8 Things to Do in the Midwest USA

Published 08 July 2016

Angela Griffin

Angela Griffin

Encompassing the USA’s 12 north-central states, including Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakotas, the Midwest is a vast region home to electrifying cities, tranquil lakes and historic monuments. Although it’s not as well known as the USA’s big-hitting east and west coasts, those who venture into the Midwest will be richly rewarded with a blissful lack of crowds, some mouth-watering regional cuisine and a newfound ability to ace those ‘name the 50 states’ quizzes. Here are our top eight suggestions of things to do while you’re there:

Route 66 road

Get your kicks on Route 66

“If you ever plan to motor west/Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best”, sang Nat King Cole on the 1946 song Route 66. He wasn’t wrong. Stretching 2,451 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, and covering eight states, three time zones and countless middle-of-nowhere towns, Route 66 is the stuff of USA travel legend. Pack your sense of adventure, hire a 1962 Corvette and set off on the ultimate road trip.

Mount Rushmore

Face the Presidents at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

With over three million visitors per year, the steely faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are by far South Dakota’s most popular attraction. Gazing out from the carved granite face of the Black Hills, the four presidents were sculpted between 1927 and 1941 in an attempt to increase tourism to the little-known Dakotan states. Walk the 0.6-mile Presidential Trail, browse the exhibits in the visitor centre and learn about the monument’s creation, which involved blowing up sections of rock with dynamite.

St Louis Gateway Arch

Ride the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri

Visible from all over St Louis and beyond is the Gateway Arch, the world’s tallest national monument. To ascend the 192m parabola, visitors ride the unique elevator system. Resembling a futuristic indoor Ferris wheel, this is just as much an attraction as the far-reaching view from the top. Back on ground level, there’s a museum depicting the arch’s design and construction in the 1960s.

View from the Sears Tower

Check out the views in Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City of Chicago is home to not one but two vertigo-inducing activities. Firstly, on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center is TILT, a glass box that tilts you face first towards the ground, 314m below. If that’s not scary enough, ascend the 442m Sears Tower, the second tallest building in the western hemisphere after New York’s One World Trade Center. There, on the 103rd floor, you’ll find The Ledge, a vertigo-inducing glass-bottomed box offering dizzying views across to Lake Michigan.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Step back in time on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Sitting calmly in the stretch of water that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is a time portal to another world. Here, horse-drawn carriages take visitors around the Victorian-era architecture, Fort Mackinac’s stone walls loom menacingly and the opulent Grand Hotel sits serenely on the lakeshore. Filming location for the 1980 Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time, the hotel’s graceful interiors are seemly unchanged since its construction in 1887.

Detroit skyline

Put your hands up for Detroit, Michigan

Detroit might not be the most obvious of cities to include on this list, but we think it’s highly underrated. Right on the Canadian border, it’s often the first impression many Canadians have of the USA. And what an impression it is. Rising from the ashes of its bad reputation, the city is stuffed full of Art Deco architecture, Victorian houses and intriguing museums, including the original Motown Records recording studios. Yes, there are still some abandoned, forsaken areas that look like something from a post-apocalyptic movie, but many are being renovated and converted into hip restaurants and even hipper bars.

Minnesota Capital Building, St Paul

Tour the Twin Cities, Minnesota

At the confluence of the Mississippi, Minnesota and St Croix Rivers, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul sit side by side. Both are chock-a-block with museums, including the rather hilarious Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, which displays a foot-powered breast enlarger and weight-loss aiding soap.  And don’t miss the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is home to the quirky and much-loved Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture. [Note: the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in June 2017].

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ohio

On the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to rock ‘n’roll’s most influential figures. Displaying various music-related memorabilia, including John Lennon’s outfit from the Sgt Pepper era and Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar, it’s well worth a look, music fan or not. And why oh why is it in Cleveland, you ask? Because it was here in the early 1950s that Alan Freed first coined the phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. A tenuous link perhaps, but one that Ohio has gleefully cashed in on. 

Fancy seeing the Midwest for yourself? Give our Experts a call today or take a look at our tailor-made USA holidays.

You might also like:

The Ultimate Guide to Route 66

5 Tips for Road Tripping in the USA

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