After spending 4 years living in Iowa, I’m sharing 20 places to visit in the Midwest USA! My first experience of this area of the USA was actually back in 2011, as Route 66 starts in Chicago Illinois and passes through 3 of the Midwestern states. I have since explored 9 out of 12 states that make up the Midwest and here are a handful of places that I enjoyed!
Disclosure: I have previously worked with some of these attractions and CVB’s in the past, however opinions are 100% my own. This post includes affiliate links.
Places To Visit In The Midwest USA
Chicago has a whole heap of things to do and is actually one of my favourite cities in the USA! Millennium Park is a fun area alongside Lake Michigan, it’s home to Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) and the Crown Fountain. It’s connected to several other parks with gardens, mini golf courses and more!
Chicago has a couple of observation decks (360 Chicago vs Skydeck: Which Chicago Observation Deck is Better?) but I do love Skydeck at the Willis Tower! This one has 4 platforms that hang over the side of the building, with GLASS FLOORS. It’s 1365ft above the street so takes some guts to stand on them and look down!
Six Flags Great America
Honestly, I think Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, is one of the best theme parks in the world that I’ve been to. It’s impossible to get round the whole park in one day, there are 12 roller coasters and if each has a 1 hour wait time, that’s 12 hours alone! As an adult, having a large choice of so many great roller coasters is AWESOME.
I have a soft spot for Galena, it’s a cute little town with restaurants, independent shops and a ski resort (which is open year round and has summer activities when there is no snow). I have a full post on Fun Things To Do In Galena, Illinois USA which you can find here.
Indiana is home to the newest US National Park. However I visited the Indiana Dunes State Park which is next door and it’s a fun place to visit. They have a ‘3 Dune Challenge‘ which is a trail that goes over the 3 biggest dunes in the state park. If you complete it, you can go to the visitor centre and get a free sticker!
Iowa 80 is said to be the largest truck stop in the world! It’s crazy just how big it is. Not only do they have all the usual food court options and fuel pumps, but there’s also a Trucking Museum and truck accessory shop that has 2 full sized trucks inside! Once a year they also hold a giant truck show!
Fenelon Place Elevator
The Fenelon Place Elevator is the ‘shortest and steepest funicular elevator’ in the world! It was originally built by a man who worked in downtown Dubuque and wanted a short cut to get between his place of work and his home on top of the bluff! It’s now open to the public and is a popular thing to do in Dubuque!
Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel
The Historic Park Inn in Mason City is the only hotel in the world to be designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. After standing empty for a long time, it went through a major renovation to restore it to its former glory. It’s a really nice place to stay!
New Day Dairy
Another unique place to stay in Iowa is the New Day Dairy where you can ‘sleep with the cows‘…well you don’t exactly sleep in with them, but the B&B is attached to the barn and has a viewing window where you can watch them 24 hours a day! The stay also includes a welcome and farewell tour, where you can get up close with the cows or you can pay extra to do the ‘be a dairy farmer challenge’. If a calf is born during your stay, you are also given the opportunity to name it!
Iowa state fair
I have a book called ‘1000 Places To Visit Before You Die’ and the Iowa State Fair is listed as one of the places you HAVE to visit in Iowa before you die. Just like Six Flags, it’s impossible to see everything in one day. The fair takes place in Des Moines over 10 days. There’s music, demonstrations, farm animals, competitions, fairground rides and 100s of types of food served on a stick.
Route 66 only passes through a tiny part of Kansas, but it’s responsible for one of the major characters in the Disney Pixar ‘Cars’ movie! Tow Tater in Galena, Kansas was the inspiration for Mater the tow truck! Since my visit, ‘Cars On The Route’ now have more Cars characters that can be enjoyed!
Silver Lake is one of my favourite places to visit in the Midwest! The state park has AWESOME sand dunes, where half is sectioned off as a ‘pedestrian’ zone for hiking and sand boarding and another section is for off-road vehicles. There’s lots of things to do in Silver Lake, and is a typical little tourist town.
Mall of America
I’m not a fan of shopping yet ironically the Mall of America is GREAT. I was there for a full day and didn’t even go inside a shop! There’s a large indoor theme park along with mini golf courses, an aquarium and more! Considering how grim Midwest winters can be, it’s a fun place to go when it’s super cold outside!
Can Can Wonderland
I LOVE mini golf. I’m obsessed and I think that Can Can Wonderland in St Pauls is one of my favourite mini golf courses in the world! It’s very creative and unique and has a retro arcade and a bar with fun cocktails for sale.
The Gateway Arch in St Louis is another National Park located in the Midwest! This one is a little on the strange side though. It’s a giant silver arch on the banks of the Mississippi River and you can ride in a little pod to a viewing platform right in the top of the arch! Be warned though, if you’re claustrophobic, it may not be the best attraction for you!
Another St Louis attraction, the City Museum is AWESOME. It’s not a traditional museum, it’s more like a giant sculpture playground and it’s so much fun! I’d recommend wearing knee pads, as it does involve some crawling around, and there’s also a 10 storey spiral slide!
St Louis Union Station
I went to Union Station while it was still being renovated so not all the attractions were completed during my visit but I got to watch the Fire and Light Show (free), which is water fountains and fire choreographed to music, and The Grand Hall Light Show (free) which has light shows projected on the ceiling, running hourly between 5pm -10pm. There’s also a hotel in Union Station as well as: a carousel, a big wheel, an aquarium, mini golf, a ropes course and a mirror maze.
Omaha Zoo is a great zoo in the Midwest! It has several enclosures that I was REALLY impressed with. The Desert Dome, Kingdom of the Night and The Lied Jungle are all brilliant, with many species all sharing the same space.
Along with Silver Lake, the Wisconsin Dells is one of my favourite places in the Midwest! There’s a huge amount of attractions, themed restaurants and their ‘USP’ is that they are the ‘waterpark capital of the world‘. Some of my favourite attractions are: The Kalahari indoor waterpark, WizardQuest and the Grateful Shed Truckyard. It’s easy to spend a small fortune there, but it’s so much fun!
The Dickeyville Grotto is a series of shrines that were built by Father Matthias Wernerus during the 1920’s. They are created in a mosaic like fashion using stones, shells, gems and more. There’s a larger similar shrine located in Iowa called the Grotto of Redemption, but unfortunately I never got to see it. I am glad that I got to visit the Dickeyville Grotto a couple of times though!
As mentioned above, these are just a handful of places that are fun to visit. Other fun towns are Janesville WI, Kenosha WI, Mineral Point WI, Dubuque IA, Matthiessen State Park IL and more! I didn’t even make it to Ohio or North and South Dakota! What are some of your favourite places to visit in the Midwest USA?
Looking for accommodation while in the Midwest? I ALWAYS use booking.com! Many hotels have free cancellation and you can search by location, price, amenities & more!
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!