Here’s how it’s going to go down. You’re planning your USA trip, you unfurl the map and gravitate immediately to the coasts. Mountains! Oceans! Metropolises! Movie stars! But the middle of the country – what’s the middle ever good for? Middle management, middle child, middle of nowhere. It’s nothing to strive for.
Fine. Be that way. You’ll miss out on the rural–urban mash-up that plops Tibetan temples in the middle of corn fields and Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche near Amish women churning butter. This is surely the only region where you can sip a fresh-from-the-dairy-farm milkshake for lunch, then take part in a five-way in the city for dinner. Are you sure you want to pass it up?
Roll call for the Midwest’s cities starts with soaring Chicago, which shoots up the country’s mightiest skyline. Milwaukee keeps the beer-and-Harley flame burning, while Minneapolis shines a hipster beacon out over the cornfields. Detroit rocks, plain and simple.
The Great Lakes themselves are huge, like inland seas, offering beaches, islands, dunes, resort towns and lots of lighthouse-dotted scenery. Dairy farms and fruit orchards blanket the region, meaning fresh pie and ice cream await hungry road-trippers. Thirsty travelers can indulge in the Midwest’s beers – the cities here have long been known for suds crafting, thanks to their German heritage, and several microbreweries maintain the tradition.
Most visitors come in summer when the weather is fine for hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking in the local lakes and forests. Snowmobiling and cross-country skiing take over in the butt-freezing winter (as do eating and drinking in warm taverns). Whatever the season, you’re guaranteed a true slice of America here in the heartland.