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Best Places to Visit in the Midwest for Your Bucket List

Looking for the best places to visit in the Midwest? From the top cities to beautiful natural attractions, add these must see places to your Midwest USA bucket list.

Midwest Bucket List: Best Places to Visit in the Midwest

Chicago is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest

What States are in the Midwest?

The Midwest or the Midwestern United States consists of 12 states in the north central United States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Illinois Bucket List

what to do in chicago

  • Explore Chicago. Maybe I’m biased because it is my hometown, but Chicago is one of the best cities to visit in the US. There are a lot of bucket list worthy things to do in Chicago: watching a baseball game at historic Wrigley Field, taking photos of the Bean at Millennium Park, admiring the amazing views from The Skydeck at Willis Tower and/or 360 CHICAGO, take an architecture cruise on the Chicago River and more! Read: Best Things to Do in Chicago in the Spring and Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago
  • Admire homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago.
  • See the beautiful architecture of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Complex, a traditional Hindu place of worship located in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett, built of intricate hand-carved Italian marble and Turkish limestone.
  • Drive the Illinois portion of Route 66.

Starved Rock State Park is one of the best day trips from Chicago

  • Explore Starved Rock State Park (one of the most popular attractions in Illinois) which has great hikes, stunning sandstone cliffs, canyons and beautiful waterfalls.
  • Explore Matthiessen State Park which is less crowded as nearby Starved Rock State Park but just as beautiful with similar natural features such as canyons and beautiful waterfalls.
  • Visit Galena, a charming and historic small town.
  • Explore Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. Explore the magnificent rock formations, cliffs and trails of Garden of the Gods, the best place to go hiking in Illinois with spectacular views.
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Illinois.

Indiana Bucket List

  • Visit the the capital city of Indianapolis.
  • Explore Turkey Run State Park is a nature lover, one of the best state parks for hiking.
  • Explore Brown County State Park, the largest state park in Indiana and one of the best places to see beautiful fall foliage.
  • Visit Indiana Dunes, a national park along the southern shore of Lake Michigan with sandy beaches and tall dunes.

Iowa Bucket List

  • See the covered bridges of Madison County.
  • Visit the Iowa State Fair. The eleven day fair (August 12-22, 2021) has food, games, rides and competitions, livestock exhibitions, shows, concerts and more.
  • Recreate the famous American Gothic painting in front of the original house in Eldon depicted in the painting. Visitors to the American Gothic House are provided with costumes to wear while the staff takes photos in front of the house.
  • Experience the Tulip Festival in Pella, Iowa, every May in celebration of Pella’s Dutch heritage.

Kansas Bucket List

  • Eat BBQ at the famous Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Kansas City.
  • Visit Oz Museum, in the small town of Wamego, which has one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Oz memorabilia from the classic 1939 movie.
  • Visit Monument Rocks to see unique chalk rock formations. It is off the beaten path in the middle of Kansas on private property (but the owners allow visitors).

Michigan Bucket List

  • Explore the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  • Visit the historic Mackinac Island. The entire Victorian-themed island is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is car-free so visitors can only explore by foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriage.
  • See tulips in Holland.
  • Attend the National Cherry Festival (July 3-10, 2021) in Traverse City.
  • Explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Minnesota Bucket List

  • Visit Minneapolis-St Paul. Don’t miss the Minnehaha Regional Park (and the stunning Minnehaha Falls).
  • Visit the Mall of America.
  • Explore the beautiful North Shore of Lake Superior.
  • Explore Voyageurs National Park, a US national park featuring tall bluffs, rock gardens, islands, bays, and several historic buildings and a great place for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Missouri Bucket List

  • Enjoy the view from the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
  • Play at the City Museum, a fun museum filled with miles of tunnels, a full cave system, slides, a circus, a large outdoor climbing space, and a roof with a Ferris Wheel and a bus hanging off its edge.
  • Eat some of the best BBQ in the country and explore underrated Kansas City. Read: Weekend in Kansas City: The Perfect Itinerary (According to a Local!)
  • Explore charming St. Charles, a colonial town located 30 minutes west of downtown St. Louis, full of antique shops and restaurants.
  • See the Chain of Rocks Bridge, a landmark on the Historic Route 66, this bridge connects Illinois and Missouri over the mighty Mississippi River. The middle of the bridge has a unique 22 degree bend at the middle of the crossing.
  • Have fun at the Lake of the Ozarks, a popular lake destination features more than 1,100 miles of shoreline and a top destination for boating, swimming, and other water sports (and the inspiration for the popular Netflix series Ozark.
  • Visit Branson.

Nebraska Bucket List

  • See Carhedge. This quirky man made attraction built from 38 vintage American cars covered in gray spray paint is a replica of England’s famous Stonehenge.
  • Visit Toadstool Geologic Park (referred to as the “badlands of Nebraska”) to see unusual rock formations and fossils.
  • See Chimney Rock, an iconic landmark featured on the back of the Nebraska state quarter.  The Rock is a natural geologic formation that rises approximately 300 feet above its surroundings.
  • Witness the Annual Sandhill Crane Migration in the spring.
  • Visit Scotts Bluff National Monument which is composed of five rock formations and contains multiple bluffs.
  • Visit Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city. Some cool things to see and do in Omaha include: shopping the Old Market, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and the Durham Museum.
  • Visit Lincoln, the State Capitol and Nebraska’s second largest city.

North Dakota Bucket List

Ohio Bucket List

South Dakota Bucket List

Wisconsin Bucket List

Lake Geneva Wisconsin day trips from Chicago

  • Vacation in Lake Geneva, a resort city on the shores of Geneva Lake. Wealthy Chicagoans built their mansions here during the Gilded Age.

What are your favorite places to visit in the Midwest.


Need more travel bucket list inspiration? You might enjoy our other travel bucket lists:

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