Some people consider the Midwest to be a flyover region, meaning there’s not much to explore. We’re not those people. We emphatically believe the 12 states that make up the Midwest hold some of the most perspective-shattering views throughout the entire U.S. That’s definitely a bold statement considering this region is backlit by some extremely beautiful places. Landscapes to live up to like Yellowstone in Wyoming and Glacier in Montana. Or metropolises that are pretty difficult to hold a candle to like New York City and Boston. But you know what we say to people who so staunchly favor those sights over the Midwest? What about the Great Lakes and the Badlands? What about Chicago? These are wonderfully stunning places, too. We would be struck with remorse if we didn’t do our best to shout from the rooftops about all these countless Midwest treasures.
Ultimately, we want to say that the American Midwest should not be so quickly dismissed as “flyover.” Because on top of all the big cities here, you’ll find a slew of lesser-known gems scattered throughout that we bet you’d be dying to see if you knew about them. Luckily for you, we’re going to tell you about a few treasures to look out for; so prepare for an eyeful, here’s the best of the Midwest.
Northern Michigan – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
These three words will change the way you feel about the Midwest: Sleeping Bear Dunes. Enter that into Google and see what comes up. The herculean Lake Michigan challenges your perception. You’ll be questioning whether or not you’re viewing the open sea with all that seemingly infinite water laid out before you. Couple that with scenes of joyous people artlessly tossing themselves down honey-colored dunes that fall right into the bluer-than-blue lake below and you pretty much know what Sleeping Bear is all about. In other words, you’ll be enraptured by colorful earth within a sea of smiles.
If you don’t have too long to discover the area then head to the Phillip A. Hart Visitor Center first. This place will get you set up with maps and an intro to the park. They’ll most likely tell you to take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive because it gives you a quick but satisfying look into the magnificence of Sleeping Bear.
South Dakota – Badlands National Park
The name itself conjures up images of Mars, or some strange dream you maybe had as a kid. At sunset, get here to experience the rainbow-layered buttes of Badlands National Park and one of those things will probably still be coming to mind. This park elicits fervor in people that’s unrivaled – possibly because they don’t expect such immense beauty in South Dakota. But it’s here.
"Mako sica" means “land bad” in the Native American language, Lakota. “Les mauvais terres pour traverse" means "bad lands to travel through" in French. It’s no coincidence the name stuck what with the rugged terrain and lack of water. Still many animals thrive here (e.g., prairie dogs, mule deer, bison, bighorn sheep and coyotes). And many once thrived here: Walk where saber-toothed cats and rhinos used to roam.
You’re also welcome to drive. Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD 240) is the most breathtaking route, and consistently rated as a top-ten scenic drive. Don’t leave here without hiking the Notch Trail though. It’s a one-and-a-half-mile (round trip) hike that finishes with captivating views of the White River Valley.
Northern Wisconsin – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Have you ever heard of the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin? No? Well, let us paint a picture for you.
Imagine a patch of summer air being passed back and forth between waves. As the sun slowly gains height above Lake Superior, beams of fiery orange light meet with this sweet-smelling air. And before it’s carried to shore, with every cycle of crest and trough in the wave, the patch of air becomes more fragrant, now thick with a balmy heat. Eventually the breeze finds a home in a cave built from age-old sandstone. You come up from the depths of Lake Superior only to be met with this intimate current of air and that utterly enchanting smell. Welcome to the windblown, cliff- and cave-drenched, forested masterpiece of nature that is Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. What we just painted for you was a summer day full of scuba diving amongst sandstone caves. You’re welcome.
Chicago, Illinois – The Ledge in Sears Tower (now Willis Tower)
Now for a little break from the wild scenery we just decorated your mind with and right on into the city. Chicago is equal parts grit and grace. It can be seen as the backbone of the Midwest plus its oceanic shoreline is pure poetry for the eyes.
You should absolutely go to all the usual haunts: Millennium Park, Magnificent Mile, Wrigley Field and the Art Institute of Chicago. We would like to delve a bit deeper, though, to give you a place that isn’t so often talked about. (We highly recommend that you visit all those brilliant sites still – especially the Art Institute. It’s the second largest art museum in the U.S.)
You’ve heard of Sears Tower, we’re positive (AKA Willis Tower). It is the third tallest building in the world after all. But what you possibly haven’t heard about is The Ledge. This is essentially a glass box housed in the 103rd floor observation room. It towers over the city. You’ll be pleased to know you can experience second-to-none views of the Windy City, just about 50 miles worth on a clear day. Don’t worry, The Ledge is made of one-and-a-half inches of glass and can support up to 5 tons.
There you have it, four lesser-known experiences in the great Midwest. Now it's time to find a reason to visit (hint: find a Midwest locum tenens assignment right here). After you do that, set out exploring in the above-mentioned places. Maybe you can even seek out some unique experiences that aren’t on the list. In fact, we’d love to hear if you have any sites you’d recommend, too, in the comments below. Happy travels!
Locums for a Small World Blog
It’s an almost impossible task to respectfully describe the United States’ four regions in their entirety. They’re all so bountiful and beautiful. They’re all so chock-full of diversity. We don’t want to accidentally favor one over the other (we'll leave that to you), or even fail in naming off every great thing about them. What’s important to remember though is that each region has its own unique flair and verve. They all have extraordinarily diverse cultures, dialects and landscapes that make up their life-blood. Even the weather packs a different punch everywhere you go.
Below we explore the Northeast with its nation-birthing prowess and world-famous cities, then the South with its home-style cooking and historic music scene. We dive into the Midwest, too—America’s Heartland. It’s full of Great Lakes, Great Plains and great people. Last but not least we find ourselves in the West. Don’t worry it’s still wild (just not the exact kind of wild you would've encountered in Billy the Kid’s days). Today, its wild is wonderfully preserved in massive canyons and red deserts, and in crashing waves and tall trees.
Now, bear in mind, in what follows we'll very likely leave something iconic out (not on purpose, of course) but that only lends to the fact that these regions are too grandiose to fit on one page. So when you're on your next locum tenens assignment in any one of these regions, it's up to you to explore as much city and country as you can.
The U.S. has managed to pack about 60 million people into this one corner of the country. That means you get all kinds of variety from culture to cuisine and it’s all at your beck and call. You can drive state to state in the blink of an eye and while you’re driving you’ll find some of the most amazing landscapes in the country—especially during leaf-peeping time and cherry-blossom time.
Seriously, an itinerary in the Northeast reads more like a fantasy or action-adventure novel. It’s a place where you’ll find fiddleheads, oyster sloops, and whoopee pies next to Tiffany’s, old money, and Wall Street. It’s a place where leather jackets and skinny jeans meet belt buckles and cowboy boots. It’s a place where Michelin Star Chefs reign supreme yet fluffernutters are frequently touted as the greatest sandwich of all time...read more.
Learn to love the drawl, y’all, because while each U.S. region has a unique identity and personality the South offers a world of differences—and one of the most recognizable is their vocal inflection. No matter where you go in the South, everything is served up with gracious hospitality and sweet tea. Even the weather is hospitable.
Beaches run for hundreds of miles down the Atlantic coast and sailboats bob on the water from Galveston Bay in Texas to the Golden Isles of Georgia. Cities vary from genteel (think Savannah) to slick (think Raleigh), yet nothing is as fulfilling as taking a journey into the heart of the deep South to see its historically rich, culturally scenic splendors...read more.
Ah, the Midwest. We find it at the intersection of those two disparate but quintessentially American Coasts: east and west. The divide between the two began in 1849, when hundreds of thousands of forty-niners, migrated to California and—legend has it—they were carrying lattes and surfboards. You could say they left their Burberry scarves for North Face gear; the Great White Way for Hollywood. Early settlers of the frontier didn’t fly at the time, but some of the states here have been erroneously dubbed “fly-over” states. Yes, erroneous because we think America’s Heartland is full of great destinations. Gold Rushers who never made it past the Midwest—seems they found their own field of dreams right here—will tell you it’s true...read more.
In the Great American West everything somehow seems grander and larger than life. Long before the first cowboy rode onto the silver screen, the world's love affair with the American Frontier burned bright.
Come here to witness the spectacle that is the Grand Canyon; admire the giant saguaros (pronounced "sah-wah-ro”) that dot the Sonoran Desert; or stand at the celebrated Four Corners—the only point in the U.S. where the boundaries of four states touch (though if you read the news, the surveyors apparently missed the real mark by 2.5 miles). Hike the hoodoos of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park or tread lightly at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, America's oldest settlement...read more.