The best cities of the American Midwest for tourists … or young families!
Sure, you might not think of it first as a tourist destination — but the Midwest has plenty to offer travelers. It also makes a excellent spot for new families to settle, or even for older citizens to retire. This often-overlooked region is rich in scenic farmland and elbow room, and even offers up a few thriving cities to venture into for excitement. Some of the top five cities in the Midwest for travelers or families include Chicago and Springfield, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri and Terre Haute, Indiana.
Want to experience some living history? Then journey to the heart of Illinois’s capital, Springfield. Springfield’s strength is history, with plenty of notable sites to visit. Some of its finest draws include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois State Capitol, the Old State Capitol and Lincoln’s tomb. All these sites make for some amazing (and enlightening) outings for families and field trips for schools. For those seeking careers in the medical field, Springfield is also known as a healthcare industry leader, and hosts two major hospitals. It’s also home to one of the world’s most renowned heart surgery institutes. Springfield’s population and economy are diverse, with over 113,000 residents. It’s also a large and influential political arena.
Looking for a fast-paced city crammed with attractions? Then you can’t miss Chicago. Not only is it home to Wrigley Baseball field, but it also hosts the Chicago Bears and the Cubs. Not just a sports hub, Chicago also boasts plenty of major-league museums that focus on science, history and art. Want a lesson in astronomy or just to wish upon a star? Venture across the galaxy at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. Or, just a short hop across Lake Michigan, you can duck “under the sea” at Shed Aquarium and view the acrobatic dolphins, exotic fish and adorable penguins. Once you’ve gotten your fill of sea life, try out the reptile area. As for art lovers, they’ll find their niche soaking up the excellent paintings, sculptures and textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago, which focuses on modern masterpieces from 1945 to the present (Marc Chagall’s America Windows are a can’t-miss highlight). And the kids will love spending an afternoon or more digging into the hands-on activities at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Detroit is Michigan’s largest city, with a population of over 700,000 in 2010. It’s also America’s 18th largest city, and known as a large automotive district that’s home to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. New business owners might find Detroit an attractive spot to raise a family, as its downtown area is exploding with young professionals and a burgeoning retail scene. If you and your family enjoy nightlife and hip urban outings, you’ll also enjoy downtown Detroit’s live music offerings. Of special note is the city’s vibrant theater district, which includes the Fox Theatre, the Gem Theatre, the Detroit Symphony’s Orchestra Hall, and the Detroit Opera House, which currently hosts five operas a year. But Detroit’s charms aren’t limited to ear candy: families also enjoy Fort Wayne, the Detroit Science Center, the Motown Historical Museum and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.
College students flock in droves to Terre Haute, Indiana, lured by Indiana State University. The city of Terre Haute is a substantial 60,785, while the larger metropolitan area contains over 170,000 residents. 10,500 of those are Indiana State college students, but Terre Haute is also home to other small colleges such as Saint Mary of the Woods College, Ivy Tech Community College, Harrison College and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Not only is Terre Haute one of the Midwest’s most notable higher-education destinations, it also offers a number of major museums, such as the Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and the hands-on Children’s Science and Technology Museum.
The first thing you’ve doubtless seen from St. Louis, Missouri is the Gateway Arch, which towers over the Mississippi River. This picturesque arch is both a moving monument to western expansion, and fun — though the four-minute tram ride to the top can put butterflies in your belly! But St. Louis is also home to many other family-friendly attractions such as the Magic House, the City Museum and the renowned St. Louis Zoo. Other easy-on-the-pocket sights include the Art Museum, Science Center, Anheuser-Bush Brewery, Grant’s Farm and the Missouri History Museum. Sports fans won’t want to miss a Cardinals game at Bush Stadium, or even a day spent watching the St. Louis Rams battle it out on the turf. On the other hand, fashionistas can indulge in some much-deserved retail therapy at the St. Louis Galleria Shopping Mall. Take a breather from the bags by spending a few relaxing hours in the intimate movie theater right inside the mall!
So there you have it — to insiders, the Midwest is so much more than a vast network of empty plains and fields. Far from it: it’s rich with educational and career opportunities, diverse tourist attractions and fabulous places to raise a family. Sure, it might not be America’s primary destination for glitz and glam, but one thing the Midwest does offer is plenty of people who know how to greet you politely — and maybe even shake your hand!
Emily Ayers loves travel even more than chocolate and champagne, and hopes a trip to Chicago is in her near-term future. She also writes for FavorIdeas, the place to find the perfect party favor for your next home entertaining adventure.