When to Go to the Midwest
The Midwest by season
Broadly speaking, the Midwest USA enjoys a temperate climate, with hot summers and cool winters, although localised weather varies considerably across the region, often dependent on altitude. With fairly even rainfall across the year as well, there is no stand-out best time to go. So to help you choose the ideal time for your holiday, we’ve broken the year down into the four seasons:
March – May
The mild weather and warm, sunny days of spring make it the perfect time to hike the trails in Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Route 66 is pleasant at this time too, with most attractions open after the winter and fewer cars than in the summer peak. In Chicago and the Great Lakes, the blossom adds colour and vibrancy and a number of lively festivals take place.
Thunder Over Louisville: in late April, join 650,000 spectators for the USA’s largest fireworks display, held in Louisville.
Kentucky Derby: on the first Saturday in May, watch the annual horse race and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
June – August
Summer is the best time to visit if you’re covering the entire region. Days are generally hot and sunny, nights are warm and the road conditions are at their best with all mountain passes and Route 66 facilities fully open. Having said that, the mercury can exceed 40°C in the southern regions and rainfall increases across Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, so come prepared.
Independence Day: on 4th July celebrate in style in Minneapolis, where a half marathon is followed by live music and plenty of eating while fireworks light up the sky.
Colorado State Fair & Rodeo: held in late August in Pueblo, Colorado’s state fair has been running since 1872, consisting of concerts, rides, carnival and parades.
September - November
As temperatures cool, the Midwest’s parks and lakes come into their own, with pleasant sunny days allowing you to expore them at leisure. Route 66 has less traffic than the summer, while the forests around the Great Lakes turn glorious shades of red and gold. Chicago is lovely to walk around at this time, while in Yellowstone there’s good wildlife watching to be had as the animals prepare for winter.
Oktoberfest: in late September, Chicago joins Munich in celebrating all things Bavarian, with plenty of beer, pretzels and lederhosen, along with games for children.
Midway Swiss Days Festival: in early September, join the locals and camp out in advance to secure the best spot for the Swiss Days parade, featuring yodelling, alp horns and Swiss cheese sandwiches.
December - February
The Midwest can get bitterly cold in winter, particularly around the Great Lakes and Rocky Mountain regions where -40°C is not unheard of. But don’t let that deter you – the ski season starts in earnest and the sea caves on Lake Superior turn into fascinating ice caves. Rainfall is low in Chicago in winter, with snow likely around the Great Lakes’ shorelines. Roads in Yellowstone close in winter so you’ll have to travel by snowcoach.
Christkindlmarket: head to Chicago’s Daley Plaza for the city’s largest open-air market, selling decorations, cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers, as well as plenty of beer, sausages and mulled wine.
Winter sports: the winter snow brings new activities to Yellowstone National Park. Try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling among the steaming geysers.