Driving across the country along Route 66, up or down the Pacific Coast Highway, or the along the Road to Hana may be some of the most popular road trip itineraries, but don’t underestimate the options the rest of the country has to offer. Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman is offering some of the best suggestions for Midwest road trip destinations.
Our State-by-State Guide to Rock Your Midwest Road Trip
Midwest Road Trip: Illinois Destinations
Legoland Discovery Center, Schaumburg, Illinois
Midwest Road Trip: Indiana Destinations
Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana
Santa Claus, Indiana / Holiday World
Midwest Road Trip: Iowa Destinations
Traveling Grandmom Diana Rowe loves Winterset, Iowa. Winterset is the home of John Wayne, a super fun sculpture park, and fun, family-friendly railroad attractions. Central Iowa is also the inspiration for The Bridges of Madison County.
Midwest Road Trip: Kansas Destinations
Kansas City, Kansas
Midwest Road Trip: Michigan Destinations
As a resident of the Buckeye state, it’s my civic duty to hate “that state up north.” I promise I do, during football season, but I simply can’t extend my disdain for Michigan any farther than the football field. The reality is, it’s an absolutely breathtaking state – especially if you’re looking for outdoor destinations.
Whether you’re visiting gorgeous beach towns on Lake Huron or spending the winter with sled dogs in Traverse City, there are too many delightful towns to visit in both the lower and upper peninsulas. The state also offers a few really unique destinations for your Midwest road trip.
Holland, Michigan may be the closest thing you can get to the Netherlands, without traveling to Europe. A large, authentic Dutch windmill is perhaps the highlight of a visit to Holland; there are also Dutch restaurants, architecture tours, and even wooden shoe carving shows. If you visit in May, you’ll be treated to the Tulip Time Festival, too!
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Midwest Road Trip: Minnesota Destinations
Duluth, like many of the Great Lakes towns on this list, offers lots of outdoor activities for families. It is also home to Great Lakes Aquarium, the only freshwater aquarium in the US.
Home to the Mall of America (which may be reason enough to visit), Minneapolis has so much to offer visitors. Explore the largest mall in the US, or enjoy a number of theater performances. Hike to Minnehaha Falls or explore miles of nature trails along the Mississippi River. Check out some of the fun free things to do in the Twin Cities!
Midwest Road Trip: Ohio Destinations
Like the other large cities on this list, Cincinnati offers far too large a variety of attractions to really cover here. Travel and Leisure named it one of the “Best Places to Visit” the last few years; world-class museums, one of the best zoos in the country, several professional sports teams, and a vast historical significance are only a handful of the things that draw visitors to the Queen City year after year.
Check out our favorite family destinations in Cincinnati. We’ve also rounded up where to beat the heat without breaking the bank, free activities around the city, and even how you can camp with the giraffes at the Cincinnati Zoo!
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Sandusky/Lake Erie Shore, Ohio
Sandusky, Ohio, is home to Cedar Point – the flagship park of Cedar Fair. There are also four indoor waterpark resorts and beautiful beaches along Lake Erie. From Sandusky, families can take ferries to Kelleys Island or South Bass Island’s Put-in-Bay. On these islands, families can take cave tours, go on fishing excursions, or climb the Marblehead Lighthouse for spectacular views.
Warren County, Ohio
You can also take a scenic train ride to Lebanon, the county seat of Warren County – “Ohio’s Largest Playground.” Here you’ll find a charming downtown area with some of the country’s best antiques shopping. You can even dine – or stay overnight – at the Historic Golden Lamb Inn & Restaurant. Opened in 1803, the Golden Lamb has hosted 12 US presidents and dozens of other US and world dignitaries.
Midwest Road Trip: Missouri Destinations
DebtFreeTravelingMom Kathy Penny loves Branson, Missouri, because it’s “a fun and affordable vacation destination with something for everyone from beautiful lakes and mountains to fun shows and theme parks.” Silver Dollar City is a family-friendly park themed to an old mining town. Kids and adults of all ages can choose from more than 40 rides and live entertainment.
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Lake of the Ozarks has something for every kind of vacationer. “The Strip” offers your typical tourist fare: gift shops, arts and crafts, fudge and candy factories, and the like. But it’s the beautiful lake (with more than 50 marinas), a collection of golf courses, horseback trails, boat tours through caverns, and tours of mansions (both current and historic) that will keep you busy for as long as you want to stay.
St. Louis, Missouri
Midwest Road Trip: Nebraska Destinations
Dana Zucker, Luxe TravelingMom, recommends the Omaha Zoo – and touts Omaha as a must-do for foodies. Candid TravelingMom Patti Holliday adds, “The city is one of the nicest, cleanest, and most hospitable places – especially in the spring and summer when the weather is perfection!”
Midwest Road Trip: North and South Dakota Destinations
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park offers beautiful landscapes and protected wildlife.
The Black Hills & Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
- Round Up the Kids and Giddy Up to South Dakota’s Black Hills
- Calling All Families to Discover Custer State Park
- South Dakota Caves – Underground Frontiers for Families
Midwest Road Trip: Wisconsin Destinations
Milwaukee, Wisconsin combines a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with the hustle and bustle of a growing city. Motorcycle fans can visit the Harley-Davidson Museum, and visitors can take part in several festivals throughout the year – including Summerfest, one of the world’s largest music festivals.
While traveling through the Milwaukee area, plan a trip to Elkhart Lake (about an hour east of the city). Maria Smith, TravelingMom of Many says it’s one of the best lake spots in the Midwest. With all of the beautiful towns along the Great Lakes, that’s saying something; she shares her extremely convincing argument here.
So whether you live in the Midwest and are looking for quick and easy (and perhaps off-the-beaten-path) destinations, or are traveling to come and visit us here, be sure to check out these TravelingMom approved destinations as you plan your Midwest road trip.