Sometimes things don’t always go to plan. And sometimes thats exactly when the most unexpectedly good things happen!
Our original idea to cross North America was to drive Eastwards through Canada, passing North of the Great Lakes and only entering USA to the south once we reached Quebec. Unfortunately however, we left Australia two whole months later than we had first planned (due to a delay receiving Alex’s first Australian passport and then, again, when he was hospitalised just after completing the Great Ocean Road).
So in the end, Vanda arrived on a ship in North America a lot closer to winter than we were hoping and planning for.
This didn’t stop us from heading straight to the Canadian Rocky Mountains and falling deeply in love with the stunning scenery and fairytale-like wild animals we found there. However, just as we were arriving in Calgary we experienced our first mini snow storm. The difference it made to being able to drive safely or sleep comfortably in the van made us re-think all our plans.
So after checking out the map and asking around for other traveller’s opinions we decided to head south into USA, fleeing the cold weather and then heading East passing south of the Great Lakes before entering Canada again through Detroit.
After hearing from many locals that, apart from vast prairie lands dotted with lakes, central Canada doesn’t have much else to see, we were a little consoled that we wouldn’t visit Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Western Ontario. It would have been a great experience to drive through the Canadian Prairies, but we were just too worried with the cold.
In the end I believe we made the right decision – not only did we find warm, sunny weather as we headed south, but we were able to experience something we hadn’t thought we’d get to see – the least touristic region in the whole USA – Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Here is what we loved about Northern USA:
Wild buffalo and the world’s largest Buffalo statue in Jamestown, North Dakota
If you find yourself in Jamestown, don’t forget to check out the Frontier Village where you’ll see how the prairie pioneers survived in the past and you may even get to feed a buffalo!
Como Park Zoo in Minneapolis
This conservation zoo is open to the public for free (donations appreciated) and you’ll be able to see everything from tigers and lions, to all kinds of reptiles, monkeys galore and our personal favourite – two polar bears!
Incredible street art in Minneapolis
This amazing painting was crafted by Brazilian artist @Kobra dedicated to Minnesota local Bob Dylan. Kobra is famous for his strikingly unique murals you’ll find in dozens of cities across the world including Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Athens and Mosco.
Museum of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee
Both Alex and his dad are super keen motorcyclists, so the first thing we did when we arrived in Milwaukee was head straight to the Harley Davidson Museum. It’s the only automobile company in the world to showcase an original model from every year of production – that means you’ll see over 100 historic motorbikes dating back to 1906!
From tasting deep dish pizza and cheesy caramel popcorn, to viewing Lake Michigan from Navy Pier, seeing the city from the 96th floor Signature Room and walking through it’s countless beautiful parks, we absolutely loved Chicago! Check out our favourite things to do and eat in Chicago here.
Although almost a third of Detroit’s buildings are abandoned and the city has struggled economically for the past half century, we were super surprised with the cultural revival we witnessed while in Detroit.
We loved checking out John K. King Used and Rare Books (considered one of the world’s best book stores), the free tour of GM tower, the bustling nightlife of Greektown and the unique Guardian building (decorated in a mixture of Native Indian and Art Deco styles).
Back to Canada
From Detroit we then returned to our original route in Canada and headed towards Niagara Falls. We’re super happy we decided to check out Northern USA and recommend it to anyone wanting to see a lesser known area of the States.
Stay tuned for more adventures to come!