When you think of the Midwestern states of the U.S., what comes to mind? Rolling farmland with vast fields of corn? A population of mostly older folks who speak slowly but are super-friendly? A whole lot of nothing?
Allow me to dispel the last rumor. The Midwestern states of America are rich in interesting things to do, mouth-watering food to sample, and down-home people to know. Oh yeah, and a heck of a lot of history. A great way to experience the heartland of America is to travel up (or down) the I-29 corridor.
From Sioux Falls, South Dakota down to Kansas City, Missouri (or vice versa) you can easily spend a week exploring a small slice of what makes America truly great. Here are just the highlights of the Midwestern states you’ll find along this fantastic stretch of highway.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
It’s not very well advertised, but there is actually a falls here. In Falls Park, the Sioux River cascades over lovely rock formations and has a great walking and biking trail. Are you into butterflies? Step into an 80-degree, 3,600 square-foot space and commune with species of butterflies from around the world.
It’s summer, so head on over to Wild Water West, the area’s largest water park, with plenty of waterslides and a 6-foot-tall wave pool! If you’re not into H2O, try the mini-golf, volleyball, and paintball instead. Are you a nerd? Then make a beeline for the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center and take a tour. It’s a data center for the U.S. Geological Survey and receives data from Landsat Satellites as they pass over the country Just outside of town is the Buffalo Ridge Ghost town, worth a visit if you like weird stuff! For a nice 2-3 day detour, head west on I-90 and visit the famous Black Hills, Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore.
Scenic Falls Park with the Sioux River running through.
Le Mars, Iowa
Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream. Founded in 1913, this is the largest family-owned ice cream empire in America. Touted as the Ice Cream Capital of the World, sample free ice cream and take their factory tour.
Sioux City, Iowa
Have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, where international music acts stop and play to the masses in the adjoining venue. For you, history buffs, Stop at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. The resting place of Sergeant Floyd, who was a crucial part of the expedition and died partway through the journey, is memorialized by a huge phallic gravestone on the outskirts of town. The Sioux City Railroad Museum is another popular place for the entire family.
The main attraction here is the Henry Doorly Zoo. Now, I don’t usually advocate for zoos, but the HDZ has a pretty good conservation and sustainability program going on. And it’s one of the top zoos in the world, with the largest indoor desert and rainforest! The Old Market area of town is bustling with unique shopping, art galleries, restaurants, and nightlife. The Dundee neighborhood is a culinary enthusiast’s delight, with plenty of chef-run restaurants.
Kansas City, Missouri
No tour of the Midwest should be complete without at least a two-day stop in Kansas City, where great jazz clubs and BBQ joints go hand in hand! I recommend going to the Phoenix for jazz brunch on Saturdays. The historic 18th and Vine Jazz district is the cradle of jazz in K.C.
For some history, stop at the American Jazz Museum, where you will learn about such greats as Charlie Parker. The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures hold the world’s largest collection of fine-scale miniatures, along with an impressive collection of antique toys. The best theme park in the Midwest, Worlds of Fun, and its adjacent water park, Oceans of Fun, cannot be ignored.
Visiting the Midwest is a great way to spend a vacation, whether, with the family, your special loved one or on your own. When traveling in between cities, be sure to take your time, savor the vast rolling fields and farmland, and stop at any of the roadside attractions you happen to run into. This is a place where life refuses to be rushed. And that, for many people, is a vacation unto itself.