Head about an hour west of Des Moines to reach the small villages of Elk Horn and Kimballton, Iowa, home to the country’s largest rural Danish settlement and bountiful Scandinavian pride. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted by the charming Danish Windmill Museum & Welcome Center (built from an authentic 1848 windmill which was later reassembled stateside), where you can tour the itty-bitty Morning Star Chapel and ponder a medieval life at a 900 AD Viking blacksmith’s workshop replica. From there, pick up butter-layered pastries at The Kringle Man bakery before checking out the Museum of Danish America, or sip local wine in a European-style barn at the nearby Danish Countryside Vines & Wines. For a peak Danish experience, visit for celebrations like the settlement’s annual Tivoli Fest featuring food, live music and cultural demonstrations galore.
As much as we love the best Chicago attractions, it’s hard not to crave far-flung vacations to places like the cobblestoned streets of Europe. But if an expensive overseas trip isn’t in the cards for you right now (or even if you’re just in the mood for a fun weekend getaway from Chicago), don’t fret: You’ll find plenty of quaint little towns throughout the Midwest that mimic all the charm of the continent, sans any expensive flights or passport requirements. Whether you’d prefer to walk along a canal-lined Dutch settlement or raise a beer stein at a recreated Bavarian village, these gems offer a taste of the regional food, drink and culture you’d discover overseas—and plenty of kitschy fun, too. Take a road trip from Chicago and check out these Midwestern getaways that look like they’re straight out of a European postcard.
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