We’d say that the best part of summer is the weather. Who doesn’t love sunglasses, flip flops and relaxing in the sun? From childhood vacations at the cabin to weekend road trips with college girlfriends, some of the best memories are made with friends and family at the lake. We’ve spent the last few weeks booking up our summer weekends with road trips and getaways. We made it our unofficial mission to visit as many lakes in the Midwest as possible and a few gems stand out as the best of the best. Here are our top five lakes to visit in the Midwest this summer.
Perfect for: Day-Trips and Dates
Our Bag Pick: Iconic Campus Backpack
Less than an hour northwest of our corporate office, Winona Lake is a must-see destination in Indiana. With a wide range of activities, you’ll have no trouble filling a day (or two) at Winona Lake. From kayaks, paddleboards and bicycles to upscale dining and charming ice cream shops, there are restaurants, shopping and activities for any style or taste. Winona Lake is a universal favorite among Vera Bradley associates for special afternoon dates and day-trips alike. Our marketing team members frequent this hidden gem quite often and have a few favorites you can’t miss.
“Dinner at The Boathouse is an absolute must! You can enjoy one of the best meals you’ll ever have while sitting in a semi-outdoor space overlooking the beautiful lake. Although you won’t be disappointed with any meal you order, I swear by the Apple Almond and Brie Cheese Stuffed Chicken!” — Kaylee
“You can easily spend a few hours walking around The Village at Winona. Between the candy shops and local boutiques, you can find great gifts for others, while picking up a treat for yourself, too!” — Sara
“If you love to incorporate a little workout into your day-trip, you’ll have a ton of options. From affordable watersport rentals (I recommend the paddleboards) to hourly bike rentals, you can enjoy the scenery while burning a few calories!” – Jillian
Between the shopping and outdoor activities, you’ll definitely want to be hands-free. A backpack is the perfect fuss-free option for carrying everything you need in the most convenient way.
Perfect for: Couples Getaway and Foodies
Our Bag Pick: Weekender Travel Bag
You’ve probably heard of Door County before, because it’s universally loved for its gorgeous scenery, sunsets and quaint atmosphere. Located on a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, it has miles of shorelines and countless parks. Although it attracts a wide range of visitors from adventure-seekers and nature-lovers to couples and families, Door County makes the perfect romantic getaway for anniversaries or just a weekend away.
Are you a foodie? Door County happens to be a culinary destination in the Midwest with countless wineries, breweries, and restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines. You can easily eat and sip your way through your stay if hiking isn’t your thing.
Although there are so many things to do in Door County, visiting the lighthouses and watching the sunset on the west harbor are at the top of our list! You can easily spend a whole weekend in Door County and the Iconic Weekender Travel Bag is the perfect option to fit all the essentials.
Lake of the Ozarks
Perfect for: Girls’ Weekends
Our Bag Pick: Iconic Large Travel Duffel
Anyone who grew up in the Midwest has heard of Lake of the Ozarks. Although it has great vacation packages for honeymoons, anniversaries, family trips and business trips, Lake of the Ozarks is the perfect summer destination for your girls’ weekend. Voted “Best Recreational Lake” by USA TODAY, there are endless options to fill your days. Whether your crew likes watersports or prefers relaxing on a pontoon (cocktail in hand, of course), you can plan your trip to fit any mood or activity level.
Depending on your group’s size and vacation style, you can stay anywhere from a rented condo or airbnb to a cabin or campground. No matter where you land, our favorite bag for a girls’ trip is our Iconic Large Travel Duffel. This tried-and-true travel bag is perfect for fitting everything (and we mean everything) you need for a fun weekend trip with your besties.
Perfect for: (A Local) Beach Getaway
Our Bag Pick: Lighten Up Drawstring Shoulder Bag
If your idea of the perfect vacation is relaxing on a beach (without the pricey flight), Traverse City is a must! Although located on Lake Michigan, between the sandy beaches and true blue waters, you’ll feel like you’re in the tropics. With the picturesque ice cream shops and fruit stands run on the honors system, Traverse City feels like a true beach town.
When you’re not “busy” lying on the shore, you’ll definitely want to explore. The Lighten Up Drawstring Shoulder Bag is our go-to for days spent between the lake and in town. With lightweight, water-repellent fabric, this bag is great for summer days on-the-go and even has a mesh closure to shake out any sand from the beach!
Perfect for: Family Trips or Large Groups
Our Bag Pick: Canvas Beach Tote
Unless you’re from Iowa, you likely haven’t heard of Okoboji, but there’s a good reason this made our list! Lake Okoboji is actually Iowa’s #1 vacation destination and truly has something for everybody, which is why it’s perfect for big groups! You could easily spend a week in Okoboji between the amusement parks, golf courses (both regular and mini), watersports, museums, shopping, wine bars and countless dining options. Although Okoboji is kid-friendly, it’s also a popular destination for weddings and conventions, so you can really tailor the trip to your group.
Whenever we do a lake trip with a big group, the Canvas Beach Tote is a must! If Mary Poppins ever carried a beach bag, this would be it! It’s so incredibly spacious and can fit the lake essentials for your whole group. This is no ordinary beach bag either — it is reversible and even has a hidden pocket in the bottom to keep valuables out of sight! Plus, who can resist that pattern?