17 Fabulous Midwest Tourist Attractions You Need to See

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Last Updated on: 17th April 2023, 03:52 pm

Are you planning a visit to this underrated region of the United States and looking for the best Midwest tourist attractions?

In my experience, the Midwest may not always be the first place that comes to mind when you think of tourist hotspots, but we have found so many great spots that you need to add to your bucket list!

Stephanie Craig visiting Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota

From stunning natural scenery to manmade features to large cities, the Midwest is packed with amazing things to see and do on a visit.

In this post, I’ll share with you the very best places to stop on a visit to the Midwest to make sure that you make the most of your trip and have an unforgettable journey!

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17 Fabulous Midwest Tourist Attractions You Need to See by Stephanie Craig

My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2024

These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.

Protect Your Trip via Safety Wing

Find the best city tours, day tours, bus tours, & skip-the-line tickets on GetYourGuide and Viator.

Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.

For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.

For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.

Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.

For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.

Book an affordable family or romantic photography session on your trip through Flytographer (Use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photoshoot).

For travel guidebooks to have with you during your trip, I always pick one or two from Rick Steves and Lonely Planet.

The Best Midwest Tourist Attractions

Here we go!

Mall of America in Minnesota

Perhaps one of the most well-known facts about Minnesota, is that the Mall of America is a must-see when traveling to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

With over 500 stores to shop around in, you’ll find everything from big-name chains to smaller local boutiques.

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And you certainly won’t go hungry, as there are more than 50 restaurants, sit down and fast food, to choose from.

And as if that weren’t enough, you’ll also find an indoor theme park, a giant LEGO Store, a movie theater, and so much more. It’s a fact about Minnesota that 

The Gateway Arch in Missouri

Standing at over 600 feet, the Gateway Arch is the star of the city of St. Louis. It’s the largest arch in the United States and the largest manmade arch in the world.

It’s been named a National Park and is one of few national parks to be manmade.

Gateway Arch in St. Louis Missouri photo by Stephanie Craig

Visitors can take a tram to the top of the arch and enjoy breathtaking views of St. Louis and the Mississippi River. It’s quite a unique view to be standing so high above the rest of the city! 

While in the park, you can also learn about Lewis and Clark, who passed through this area during their voyage in the 1800s and wander around the paved trails.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota

This beautiful natural landscape is one of the most scenic in the Midwest, and stretches for miles, leaving visitors with phenomenal views.

Known for its rugged beauty and stark landscapes,  Badlands National Park is a landscape of deep canyons, towering rock formations, and eroded buttes that have been shaped by millions of years of erosion. 

South Dakota - Badlands National Park - Stephanie and Jordan in parking lot - wearing backpack

Visitors to the Badlands can hike through miles of scenic trails, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and pronghorns, and take in stunning views of the towering rock formations. 

And while on your trip to the Badlands, consider adding on stops like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park.

Aerial Lift Bridge in Minnesota

Found towering over the harbor of Lake Superior, the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth is one of only a few remaining lift bridges still in operation. In total, the bridge is just over 220 feet tall, and rises more than 5,000 times per year!

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Today, you can drive over the bridge to Park Point, or just sit back and watch as ships pass under the bridge.

Aerial Lift Bridge photo by Kassidy from kassidysjourney.com
Photo by Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey. Reused with permission.

Many great hotels in Duluth are found around the Lift Bridge, and many even offer views of the structure from inside your guest room!

Wander around Canal Park and listen to the sounds of waves crashing into the shore and seagulls flying above you. And be sure to stop into some of the great restaurants in Canal Park and check out the local shops.

Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota

Found in the historic Western town of Keystone, South Dakota, the Mount Rushmore National Monument is a must-see for all Americans.

The massive sculpture features the faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the granite face of the mountain. George Washington’s head measures 60 feet tall!

South Dakota - Keystone - Mount Rushmore National Memorial - Stephanie Craig

Walk up The Avenue of the Flags, which features the best view of the monument, and The Presidential Trail allows you to get away from some of the crowds and see more viewpoints of the sculpture.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana

As the Racing Capital of the World, those who love to watch cars fly by on a track will love paying a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indy 500 is the most well-known event that takes place here and happens every year around Memorial Day. Other events include occasional car races, such as NASCAR races, many of which have themes for that specific race.

The Speedway is not just a racing venue, it’s also a museum that showcases the history of motorsports and the Speedway itself, making it a must-visit destination for any racing enthusiast.

Mackinac Island State Park in Michigan

Located just off the coast of Michigan in Lake Huron, is Mackinac Island, home to Mackinac Island State Park.

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Over 80% of the island is comprised of the park, where you can find phenomenal views of Lake Huron and the rugged shoreline, hiking trails, and adorable little shops and restaurants. 

During your visit, see places like Arch Rock, wander around Main Street, sample a few pieces of fudge, and go for a horse-drawn carriage ride. Since no cars are allowed on the island, this is one of the most fun ways to get around!

The Bean in Illinois

The Bean, officially known as Cloud Gate, is a stunning public sculpture located in the heart of Chicago’s Millennium Park and is one of the world’s largest permanent outdoor art sculptures.

Chicago

At 33 feet tall and 66 feet long, The Bean is even larger in real life than you’d think it would be!

Many people love to visit The Bean to take a selfie in the reflective sculpture and see the city’s skyline towering behind it. It’s one of the most well-known Midwest tourist attractions, and Chicago is one of the most visited cities in the region!

United States - Illinois - Chicago - Stephanie

Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I’ve been traveling there for over twenty years!

It’s also the start of Route 66, making a stop at the Bean one of the first things you can cross off on your Route 66 bucket list.

Minnesota State Fair in Minnesota

If you’re planning a visit to Minnesota during the summer months, then missing out on the Minnesota State Fair would be a mistake!

Known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together, this massive fair brings in millions of visitors per year.

Minnesota State Fair photo by Kassidy from Kassidy's Journey
Photo by Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey. Reused with permission.

While at the fair, you can experience everything from thrilling rides to barns filled with farm animals and every type of fair food that you can imagine.

The fair specializes in foods “on a stick”, so you can expect to find things like waffles on a stick bacon on a stick, and pizza on a stick. 

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The Minnesota State Fair is held at the end of summer every year, on the 12 days preceding Labor Day. And it’s often called the country’s best state fair for a reason!

Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park Is a spectacular natural Wonderland located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Covering over 71,000 Acres of pristine Wilderness the park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bison, elk, pronghorns, and mountain goats.

Visitors can explore the park’s scenic hiking trails, go fishing or boating on the lakes, or take a scenic drive to the famous needles highway.

South Dakota - Custer - Custer State Park - Entry Sign - Stephanie Craig

A few of the most popular hikes include Black Elk Peak and Lover’s Leap. Both of these provide amazing views of the surrounding rock formations and landscapes.

Many people also love relaxing on the shores of Sylvan Lake and searching for wildlife on the Wildlife Loop Scenic Byway.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan

The unique Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to miles of sandy beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. Visitors can wander along the shore, climb the high dunes, and relax on the beaches.

The dunes rise to 450 ft above Lake Michigan and provide phenomenal views of the surrounding area. A few lighthouses dot the shores of the lake and can be visited during your trip to the lakeshore.

If you’re up for the challenge, try climbing the dunes to admire the views from the top, where you can see for miles on end. Once you’ve made it to the top, sit back and relax to enjoy the summer sun and the sounds of the waves crashing into the shore.

Willis Tower in Illinois

What was once known as the Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower. It’s located in Chicago and is one of the most iconic sky skyscrapers in the Midwest.

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It’s the third-tallest building in North America, just after CN Tower in Toronto and the One World Tower in New York City.

The building itself is 110 stories tall and offers visitors a unique experience to look out over the city from a glass bottom ledge called the Skydeck.

Skydeck is located nearly 1,400 ft above the ground and gives visitors a chance to look below their feet and experience what it would be like to be suspended in air over the city of Chicago.

This one isn’t for those afraid of heights, but if you’re able to face your fears, a visit to Willis Tower will provide you with one of the most unique experiences of your life!

The Great Lakes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

The great lakes in the United States are made up of five large lakes located in the Midwest. The Great Lakes include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.

These lakes cover a massive space of nearly 100,000 square miles and include Lake Superior, which is the largest freshwater lake in the world.  the lakes are found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

Lake Superior by Kassidy from Kassidy's Journey
Photo by Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey. Reused with permission.

During a visit to the Midwest, seeing at least one of the Great Lakes is a must.

Whether you choose to just wander along the shoreline, get out and go fishing on the water, swim at one of the many beaches, or hike to see the beautiful views, it’s a must-do activity to see these great Midwest tourist attractions.

Isle Royale National Park in Michigan

Visiting national parks is always a favorite for many travelers to the United States. But most of the national parks visited are easily accessible and crowded with visitors.

Not at Isle Royale National Park, situated in Lake Superior in the state of Michigan. This underrated and remote wilderness area gives visitors the chance to escape everyday life and enjoy nature. 

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Isle Royale National Park by Kassidy from Kassidy's Journey
Photo by Kassidy from Kassidy’s Journey. Reused with permission.

One of the most unique aspects of this part is that you must take either a ferry or a seaplane to reach it and there are no vehicles found on the island.

Once you’ve arrived you’ll find that camping is the best accommodation, although there is one lodge, located on the northeast end of the island.

The best part about visiting Isle Royale National Park is that you’ll have a high chance of spotting a moose as there are nearly 1,500 moose that call the island home. There are also wolves, which help control the population of moose, but they are much more difficult to find.

Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin

For those traveling with kids, or those who are just thrill seekers, a trip to Wisconsin Dells is going to be one of the best ways to spend a vacation in the Midwest.

Wisconsin Dells is well known for its high concentration of water parks and has been given the name, ‘The Waterpark Capital of the World.’

There are over 20 indoor and outdoor water parks in the area, and each of them has a range of exciting water rides, lazy rivers, wave pools, and more.

So if you’re planning a family vacation in the Midwest and looking for one of the best tourist attractions, then planning a trip to Wisconsin Dells is a must for you.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota

As North Dakota’s only National Park, visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park will provide visitors with the stunning natural wonder of the North Dakota Badlands.

The park is named after the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, who once famously declared that the Badlands had a profound impact on his life.

North Dakota - Medora - (Selfie) Photo of Stephanie Craig in front of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Sign - Photo by Stephanie Craig

Visitors can explore the rugged landscape which is home to a large variety of wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs.

There are plenty of scenic drives and hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the park’s natural landscape and beauty.

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North Dakota - Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Bison aka American Buffalo - Photo by Stephanie Craig

If you’re a nature lover and are looking for somewhere to escape that has fewer crowds than some of the other national parks in the United States, then a trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is right for you. 

Cedar Point in Ohio

Thrill seekers will find lots of joy in visiting Cedar Point in Ohio, known as the ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World.’ The park boasts some of the most thrilling rides on the planet, such as the Top Thrill Dragster, the Blue Streak, and the Millennium Force.

In addition to the exhilarating coasters, Cedar Point also has a variety of family-friendly attractions, water rides, and shows. There’s a water park within Cedar Point, so you can cool off on those hot summer days.

Plus, Cedar Point is found on the shores of Lake Erie, so you’ll get to enjoy beautiful views as you ride on the rides and wander throughout the park. 

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-packed adventure, Cedar Point is the perfect Midwest destination for you.

Start Planning Your Trip to These Midwest Attractions!

What are you looking for natural beauty,  a thrilling amusement park, a world-class museum, or a major city, the Midwest has it all.

Visiting some of these great tourist attractions in the Midwest will leave you with unforgettable memories, and we’ll leave you wanting to come back to visit the rest of them that you weren’t able to check off your list.

While often overlooked, the Midwest offers a whole lot for visitors!

Before Your Trip – Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

Whenever I go on a trip, I always make sure to get travel insurance!

This is especially true for trips where I’m visiting big cities or spending time in the great outdoors!

The company Safety Wing is the travel insurance company I always look to first, and I happily recommend them!

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I always make sure to get travel insurance whenever I’m going to be over one hundred miles from home, in large cities where tourists can be the target of pickpockets, and anytime I’ll be doing outdoor activities.

It makes my life easier knowing if something should happen, I’ll be able to take care of it!

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

Pin this Guide to the Best Places to Visit in the Midwest for Your Next Road Trip!

17 Fabulous Midwest Tourist Attractions You Need to See by Stephanie Craig

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