Best New Midwest Attractions, Restaurants and Hotels
Chicago: The Boarding House
In her first restaurant, owner and master sommelier Alpana Singh excels in attention to detail. You’ll find it in the 35-page wine list, the attentive service and the well-executed entrees, like juicy chicken thighs with eggplant puree. Just don’t leave this River North spot without trying the seasonal cheesecake; it’s as delicious as it is beautiful. (312) 280-0720; boardinghousechicago.com
Leawood, Kansas: Rye
If we had to pick one perfect Heartland restaurant, this one might be it: expertly prepared comfort food with names everyone can pronounce, regional craft beers and decor made from repurposed barn elements. Chef Colby Garrelts’ 2013 James Beard award proves that capable hands can turn steak and fried chicken into fine dining, and executive pastry chef Megan Garrelts’ Mo-Kan Pie showcases nuts from Missouri and Kansas. (913) 642-5800; ryekc.com
Lincoln, Nebraska: Pinnacle Bank Arena
In a fresh take on the town-and-gown formula—now driven by sports and entertainment—the $179 million arena with seating for 15,000 welcomes Cornhusker basketball games and big-time concerts. Husker basketball began playing there last fall, and the arena already has hosted Bon Jovi, Pink and Elton John. The result? More visitors filling the Haymarket District and the new Canopy Street entertainment district, which has a giant outdoor video screen and several cool restaurants. (402) 904-4444; pinnaclebankarena.com
Milwaukee: The Brewhouse Inn and Suites
Beer-lovers and history buffs, this one’s for you. The former brewhouse in the late-19th-century Pabst Brewery Company complex found new life as a hotel, with 90 guest rooms in "steampunk" decor surrounding six enormous copper brewing vats. Rooms are comfortable, you get free Wi-Fi, and the hearty Continental breakfast showcases kringle, a Danish pastry stuffed with fruit. Prost! brewhousesuites.com
Ramen restaurants have become the rage; this Wicker Park spot artfully weaves Asian, French, Latin and Italian cuisines into affordable bowls. Barbecue beef, rice, spinach, Cotija cheese and a fried egg fuel the outstanding Kimchee Chow. (773) 360-8791; oiistar.com
- Photo by Emily Tennyson.
East Lansing, Michigan: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Architect Zaha Hadid used ribbons of glass and pleated steel to create a building that’s as artful as the collection on the Michigan State University campus. The works on display reflect an appreciation for contemporary tastes—just like the building itself. (517) 884-4800; broadmuseum.msu.edu
- Photo courtesy of the Ambassador Hotel.
Wichita, Kansas: Ambassador Hotel
The 1926 neoclassic exterior barely hints at the luxury inside. But a major renovation has transformed this 117-guest-room hotel into a modern showplace dressed in soothing purples and grays, leaving visitors glad they chose this former bank building for a quiet night’s stay. Soft linens hug the beds, and a frosted-glass pocket door separates bathroom sinks from oversize, beautifully tiled showers. Windows reveal pretty views of downtown and the Intrust Bank Arena. The hotel is a no-brainer for people in town to catch a show. From $119. (316) 239-7100; ambassadorhotelcollection.com
- Photo courtesy of Omni Severin.
Indianapolis: 1913 Restaurant
Celebrate the Omni Severin Hotel’s centennial at its restaurant showcasing traditional Hoosier dishes sourced from local farms. Yes, you’ll get relish and sugar cream pie, but there's also succulent steaks and roasted chicken raised on Indiana land, as well as fish pulled from area waters. Pair that with the hotel’s legendary service, and you’re in for Indy’s best new destination dining. (317) 634-6664; omniseverin.com
- Photo courtesy of Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear.
Milwaukee: Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear
The modest former law office of collector Avrum Chudnow showcases a well-curated collection of 1920s to ’40s Americana. Downstairs, explore the general store’s products (and answer the vintage phone). Upstairs, try to find the hidden speakeasy. (414) 273-1680; chudnowmuseum.org
Chicago: The Langham
Impeccable service begins when a Chanel-suited staff member greets you in the Mies van der Rohe skyscraper in River North. Fine art graces the walls, and the 316 guest rooms (complete with marble baths and rain showers) are some of the most spacious in the city. From $395. (312) 923-9988; chicago.langhamhotels.com
Minneapolis: Smack Shack
A onetime food truck has gone bricks and mortar near Target Field to dish perfect lobster rolls (buttery chunks of lobster on gently griddled milk bread) as well as a handful of meaty entrees. We love the Maine-caught lobsters and the dishes that taste of New England, including the twist on Boston cream pie made with red velvet cake. (612) 259-7288; smack-shack.com
- Photo: Andrew Bordwin, Courtesy of the Alexander.
Indianapolis: The Alexander
Let’s say you’re hip. Or want to be. Then it’s time to check out this boxy glass boutique hotel with a superfriendly staff and a colorful bar near the mod lobby. The 209 sumptuous rooms and suites—many with featherbeds and granite counters—come with Keurig coffee makers and motion-sensor lighting. thealexander.com
Duluth, Minnesota: Canal Park Brewing Company
Local pride infuses this lakeside pub. Wisconsin-grown hops and barley flavor the beers, including fruity Neoprenanzug Malfunction German wheat and spicy Stoned Surf India pale ale. The menu features a catch of the day, along with burgers and a pickled herring platter. (218) 464-4790; canalparkbrewery.com
The artsy 21c Museum Hotel drew on the building’s original hotel moniker for the restaurant’s name, and the dining room lures foodies eager to see what happens when local farms’ bounty meets the custom-built wood-burning hearth. American craft beers on tap and Kentucky bourbon complement roasted chicken served with veggies cooked in pan drippings. It’s a meal that feels downright homey in a place where large plastic penguins stand by your table. (513) 578-6660; metropoleonwalnut.com
- Photo by Kim Ranegar.
South Bend, Indiana: Cafe Navarre Bar and Restaurant
Ready for date night? You’ll appreciate the thoughtful touches inside this century-old bank building, where a vast wine list and cocktail menu await. Small plates include oysters in a cucumber-ginger sauce. For dinner, a seafood-stocked Basque stew will have you reaching for the warm bread to soak up each drop. (574) 968-8101; cafenavarre.co
Minneapolis: The Commons Hotel
Light fixtures look like beakers, staff members wear sweater vests, and black-and-white film footage of Gopher football games plays on a wall. The Commons embraces a brainy image but can’t ignore its sports draw with TCF Bank Stadium nearby. Later this year, a light-rail stop out front will zip guests from their relaxing rooms downtown to the airport and to Gopher games with ease. From $129. (612) 379-8888; commonshotel.com
- Photo by Sarah Routh.
In a rough-and-tumble area of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Rhinegeist pours slightly hoppy beers (like Cougar Blonde Ale and Truth IPA). A half-dozen microbreweries opened in the Queen City this year; this former bottling plant ups the fun with Ping-Pong and cornhole games. (513) 381-1356; rhinegeist.com
- Photo courtesy of Hilton Columbus Downtown.
Columbus, Ohio: Hilton Columbus Downtown
Showcasing more than 200 works from central Ohio artists, this state capital hotel offers the cachet of a chic gallery—abstract prints on guest-room ceilings! The 532 guest rooms feel a touch small but nail the important parts with comfy beds. Ask for a room that doesn’t face the noisy 12-story atrium, and enjoy the nightlife in the nearby Short North Arts District. From $189. (614) 384-8600; hiltoncolumbusdowntown.com
- Photo by Jess Hoffert.
Clayton, Missouri: Five Star Burgers
Ten miles west of St. Louis, this ecofriendly spot serves salted caramel milk shakes and locally sourced Angus beef on lightly toasted brioche buns. It’s a tantalizing palette for toppings like smoked bacon and port-braised onions. (314) 720-4350; 5starburgersstl.com
- Photo courtesy of Chateau De Pere.
De Pere, Wisconsin: Château De Pere
A 36-suite French country retreat stands 5 miles south of the area’s biggest draw—the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field. Rich fabrics and king-suite fireplaces in this riverside property exude romance, and the on-site Cafe Chanson plates French delicacies in a casual setting. chateaudepere.com
- Photo courtesy of Hocking Hills Adventure Trek
Hocking Hills, Ohio: Shawnee Storytelling Hikes
You won’t find a spa more relaxing than this walk through the woods with Native American storyteller Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah. The white-haired guide (also known as Ron Hatten) relates folklore and wisdom passed down by his Shawnee- speaking grandfather during this Hocking Hills Adventure Trek hike to the rock faces, waterfalls and quiet glens an hour southeast of Columbus. As leaves rustle, Ron explains how the wind created music by whistling through holes in a tree trunk. Then he produces a flute and plays, leaving guests to rethink their hectic lives back home. (740) 777-2579; hockinghillsadventuretrek.com
- Photo by Melanie Radzicki McManus.
Milwaukee: Estabrook Beer Garden
A century ago, biergartens were Milwaukee mainstays; today, few remain. This seasonal spot brings back the old-world tradition: alfresco communal tables, German beer, sausages and pretzels, and live music. Bring a group of friends, or just make a few new ones. (414) 226-2728; oldgermanbeerhall.com
- Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray.
Kansas City, Missouri: Oak Street Mansion
The owners’ art collection became public last fall when this graceful Georgian Revival-style bed-and-breakfast opened near the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. A gallery in the lobby welcomes guests, Joan Miró paintings deck the powder room, and each of the eight luxurious guest rooms has a theme (like Impressionists and KC jazz). Little extras such as chocolate mints from Christopher Elbow make bedtime special. A welcome bonus? You’ll find the owners have mastered another art—conversation. From $175. (913) 219-5688; oakstreetmansion.com
- Photo courtesy of Laughing Sun Brewery.
Bismarck, North Dakota: Laughing Sun Brewery
At North Dakota’s first brewery-taproom, learn about bitterness units from the bartenders, then sip on a warming porter or an easygoing strawberry wheat. Local bands play several nights each week. (701) 751-3881; laughingsunbrewing.com