Top Weekend Getaways for Entrepreneurs

The Not-So-Deep South, the Great Lakes and the Central States

THE NOT-SO-DEEP SOUTH

The place: Mammoth Cave National Park, in Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

The personality: For the entrepreneur who's used to the feeling of the walls closing in

cave_nationalWhy go here: Kentucky is a very scenic state to begin with, with its bluegrass-covered, mountainous terrain and lush forests of black walnut, green ash and numerous other botanical delights. But the beauty of Mammoth Cave is really just doing something you don't normally do every day--go underground into some spectacular caverns. And comparing the trip to running a business is irresistible--that is, if you've ever felt like the walls have been closing in, if you often feel like you're in the dark or if you typically describe your business as operating "off the radar." It's also a place to really challenge your physical and mental prowess in a relatively safe way. If you take the Wild Cave tour, for instance, you're bound to confront your inner fears as you crawl at great lengths through some spaces just nine inches high--if you haven't figured it out, this particular tour isn't for the faint-of-heart. But there are plenty of other tours that allow you to focus on the caves and not on your stamina. Either way, you're visiting the longest-recorded cave system in the world--more than 360 miles of mapped trails--and a place where 19th-century entrepreneurs did their best to find a way to make money from the caves. One man started a potassium nitrate plant here in the early 1800s, and in the 1830s, one entrepreneur built an underground hotel that stayed in business until 1916, when it burned down. In 1842, a physician installed a short-lived tuberculosis hospital here. There's plenty to think about--and see, if your guide has a lantern--at Mammoth Cave, more than enough for a weekend. And since it's a national park, you can avoid hotels and partake in the camping experience, making you ever more grateful for your air-conditioned office upon your return.

Website:www.nps.gov/maca

If you want to go somewhere else in the region:Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, West Virginia, (www.blackwaterfalls.com) has family-friendly prices for family-minded entrepreneurs. The park features a waterfall that plunges five stories, then weaves its way through an eight-mile-long gorge. The water actually looks black, thanks to the acid covering the riverbed, created from hemlock and red spruce needles. But aside from being a striking place to see--it's one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia--there's horseback riding, hiking, nature programs, fishing and pretty much anything an outdoorsy entrepreneur would want to do. You could also check out the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which consists of 100 miles of barrier islands along the state's Atlantic shoreline (www.outerbanks.org). The community of Nagshead is one of the most popular destinations (www.townofnagshead.net), where you can rent cottages on unspoiled beaches and still be close to attractions ranging from garden-variety shopping plazas and lighthouses to Kitty Hawk, where aviation entrepreneurs Wilbur and Orville Wright once proved that the sky's the limit.

THE GREAT LAKES REGION

The place: Indianapolisindianapolis_image

The personality: For the entrepreneur who wants to spend quality time with the kids

Why go here: Even if you happen to live in Indianapolis, you may not be aware that your local children's museum isn't merely amazing--it's also the world's largest. You could easily spend a day at the museum, which features 11 galleries and offers kids the chance to dig for dinosaur bones with an actual paleontologist. The next day, you could head off to the Indianapolis Zoo to admire their recently opened $10 million Dolphin Dome, which allows you to observe the dolphins underwater, in a room in the middle of the pool, giving visitors an almost 360-degree view of the ocean's most popular mammal. Want to do something really different? Entrepreneurs and their spouses and children (if they're at least 14 years old and four and a half feet tall) can sign up for the in-water program and swim with the dolphins. And, hey, if there's time, check out President Benjamin Harrison's 1875 historic mansion, where he lived for much of his adult life, before and after his stint in the White House.

Website:www.indy.org

If you want to go somewhere else in the region:Holland, Michigan (www.holland.org), (or almost any spot along the western coast of Michigan), is a can't-miss for the windmill-loving entrepreneur--and you know who you are. Holland is a town that celebrates its Dutch heritage with shops, beach activities and, yes, windmills. Or, if you're feeling a bit stressed-out, CanoeBay in Chetek, Wisconsin, (www.canoebay.com) is a great place to check out. This resort is all about getting away from it all, although you'll be getting a dose of some tough love: There are no cell phone towers for miles, and there are no telephones in the rooms. (If you're totally desperate to connect to civilization, you can use the internet connection in the library.) But since the whole idea of coming here is to truly get away from it all, chances are, you will forget about work. There are 280 acres of woods to explore, and there are three private lakes, where you can swim, canoe, kayak or row in the boats provided for guests. It's kind of like vacationing at an outdoor library where peace and quiet are the order of the day.

THE CENTRAL STATES

The place: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region of Kansas

The personality: For the reflective entrepreneur

tallgrass_prairieWhy go here: If you're longing for a good beach, some great fishing holes, a few trendy bars and restaurants, or some other typical vacation activity, this isn't the place for you. In fact, let's make it clear: If you're looking for excitement and you come here, you'll be bored. But if you really just want to get away and spend some quality time thinking about your next business move while you're recharging, this could be your place. Everywhere you look you'll see prairies--miles of them--and while at first glance you may just see a field of grass, if you give it a chance, you'll learn that it's not just grass--it's 40 to 60 different species of grass, mixed with over 300 species of weeds and wildflowers. Lurking in the prairie are insects, lizards, snakes, deer, fox, bobcats and coyotes. This also happens to be one of the rarest and most endangered ecosystems in the world, and an ideal place to visit if you're into hiking or observing nature at its most natural. There's also an hour-long tour of an 1881 limestone historic ranch and a 90-minute guided bus tour, if you get tired of getting around on foot.

Website:www.nps.gov/tapr/index.htm

If you want to go somewhere else in the region:Aspen, Colorado, isn't just for skiing--(www.aspenchamber.org) it's a great place for adventure year round. In the warmer months, the mountain community offers spectacular scenery and a lot of opportunities to brag about your bravery and athletic prowess, from paragliding to hot air ballooning to rock climbing. And 30 minutes away is the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, (the subject of many articles in the first season of Entrepreneur.com and AOL's online reality business startup series, The Startup (http://aolsvc.aol.com/small_biz/startup_series/index.adp). For the entrepreneur who dares to dream, you might want to check out Dyersville, Iowa, (www.dyersville.org) where you can visit the cornfield that was featured in Field of Dreams. Play a baseball game with your kids, then wander through a corn maze with them. And if you need more to do over the weekend, stop by the National Farm Toy Museum, where you'll see more than 30,000 toys on display. The town also has its own doll museum.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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