Don’t overlook the Midwest! Despite its laid-back reputation, America’s Midwest region is a treasure trove of exhilarating and memorable travel adventures.

Let’s discover the best of the Midwest with this quick guide—hopefully we can pique your interest and fuel your excitement for this underappreciated region!

Go Shopping

If you love shopping, you’ll adore the Midwest because it’s home to the world-famous Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Its four levels include hundreds of stores, a theme park, a movie theater, and even an aquarium—you could spend an entire day just exploring the biggest mall in all of the USA. In addition to shopping, you can go to Nickelodeon Universe, which is the Mall of America’s theme park (and probably where you’ve heard of that indoor rollercoaster!). Also be sure to check out the Crayola Experience, where you and your kids can make colorful creations, watch stage shows, go to the playground, and much more. That’s not all: while you’re there, head over to the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, which is the largest aquarium in the state, and where you can view sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, and tons of other creatures. For a quick snack, grab a delicious cream puff at Beard Papa’s, or yummy cream puff, or go all out with carnival food at Fair On 4, where you can enjoy axe throwing and go-karting!

Go Boating

The Midwest is home to some of the most picturesque boating spots in the entire USA. With its beautiful lakes, bays, and waterways—plus abundant sunshine!—a boat trip here is a must.

Cities like Chicago and Milwaukee are great for boating in the Midwest because they’re both on the shores of the massive Lake Michigan. If you’ve never seen this Great Lake, you’d think it was the ocean…it’s the fifth-largest lake by area in the world (though sister lakes Huron and Superior precede it) and the largest lake entirely contained within one country. If you happen to be in Chicago, don’t miss a boat ride down the Chicago River—for those lucky enough to visit during St. Patrick’s Day, you can even see the whole lake get dyed green! And if you’re in Milwaukee, check out Lakeshore State Park, a lovely urban oasis with access to trails, beaches, and boat slips.

Visit a Corn Maze

If you’re traveling to the Midwest in autumn, add a corn maze to your stops! In addition to leaf peeping and scenic road trips, there’s nothing better than a gorgeous, bright fall day spent drinking cider on a hayride, exploring the pumpkin patch, and navigating a corn maze—it’s a fantastic option for couples, friends, and family. For a jumping-off point, check out Exploration Acres in Lafayette, Indiana (there’s a corn cannon!).

Rock Out!

For those who love nothing more than a heavy guitar riff and iconic lyrics, a visit to Cleveland, Ohio, is a must for the legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being inducted into the Rock Hall is a huge deal for music stars, and the venue is packed with displays, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits. There are plenty of events and live music throughout the year, from family days to solo sets to rock concerts and much more.

Get Hiking

The Midwest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with tons of hiking opportunities waiting to be explored. We’d recommend the breathtaking Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where you can go hiking, biking, boating, birdwatching, and even bison-watching!

Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio is another popular hiking destination. Here, you can see fascinating rock formations, spectacular waterfalls, and gorgeous green forests.

Explore Breweries and Distilleries

The Midwest is renowned for its craft beer and spirits. Brewery tours and tastings are available all over, but we recommend going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a truly memorable experience and amazing craft beers. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the legendary Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri—and the famous Clydesdales!—or sample craft beers at the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio.

Discover Historical Landmarks

The Midwest is rich in history, and there’s a lot you can see here! Visit the 630-foot-high Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, a monument to the United States’ westward expansion and the tallest arch in the world. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, gives a deep dive into American innovation and history. For an experience spanning much more of North America’s history and culture, explore the historic Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, one of the largest and most complex pre-Columbian Native American sites north of Mexico.

Check Out a Festival

The Midwest hosts lots of festivals, drawing visitors from all over the country. A few favorites:

Visit Amish Country

For a special cultural experience, consider a drive through the Amish communities in Indiana and Ohio. Shipshewana, Indiana, and Holmes County, Ohio, offer an extraordinary glimpse into a different way of life, with opportunities to explore handmade crafts at local markets and stores, savor delicious meals (you must get a pie or other baked good—they’re some of the best in the USA), and even take tours of Amish farms.

Indulge in Local Eats

No trip to the Midwest would be complete without sampling the local cuisine! From deep-dish pizza in Chicago to Kansas City barbecue, the region is known for its hearty and delicious food. Try a famous Wisconsin cheese curd, or visit a traditional supper club for a classic Midwestern dining experience.

Over to You!

What are your recommendations for the best places to visit and things to do around the Midwest? Share your insights and stories with the Frayed Passport community!

Featured image by alyssa teboda on Unsplash

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