25 Best Weekend Getaway in Midwest

Though the American Midwest officially spans 12 states throughout the nation's northern center, it is most commonly thought of as encompassing the states bordering the Great Lakes and northern Mississippi River, home to major American cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, and St. Louis. The region is known for its rich 19th-century pioneer heritage, which is preserved throughout many historic districts, national heritage sites, and quaint Midwestern town main streets. Theme parks abound, including Indiana's Holiday World and Splashin' Safari and the many water parks and family fun centers of popular tourist destination Wisconsin Dells. For outdoor recreation opportunities, the Hocking Hills region of Ohio offers spectacular hiking and camping experiences, while the Great Lakes are home to expansive coastlines and summer tourist resort islands. Photo: jonbilous/Fotolia


1.Ames

Ames


Ames is the home of Iowa State University, located approximately half an hour north of Des Moines, Iowa. The city was originally founded in 1864, named for Massachusetts Congressman Oakes Ames, and has been named as one of America's best places to live by CNNMoney. A wide variety of public visitor attractions are offered on the Iowa State campus, including the 17-acre Reiman Gardens botanical garden facility, the Brunnier Art Museum, and the Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum, which present university sporting events. Other attractions include the Octagon Center for the Arts, which presents art exhibitions and workshops and hosts the city's annual Octagon Arts Festival, and the Old Town Historic District, which preserves a large population of Victorian-era homes and businesses. Public parks abound throughout the region, including Moore Memorial Park, Brookside Park, and Ada Hayden Heritage Park. Things to Do in Ames Photo: eqroy/Fotolia


2.Branson

Branson


Branson, Missouri is one of the American Midwest's most popular tourist destinations, known as the "Live Entertainment Capital of the World" for its numerous country and popular music performance venues and revues. Since the 1980s, the city has gained national fame for its Highway 76 "Strip," which is home to a number of family-friendly tourist attractions and hotels and attracts more than eight million annual visitors. Country music theaters present popular national acts such as the Osmonds and the Lennon Sisters nightly, while tribute performers pay homage to music legends such as Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline. Major retail complexes such as the Branson Landing complex and Tanger Outlets offer discounted shopping options, while family-friendly roadside fun centers offer opportunities for go-karting, miniature golf, and horseback riding. Other attractions include the Silver Dollar City theme park, the Titanic Museum, the Hollywood Wax Museum, and Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. Things to Do in Branson Photo: geewhiz/Fotolia


3.Brown County

Brown County


Brown County is a county in Indiana that is located approximately an hour south of the city of Indianapolis, anchored by its county seat Nashville. The county is known as the "Art Colony of the Midwest," famed throughout the region for its fine arts and crafts studios and galleries, antique and flea markets, and homestyle culinary scene. The region's cultural and artistic heritage is displayed at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site, which showcases the former home and studio of the Hoosier Group impressionist. Quaint restaurants and art galleries are showcased throughout downtown Nashville, which may be explored as part of culinary, wine, and cultural tours. Natural attractions include the 16,000-acre Brown County State Park and the Hoosier and Yellowwood State Forests, which offer opportunities for hiking, wildlife watching, and overnight camping. Photo: Kenneth Keifer/Fotolia

More: Florida resorts, Georgia resorts, North Carolina resorts, New Hampshire resorts, Minnesota resorts, Maine resorts, Connecticut resorts, California resorts, Cruise vacations, Colorado resorts, Arizona resorts, Louisiana resorts, Disney resorts, Utah resorts, West Virginia Resorts, New Hampshire resorts


4.Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls


Cedar Falls is located in Black Hawk County, Iowa and is best known as the home of the University of Northern Iowa. The city was founded in 1845 and was originally named Sturgis Falls for its founder William Sturgis, who is honored annually as part of the city's Sturgis Falls Celebration festival. Cultural attractions include the Ice House Museum, which preserves the facilities of a former ice harvesting business, the Cedar Falls Historical Society Museum, and the Hearst Center for the Arts, which offers exhibitions by local artists, studio classes, and public special events. Outdoor attractions include the 320-acre Big Woods Lake Recreation Area, which offers overnight camping opportunities, and the Hartman Reserve Nature Center, which features miles of scenic walking and hiking paths. Photo: Cedar Falls Visitor Center

More: Places to Visit in New York, Things to Do in North Dakota, Things to do in Ohio, Day Trips in Southern California, Things to Do in Eugene, Oregon, Things to Do in Oxnard CA, Things to Do in Marco Island, Things to Do in Massachusetts, Beaches near DC


5.Chicago

Chicago


Chicago is the Midwest's most populous city, home to a metropolitan region population of more than 10 million residents. The city is a top regional getaway for arts and culture, home to internationally-renowned museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, which showcases an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Touring Broadway productions and noted original plays are presented by the Broadway in Chicago organization at a number of theaters throughout the city, including the Chicago Theatre, the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and the CIBC Theatre. Notable skyscrapers and historic landmarks dot the city's Magnificent Mile, which is known for its upscale retailers. Along the Lake Michigan waterfront, the Navy Pier entertainment complex offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, including an observation wheel and an historic carousel. Family Things to Do in Chicago Photo: Mark/Fotolia

More: New Mexico resorts, Ohio resorts, Alaska resorts, West Virginia resorts, New England vacations, Girls weekend, best Montana resorts, cool places, Best Mississippi resorts


6.Cincinnati

Cincinnati



Cincinnati is widely considered to be the first entirely American city, as both the country's first major inland city and the first city to be founded following the American Revolution. The southwestern Ohio metropolis is home to a population of more than two million residents throughout its metropolitan region and is one of America's fastest-growing metropolises, best known nationally for major league sporting teams such as the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and the Cincinnati Bengals football team. Cultural attractions abound, including the historic Findlay Market, the Cincinnati Museum Center, which is housed within the city's Art Deco-style Union Terminal building, and the nationally-renowned Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Historic neighborhood Over the Rhine is known for its 19th-century architecture, breweries, and festivals. The city is also known for its unique foods, including Cincinnati-style chili, which is served by regional chains Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili and commonly served over spaghetti noodles. Things to Do in Cincinnati Photo: Bryan Busovicki/Fotolia


7.French Lick

French Lick


French Lick is a southern Indiana town that is best known for its mineral hot springs, which are credited with rising the region's profile as a major tourist attraction in the mid-19th century. Visitors can learn about the hot springs' history and cultural significance at the French Lick West Baden Museum or experience the purported healing properties of their famed Pluto Mineral Baths at the AAA Four Diamond-rated French Lick Resort. The resort is home to two adjacent spa facilities, the Spas at French Lick and West Baden, along with three 18-hole championship golf courses and the French Lick Casino, which has been ranked as one of the nation's best casinos outside of the Las Vegas Strip by Yahoo Travel. Historic railway excursions are offered aboard the French Lick Scenic Railway, which departs from the Indiana Railway Museum. Photo: This Life In Trips/Fotolia


8.Galena

Galena


Galena is Illinois' second most-popular tourist destination after Chicago, best known as the hometown of Civil War general and United States President Ulysses S. Grant, whose Italianate-style home in the city has been converted into a living history museum. The city is home to a large number of preserved Victorian-era homes and businesses, many of which are preserved within the National Register of Historic Places-listed Galena Historic District. It has been named as one of America's prettiest towns by Forbes and has been acclaimed by Travel and Leisure for its historic all-American Main Street, which is home to a wide variety of quaint shopping, dining, and nightlife options. On the town's outskirts, Horseshoe Mound preserves an indigenous ceremonial mound and offers views of three neighboring states. Things to Do in Galena IL Photo: Ian/Fotolia


9.Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site preserves a variety of historic structures and sites related to the life and career of 31st United States President Herbert Hoover. The park is located in Hoover's hometown of West Branch, Iowa and was originally established in 1965 as the Herbert Hoover Birthplace, preserving the president's birthplace cottage, burial site, and a number of restored and recreated buildings from his childhood. Today, the 28-acre site is also home to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, which houses Hoover's presidential papers and artifacts and presents exhibits related to his public service and family life. Other attractions on the site include a reconstructed 19th-century tallgrass prairie, a statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis that was gifted to Hoover, and historic homes on nearby Poplar and Downey Streets that previously belonged to prominent 19th-century West Branch citizens.

110 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA 52358, Phone: 319-643-2541 Photo: rruntsch/Fotolia


10.Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park


Hocking Hills State Park is a 2,356-acre state park that spans seven non-contiguous park sections throughout Hocking County, roughly contiguous with Ohio's Hocking State Forest. It is known for its impressive rock formations and caves, including the Conkle's Hollow and Cantwell Cliffs gorges, recess caves Whispering Cave and Old Man's Cave, and the Rock House rock shelter. More than 4.2 million visitors come to the park each year for outdoor recreational activities such as boating, canoeing, fishing, and swimming at Lake Logan and Rose Lake and hiking along trails such as the Buckeye Trail and Conkle's Hollow Rim. The park is also home to a free archery range, a zipline tour company, and 99 acres of land specifically set aside for rock climbing and rappelling. Overnight accommodations within the park and forest include private inns, rental houses and cabins, and more than 200 electricity-equipped campsites.

19852 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138, Phone: 740-385-6842 Photo: Jennifer Elizabeth/Fotolia


11.Hoosier National Forest

Hoosier National Forest


Hoosier National Forest is a 202,000-acre national forest located in southern Indiana near the city of Bedford, offering four distinct regions for seasonal outdoor recreation. The forest has been home to human activity for more than 12,000 years and contains a number of prominent archaeological sites, including the Potts Creek Rockshelter Archaeological Site, the Lick Creek Settlement, and the Jacob Rickenbaugh House. Other historic structures include the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, the last remaining fire tower lookout within the forest, which visitors are welcome to climb for panoramic regional views. The 5.3-acre Sundance Lake provides opportunities for fishing, while the 266-mile Hoosier National Forest Trail System offers spectacular nature views for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. The forest is also home to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, Indiana's final remaining officially-recognized wilderness area.

811 Constitution Ave, Bedford, IN 47421 Photo: carroteater/Fotolia


12.Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva


Lake Geneva is one of Wisconsin's premiere resort areas, located along beautiful Seneca Lake. Its lakefront Shore Path is home to a large number of preserved mansions and summer home estates constructed by wealthy Chicago residents during the Gilded Age, including the Black Point Estate and Gardens, the former Queen Anne-style home of beer tycoon Conrad Seipp. Local history and culture is preserved at the Geneva Lake Museum, which is housed within an historic waterworks facility. Nearby, Big Foot Beach State Park offers summer opportunities for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and picnicking, with overnight campground hookups available. During the winter months, the Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort is a hotspot for skiing and snowtubing, offering an intimate restaurant and resort guest rooms. Photo: Visit Lake Geneva


13.Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island


Mackinac Island is one of Michigan's premiere tourist destinations, located off the state's coast within Lake Huron. The entire 3.8-square-mile island is protected as a National Historic Landmark and has been a nationally-renowned tourist retreat since the Gilded Age, preserving beautiful examples of Victorian-era architecture such as the spectacular Victorian Grand Hotel. Visitors can enjoy a trip back in time during their stay, as the island is famously car-free to protect its significant natural areas and quaint downtown region's historic character. Outdoor recreational opportunities are offered at the massive Mackinac Island State Park, with boutique stores, upscale and casual restaurants, and happening nightlife spots populating the island's urban areas. Cultural attractions include the preserved buildings of Fort Mackinac, a former British and American military outpost, and the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, which showcases works by regional indigenous artists. Things to Do in Mackinac Island Photo: Mikel/Fotolia


14.Maquoketa

Maquoketa


Maquoketa is a small city in Jackson County, Iowa, located along the banks of the Maquoketa River that is known for its historic, natural, and cultural attractions, including the 111-acre Maquoketa Caves State Park, which is located adjacent to the city and is home to Iowa's largest collection of natural limestone caves, arches, and rock chimneys. Nearby, four 19th-century lime kilns are preserved at the Hurstville Lime Kilns, which comprise the largest collection of preserved lime kilns in the nation. Historic buildings and businesses abound, including a classic mid-20th century drive-in theater and an historic district with excellent examples of Victorian architecture. Other attractions include the Jackson County Iowa Historical Society Museum, the Clinton Engines Museum, and the Old City Hall Gallery, which showcases the works of Smithsonian-displayed artist Rose Frantzen. Photo: Wirepec/Fotolia


15.Muscatine

Muscatine


Muscatine is a city in southeast Iowa that is located along the banks of the Mississippi River, home to a population of more than 23,000 residents. The city is easily accessible from most areas of the Midwest along Interstate Highway 80 and offers a wide variety of cultural and historic attractions, including the city's beautiful public Riverfront, which is home to attractions such as the Riverview Center event venue and Riverside Park, offering a splash pad and pedestrian trail system. Stunning views of Mississippi River sunsets are offered at the Mark Twain Scenic Overlook, named in honor of the author's connection to the city. Its downtown and West Hill historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, showcasing a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions housed within Victorian-era buildings. Other attractions include the Muscatine Art Center, the Discovery Park and Environmental Learning Center, and the Pearl Button Museum. Photo: Wirepec/Fotolia


16.Okoboji

Okoboji


Okoboji is a major summer tourism destination within the Iowa Great Lakes region, located within Dickinson County on the eastern shores of West Okoboji Lake. The region offers ample opportunities for outdoor seasonal recreation at various resort and recreational sites around the lake, including more than 60 miles of hiking trails and opportunities for boating, fishing, and water skiing. Arnolds Park amusement park, in operation for more than a century, offers high and mild thrill rides, including the Legend wooden roller coaster, the 13th-oldest wooden coaster in the world. Other attractions include the Okoboji Classic Cars showroom, the Pearson Lakes Art Center, and the 70-acre Kenue Park, which showcases restored tallgrass prairie habitats and an interpretive nature center. Photo: Jesse Kunerth/Fotolia


17.Pella

Pella


Pella is an historic city in Marion County, Iowa, located approximately 40 miles south of Des Moines. The city was founded in 1847 by Netherlands immigrants and is known for its rich Dutch heritage, showcasing historic sites today such as the Vermeer Mill, which is a fully-functional 19th-century windmill, the tallest of its kind in the United States. Live theatrical performances are offered at the Pella Opera House, while a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and hotels are located in Molengracht Plaza, which is home to a working historic canal and drawbridge. Annual festivals highlight the region's Dutch heritage, including a Tulip Time Festival in May, which showcases tulip gardens, Dutch costumes and performers, artisan markets, and daily parades. Photo: Laurens/Fotolia


18.The Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies


The Amana Colonies are seven historic German Pietist villages that are collectively listed as a National Historic Landmark, originally established near Buffalo, New York in 1842 and expanded to land near the Iowa River in 1859. For nearly two centuries, the colonies have operated as traditional separatist societies in Iowa County, Iowa. Since the mid-2oth century, they have become a hub for tourism in the American Midwest, offering a wide variety of restaurants, arts and crafts stores, and cultural attractions in preserved historic buildings. Major attractions include the Amana Heritage Society museum, the Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway, and the 300-seat Old Creamery Theatre, which presents more than 200 theatrical performances per year. Traditional German fare is served at restaurants such as the Millstream Brau Haus and the Ronneburg Restaurant, while many converted historic buildings operate as bed and breakfast facilities.

622 46th Ave, Amana, IA 52203, Phone: 319-622-7622 Photo: Natalia Bratslavsky/Fotolia


19.Put-in-Bay

Put-in-Bay


Put-in-Bay is one of Lake Erie's top tourist destinations, accessible via ferry and jet boat service from the northeastern Ohio mainland. The bustling village is located on South Bass Island and is home to a wide variety of family-friendly and nightlife attractions, including Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, which commemorates a significant War of 1812 victory. Other significant historic sites the 19th-century Stonehenge Estate, and the world's largest geode, located at Heineman's Winery and Crystal Cave. The region's winemaking and shipbuilding history is explored at the Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum, while nature is on display at Perry's Cave Family Fun Center, which offers a walkthrough limestone cave and a butterfly house. Shopping, dining, and nightlife are plentiful in the village's downtown district, which is host to a number of festivals throughout the summer tourism season. Photo: joscelynm/Fotolia


20.Santa Claus

Santa Claus


Santa Claus is a unique town in Indiana that is known for its Christmas-themed attractions, renamed to its current name in 1856 after a postal service dispute. As the only town in the world to bear the holiday-themed name, it is known internationally for the amount of children's letters to Santa it receives each year, which are responded to by a volunteer citizen group known as Santa's Elves. It is home to the nationally-renowned independent theme park Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, which features zones themed after major holidays and attractions such as The Voyage, widely considered to be the top wooden roller coaster in the world. Other Christmas-themed attractions include the Santa Claus Museum, the Christmas Lake Golf Course, and Santa's Candy Castle, widely considered to have been the first themed attraction in the United States. Themed overnight accommodations are available at Santa's Lodge and the adjacent Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort. Photo: Sue Smith/Fotolia


21.Milwaukee

Milwaukee


Milwaukee is the second-largest city in Wisconsin and the second-largest metropolitan area in the Midwest after the greater Chicago region. The city is located on the banks of the Menomonee River overlooking the western shores of Lake Michigan and is famed for its nationally-renowned breweries, including Milwaukee Brewing Company, which offers brewery tours and tastings for visitors. In the 21st century, it has experienced a significant urban revival, adding tourist attractions such as Miller Park, the Milwaukee Riverwalk, and the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center. Classic motorcycles are showcased at the Harley-Davidson Museum, while a recreated European Village is on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The city is one of America's most walkable cities and is known for its annual cultural events, including the world's largest music festival, Summerfest. Things to Do in Milwaukee Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia


22.Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a 35-mile lakeshore that stretches along Lake Michigan's eastern coastline and encompasses nearby Michigan islands North and South Manitou Island. The lakeshore was originally established in 1970 for the protection of the region's significant dune and glacial formations. Today, it has been named as America's most beautiful place by Good Morning America, showcasing spectacular bluffs reaching heights of 450 feet, along with a number of vibrantly forested regions and inland lakes. Seasonal opportunities for outdoor recreation include swimming, fishing, and sunbathing at Loon Lake and hiking along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The lakeshore is also home to a number of historic and cultural attractions, including the Port Oneida Rural Historic District and the South Manitou Island Lighthouse.

9922 Front Street , Empire, MI 49630, Phone: 231-326-4700 Photo: csterken/Fotolia



23.Waterloo

Waterloo


Waterloo is Iowa's sixth-largest city, home to a population of more than 67,000 residents. The city is located along the banks of the Cedar River and is home to a beautifully reinvigorated downtown riverfront area, offering a four-mile riverwalk, public park and splash pad, and access to the Riverloop Amphitheater event venue and Riverfront Stadium, the home of the Waterloo Bucks minor league baseball team. It is a prime tourist destination for cultural and heritage attractions, home to the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, which preserves sites related to American agriculture, and the Grout Museum District, which contains family-friendly science museums, a veterans museum, and a number of preserved historic houses. Visual and performance arts presentations are held at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, which presents the nation's largest collection of Haitian art. Other attractions include the Hope Martin Theatre and the 40-acre Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. Photo: Waterloo City Hall



24.Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells


Wisconsin Dells is a southern Wisconsin city along the Wisconsin River, known throughout the Midwest for its family-friendly theme parks and opportunities for outdoor recreation. It has been praised as the "Water Park Capital of the World" for its numerous award-winning water parks, including Noah's Ark Water Park, the country's largest water park, and the Mt. Olympus Water Park and Theme Park, which offers both wet and dry attractions. Several area resorts also offer recreation attractions and family stay deals, including Great Wolf Lodge and the Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort. Gift shops, boutiques, family fun centers, and tourist-friendly restaurants line the city's Strip, along with larger-than-life attractions such as a Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. For adult visitors, the Mid-Continent Railway Museum offers excursion train rides, while Ho-Chunk Gaming features a variety of Vegas-style casino games. Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells Photo: CHARLES/Fotolia



25.Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs


Yellow Springs is a quaint village in Greene County, Ohio that was founded in 1825 to emulate New Harmony, Indiana's existing utopian community. The village is known for its socially liberal values, serving as a major Midwestern center for anti-war protests and civil rights activism in the mid-20th century and as one of Ohio's most LGBT-friendly cities today. It is home to private university Antioch College, noted for its unique work-study programs and individually-structured study. Arts organizations include Chamber Music Yellow Springs and the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse, which presents award-winning summer theatrical programs each year. More than 50 locally-owned boutiques are showcased throughout the village's downtown district, which is also home to a variety of health-conscious eateries, sidewalk cafes, and farmer's markets. Photo: Yellow Springs, OH




25 Best Weekend Getaway in the Midwest