The Midwest region of the United States is often overlooked as a travel destination, but it is filled with hidden gems and must-see attractions for visitors.
From the stunning natural beauty of the Badlands and Lake Superior to the vibrant cities of Chicago and St. Louis, there is something for everyone in the Midwest.
In this article, we will explore some of the top must-see attractions in the Midwest, including national parks, museums, landmarks, and more.
Whether you are a history buff, nature lover, or foodie, the Midwest has something to offer. Get ready to pack your bags and hit the road to explore the best of the Midwest.
1. Chicago skyline and Navy Pier in Illinois
The Chicago skyline is one of the most recognizable in the world, with its towering skyscrapers and stunning architecture.
Visitors can take a stroll along the Magnificent Mile, a shopping district that offers stunning views of the skyline and Lake Michigan.
The Navy Pier is a popular attraction that offers a range of entertainment options, including a Ferris wheel, musical performances, and an IMAX theater.
Visitors can also take a boat tour of the Chicago River to see the city’s famous architecture up close. With its diverse food scene, world-class museums, and lively culture, Chicago is a must-visit destination in the Midwest
2. Mackinac Island in Michigan
Mackinac Island is a charming and picturesque island located in Lake Huron, just off the coast of Michigan. The island is known for its beautiful Victorian architecture, stunning natural beauty, and its lack of motorized vehicles – transportation is primarily by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage.
Visitors can explore the island’s historic landmarks, including Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac Island State Park. The island is also famous for its fudge, with numerous shops selling a variety of flavors.
In addition, visitors can take a leisurely bike ride around the island, go hiking, or take a boat tour around the surrounding lakes.
With its quaint charm and unique character, Mackinac Island is a must-see attraction in the Midwest.
3. Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells is a popular tourist destination located in central Wisconsin, known for its stunning natural beauty and abundance of family-friendly activities.
The area is characterized by its many scenic rock formations and waterfalls, and is often referred to as the “Waterpark Capital of the World”.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock climbing. Wisconsin Dells is also home to a number of amusement parks and water parks, including Noah’s Ark Water Park and Mt. Olympus Theme Park.
In addition, visitors can explore the area’s history at the H.H. Bennett Studio, a museum that showcases the work of the famous photographer who helped popularize the region in the 19th century.
With its natural beauty and endless entertainment options, Wisconsin Dells is a must-visit destination in the Midwest.
4. Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is a towering monument that has become an iconic symbol of the Midwest. The arch stands 630 feet tall and is made of stainless steel, making it the tallest arch in the world.
Visitors can take a tram to the top of the arch for breathtaking views of the city and the Mississippi River. The Gateway Arch is also surrounded by a beautiful park, which is perfect for picnicking, hiking, or simply enjoying the scenery.
In addition, the area is home to numerous museums and cultural attractions, including the St. Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum. With its unique architecture and stunning views, the Gateway Arch is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting St. Louis or the Midwest.
5. Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park is a stunning natural attraction located in southeastern Ohio, known for its scenic hiking trails, waterfalls, and caves.
Visitors can explore the park’s six major hiking areas, including Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, and birds of prey.
In addition to hiking, visitors can go rock climbing, fishing, and horseback riding in the park. The park is also a popular spot for stargazing and camping, with numerous campsites and cabins available for visitors.
With its beautiful scenery and wide range of outdoor activities, Hocking Hills State Park is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
6. Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore is a national monument located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, featuring the faces of four American presidents carved into the side of a mountain.
The 60-foot-tall sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt are a testament to American history and ingenuity.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the monument, explore the Sculptor’s Studio, and hike along the Presidential Trail for close-up views of the sculptures.
The surrounding area is also home to numerous attractions, including Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Badlands National Park. With its iconic status and historic significance, Mount Rushmore is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting South Dakota or the Midwest.
7. The Badlands in South Dakota
The Badlands is a breathtaking national park located in southwestern South Dakota, known for its stunning landscapes and unique rock formations.
The park is characterized by its steep canyons, towering spires, and colorful rock layers, which provide a stunning backdrop for hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography.
Visitors can explore the park’s numerous hiking trails, which range from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry treks. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.
In addition, the park offers numerous scenic drives and overlooks, including the Badlands Loop Road and the Pinnacles Overlook.
With its otherworldly beauty and natural wonders, the Badlands is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves the great outdoors.
8. The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota
The Mall of America is a massive shopping and entertainment complex located in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is one of the largest malls in the United States.
The mall is home to more than 500 stores, including high-end brands, popular chain stores, and unique boutiques. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of entertainment options, including an indoor theme park, an aquarium, a miniature golf course, and a movie theater.
The mall also offers a wide range of dining options, from fast food to upscale restaurants. The mall is conveniently located near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is easily accessible by public transportation.
With its vast array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, the Mall of America is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves to shop or just wants to have a fun day out with family and friends.
9. Lake Superior in Minnesota and Wisconsin
Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes and is shared by Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lake is known for its stunning natural beauty and offers visitors a wide range of outdoor recreational activities.
The lake’s rocky shoreline and clear blue waters provide excellent opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. Visitors can also enjoy hiking and camping in the numerous state parks and forests surrounding the lake, such as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Tettegouche State Park, and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
The area is also rich in history and culture, with numerous museums and cultural attractions, including the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the Great Lakes Aquarium, and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.
With its vast size, natural beauty, and abundance of recreational opportunities, Lake Superior is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves the outdoors.
10. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a world-class zoo located in Omaha, Nebraska, which is consistently ranked as one of the best zoos in the world.
The zoo is home to over 17,000 animals from around the world, including rare and endangered species such as the Siberian tiger, African elephant, and giant Pacific octopus.
The zoo is also home to several award-winning exhibits, including the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert habitat, and the Lied Jungle, one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests.
Visitors can also enjoy a variety of other attractions, such as the IMAX theater, a butterfly pavilion, and a children’s zoo.
The zoo is committed to conservation and education and offers a wide range of educational programs and interactive exhibits.
With its diverse collection of animals and world-class exhibits, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves animals and nature.
11. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a national park located in southeastern Missouri, which is known for its stunning natural beauty and recreational opportunities.
The park is centered around the Current and Jacks Fork rivers, which provide excellent opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming.
Visitors can also enjoy hiking and camping in the park’s numerous campgrounds and hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the rivers and surrounding wilderness.
The park is also home to numerous historic sites, including grist mills, old homesteads, and Native American rock art. In addition, the park offers a variety of ranger-led activities and educational programs for visitors of all ages.
With its breathtaking landscapes and abundance of recreational opportunities, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves the outdoors.
12. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a beautiful and diverse national park located in northeastern Ohio, which offers visitors a range of outdoor recreational activities and cultural experiences.
The park is home to the Cuyahoga River, which provides excellent opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Visitors can also enjoy hiking and biking on the park’s numerous trails, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which follows the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
The park is also home to several historic sites, including the Brandywine Falls, Hale Farm and Village, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which offers scenic tours through the park.
The park is also a haven for wildlife, including bald eagles, beavers, and white-tailed deer. With its stunning landscapes and range of recreational opportunities, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves nature and history.
13. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a world-class museum and research library located in Springfield, Illinois, which is dedicated to the life and legacy of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and exhibits related to Lincoln’s life and times, including his personal effects, manuscripts, and original documents.
The museum also features interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations, which bring Lincoln’s story to life in a dynamic and engaging way.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, including the Treasures Gallery, which showcases some of the museum’s most valuable and significant artifacts, and the Journey Gallery, which takes visitors on a chronological journey through Lincoln’s life and times.
The museum also hosts a variety of educational programs and events, including lectures, workshops, and special exhibits. With its rich history and engaging exhibits, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone interested in American history and culture.
14. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a world-renowned museum located in Cleveland, Ohio, which is dedicated to the history and culture of rock and roll music.
The museum features a vast collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and exhibits related to the history of rock and roll, including original instruments, stage costumes, and rare photographs.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, which cover a wide range of topics, from the roots of rock and roll to its influence on popular culture. The museum also hosts a variety of special events, concerts, and educational programs, including lectures, workshops, and panel discussions.
Visitors can also enjoy a range of interactive exhibits, including a virtual drum set and a vocal booth where they can record their own rock and roll hits.
With its extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits, as well as its commitment to preserving and celebrating the history of rock and roll, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for music fans of all ages.
15. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a historic race track located in Speedway, Indiana, which is home to the famous Indianapolis 500 race, one of the most prestigious motorsports events in the world.
The speedway was built in 1909 and has since hosted numerous racing events, including the Brickyard 400 and the United States Grand Prix.
Visitors to the speedway can take a tour of the track, visit the Hall of Fame Museum, and even take a ride around the track in a pace car.
The museum features a vast collection of racing artifacts and memorabilia, including classic cars, historic photos, and racing trophies.
The speedway also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including concerts, car shows, and charity events.
With its rich history and cultural significance, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for racing fans and anyone interested in American automotive culture.
16. The Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois
The Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile is a vibrant and bustling shopping district located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois.
This iconic street runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street and is lined with upscale retail shops, world-class restaurants, and luxury hotels.
Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of shopping experiences, ranging from high-end fashion boutiques to popular department stores, such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale.
The Magnificent Mile is also home to a number of cultural attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the city from the top of the John Hancock Center or the Willis Tower, or take a stroll along the scenic Chicago Riverwalk.
The Magnificent Mile is also famous for its seasonal events, such as the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, which features a tree-lighting parade, live entertainment, and fireworks.
With its vibrant atmosphere, world-class shopping, and cultural attractions, the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone looking for a unique and memorable urban experience.
17. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is a historic landmark and museum located in Hannibal, Missouri, which was the childhood home of the famous American author, Mark Twain.
The museum is located in a restored Victorian-era home where Twain lived with his family from 1844 to 1853.
Visitors can tour the home and learn about Twain’s early life and the experiences that inspired his most famous works, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
The museum also features a wide variety of exhibits, including rare manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts related to Twain’s life and literary career.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, participate in educational programs, and attend special events, such as book signings and author talks.
With its rich history and cultural significance, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for fans of American literature and anyone interested in the life and work of one of America’s most celebrated writers.
18. The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa
The Iowa State Fair is an annual event held in Des Moines, Iowa, which is one of the largest and most popular state fairs in the United States.
The fair is held in August and attracts over a million visitors each year, who come to enjoy a wide variety of food, entertainment, and exhibits.
The fair is famous for its iconic butter cow sculpture, which is made entirely of butter and has been a beloved tradition at the fair for over 100 years.
Visitors can also enjoy a wide variety of other attractions, including carnival rides, live music and entertainment, agricultural exhibits, and a variety of food and drink vendors.
The fair is also home to a number of unique competitions and events, such as the annual cow chip throwing contest and the famous “Big Boar” competition, where breeders compete to see who has the largest pig.
With its fun and festive atmosphere, rich agricultural heritage, and unique attractions, the Iowa State Fair is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone looking for a fun and memorable summer experience.
19. The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin
The Wisconsin State Capitol is a stunning example of neoclassical architecture located in Madison, Wisconsin. The building was completed in 1917 and is home to the offices of the governor and the state legislature.
Visitors can tour the building and enjoy its many features, including its impressive dome, which is modeled after the dome of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The interior of the building is adorned with intricate murals, ornate woodwork, and stunning stained-glass windows. Visitors can also explore the building’s many exhibits, which showcase the history and culture of Wisconsin.
The capital is surrounded by a beautiful park, which offers stunning views of the building and the surrounding city.
Visitors can take a guided tour or explore the building on their own, and there are also a number of special events and concerts held in the capitol throughout the year.
With its rich history, stunning architecture, and cultural significance, the Wisconsin State Capitol is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone interested in politics, history, or architecture.
20. The Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
The Lake of the Ozarks is a large reservoir located in central Missouri that is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and outdoor recreation.
The lake covers over 54,000 acres and has over 1,100 miles of shoreline, making it one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of activities on and around the lake, including boating, swimming, water skiing, and fishing for a variety of fish species, including bass, crappie, and catfish.
The lake is also surrounded by beautiful parks and natural areas, including the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and campsites.
There are also a number of resorts, restaurants, and bars located on the lake, making it a popular destination for vacations and weekend getaways.
With its beautiful scenery and a wide variety of recreational activities, the Lake of the Ozarks is a must-visit destination in the Midwest for anyone who loves the outdoors.
These are just a few examples, there are many other amazing attractions to see in the Midwest region of the USA depending on your interests