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The Midwest

“Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan (1941, Minnesota)

Learn more about the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Big cities

Chicago

State: Illinois

Population estimate: 2.7 million

What it’s known for: The Cloud Gate 

This instagram-worthy sculpture, aka “The Bean,” can be found in beautiful Millennium Park.

Locals love: Winter Garden at Harold Washington Library

The ninth floor of this city library houses a gorgeous garden, featuring classical architecture and breathtaking views. It also has Wi-Fi, making it the prettiest study spot.

Indianapolis

State: Indiana

Population estimate: 830.000

What it’s known for: The Indy 500

Professional race car drivers fill the city during the annual 805-kilometer car race held in the nearby city of Speedway.

Locals love: The Cultural Trail

You can join the locals as they bike and walk on this 13-kilometer trail through downtown, passing the city’s most famous artwork, delicious restaurants, and beautiful architecture.

Columbus

State: Ohio

Population estimate: 787.000

What it’s known for: Ohio State Country

This university ranks as one of the top five biggest universities in the U.S. 

Locals love: South Fourth Street

One of the hippest areas in Downtown Columbus, be sure to stop by the popular 16-Bit Bar+Arcade.

Milwaukee

State: Wisconsin

Population estimate: 595.000

What it’s known for: The Major League Brewers

Milwaukeeans are known for being die-hard baseball fans. The team name also speaks to the city’s love of beer.

Locals love: Milwaukee Public Market

Make sure to spend a day in this two-story indoor food market where independent vendors sell delicious and unique foods.

Detroit

State: Michigan

Population estimate: 714.000

What it’s known for: The Ford Museum

Credited with being the automotive heart of the U.S., you can visit the Ford Museum to discover Detroit’s history as home to one of the country’s first car manufacturers.

Locals love: Eastern Market

Shop for fresh produce, foods from all over the world, and even antiques in this public market

Road Trip Worthy

Cleveland, Ohio

Until recently, Cleveland wasn’t a popular destination for tourists. That all has changed, with more and more people recognizing the city’s diverse attractions and unique history. 

 

When looking for outdoor activities, you can spend the day at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Metroparks, or the Cleveland Zoo. If you’re there at a time of year that makes you want to spend time indoors, take a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the West Side Market, which has over 100 stalls serving food from all over the world. If you’re looking for history and culture, explore West 25th Street, where you can admire Victorian-era homes and pop into charming cafes. 

 

Don’t forget to stop by Hingetown, an eclectic district where you can visit Transformer Station, a 1920s transportation hub turned art gallery. Be sure to also visit Gordon Square, Cleveland’s arts district.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

The Midwest is landlocked, but who says you can’t visit the beach? Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri will satisfy your need for some time on the beach. The number of water sports you can do there are endless—water skiing, tubing, parasailing, boat rides, fishing, and more.

 

If you’re looking for things to do on land, visit the nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park to explore the more than 24 kilometers of trails or the ruins of an early 20th-century stone mansion for a bit of history. The park also offers hiking and mountain biking. 

 

If you’re feeling up to a shopping spree, check out the Osage Beach Outlet Marketplace. There you’ll find your favorite brands at great discounted prices. To end your trip, visit Bagnell Dam Strip for world-class barbecue, candy stores, ice cream parlors, and gift shops. 

 

Don’t think that the Lake of the Ozarks is just for the summertime; you can experience beautiful fall leaves and charming snow-covered streets in the fall and winter.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway filled with history and fudge, Michigan’s Mackinac Island is the place to go. Once an important center of commerce for the Great Lakes fur trade, the island is now a go-to summer destination for Michiganders and tourists. The island has had extensive historical preservation and restoration, and the entire island is considered a National Historic Landmark.

 

A unique feature of the island is that cars aren’t allowed on it; instead, the town is filled with horses and carriages. If riding in carriages isn’t your style, you can take a scenic bike ride around the island—it’s only 13 miles to go around the whole island!  On your bike ride, make sure to stop at the Victorian Grand Hotel to enjoy the white columned architecture and maybe a cup of tea. 

 

If you get tired of the downtown, then you can explore miles of hiking trails in Mackinac Island State Park, which takes up 80 percent of the island.

St. Louis, Missouri

Located alongside the Mississippi River, St. Louis is known for its baseball, blues music, and of course for its iconic archway. While watching a baseball game and riding up the Gateway Arch are highly recommended, there’s a lot more to the city than just the tourist attractions. You’ll find locals hanging out at The Loop—a square with 145 restaurants, galleries, and shops. You can eat your way through the top restaurants and visit the Walk of Fame to learn about celebrated St. Louisans.  

 

A little known fact is that St. Louis has more free tourist attractions than any other U.S. city outside Washington DC. Make a day (or week) out of visiting the art museum, history museum, science center and the zoo without spending a dollar! 

 

One attraction that isn’t free but is still totally worth the admission (with a discount on Fridays and Saturdays) is the City Museum. Built in 1997, in an abandoned shoe factory and warehouse, the museum has a labyrinth of interactive swings and tunnels with city views.

Lollapalooza - Chicago, Illinois

Lollapalooza is a four-day music festival that takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park. Originally created in 1991 as a farewell tour by the rock band Jane’s Addiction, the festival took on a life of its own and has become an annual summer destination. The festival presents eight stages with more than 170 bands from all over the world that represent a variety of genres including alternative rock, heavy metal, punk rock, hip hop, and electronic music.

 

Just as MTV is no longer just about music, music festivals go beyond just the performances. The official website describes “sweet photogenic spots” and “interactive areas,” meaning your Lolla experience can live forever on Instagram.

 

For a truly exclusive experience, you also have the option to buy VIP and Platinum tickets, which will give you access to private sections and some of the best views.

Cleveland, Ohio

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Mackinac Island, Michigan

St. Louis, Missouri

Lollapalooza – Chicago, Illinois

Words & Expressions to Know ​

  • Dontcha know: A form of “don’t you know,” the phrase is mostly just used for emphasis.
    • “There’s a snowstorm coming, dontcha know.”

  • Expressway: Highway, freeway, or interstate. 
    • “I’m going to hop on the expressway to go to Costco.”

  • Jeet: Short for “did you eat?”
    • Jeet this morning?”
 

Regional Cooking

Midwestern cuisine is known for being hearty and simple. The region’s diet was largely influenced by Central, Northern, and Eastern European immigrants, as well as ingredients native to the region. Commonly referred to as the “breadbasket of America,” the Midwest is where most of the country’s wheat, corn, and wild rice comes from. Dairy is particularly important to the regional cuisine—especially cheese. In addition to grains and cheese, Midwestern dishes also feature beef and pork.