Best of the Great Lakes

Eight reasons why the region lives up to the name "great".

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Thanks to $65 million from the city of Cleveland and a lot of fan support, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation opened its home on the shores of Lake Erie in 1995. The city beat out Memphis in a battle for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (supporters claimed the city had hosted the first major rock concert, organzied by DJ Alan Freed in 1952). All ages can enjoy exploring the history of rock 'n' roll inside the seven-story "pyramid" — based not only on decade, but on genre and city like Liverpool, San Francisco and Detroit.

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Navy Pier, Chicago

Built in 1916 for $4.5 million (roughly $88 million by 2009 standards), Chicago's 3,300-foot long Municipal Pier is a city treasure and a big draw for families. What started as a boardwalk in the 1920s became "Navy Pier" during World War II (named for the air group that trained there). Thanks to a major makeover in the 1990s, the pier now boasts an enormous Ferris Wheel, IMAX, concert stages, the Chicago Children's Museum, restaurants, shops, and acts as a starting point for boat tours on Lake Michigan.

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Noah's Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells

You could go on a different waterslide at Noah's Ark every day for the 40 days the biblical Noah spent on his ark, and still have nine left over. This waterslide paradise in the Wisconsin Dells, which has been entertaining Midwestern families since 1979, opened with just some bumper boats and a go-kart track. Now, the largest water park in the United States sports two wave pools, two lazy rivers, four children's play areas, three tube rides, an 18-hole miniature golf course and the country's longest watercoaster: Black Anaconda.

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Dreamcatcher Sailing Adventure, Apostle Islands

Tell your kids you'll be "dream catching" on your trip to the Apostle Islands and watch their eyes light up. Families can enjoy the sites on Lake Superior in one of three boats on the Dreamcatcher Sailing Adventure. The adventure part comes in when your kids actually get to do the sailing. The trip is also an eco-friendly one: The owners are founding members of the Travel Green Wisconsin program.

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Children's Theater Company, Minneapolis

One of the largest professional theatre companies for young people can be found in Minneapolis. The Children's Theater Company's productions, many of which are based on children's literature, have been entertaining families in the Twin Cities since 1965. How fun is this Tony Award-winning company? One of their missions is "embracing the fundamental attributes of young people: curiosity, risk taking, candor and imagination."

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Glass-Bottomed Shipwreck Tour, Upper Peninsula

Get ready to brush up on your Finnish. Michigan's Upper Peninsula, also known as the land above the Mackinac Bridge, is home to the highest concentration of Finns outside Europe. Learn more about the extensive history of this region aboard the Glass-Bottomed Shipwreck Tour. You'll never know what hidden treasures you'll find on the way to the 13,000-acre Grand Island, which has been used by the Hudson Bay Company as a fur-trading spot since the late 1600s.

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Cedar Point, Sandusky

If you are looking for the theme park with the most roller coasters, head to Sandusky, where 17 of them call Cedar Point —the second-oldest amusement park in North America — home. Built in 1870 with only a dance floor and some kiddie rides, the area on Lake Erie — once known for its cedar vegetation and tranquil fishing grounds — revs up visitors every year who dare ride Top Thrill Dragster, the second-tallest coaster in the world (420 feet).

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May's Famous Mackinac Fudge, Mackinac Island

On your vacation, you shouldn't have to make difficult choices. That's why, if you can't decide between Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge and Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge, you can get both at May's Famous Mackinac Fudge. This Upper Peninsula landmark has been satisfying sweet tooths since the May family came to Mackinac Island in the 1930s. And if fudge isn't your thing, don't worry, they also sell peanut brittle, toffee and taffy.

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