7 Greatest Road Trips in the Heartland?

It’s not a flyover state at all. The diverse landscapes of the Midwest are perfect for a good old fashioned road trip. This area of the United States is home to some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, including rolling vineyards, verdant river valleys, towering limestone cliffs, and several stunning big lakes. It’s time to change that, so grab your favorite road trip soundtrack, some snacks, and go off on one of these fantastic journeys across the Midwest, which will show you the best of America’s beating, bustling heart.

Highway 61, Wisconsin’s Great River Road

Prescott, Minnesota, near the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, is a lovely place to begin your journey. The 250 miles of Wisconsin’s Great River Road National Scenic Byway that follow the river’s bends and bluffs are a great way to spend a day trip after starting off at the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center. Wisconsin’s scenic river villages are home to some of the state’s most delightful hidden restaurants. The Chef Shack in Bay City has two chefs who have nominated for James Beard Awards, and the restaurant’s rear terrace is beautiful.

Pepin, Wisconsin, near the river’s widest natural point, Lake Pepin (for which the city called), is also well of some of your time. Stop by the Harbor View Cafe, which has been wowing guests since 1980. And only ten minutes’ drive inland from Lake Pepin lies Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthplace, a must-see for any lover of the “Little House on the Prairie” series. Keep on on this scenic route via La Crosse, Wisconsin, and then take State Highway 14 to go to Viroqua. There is a greater concentration of organic farms per square mile than anywhere else in the state can boast in Vernon County’s undulating hills and pastureland. Best farm-to-table food in the area may found at the Driftless Cafe, also a James Beard Award candidate.

Indiana is home to many picturesque landscapes and quaint communities.

We recommend starting at the Indiana Dunes National Park, which is located in the state’s northwest corner and spans over 15,000 acres. Located on the sunny southern side of Lake Michigan, this is a gorgeous spot for a day of beachcombing, birdwatching, or any other outdoor activity you can think of. From there, go to the little lake town of Winona Lake to visit the few stores along the shoreline. Cerulean is the place to go for fine dining, while the BoatHouse Restaurant is the place to go for casual dining. Stay at The Alexander in downtown Indianapolis, the state capitol and biggest city, located two and a half hours to the south.

Take a stroll down the Canal Walk, check out the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, see some public artwork, and fill up on steak at St. Elmo Steak House. The Monon Train Trail, a historic rail route from downtown Indianapolis to the northern suburbs, is a great place to get some additional exercise without leaving the city. Travel south from Washington, DC to Bloomington, where Indiana University is located. This college town has a beautiful campus and a charming center that is perfect for strolling. You should keep going until you reach Brown County State Park, Indiana’s biggest and home to a variety of outdoor activities including picnics, hiking, and horseback riding.

For this journey, you should plan on spending at least five hours in the car. The journey should divided into at least two parts, as you will want a day or two to take in everything that Indianapolis has to offer.

Itinerary Through Nebraska’s Sandhills

You should start your trip on Grand Island since it has the biggest sandhill crane migration on the planet every spring. Take State Highway 2 south to Broken Bow, where you’ll find the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitor Center and plenty of useful information about your upcoming trip. Visitors looking to quench their thirst near the entrance to the Sandhills may do so at Kinkaider Brewing Company, which also has a restaurant.

After imbibing in moderation (appoint a sober driver in advance), keep going south on Highway 2 until you reach Anselmo, where you’ll make a little diversion to the Victoria Springs State Recreation Area and its famous thermal springs. One of the first state parks in Nebraska, it’s a great stop for outdoor enthusiasts. The park’s log cabins provide for a memorable overnight experience throughout the summer months and may¬† rented up to a year in advance. If you decide to spend the night, you should look at the stars without the normal glare of city lights.

Finish your trip to Carhenge, an auto recycling yard turned Stonehenge replica in England. Bonus: Chimney Rock National Historic Site near Bayard, less than an hour beyond Alliance, is a great option for anyone interested in experiencing the Oregon Trail firsthand.

The total driving time for this route is about six hours, with the longest segment being from Anselmo to Alliance. This journey may spread over two, three, or four days depending on how long you decide to spend in Sandhills or Victoria Springs.

The Beginning of Route 66

One may travel a section of the legendary Route 66, which begins in Chicago and ends at the Santa Monica Pier in California, in the Midwest. Start out with a slice of Chicago’s renowned deep-dish pizza while you’re in the Windy City. As an dordle added bonus, the historic “Begin Route 66” sign can be seen at the intersection of Michigan and Adams streets, making for a great picture op. Then, continue on to Wilmington, where you may visit the Gemini Giant, one of the well-known Muffler Men monuments, not far from the endearing Launching Pad eatery.

You should continue your trip to St. Louis. The historic Chain of Rocks Bridge is now a bike path for anyone taking a break along Route 66. The bridge is so historically significant that it is included on the National Register. As your introduction to Route 66 comes to a close, spend the night in style at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, only a short walk from Gateway Arch National Park, at a price that may surprise you. Both a comprehensive spa and a delicious restaurant from a James Beard Award-winning chef can be found at this hotel. Also, the nearby City Museum is a great place for youngsters to learn and play while visiting St. Louis.

The North Side of Minnesota

The route takes you through beautiful State Route 61, which follows the rocky coastline of Lake Superior. This stretch of highway, located in the Arrowhead Region in northeastern Minnesota, is a must for every American road tripper. Start at Bob Dylan’s birthplace of Duluth, Minnesota; he reared in the adjacent town of Hibbing. Take a stroll down Bob Dylan Way to see where the folk music icon grew up. Visit Vikre Distillery for a drink and a glimpse of the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. Try some of Vikre’s aquavit, commonly known as “Norwegian Everclear,” to celebrate the area’s Scandinavian heritage.

Two Harbors is a lovely place to spend the night, and it serves as a great jumping-off point for day trips to Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota’s most popular state park, and Split Rock Lighthouse, one of the state’s most photographed attractions. Stopping for pizza at Grand Marais’s Sven and Ole’s is a must for every road trip.
If you leave early enough from Duluth, you may complete the journey in under two hours, making it possible to see everything around the lake in a single day. Adventurers might think about staying longer at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park, which is both isolated and beautiful, from around May through October. From Grand Portage, Minnesota, the picturesque endpoint of our North Shore adventure, ferries depart daily. After a two-hour boat ride, you may locate lodging in Rock Harbor or Windigo, or set up tent in the nearby wilderness.

Landscapes & Landmarks of South Dakota

In Sioux Falls, the state capital, start with a stroll around the lovely Falls Park. Then, travel little over an hour to Mitchell, where you may enjoy a trip to The World’s Only Corn Palace, an unusual and entertaining tourist destination. You may enjoy the scenery at Badlands National Park before continuing on to historic Deadwood, where you can stop for a cold one at the oldest operational brewery in the state, Firehouse Brewing Company. Despite its touristic reputation, everyone should go there at least once.

Spearfish Canyon is older than the more well-known Grand Canyon and also has beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, and granite ridges. You should also sample some of Spearfish Brewing Company’s award-winning beers. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a great option for people who want more of a twisty road experience. Traveling south from there, you’ll reach Crazy Horse, home of the world’s largest mountain carving, the Crazy Horse Memorial, which has been in the making for decades.

The Peninsula of Michigan

Start at Sault Ste. Marie, a little city sandwiched between Lake Superior and Lake Huron and right next to its twin in Canada. If you’re in Soo, you have to try the beer from Soo Brewing Company, or Soo Brew as the locals call it. The Soo Locks, known as the “lynchpin of the Great Lakes,” are another must-see, but unfortunately they are inaccessible from January to March due to maintenance. One of the greatest waterfalls east of the Mississippi may be found in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the second-largest state park in Michigan. However, doing so will lengthen the journey by around 75 miles.

Break up your trip with a night at the historic Grand Hotel on car-free Mackinac Island. (Note, however, that the hotel closed during the off-season, from May through October, as do most of the island’s businesses.) Be sure to schedule some fudge tasting time while you’re here. Mackinaw City on the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula both provide ferries to the picturesque island (Upper Peninsula). If you’ve had enough of the Upper Peninsula, you can always take a trip over the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, to the Lower Peninsula, or “the mitten” as it’s known locally. After you’ve crossed the bridge, you may choose to spend the night at Headlands International Dark Sky Park, where, with any luck, you’ll see the aurora borealis. Even if you don’t, you can still see an amazing star show