Help my foreign friends enjoy their American experience...
April 6, 2009 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Any ideas on a route (and some great points of interest) for some Italian visitors to take from Mt. Vernon, Ohio to Fargo, ND? It'll be their first time in the U.S. and would like to see as much as possible.

The parents of the Italian foreign exchange student (and said exchange student) who stayed with my family in high school are making their first trip to the US to attend his college graduation. They're going to rent a car to drive from Mt. Vernon (near Columbus) to Fargo, ND.

They would like to see any big attractions or wildlife, basically taking in some Americana. I'm sure any Italian-American towns/areas would be great for them to check out. Also, a fun place for them to stay overnight would nice (they'll be splitting the trip into two days, so somewhere close to the halfway point).

If you've taken trips along the route, or live along the route, any advice you have would be greatly appreciated - these people are very special to me, and I'd like them to have the best experience possible! Thank you in advance.
posted by whiskey point to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Chicago seems like a natural halfway point. Lots of places to see in the city of course, including great parks, museums, etc., etc. The Little Italy neighborhood has good restaurants, but I don't know how much there is to actually do or see there, except for the University of Illinois campus which isn't all that spectacular from a foreign tourist POV. But it's close to the Loop. Depending on their schedule they could take in Cubs or Sox game.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2009

Covering over 1600 km in two days isn't going to leave much time for sightseeing.

That said, Chicago is right along the way, has a larger Italian-American community, and is (IMHO) the best blend between cosmopolitan-ness and home-grown American-ness that the US has to offer. It would be a no-brainer were it not significantly closer to Ohio than to North Dakota.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2009

Response by poster: Google maps estimates the drive time to be about 16.5 hours, a little over 8/day doesn't seem too tough, considering they'll have 3 able drivers (as far as I know, i guess) to rotate between. Thanks for the good, quick answers!
posted by whiskey point at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: Chicago is a great city, but they may not want to tackle traffic in and out of the downtown area if they don't have much sightseeing time.

Another possible halfway point would be Wisconsin Dells. It's pretty touristy, but there are lots of places to stay and some interesting scenery. It would be easy to get an early start from there and make it to Fargo in time for dinner.

The Leinenkugel brewery is in Chippewa Falls, WI (near Eau Claire, WI).

If they enjoy books, Stillwater, MN is just east of Minneapolis and has a lot of used book stores, antiques places, and cafes on the St. Croix river. It's also fairly easy to get in/out of the town and back on the road quickly. I lived in MSP for 6 years, and Stillwater is the place I miss most. It would be a good place for a stroll to stretch the legs and see some Americana and scenery at the same time.

Minneapolis has the giant cherry on the giant spoon sculpture. The entire sculpture garden around it is pretty cool, too, and another leg-stretching opportunity.

Overall, the drive through WI and MN is a nice one and has some great upper-Midwest scenery, so they'll probably enjoy the trip!
posted by BlooPen at 3:35 PM on April 6, 2009

I suggest this to pretty much everybody who is driving within half a continent, but since they'll be skirting the Northland and are considering Chicago, there will be nothing in Europe like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, right on the Great Lakes.

But two days isn't much. They'll likely be restricted to places right off the highway.
posted by rhizome at 4:33 PM on April 6, 2009

Once they get to Minneapolis, have them take Highway 10 out to Fargo instead of I-94. That will get them through more of the lake country without being too out of the way.
posted by Silvertree at 4:47 PM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't send them anywhere but Chicago. If I was visiting the US for the first time and had to go from Ohio to North Dakota, and someone recommended something other than Chicago, I would resent them forever.

I grew up an hour north of Columbus and went to school in Chicago. They should take US-30 west from Mansfield and will be in the Loop in six hours (don't forget the time change!). They can spend a full evening in the city, getting Chicago style pizza and wandering around the typical tourist sites, then get up early the next day to drive to Fargo.

For some super crazy fun time they can either check out the House on the Rock or the Mall of America (both arguably in the running for the most surreal place in the US)

I would recommend Cedar Point if they had a third day.

Why, dear god, are they going to Fargo?
posted by billtron at 8:42 PM on April 6, 2009

I should add that I have driven from Minneapolis to central Ohio in one day. It is possible.
posted by billtron at 8:47 PM on April 6, 2009

And I also see that you live in Fargo. Sorry if I offended you with my earlier comment!
posted by billtron at 8:50 PM on April 6, 2009

Response by poster: I spoke with my mom tonight, and it turns out they might be taking about 3 days to get here, so sight seeing won't be on such a tight schedule. I also realized that they're used to big cities, and would kind of like to see some big landscapes instead as well as the aforementioned wildlife (I'll take them to our meager zoo in Fargo, but I'm not sure what else there is on that route in the way of wild animals).

BlooPen, you made some outstanding points that I should have thought of, but I sure hadn't. I think they'd like Wisconsin Dells, although I've never visited many of my friends have and everyone seems to like it. My dad is a rep for the local beer distributor and Leinenkugel is one of his biggest microbrews - he actually goes to "beer camp" in Chippewa Falls almost every year. The sculpture garden is very cool, I'll try to guide them there.

Silvertree, that's another good call. The interstate from Minneapolis to Fargo is pretty boring and the first 3/4 of the trip is mostly towns, and HWY 10 is a fun route. I think we're going to take them to lakes country while they're here, but maybe that sneak preview would be nice for them.

billtron, I'm a Vikings fan so you can't really hurt my feelings. Fargo isn't the most exciting place to visit, but I consider this my Italian family, and my foreign brother made a lot of really good friends while he was here and wants to visit them all. He's spent 5 years (total) in the US, so I guess I'm not too worried about what he experiences, mostly his parents. I think Chicago will be a big part of their trip, and rightly so.

Once again, thank you for the answers!
posted by whiskey point at 11:34 PM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: Wildlife in Chicago area:

-Lincoln Park Zoo (close to downtown)
-Brookfield Zoo (not too far out in the suburbs; world class zoo)
-Shedd Aquarium (great view out into Lake Michigan; Oceanarium reopens 5/22)
-Field Museum (extinct wildlife - Sue!)

Big landscapes in Chicago area:

-the views from the top of the Sears Tower or the Hancock Center (try the Hancock at night)
-Navy Pier - views back toward the city and out into Lake Michigan
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:59 AM on April 7, 2009

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