The best Midwest vacation spots offer something exciting for every type of traveler. Road trip around the region and you’ll discover a vast array of unique experiences to make you feel like you’re far away from home.
Find solitude in a dreamy treehouse. Spend a day on a wine trail that meanders through beautiful rolling hills. Take a wildlife safari to see wild horses and bison. Trek to a mysterious pyramid hidden in the forest. Adventure is waiting for you. This guide will tell you exactly where to find it.
1. Stay at the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’ – French Lick, IN
Whether you’re looking for a family getaway or a romantic retreat, French Lick has you covered. Typically, a trip to this charming Southern Indiana town centers around a stay at one of two beautiful resorts—the luxurious West Baden Springs Hotel or the more kid-centric French Lick Springs Hotel.
The West Baden Springs Hotel was built more than 100 years ago. It is considered one of the most iconic historic hotels in the U.S. In fact, it was once referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
These are not your typical Midwest vacation hotels. Highlights include heated indoor pools and spas, riding stables, and walking trails. With a passion to keep folks exploring, the French Lick Resorts have developed a full itinerary focused on things to do around town for 2021 spring break travels. A popular day tour includes paying homage to local basketball legend Larry Bird.
Must-Do Tour: Larry Bird’s Hometown Tour
2. Choose Your Trail – Shawnee National Forest
If you’re looking for a place to break free, consider Shawnee, Illinois. This is a great destination for those who crave movement and outdoor adventure. Hikers can take advantage of the many hiking trails scattered around the region.
All Trails is a helpful source to easily plan hiking routes by length and difficulty. Head to Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area, Garden of the Gods, and Rim Rock Recreation Trail for some of the most popular natural attractions. Additionally, kids and adults will enjoy scouting out the huge, mysterious pyramid hidden in lower Bell Smith Springs.
Afterward, consider pairing the hiking trails with a bottle of local wine on the Shawnee Illinois Hills Wine Trail. Most wineries are now welcoming visitors for tastings and dining opportunities. Additionally, there’s a wide range of vacation rental cabins in the region, including cabins with hot tubs, winery stays, tree houses, and hotel suites.
Accommodation: Home2 Suites by Hilton Carbondale
Must-Do Tour: Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
3. Find Your Inner Outlaw – Deadwood & the Black Hills National Forest
The town of Deadwood, in South Dakota, is a National Historic Landmark that’s located in the Black Hills National Forest. The history of the town goes back to 1876 when gunslingers, gamblers, and outlaws like Poker Alice, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickock came to the town looking for gold and entertainment.
This isn’t your typical boring historic town. For example, Deadwood’s all about Wild West reenactments, outdoor adventures, and great nightlife. Furthermore, add a safari in Custer State Park, a visit to Mt. Rushmore or Wall Drug, or Badlands National Park, and you have yourself a pretty awesome vacation.
Accommodation: SpringHill Suites Deadwood
Must-Do Tour: Private Jeep Bison Safari – Custer State Park
4. Fun in the Sun – The Lakes in Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri is surrounded by three wonderful lakes: Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and Taneycomo. The lakes offer resort lodging, camping facilities, and every water-based activity you can think of including swimming, fishing, water skiing, tubing, boating, stand-up paddle boarding, jet skiing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, parasailing, and kayaking.
Public marinas provide easy access to the water and boat launch/dock areas. Furthermore, many of the commercial docks provide rental skiing/fishing/pontoon boats and wave runners. Also, there are plenty of opportunities to go picnicking and camping.
Accommodation: Lodge of the Ozarks
Must-Do Tour: Guided Ozarks Off-Road Adventure Tour
5. Drive Route 66 – Chicago, IL to Galena, KS
Route 66 runs through eight states and three time zones. For those short on time, there is no shame in breaking up the 2,238-mile trip into manageable sections.
In fact, some of the best family-friendly attractions and quirkiest roadside attractions are located in Route 66’s Midwest states—Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. The beauty of a Route 66 road trip is that the scenery and experiences are constantly changing, allowing something for every type of traveler.
Options include hiking and looking for bison at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington, Illinois. Then, indulge in homemade hamburgers and sundaes at the 1950s-inspired Twistee Treat Diner in Livingston, Illinois, or see one of the World’s Largest Rocking Chairs in Fanning, Missouri.
At the end of the route, make sure you snap a photo at “Cars on the Route” in Galena, Kansas. Also, don’t forget to bring along a Route 66 guidebook before setting off on a piece of one of America’s most iconic road trips. See how far you can go!
Accommodation: Best Western 66 Rail Haven
Must-Do Tour: Meramec Caverns
6. Visit One of the Least Visited National Parks – Theodore Roosevelt NP
As one of the least visited national parks, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is teased for being one of the few things to actually see in North Dakota. All jokes aside, there’s a reason Roosevelt visited this area of the country to reconnect with nature—it’s stunning. Furthermore, the park is known to be one of the most protected habits for wildlife in the US including bison, wild horses, pronghorns, prairie dogs, and bobcats.
With wonderful rolling hills and badlands, outdoor enthusiasts are sure to have a memorable vacation. Also, the nearby Old West town of Medora is recognized as the gateway to the South Unit of the park and is a great little place to explore, especially on horseback!
Accommodation: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Dickinson
Must-Do Tour: Tour Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin
7. Escape to the Woods – Hocking Hills, Ohio
Located in southeast Ohio, Hocking Hills is a mecca for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. As a result, if you’re looking for a Midwest vacation that focuses on outdoor recreation then Hocking Hills may be the perfect place to visit
Visitors enjoy renting a cabin and going hiking, biking, canoeing, zip-lining, and horseback riding. Conversely, just spending time in your cozy cabin recharging, relaxing, and exploring the area at your own pace may be what you’re looking for. After all, you’re on vacation!
Accommodation: Pine Creek Horseman’s Camp Hocking Hills Cabins
Must-Do Tour: Old Man’s Cave
Finding a Midwest vacation spot that is unique, budget-friendly, and not “totally lame” can be challenging. However, each one of the seven locations above offers something for everyone—it’s pretty much a guarantee that your big trip will go off without a hitch. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding which one to select!