We asked readers to tell us about their summer vacations. They responded with wide-ranging tales, from discovering a gem of a town in Tuscany to joining a boat club to explore Minnesota lakes. It’s enough to make you start planning for next summer, which is a pretty nice idea as the cold nudges its way toward us.
I completely unexpectedly ran into my 15-year-old daughter, Lucy, who was on a road trip with our church youth group returning from Nathrop, Colo., while I was on a road trip with a friend from Phoenix. We randomly, with no communication whatsoever, bumped into each other during pit stops near Fort Morgan, Colo. — 761 miles from home! We exchanged dumbfounded hugs and smiles and each returned on our separate ways to the same location: our home in Chaska!
The boating life
Since summer is so brief in Minnesota, we don’t go away for vacation, nor do we have a cabin. Instead, we belong to a boat club, pack up the cooler, bring bathing suits and explore many waterways of our great state: St. Croix River and Leech, Gull, Cross, Minnetonka, Waconia and Prior lakes. We have discovered and explored the sweet little towns of Stillwater, Walker and Crosslake. From the boat, we have seen loons, geese, ducks, gulls, water lilies, floatplanes, fish, cabins, blue skies, evergreen trees, dogs playing in the water and children laughing on and around docks. We have stayed at Chase on the Lake, Gull Lake Lodges, Cragun’s and Whitefish Lodge. We have eaten at Leo’s, Zorbaz, the Wharf, Maynard’s, Lord Fletcher’s, Charlie’s and Lola’s Lakehouse, with each restaurant accessible by boat and iconic in its own way. Spending a day on the water is all the vacation we need! [The writer belongs to Your Boat Club, at yourboatclub.com, whose members can enjoy a variety of boats on 10 bodies of water across the state.]
Versatile Door County
The place I consistently go back to is Door County, Wis. Only six hours away, it provides a perfect getaway. It is a peninsula with Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east. Each side offers a different experience. The Green Bay side is dotted with charming harbor villages a la New England. The Lake Michigan side is more scenic, punctuated with coves, cliffs and rock sculptures. The interior is flush with cherry orchards, wineries and art galleries. If you like an island adventure, you can always hop the ferry and enjoy the lavender farms of Washington Island. Multiple lighthouses, beaches, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, state and county parks, golf courses, beautiful sunsets and, last but not least, great shopping complete the experience. Door County is a place that beckons me to return every year, only to discover a new reason to start planning that next visit.
Favorite Idaho lodge
Eclipse chasing and other adventures took us to Utah, Idaho and Montana this summer. My old hometown, Ogden, Utah, was a trip down memory lane; I hadn’t been back in over 30 years. Many things have changed, but there were still a few familiar haunts. The drive up Ogden Canyon seemed almost the same — gorgeous. The valley views of the towns of Huntsville, Eden and Liberty were now filled with development growth, but still beautiful. Snowbasin ski resort was unrecognizable — lots of growth; again, still beautiful. We spent three days enjoying the cosmopolitan offerings of Boise, Idaho, before heading north for eclipse viewing on Scott Mountain, and then three days at our new all-time favorite place: Shore Lodge in McCall, Idaho (shorelodge.com). We then explored the Lewis & Clark Highway and the Lolo Motorway. The forest fires in the area were bad, but we still enjoyed the views down in Hamilton, Mont., and loved the views back in Idaho traversing the Custer Motorway. We spent our last night in Hailey, Idaho, just south of Sun Valley, before begrudgingly heading home. A great trip!
A Tuscan gem
My wife, daughters, mother-in-law and I spent five weeks in Tuscany, thanks to five free flights from points accrued with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. The Airbnb we rented was 20 miles southwest of Florence, and a great central place to explore the entire region. By happenstance, we were one town over from what we discovered was the gem of Tuscany, a little known town called Certaldo Alto. With all the medieval charm of a walled city like San Gimignano, but with a fraction of the tourist foot traffic, it is a must-see!
I always say there is a big difference between a trip and a vacation. You usually need a vacation to help recover from a good trip. In lieu of a high school graduation party, my daughter, Autumn, and I decided to take a big trip to celebrate. We purchased a Groupon trip that took us to New York City, Dublin, London, Paris and Amsterdam. Seven flights, five cities and three currencies add up to 15 days and one amazing trip. Despite the record-breaking heat, we walked miles, conquered subways, saw historical sites and met fabulous people along the way. We can’t wait to plan our next adventure, but maybe we will choose a less ambitious itinerary. Maybe.
The unforgettable eclipse
For Marguerite Rheinberger of Stillwater and her siblings Joe and John, it was a summer of stark contrasts. In June, they traveled to Alaska to experience the summer solstice and in August to party-central Nashville to take in the solar eclipse within the “path of totality.” “We went from a place that had sunlight at 1:30 in the morning to a place that had darkness at 1:30 in the afternoon,” said Joe Rheinberger of Oakdale. Their two sun-related adventures were poignant for Marguerite. “As the moon was blocking out the sun in Nashville, I immediately thought of the blackout curtains I closed nightly in Alaska that shut out the intensely hot, bright sun,” she said. As the eclipse was occurring, they saw and heard insects that you normally don’t during the day. “As soon as it got dark, a loud chorus of cicadas serenaded us,” said Marguerite. Globetrotter John Rheinberger of Stillwater already looks forward to seeing the next total eclipse in North America on April 8, 2024. “I wasn’t sure whether observing a two-minute total eclipse would be an experience of a lifetime worth traveling to but it was,” he said. “It’s a summer I won’t forget!”
Marguerite “Margot” Rheinberger
These items were compiled and edited for grammar and style by Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.