Twenty-two RVs of all shapes and sizes met on May 30 in Niagara Falls, Ontario to begin a 27-Day adventure on Fantasy’s Great Lakes of North America Tour. They had three days in the “Honeymoon Capital of the World”, enjoying a Hornblower cruise and descending 125 feet to the Journey Behind the Falls, where they could get up close to Horseshoe Falls, where one-fifth of the world’s fresh water came crashing down in front of them. From Niagara, they cruised their first Great Lake – to Lake Erie via the Erie Canal. Arriving in Buffalo, they enjoyed a city tour and a taste of iconic Buffalo Wings at the Anchor Bar.
From the Falls, they headed north to Toronto, skirting Lake Ontario. Here, they toured this dynamic city, which included a stop at the CN Tower, Toronto’s most famous landmark. The visit was capped off by a cruise aboard a traditional three-masted schooner, with a view of the city’s skyline and a stop at Casa Loma, America’s only full-sized castle.
The group continued north to Sudbury and then crossed into the United States to magical Sault Ste Marie, at the base of Lake Superior. There was plenty to see and do, including a visit to the Tower of History, the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, the Great Lakes Maritime Museum and the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center. “I believe our guests were surprised at the level of shipping and trade on the lakes. When we took our dinner cruise through the Soo Locks, 1,000-foot ships were also going through. All of the Great Lakes would fit inside Lake Superior,” said Tim Smith, who with his wife Lori was the WagonMaster of the tour.
The Smiths’ provided guests with fact sheets (they call them “gee whizzers”) about the lakes. “We really enjoyed the variety of things to do on the tour,” continued Tim. “In some cases, we saw rural beautiful lakes combined with interesting things to do in the urban areas along the lakes.” Their final day in Sault Ste Marie was spent exploring the Gros Cap Conservation Area, where 300-foot steep cliffs rise from the water, and where guests could watch the lake’s shipping lanes.
Next stop was St. Ignace, located on the shores of two Great Lakes – Huron and Michigan. It’s also home to the Mackinaw Bridge, a 7,400-foot suspended roadway five miles long connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. They camped there for two nights and in the morning took a fast-track ferry to Mackinac Island. Here, they stepped into the past in an environment which has essentially escaped changes. No motorized vehicles here – transportation is by horse and buggy, bicycle or just walking.
The group saw more of Lake Superior when they stopped in Munising on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or the “U.P.”, as the locals call it. Then it was on to Escanaba for two days before crossing into Wisconsin and visiting the home of the Packers, Green Bay. They toured and ate lunch at iconic Lambeau Field – the oldest continually occupied stadium in the NFL.
Continuing south by the Lake Michigan shoreline, the group headed to “Beer City”, aka Milwaukee. Naturally, there was a beer-tasting tour and a visit to the Pabst Mansion, built in 1890 by the beer baron himself, Captain Frederick Past. The next iconic stop was the Harley Davidson Museum. “You don’t have to be a motorcycle buff to enjoy the museum,” said Tim. “There’s lots of history and information about police vehicles and how motorcycles were used in the war. It’s really fascinating.”
24 days later, the group arrived at their final stop – Chicago. There was plenty to do for the next three days in the “Windy City” on the shores of Lake Michigan – the only Great Lake which is completely in the United States. They visited the Chicago Observation Deck with a 360-degree of the city’s skyline and the lake and enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of Wrigley Field – home of the Chicago Cubs. “Our group just loved Wrigley and Lambeau Fields,” said Lori. They even got to sit in the Cubs’ dugout.
Of course, lunch had to be Chicago deep dish pizza, followed by a farewell dinner cruise on Lake Michigan, where the group enjoyed watching the Chicago skyline lit up at night.
One of the Fantasy guests on the tour was a 13-year old girl, traveling with her grandmother. “Our group definitely took her under their wing,” said Lori, who even French-braided her hair. “She played her violin and sang an original song for us.” “She was a fascinating young woman, way beyond her years,” added Tim. “Everybody just loved her.”
The Great Lakes Caravan has proven to be so popular that there are two tours scheduled for 2020. The first departs on May 21 and very few spaces remain on this tour. The second leaves on May 28. In 2021, there will also be two tours – May 20 for Winnebago owners and on May 27.The Smith’s agree that this tour was both fun and educational. “Guests got to see the Great Lakes and the economics they provide for the cities around it,” said Lori. “Plus, they also got to experience how the lakes provide so much recreation.”
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