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Waterfronts of the Midwest

Dayton, Ohio

Along the Great Miami River, visitors can stroll Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark. The Dayton Inventors River Walk includes seven invention stations celebrating locals who invented the airplane, the cash register and the ice cube tray, among others. The Five Rivers Fountain of Lights straddles the confluence of the Great Miami and Mad rivers and shoots thousands of gallons of water per minute toward the center of the river during a show that occurs at the top of the hour.

A new downtown bike-share program connects the park with downtown Dayton. The riverfront’s bike hub offers lockers and bike rentals on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Several paved recreational trails converge at the park and connect the region’s nearly 330 miles of trail.

“We have the largest paved, off-street trail network in the nation,” said Kristen Wicker, marketing manager for Five Rivers MetroParks. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience the area’s waterways. People can ride bikes or walk the trails that are accessible for all ages and abilities.”

Summer happenings include the Dayton Celtic Festival and the Hispanic Heritage Festival. On many non-festival weekends, a concert series hosts a variety of genres from R&B, big-band nights and Pickin in the Park on select Fridays. Free fitness classes take place most Saturdays.

To be completed later this year or during 2017, RiverScape River Run will offer a whitewater feature using man-made boulders that create rapids for whitewater kayaking for the novice and the more advanced.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

With more than 1,150 miles of shoreline, the Lake of the Ozarks is Missouri’s go-to spot for water activities. For those who prefer shopping, Osage Beach Premium Outlets is the state’s largest outlet center in Missouri with 110 top brand-name stores.

The lake has a reputation as one of the best fisheries in the nation. Crappie, bass, catfish and many other species are plentiful. Coast Guard-certified fishing guides know all the hot spots. For pleasure boating, Tropic Island Cruises offers a 90-minute narrated trip in its 150-passenger motor yacht. Charters can be arranged, and groups can cruise from a specific port to the restaurant or pub of their choice. Celebration Cruises offers a narrated meal cruise plus candlelight dinner cruises.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park maintains 15 miles of trail and the stone ruins of an early-20th-century castle sit high on a bluff. Golfers in the group will want to try the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail’s 13 championship courses designed by some of the game’s biggest stars, including Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones Sr.

“Golf courses and select lodging properties work together as a one-stop shop for golfers,” said Marjorie Benders, spokeswoman for Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council. “They’ll set up an itinerary, including tee times, and they’re very knowledgeable about the courses.”

Door County, Wisconsin

Surrounded by Lake Michigan and Green Bay, Door County has been appropriately nicknamed the Cape Cod of the Midwest. Eleven historic lighthouses dot the peninsula’s shores; three offer guided tours, May through October. The peninsula boasts 53 public swimming beaches, 11 golf courses, an extensive trail system for biking and hiking, and numerous boat tours. Groups can also ferry to Washington Island for a weekend fiber arts class, tour a historic church and check out Schoolhouse Beach, one of five smooth-stone beaches in the world.

“Two companies offer guided tram tours of Washington Island,” said Jon Jarosh, director of communications and public relations for the Door County Visitor Bureau. “Depending on the season, they’ll stop at different places. One might be the island’s lavender farms.”

Door County is also well known for its artistic and cultural communities. Groups can schedule an art class, browse more than 100 galleries and attend theater productions. Culinary and wine tours introduce local cuisine, and cherry picking starts in mid-July.

Festivals take place almost every weekend. Each spring, the Season of Blossoms celebration hosts special events throughout the county from April to early June. During summer, several cherry festivals coincide with the harvest, and in October, the Pumpkin Patch Festival takes place in Egg Harbor.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.