Tourism blooms during summertime in the Midwest. During the late spring, while outdoor activity spaces trade their white winter blankets for lush green coats, country hotels gear up for the season to welcome families out on summer vacation.
So it’s only fitting that the best new attractions and activities of the year for groups open now, right at the beginning of the long-awaited sun-filled season. Missouri welcomes a new way of seeing history at the Missouri Civil War Museum. In Wisconsin, craft cocktail tours put a hyperlocal spin on the farm-to-glass movement while Adventure Zip KC offers new opportunities for fun for all ages.
Two well-known Midwest attractions, the Indianapolis Zoo and Chicago’s John Hancock Tower, are debuting landmark new attractions. The zoo will host a groundbreaking orangutan research center while the tower offers a mind-shifting new way of looking at the city.
360 Chicago Chicago
After years in the making, a new way to experience Chicago has finally arrived. The former John Hancock Observatory now offers not only 360-degree views with 55 miles of visibility on a clear day, but also the opportunity to reach out over the city with Tilt, glass cubes that extend out from the building and tip over the city.
The hottest new attraction in Chicago has several programs that give groups an exclusive experience.
“It’s good for groups to come first thing. We open at 9, which is earlier than many other local attractions, and we can also do a private breakfast before we open,” said Gina Marcellino, senior sales manager. “We can also do cafe-style or box lunches during the day and cocktail receptions or champagne toasts in the evening.”
“From entry to exit, budget one and a half to two hours. You want at least 45 minutes or an hour on the floor to experience everything, including the 30-minute audio tour, and it can take a half-hour line to get up and down,” Marcellino said.
An abbreviated tour by a docent or someone from Marcellino’s office can also be tailored for groups.
If groups can be flexible in their timeline, she can also give them a fast pass to come at a slower time and skip to the front of the elevator line.
International Orangutan Center at Indianapolis Zoo
Opening May 24, the International Orangutan Center will be the Indianapolis Zoo’s largest permanent exhibit and an unusual place internationally for visitors to see orangutan intelligence research firsthand.
“Regularly scheduled orangutan experiences will mainly take place in the learning studio in the main exhibit building, with the schedule publicly available as part of the regular chat schedule,” said Carla Knapp, public relations specialist for the zoo.
For both groups and orangutans, the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, a system of cables and platforms that creates a functional forest environment, may be the most fun part of a day at the zoo. Visitors can ride the Skyline, a gondola track that runs 1,200 feet at a height of 50 feet over the zoo, through the middle of the forest and see an orangutan from 20 to 30 feet away.
Guided tours of the zoo are not offered, but volunteer naturalists stationed at each exhibit can share information with visitors as they move through the zoo. Private dining areas can be arranged for boxed or fully catered lunches arranged around the group’s food requirements.