beach, Racine, Wisconsin is an oft-overlooked getaway for Chicagoans. Just blocks from Racine’s downtown, North Beach is 50 acres of groomed sand and clear water that earned the Blue Wave Clean Beach designation from the National Clean Beaches Council and made it on USA Today‘s list of “51 Great American Beaches” in 2012. Admission and parking are free. On Wednesday, August 28, see hundreds of motorcycles zoom into Pershing Park on the lakefront during the Hot Bike Magazine Power Tour. From Thursday, August 29 to Sunday, September 1, witness Brown’s Lake Aquaducks Water-ski Show for free. Lighthouse tours, free outdoor concerts and Taste of Racine round out the weekend and be sure to stop by one of many Danish bakeries to buy some Kringle to take home. Check out weekend packages offered by the Racine Marriott Hotel and the Radisson Racine Harbourwalk.

Related: Best Places to Go Fishing Near Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at

Watch & Listen LIVE