Looking for the best places to visit in the Midwest in 2023? 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
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
- Explore Chicago. Maybe I’m biased because it is my hometown, but I consider Chicago the best place to visit in the Midwest. There are a lot of bucket list worthy things to do in Chicago including watching a baseball game at historic Wrigley Field, taking photos of The Bean at Millennium Park, taking an architecture river cruise and more! Read: 3 Days in Chicago: Weekend Itinerary and Best Things to Do in Chicago in the Summer
- Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio and see homes he designed in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago.
- Drive the Illinois portion of Route 66.
- 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.
- Visit Casey, a charming historic small town which is known for its huge roadside attractions (including 12 certified Guinness World Record World’s Largest attractions).
Read: Best Things to Do in Illinois for more places to visit in Illinois.
Indiana Bucket List
- Visit the the capital city of Indianapolis.
- Explore Turkey Run State Park, 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.
- Have fun at the Iowa State Fair. The eleven day fair (Aug 10 – 20, 2023) 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 in Traverse City.
- Explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
- Visit Frankenmuth, a cute city which is known for its Bavarian-style architecture. It is also home to the world’s largest christmas store which is open year round.
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
- Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
- Visit the International Peace Garden which shares a border with Canada and celebrates the peace shared between the two countries.
Ohio Bucket List
- Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland.
- Explore Hocking Hills State Park and view the beautiful sandstone formations and waterfalls.
- Explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the only national park in Ohio, which has waterfalls, hills, trails, historic homes, bridges, and also a scenic train ride.
South Dakota Bucket List
- See Mount Rushmore National Memorial. This sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore features the heads of four U.S. presidents.
- Explore Custer State Park.
- Explore Badlands National Park known for its spires and pinnacles.
- Explore Falls Park, a park full of small waterfalls in Sioux Falls.
Wisconsin Bucket List
- Visit Milwaukee.
- Vacation in Lake Geneva, a lakeside resort city known for its historic mansions built during the Gilded Age. Enjoy activities year round from spending time in the water and the beach in the summer to visiting the ice castles in the winter.
- Explore beautiful Door County.
- Explore the Apostle Islands and the sea caves on Lake Superior.
What are your favorite places to visit in the Midwest?
Need more travel bucket list inspiration? You might enjoy our other travel bucket lists:
- USA Travel Bucket List: 100+ Best Places to Visit
- Best Road Trips in the USA For Your Bucket List
- Ultimate Travel Bucket List: 100 Things to Do Before You Die