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Sure, the big coastal cities and beaches get a lot of attentionas summer travel destinations. But with 30 percent of Americanssaying they plan to fly and travel less this year, more people arelikely to look closer to home for summer fun.

Midwesterners definitely don’t have to travel to New York,California or Florida to find great, affordable, family-friendlythings to see and do for their summer vacations. The middle statesoffer a wealth of travel opportunities – most within drivingdistance of home and many doable in a weekend or even a singleday.

Here are some destinations and attractions – some familiar andcelebrated and others new and intriguing – for Midwestern familieslooking for affordable and educational fun this summer travelseason.

New and intriguing

A shoe-in for summer fun is Minnesota’s latest family-friendlymuseum, the Red Wing Shoe Museum in Red Wing, Minn. Opened justlast fall by the Red Wing Shoe Company, which has been makingwork boots and shoes formore than 100 years on the banks of the Mississippi River, the17,800-square-foot store and museum features the world’s largestboot – a shoe so large the Statue of Liberty’s titanic-sized footwould still be too small to fit it.

Interactive displays engage visitors in the history and heritageof Red Wing Shoes, which have employed thousands of Midwesternersand been sold around the world since 1905. A collection of originalNormal Rockwell paintings is a high point to any visit. A13,200-square-foot retail space features sections dedicated to eachof the company’s four footwear brands, along with a factory outletcenter that carries factory seconds and close-out merchandise.

You can also tour the company’s 114,000-square-foot bootfactory, which hosts free guided tours on week days. You’ll viewthe process of making workboots — from cutting the leather to hand-stitching thefinished product. The town of Red Wing is historic and offers avariety of dining and shopping opportunities. Visit www.redwing.orgto learn more.

Strange, but familiar

Before the name got appropriated to describe the junk e-mailthat everyone despises, the word “SPAM” only referred to a type offood many Americans grew up with. From its humble beginnings in1937, to its important role feeding American troops during WorldWar II, SPAM has a long and storied tradition in American folkloreand culinary lore.

Today, you can learn more about this American classic at theSPAM Museum, located in Austin, Minn. The 16,500-square-foot museumis packed with interactive and educational exhibits, SPAM artifactsand history. Visit www.spam.com to learn more.

The celebrated

Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum’s colossal sculpture nestled inthe Black Hills of South Dakota, features the faces of some of thenation’s best-loved presidents, and draws about 3 million visitorsa year. The breathtaking natural beauty of the Black Hills makes aperfect backdrop for the majesty of the sculpture. After 14 yearsof labor by Borglum and a crew of 400 workers, the mount wasfinished in October of 1941, and the faces of presidents GeorgeWashington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and TheodoreRoosevelt have inspired millions of Americans since. To learn more,log on to www.npca.org.

Not far from Mount Rushmore, a second colossal statue has beentaking shape for more than half a century. Work began on the CrazyHorse Memorial in 1948, and has progressed slowly because nogovernment money is accepted to fund the work. Building is fundedsolely through private donations. Once completed, the monument tothe legendary Lakota Native American chief will be the largestoutdoor sculpture in the world. Log on towww.CrazyHorseMemorial.org to learn more.

Whether you’re interested in seeing the world’s largest work boot, or how America’shistory is memorialized, you’ll find plenty of fun, affordablevacation opportunities in the Midwest this summer.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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