5 free weekend activities to try in late summer

5 free weekend activities to try in late summer

As the warmth of summer transitions to the crispness of early fall, the Midwest boasts a plethora of activities that not only showcase its natural beauty and cultural vibrance, but are also pocket-friendly. From vast prairies to charming small towns, the heartland offers abundant opportunities to explore and enjoy. Here are five free activities to consider for an enriching weekend experience:

  1. Hiking and Nature Walks: The Midwest is home to several national and state parks with well-maintained trails. In August and September, these trails become a haven for nature enthusiasts. Whether it's the Indiana Dunes National Park with its mix of dunes, forests, and wetlands or the effervescent colors of Minnesota's Superior National Forest, there's no shortage of scenic beauty. As the foliage begins to turn, a late September hike can also offer the first glimpses of fall colors.

  2. Attend Local Festivals: Late summer and early fall are prime festival seasons in the Midwest. Many towns and cities host harvest festivals, county fairs, and other community events. While some might have entry fees, many are free to attend, offering glimpses into the local culture, music, and traditions. Chicago's street festivals for instance are free to attend, with an optional donation that supports a local cause. Keep an eye out for local listings to find an event that aligns with your interests.

  3. Fishing in Freshwater Lakes: The Midwest is dotted with freshwater lakes, and many of them are open to the public for fishing. Whether you're an expert angler or a beginner, you can enjoy a day by the water, trying to catch local species. While fishing licenses might be required for certain locations or types of fish, many places offer free fishing days or have no fees for catch and release.

  4. Explore Historical Sites: The Midwest has a rich history that's often reflected in its landmarks and historical sites. Many of these sites, like the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home in Missouri or the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, are free to visit. They offer a window into the past and an opportunity to learn about the region's heritage.

  5. Star Gazing in Rural Areas: As night falls, the rural Midwest becomes a canvas for starry skies, especially in areas with little light pollution. Locations like the Nebraska Sandhills or the vast open spaces in Iowa provide an excellent backdrop for stargazing. Bring along a blanket, lie back, and watch the Milky Way stretch across the horizon. If you're lucky, you might even catch a meteor shower or the Northern Lights.

The Midwest offers more than what meets the eye, especially during the weeks between summer and fall. It's a region where nature's splendor meets cultural vitality, and where history weaves tales through landmarks and towns. These activities, from hiking amidst the changing colors of forests to being a part of community-driven festivals, showcase the authenticity of the Midwest. They allow both residents and visitors to immerse themselves in experiences that are genuinely heartwarming and enriching. Furthermore, the affordability of these activities speaks to the region's commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that everyone can partake in its wonders. The Midwest beckons with its open arms, inviting all to partake in its myriad offerings without the burden of expense. Whether you're a solo traveler, a family, or a group of friends, there's something for everyone in this vast and diverse region, promising weekends filled with memories and joy.

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