Wednesday, June 27

Top 6 Midwest Places You've Gotta Go This Summer 2012

Lantern Festival                                                                                          Image/IzzyEvans

I have compiled a list of the Top 6 events and great places you've Gotta Go this summer. Within a day's drive, these should definitely be checked out whether as a full-blown vacation, a weekend getaway or day trip. There are long- and short-running exhibits, performances, etc., so take special note of the dates.

Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night
Where: Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis)
When: Through Aug. 19, 2012
What: Created by Chinese artists on site, 26 silk and light sculptures that are larger-than-life (literally, they are huge-up to 3-stories tall).
My thoughts: By day, fun and pretty; by night, breathtaking and surreal. There are some things that must be seen to be believed and this one is right at the top for that sentiment. This is one of those "You won't see anywhere else" kind of things. My recommendation is to go about an hour before nightfall, see the sculptures by sunlight, then catch the wonder of them by moonlight. Never before seen in the United States, I was fortunate to be invited to St. Louis for the event's grand opening and I absolutely plan to drive the 4 hours to catch it one more time before it disappears.

World Choir Games 2012
Where: Cincinnati
When: July 4-14, 2012
What: "The Olympics of Choral Music" competition
My thoughts: The honor of being selected from a list of 20 cities from around the globe striving to be chosen to host the phenomenal international event is not lost on me. Held every two years in committee-judged locations, Cincinnati is the FIRST ever selected from the United States to host 362 choirs in this international competition. More than 200,00 participants from 48 countries will arrive to compete in front of tens of thousands of attendees. Opening ceremonies, participant village, and special events throughout the host city bring together international and domestic performers all trying for the gold, silver and bronze medals and honor of distinction. More than 300,000 performances and public appearances, 10 venues and a rare chance to be a part of this high-energy event make it a Do-not-miss event.

Symphony on the Prairie
Where: Conner Prairie (Indianapolis)
When: Through Sept. 2, 2012
What: Annual summer outdoor concerts, performed by Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
My thoughts: This annual tradition encourages picnics, family time and great music in a casual, scenic location. Jazz, classical, rock and even disco are all performed with, and without, the symphony depending on the show. This year's selection includes Don McClean (American Pie), The Contours (Motown) and firework displays. For a complete schedule, click here Complete schedule

German Fest
Where: Summerfest Grounds (Milwaukee)
When: July 26-29, 2012
What: United States' largest German festival
My thoughts: It only makes sense that the city with the largest German settlement in the United States would hold the largest German festival in the nation. Nearly 100,000 people will frolic for three days along the banks of Lake Michigan, enjoy biergartens and dance in liederhosen.

Mackinac Island Fudge Festival
Where: Mackinac Island (Michigan)
When: Aug. 24-25, 2012
What: United State's largest German festival
My thoughts: Fudge. A festival devoted to fudge...kinda proves there is a heaven, doesn't it? Known for the Grand Hotel, horse-drawn carriages and fudge, the island has been a vacation destination since the 19th century. This annual event has activities and demonstrations galore for fudge fanatics known affectionately as "fudgies."

Taste of Chicago
Where:  Grant Park (Chicago)
When: July 11-15, 2012
What:  34th annual Five-day foodie festival
My thoughts: Free admission. This annual event welcomes one-day (called "Pop ups") and five-day restaurant participants from the Chicago area. The more laid back, dressed down predecessor to Gourmet Chicago feeds approximately 1 million attendees.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her newest column, Infused at and, and as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook. Gotta Go is published on,, in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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