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Midwestern Road Trip Route: America's Heartland

Updated on November 7, 2014

Take a Midwest Road Trip and Experience Middle America: Chicago, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio

Experience everything the USA has to offer, including the true heartland of the United States, in the area known as the midwest. A midwestern road trip will lead you across nine states, major cities like Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis, stunning scenery in National Parks like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Voyageurs National Park, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as the famous culture of the midwest. Styles of food in the midwest range from the Chicago style pizza to the famous Kansas City BBQ's. Sports are just as prominent in the heartland, with big teams like the Cubs, Cardinals, and Cavaliers dominating the scene. In the middle of it all, the Mississippi River carves through the midwest, serving as a focal point for the entire road trip. Cities and parks further north also make the ideal stop on your northern U.S. road trip.

The Route You'll Take - From Ohio to North Dakota... to Kansas to Missouri

Midwest road trip route map
Midwest road trip route map

The Best Chicago Travel Guide - DK Eyewitness Chicago Travel Guide

If it's any series of books that I recommend for your travel in the USA beyond any other, it's DK Eyewitness. Designed for the visual type of person, I like to use these books for their easy to use reference guides and large scale maps. The guide also allows you to look up an area that you are in or plan on visiting at a glance, and will tell you what other attractions are in the area, so you can make the most of your trip (instead of wasting valuable vacation time!). These books are also the perfect travel size, and have a durable cover that will endure many trips back to Chicago. It's the best general travel guide you can get to the Chicago area!

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Chicago
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Chicago

Recognized the world over by frequent flyers and armchair travelers alike, Eyewitness Travel Guides are the most colorful and comprehensive guides on the market. With beautifully commissioned photographs and spectacular 3-D aerial views revealing the charm of each destination, these amazing travel guides show what others only tell. Includes beautiful new full-color photos, illustrations, and enhanced maps Extensive information on local customs, currency, medical services, and transportation New "Discovering" feature helps decide which regions are best suited to the trip.


Your Midwestern Getaway Guide - A recommended guide to the Midwest USA

We all hear about the east coast, the west coast, the Gulf Coast, Alaska, Hawaii, the Florida Keys, all of those typical vacation spots... but are we neglecting to find some of the USA's best kept secrets right under our noses? Find some of the midwest's best attractions, from parks to festivals, big cities to small town charm, along with easy to use reference maps and great day road trip ideas in this excellent midwestern guide from Rand McNally. A great way to see more of America's underrated heartland!

Rand McNally Midwest Getaway Guide
Rand McNally Midwest Getaway Guide

Profusely illustrated throughout with full color photography of the people and places highlighted, Rand McNally's "Midwest: Getaway Guide" is the perfect planning guide to what the American Midwest has to offer the traveler, whether the itinerary is for a day-trip, a weekend, or an extended vacation. Embellished with maps enhancing an informed and informative text, "Midwest: Getaway Guide" also features a wealth of festival information for communities in Illinois, Indiana; Iowa, Kentucky; Michigan, Minnesota; Ohio; and Wisconsin. With its detailed articles about exciting destination choices, advice for shopping and dinning; and Rand McNally quality maps, "Midwest: Getaway Guide" is thoroughly 'user friendly' and enthusiastically recommended for personal, family, and community library Travel Resource collections.


Here are the top ten biggest cities in the midwestern states of the USA, and their respective populations:

  1. Chicago: 2,853,114
  2. Detroit: 912062
  3. Indianapolis: 798,382
  4. Columbus: 711,470
  5. Milwaukee: 604,477
  6. Kansas City: 480,129
  7. Cleveland: 478,403
  8. Minneapolis: 390,131
  9. Wichita: 366,046
  10. St. Louis: 354,361

What's Your Favorite Midwestern State? - Vote on your favorite midwestern state here!

Everyone has a favorite. A favorite food, a favorite movie, a favorite sport, a favorite vacation spot, or a favorite state. What's your favorite state within the midwest? Vote on your favorite below, for any reason!

What's your favorite state in the midwest?

See results

A Drive Through Badlands National Park - A virtual tour of Badlands National Park

Want a preview of part of Badlands? Check out this video for a driving synopsis of a quick tour of the park's meandering roads.

Pictured Rock National Lakeshore Backpacking

Recommended Products for Your Road Trip - Road trip essentials

All of these products will make for a more enjoyable road trip, from the quality of your food to how you pass the time while driving, to navigation on the road. Click through any of these products for a more detailed description of each product, along with user reviews.

Coleman FlipLid Personal Cooler, 5 Quarts
Coleman FlipLid Personal Cooler, 5 Quarts

This isn't the biggest cooler on the planet, but it's just the right size for a couple that want to pack their lunch every day. You'll be glad you took this with you after a couple of stops at any fast food restaurant (and regular restaurants aren't always an option!).

Rand McNally 2010 The Road Atlas Large Scale: United States (Rand McNally Large Scale Road Atlas U. S. A.)
Rand McNally 2010 The Road Atlas Large Scale: United States (Rand McNally Large Scale Road Atlas U. S. A.)

I know I just said navigation was a must, but so is a good map. I recommend this one because it's spiral bound, and has a durable cover. I've had atlases shred to sawdust after a long road trip, so durability is something to think about. Spiral bound atlases are also easier to read.


On the flat grasslands of Nebraska rises a peculiar area that ordinarily wouldn't stand out to the untrained eye. The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument of Nebraska is a .... While sunflowers, spiderwort, and little bluestem make the Agate Fossil Beds an attractive area to visit, the true attraction of the area. Fossils discovered are now on display, as well as Indian artifacts from the area at the Monument. The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument can be reached from the I-80, changing over at 70 North, then heading west on I-26 briefly before heading north again on 29.

Named after the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, the park is located in the badlands area of North Dakota. Much like the Badlands of South Dakota, the area is desolate, with small multi-colored striped rock formations covering the landscape. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice big changes from season to season. The landscape is harsh, with extremely hot summers, and extremely cold winters. There are hundreds of miles of hiking paths, and one of the more unique aspects of the park is its natural herds of free roaming wild horses and wild bison. These animals are allowed to roam free except for the occasional roundup, and is definitely a good reason to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Voyageurs National Park is one of the USA's most unique parks. Located northwest of Isle Royale National Park, Voyageurs is on the Canada-Minnesota border. The park is only accessible by boat, and consists of many islands. Most people that come to visit Voyageurs either camp on a boat or tent camp. Voyageurs has incredible rock scenery all over the islands, which can be seen from the water afar or close up on the islands. In the winter months, the park is accessible via ski, snowmobile, or snowshoe.

Wind Cave National Monument was named just like it sounds - because the area has windy caves. Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, close to Mount Rushmore and not too far from the Badlands. The mighty cave is made of calcite formations called boxwork, and is the 4th longest cave in the world.

Hopefully you've gained some insight on some of the incredible National Parks, big cities, and fun places to visit across America's midwest. Do you have some place that you suggest others check out along their midwestern road trip? Give some recommendations here!

© 2009 Kiwisoutback

Have You Enjoyed Your Trip Across America's Midwestern States? - Tell us about your own midwestern road trip here!

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    • NibsyNell profile image


      6 years ago

      I've never been there but this makes me really want to.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      6 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for including the Kansas Flint HIlls! ;-)

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I'm on this trip RIGHT NOW! I'm so glad I found your lens. For the last two days, I've traveled to northwest Arkansas/Southern Missouri in the Ozarks, all over the eastern half of Kansas, a brief stint in Oklahoma, and I head to Nebrask tomorrow.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great write up on the midwest, got homesick a little of Iowa and I'm not even from there.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      You covered a lot in this road trip. I tend to bypass the big cities when I travel though I'm sure I miss some of the great museums and sights in those. I like exploring small towns, going to festivals and seeing the countryside.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Being from the area covered in this lens, I have to admit an intense dislike for most of it...but I do applaud your lensmaking skills! Very thorough indeed!

    • LizRobertson profile image


      7 years ago

      I just added this fun lens to my vintage camper lens... if only the old gal could make it that far (or I had that much time!)...

    • AlisonMeacham profile image


      7 years ago

      I haven't reallly seen any of these places apart from spending a week in Chicago. Blessings to you for an excellent lens.

    • SLHamilton LM profile image

      SLHamilton LM 

      7 years ago

      Have friends who own a summer home in Charlevoix, MI Beautiful place! Still a lot of the midwest I have never seen. Hard to know when to travel so as to avoid hot, humid summers and cold winters.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image


      7 years ago from McLaughlin

      I am from the America's heartland and I love this lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It's amazing, and kind of sad, how the city of Detroit was somewhat hollowed out by the demise of the Detroit auto industry. There should probably be around twice the number of people living there. Maybe, it will someday rise again to its former glory.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i love to go hiking in the national parks and see wildlife and take photos :)

    • CoolFoto profile image


      8 years ago

      I was born in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for 30 years. Just visited Chicago, Illinois last year. I lived there for 10 years. There is a lot to see in the Midwest. You have many beautiful photos here. Blessed by the neighborhood Angel.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Comeing from Australia me and a mate started in Indianapolis and drove to Nashville TN then onto Memphis TN then onto Arkansas from there we drove south to the New Orlenes then across the gulf thru Missasipi and Alabama then north to the Smokey Mountains in TN. I can't say great our trip was cause I haven't got enough room or the time BUT I can say every where we went we got to meet a lot of really good people and I couldn't tell ya but they were great. The sights well I can tell you now there wasn't a place town city or people we didn't regret visiting and I would do it again in a hart beat. We drove 2,300 miles in two weeks.

      I am now concidering another road trip cause the USA and its people are fan bloody tastic. If any one I met is reading this THANKS HEAPS !

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 

      8 years ago


      It is kinda of funny how in the poll so far no one has picked Nebraska yet. I understand why have you ever driven across I 80 it is so long and boring.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 

      8 years ago from Naperville, IL

      We love Lake Geneva, Wisconsin! We've been going there for over 30 years now. There's something for everyone there to do. We just completed a lens on our favorite activities there.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image


      9 years ago

      Congratulations on your newest purple star!

      Would you be interested in featuring your purple star lenses at

      I would love for you to join us!


    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 

      9 years ago

      Great ideas for Midwest trips - also good for people who live in those cities, you gave a lot of good ideas for long weekends for me this summer! Of course, I hope everyone will decide to visit Chicago! :)

    • dustytoes profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens and I know (or knew) nothing about the midwest. The pictures are fabulous to help describe the areas - wow Kansas isn't all flat!


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