For the first time in my adulthood, I have visited the US midwest, often known as flyover states, in the last two years. My favorite trip was my road trip around Lake Michigan. I have been so impressed with the beauty of nature and the passion in the cities, that I wanted to share the area with my readers. This week my friends and I will share our favorite US midwest cities and next week, I will share natural spots that you will be shocked to learn sit in the midwest US. So get off the coasts and start to explore some of the best cities in the Midwest, USA!
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Branson, Missouri is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest. Not only is there an amazing amusement park, Silver Dollar City, but there are shows, shopping, and more entertainment options than anyone could do in one trip.
By Ketki of Dotted Globe
When it comes to the most popular destinations in the Midwest, Chicago by far tops everyone’s travel bucket list. The Windy City, as it is popularly known, has a host of tourist attractions for all age groups. The city is known for many things from its striking skyline to its music and cuisine.
Start your trip to Chicago at the beautiful Millenium Park. This is the tourist heart of the city and has numerous renowned attractions. The most iconic attraction is the Bean or the Cloudgate Sculpture. Take a photo in front of this attraction and admire the reflection of the Chicago skyline on its surface. Then hear a concert in the park or enjoy the view of Crown fountains.
Enjoy the views of the city from above at the Willis Tower or the John Hancock Center. Take the architectural cruise down the river and admire the beautiful buildings. Enjoy the activity at Navy Pier or see the many museums in the city.
by Brittany of FivePax
Columbus, Ohio is known as a college football town but there is so much more to this midwest gem to explore. The best of the art and food scene is among the galleries and restaurants in the Short North neighborhood. We recommend lunch at the booths of the North Market, dinner at The Pearl followed by a scoop of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Just a short distance in either direction you can walk to admire the historic homes with friendly and delicious cafes, breweries, and pizza shops tucked into the corners of German Village, Victorian Village, and ever-changing Italian Village (where the FivePax team lived and played for over a decade).
For entertainment and experiences, head a bit more downtown, where science nerds of all ages will be delighted at the impressive COSI Science Center and the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery. Additionally, the Franklin Park Conservatory brings together art and a gorgeous botanical garden, perhaps the most unexpected surprise on this list. To round out the trip for a night of fun, head back to the bars of the Short North or catch a game in-person, the Crew, Blue Jackets, and Clippers all play in Columbus, or on the screens of the Arena District!
Des Moines, Iowa
by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey
We think one of the best places to visit in the Midwest is Des Moines, Iowa. There are a lot of fun things to do in Des Moines, both indoors and outdoors! First, there’s a huge art scene in Des Moines. You can see over 30 works of art for free by walking around Pappajohn Sculpture Park, a 4.4-acre park in downtown Des Moines. You can also see plenty of street art and murals as you walk around downtown.
If you want to head indoors, pay a visit to the Iowa State Capitol building. There are formal tours available, but you can also do a free self-guided tour. The building is beautiful and the detail and artwork inside are very impressive. Another great indoor attraction is the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. The geodesic-domed conservatory is a focal point, with a few different gardens inside.
If you’d like a yummy snack while exploring Des Moines, we recommend visiting Scenic Route Bakery. They have great pastries, baked goods, and plenty of coffee to keep you energized for more exploration!
Grand Rapids, Michigan
by Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting
One of the best destinations in America’s Midwest is the charming city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s the state’s second-largest city and located about 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. There are so many things to do in Grand Rapids. In the city, you’ll discover fascinating museums, a delicious food scene, vibrant nightlife, and more.
Visitors to Grand Rapids should make a trip to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum which is full of artifacts and stories about the former president’s life and service to the country. There are also two art museums and a museum of African American History.
Grand Rapids is home to over 80 breweries which makes it one of the best cities to visit for beer lovers. One of the best in the city is Founders Brewing Company and most of them are open to the public for tours and tastings. You can also enjoy a hot dog to pair with your drink – head to Yesterdog, winner of many national awards, but make sure to bring cash as they are a cash-only establishment. The nightlife is also fantastic and includes bars as well as concert venues and sporting venues. Grand Rapids is the home of minor league baseball and affiliate teams for hockey and basketball.
If you are a sports lover. you will want to stop and visit Indianapolis. It has 11 sports teams within the city limits. Even better, it is home of the famous Indy 500 and the race track and museum can also be found in the city.
Downtown Indianapolis is populated with beautiful buildings made of Indiana limestone along a clean canal. Locals and tourists flock to this waterway to walk and kayak or visit one of the cities numerous museums. Be sure to visit the capital building of Indiana right in central Indianapolis.
Kansas City, Missouri
by Sage of Everyday Wanderer
Straddling the states of Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is home to the reigning Super Bowl Champions. But beyond Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, this Midwestern destination is known as the City of Fountains and the Barbeque Capital of the World.
History buffs won’t want to miss the nation’s only World War I Museum. Incorporated into the Liberty Memorial, a 217-foot tall limestone tower surrounded by acres of green space, this is THE place to learn about the horrors of the Great War. It also offers the best views of the Kansas City skyline and all the selfies you can snap! Continue to nerd out on history with a visit to Union Station just down the hill. I love walking through the free Union Station Stories exhibit that starts at the staircase in the southwest corner.
Another iconic spot in Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Outside the 210-square-foot museum complex, four gigantic badminton birdie sculptures are whimsically installed on the lawn. Inside, there’s no admission fee to admire the impressive art collection. If you enjoy contemporary art, the Kemper Museum is just a few blocks away. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the giant spider sculpture out front!
To be instantly transported from America’s Heartland to Seville, Spain, visit the Country Club Plaza. Designed as the first shopping center in the country for patrons arriving by car, parking is always free. The wide, tree-lined streets are lined with trees and the 15-block shopping district is full of flowing fountains and impressive sculptures. And if you visit Kansas City during the holidays, more than 80 miles of colorful lights outline every building.
Leaving Kansas City without trying the barbeque is like leaving Maine without ordering lobster. Don’t do it! This article features my favorite BBQ joints in Kansas City, including options for vegetarians.
by Jenny Javitch of Global Game Plan
Omaha, Nebraska is a hidden gem, conveniently located in the middle of the country and the perfect place to stop on your cross-country or mid-western road trip. It has many more things to do than you’re probably thinking, and plenty to do on a weekend trip. One of my favorite things about the city is that it has tourist attractions for visitors with a variety of interests. Sports fans can watch the College World Series every June, architecture buffs will love the art deco Union Station, families will enjoy the largest rainforest in North America at the Henry Doorly Zoo (open year-round) and aviation enthusiasts won’t want to miss the cold-war aircraft at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Walking through the brick-lined streets of the Old Market during the day or at night will show off Omaha’s unique gift stores, popular restaurants and the local artist scene. Finish off your trip with a nice stroll or bike ride across the Missouri River on “Bob the Bridge,” where you can stop and stand with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa and be in two states at the same time!
St Louis, Missouri
by Angela of Dang Travelers
Somehow St. Louis, Missouri has stayed under the radar with travelers outside the Midwest, but with the Gateway Arch earning a national park designation recently, it is finally getting the attention it deserves. And that’s just one noteworthy attraction the city has to offer. Two miles from the Arch is the most unique thing to do, the City Museum. It’s unlike anything you’ve encountered before, truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It is the ultimate playground for kids and adults alike and has everything from 10 story slides to buses hanging off rooftops. Meanwhile, the world-class St. Louis Zoo tops many “Best Zoos in America” lists and is embedded in Forest Park which rivals the famous Central Park. You will find four other cultural institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum, Science Center, and History Museum, all within the park’s boundaries. In addition to stellar sites, St. Louis has a killer craft beer scene and an expanding restaurant community. The best part? Most of the major attractions are free or budget-friendly making St. Louis a hidden gem in the middle of the Heartland.
What is your favorite Midwest US city and why? Please let me know in the comments. Be sure to come back for next week’s Most Beautiful Spots in the Midwest or subscribe and get it directly into your inbox.