On a February day, the temperature neared 10 degrees. Yet there I was, soaking up the sun in a swimsuit. Nearby, my young companions splashed in warm waves.
The calendar said winter, but the experience screamed summer. I had sought that welcome reversal of seasons just over 200 miles away in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Right about now, many Minnesotans could use a warmup. Who doesn't want to be greeted with sunshine and temperatures hovering in the 70s? But there is no need to fly off to Florida, Mexico or Hawaii for the treat.
Here are some destinations where warmth can sink into your bones — a mere car ride away.
Chicago may not jump to mind when you think of tropical getaways, but the Windy City has two outstanding conservatories, lush with palms and orchids. Step into the humid heat at the Garfield Park Conservatory. One of the largest such hothouses in the nation, it boasts 184 acres — indoor and out. Winter visitors will find eight indoor gardens. A spring flower show runs from Feb. 14 through May 10. On the other side of town, the Lincoln Park Conservatory has a Victorian-era glass house, where the sun beams in. Winter-weary people might also consider stopping at the Shedd Aquarium for close-up views of colorful fish — no snorkling equipment required.
Tropical butterflies are just as colorful as fish — plus their habitat remains a balmy 80 degrees year-round at the Butterfly House and Aquarium in Sioux Falls. The insectarium holds more than 800 butterflies. Visitors can feed those flitting about or watch newbies emerge from chrysalides.
But for some Minnesotans, nothing beats toes getting lapped by waves. They should do what I did and head to Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, where one of four indoor water parks, the Wild WaterDome, has a wave pool and a clear roof that lets in sunshine.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.