Readers' Favorite Midwest Small Towns | Midwest Living
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Readers' Favorite Midwest Small Towns

We asked our Facebook fans to share the names of their favorite Midwest small towns and tell us about must-do activities. Here's what they wrote. More ideas? Leave them in the comments section below!

See our slideshow of readers' favorite Midwest small towns here.

Illinois

Galena "Tons of quaint shops, restaurants, festivals, bed and breakfasts, hiking, biking. Love it. Must-do is sampling at the Galena Canning Company, and wine sampling at the sausage shop. And the Halloween parade is the best I have ever seen." – Linda VanKampen

Geneva “Bike the Fox River Trail and eat at Bien Trucha.”—Laura Stuart

Gibson City “Visit the twin screen Harvest Moon Drive In. It's been around for 60 years and went digital last year. They play current movies, have the occasional retro night and some of the best movie food anywhere. Quite the family experience.”—Andy Page Lee

Grafton “Right on the river where you can go from antique store to store, riverside flea market on the weekends and end up overlooking the river at the Grafton Winery enjoying their wonderful wines and entertainment.”—Pamela DeVine Dellamano

Morris “55 miles south of Chicago, this charming small town embodies the Midwest. The historic Illinois-Michigan Canal runs through the downtown, and its towpath is home to the 3 French Hens French Country Market (a monthly open-air, Euro-styled venue with 140-plus vendors). Morris has something for everyone: hike or bike the towpath, boat on the Illinois River, festivals, vintage car shows...and shopping. Morris has a delightful downtown full of boutiques, pubs, and restaurants. A knit shop, quilt store, wine-tasting room, art gallery, and tearoom are just some of the specialty shops.”—Monica Spence Vogel

Morton “Take in the pumpkin festival in September and visit the Libby's pumpkin plant.”—Patricia Kelly Mackey

Oregon “Great state parks, beautiful scenery, Black Hawk Statue, Autumn on Parade Festival in October and Oregon Trail Days in July. Great fun.”—Jennifer Basler-Bakener

Ottawa “A small Midwest town with tons of historic charm surrounded by rivers. We have monuments and murals honoring the great Abraham Lincoln. We have great sushi, tapas, Thai, seafood, burgers....you name it, we got it. There is nothing like sitting at a large old bar that Abraham Lincoln ate at enjoying the best burger ever. You can also enjoy a stroll along one of the beautiful rivers or gorgeous parks.”—Nora Albright Boen

Peoria “Visit Wildlife Prairie State Park, the Riverfront Museum and the Caterpillar Visitors Center.”—Merilynn Hyland

Woodstock “Walk around the square and point out all the places made memorable by the movie Groundhog Day.” – Marianna Deitche

Indiana

Bloomington “Taste of Bloomington festival in the summer. So many choices of fresh organic and vegan/vegetarian options. Great music and friendly, creative people.” – Brianne Jamerson

Chesterton “Must visit the European Market held May 3 to October 31 in our beautiful downtown area, and Indiana Dunes State Park. Also, lunch on Popolano's patio is a must."—Diane McDougal Massey

Madison “Shop at great antique shops, walk the banks of the Ohio River and eat at The Downtowner. Fantastic bed & breakfast inns for your stay.”—Nelda Ludlow Nikirk

Michigan City “They have a first Friday art walk that is amazing for such a tiny city."—Amanda G. Joyner

Nashville “Lots of great shopping, lodging and the biggest state park in Indiana. The General Store has the BEST blackberry cobbler around.”—Nicole Payton Bush

North Judson “Eat a yummy Italian beef sandwich from either Brantwood Restaurant or The Wooden Nickle.”—Peggy Demeter

Shipshewana “The flea market, Davis Mercantile, the soda shop, the blacksmith shop, Yoder's Department Store—all the great local shops. It’s like being sent back in time in a great farmland setting with Amish artistry, humble small-town charm and great home-cooked meals. Homemade pies, toys, whirligigs, farmers market goodies.”—Gina Neal

Valparaiso “Close to the Lake Michigan Dunes, a short drive into Chicago and a thriving downtown with very diverse restaurants and a downtown park with concerts every night in the summer. And a must is Popcorn Fest, the first weekend after Labor Day. A statue of Orville is in Central Park.”—Peggy Shannon Crawford

Iowa

Indianola “The National Hot Air Balloon Classic is every year at the end of July. Hundreds of beautiful hot air balloons color the sky in the morning and evening for 10 days. In the evening they have Nite Glow and entertainment at the balloon field. There are also activities on the town square, car shows, crafts and town garage sales."—Lynn Downey

Marion​ "Marion Arts Festival. So much great art and fun for all ages.”—Elisabeth Klug Kissling

Mason City “Home of Meredith Willson, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, North Iowa Band Festival and warm, friendly people.”—Shirley Mercer

Orange City “Hands down—Orange City, Iowa, for their Tulip Festival!"—Mike Loree Vander Zwaag

Pella “We always like walking around town and experiencing the Dutch influence of the place. We have been on a tour of the windmill, which was really fun and we were able to purchase flour milled on site. Must-do things in Pella are: coffee at Smokey Row and picking up apple fritter bread, homemade noodles and anything else that looks good at Jaarsma Bakery. There is also a small quilt shop on the square that I just love and always stop in to buy something for a new project. We have often enjoyed staying in the Royal Amsterdam Hotel."—Helen Johnston

Prairie City “Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Goldie's Ice Cream Shoppe (voted the BEST tenderloin in Iowa)."—Diane Southwick

Winterset “The birthplace of John Wayne, covered bridges tour and filming site, and Covered Bridge Festival."—Claudia Blakley Bolles

Kansas

Chanute “Visit the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum – it's amazing.”—Janice Erickson

Council Grove “Santa Fe Trail, lots of history. Eat at the Hays House Restaurant and stay at The Cottage House. Walk the river walk and then drive the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. Gorgeous rolling hills and you can still see the ruts in the ground from the Santa Fe Trail."—Jen Scott

Hays “Their downtown is just wonderful—boutiques, coffee shops, an amazing bakery and an award-winning brewery with a fabulous diner. The campus of Fort Hays State University is beautiful also."—Cindy Day

Hiawatha “They have the oldest continuing Halloween parade in the nation, this year celebrating 100 years. Also known as 'City of Beautiful Maples,' it is a great place to visit in the fall. Another must-stop is The Davis Memorial and the Brown County Agricultural Museum."—Bonnie Garwood Howard

Mound City “The event I wouldn't miss is our annual arts and crafts fair known as the Sugar Mound Arts and Crafts Festival, in which over 600 creative types and some antique dealers descend on our little burg along with 3,000 to 5,000 shoppers. With luck, the maple trees on the hillsides bordering two sides of town are at the peak of their color."—Melody Leavitt

Winfield “Walnut Valley Festival in September every year. Great small-town charm and one of the best burgers I've ever consumed at Burger Station."—Marissa Hubbs Tomlinson

Michigan

Alanson "In the winter, snowshoeing, and in the summer, a kayak or paddleboat ride at Stafford's Crooked River Lodge & Suites."—David Marvin

Bay City “Right on the Saginaw Bay, it's home to boat races, farmers markets, the Tall Ship Celebration, rummage sales, all sorts of fairs and outdoor activities in summer. A great state park with updated campground and renowned Tobico Marsh—open all year with many activities."—Michele Simons

Boyne City “Boyne City is on the sparkling shores of Lake Charlevoix. Not only does it have some fantastic restaurants, but it is always alive with fun and activity—Friday Night Stroll the Streets, Saturday farmers markets and lots of festivals throughout the year. One of the best views of town is from the top of Avalanche Preserve Receration Area—462 steps take you to the top, and the view is worth every huff and puff to get you there."—Greg Miller

Charlevoix “Best harbor in the U.S. There is a reason it's called ‘the beautiful.’"—RJ Peters

Frankenmuth “There is nothing like it in the world. A small Bavarian town that is decorated for Christmas 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. It makes even the oldest person feel like a kid again. Go to Bronner's Christmas Village, which is Christmas 365 days a year. And go to the Silent Night Chapel there."—Roxanne Muchko

Frankfort “Beautiful Lake Michigan, quaint shops, great dining, yummy ice cream and the best pretzel buns in the world at the Crescent Bakery."—Lori M Nickels

Grand Haven “Ride the trolley, which tours town and gives a history of the area. Go to the beach on Lake Michigan. Eat at one of the many great restaurants. Charter a fishing trip or sailing ship for a trip out on Lake Michigan. Taste wine at one of the wineries. Bring the kids to play at Mulligan's Hollow's where they could check out the cool skateboard park or play in the water fountain that is located near the harbor."—Deanna Campbell

Harbor Springs “Great bike trails, beaches, wonderful waterfront dining. My kids love the sailing school in the summer. Paradise."—Julie Ellstrom

Hickory Corners “The Gilmore Car Museum has a fabulous collection of old-fashioned cars and memorabilia. Set out in the country, it is a beautiful drive."—Elizabeth Velderman

Holland “Tunnel Park, bike trails, Holland State Park Beach, 8th Street shopping, Dimnent Memorial Chapel at Hope College, Tulip Time Festival, most friendly people on earth." – Joyce Igel

Houghton “Bike down the path along the river. Have breakfast or lunch from the seventh-floor restaurant at the Magnuson Hotel Franklin Square Inn overlooking the river. Spectacular views anytime of year. Enjoy a drink at The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub—a local microbrewery in the quaint downtown. Walk the campus of Michigan Tech. Beautiful. Catch the ferry in the summer months to Isle Royale National Park."—Julie Gray VanByssum

Leland "A tiny fishing community turned vacation town sits quietly on Lake Michigan. Enjoy a sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty while sitting on Vans Beach watching the sunset."— Lindsay Farrell

Ludington "It is the home of the S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry, which is the only coal-fired steamship car ferry in operation in the U.S. In addition, there are many shops, restaurants (including House of Flavors Restaurant), bed and breakfasts, hotels/motels, a state park, beaches, and lighthouses. There are also some great festivals and events."– Robin Passmore

Marshall “Beautiful, quaint town—lots of history. Go antiquing. Get ice cream and sit by the fountain in the middle of town. Take a walking tour. Lots of unique shops, friendly people, always something going on—car shows, blues fests, Harvest Festival, Christmas Parade and Open House, Home Tours."—Shari Ingraham

Milford “Kayak the Huron River from Proud Lake to downtown Milford and disembark at Central Park for a picnic in the park, or walk into the village for lunch at Smokestreet BBQ or Palate. A perfect summer or winter trip. The park has summer concerts, too."—Karen Sue Lee

New Buffalo “Peruse the variety of local wineries and taste their red and white selections. Buy a cheap bottle or two and head to nearby Lake Michigan for a picnic."—Nicole A. Willis

Pentwater “Glorious lakefront town that is quaint, fun and exudes happiness. There are lots of shops to pop in and out of as well as great local eateries, golf and the beach."—Tonya Goldsmith LeStrange

Petoskey “Walk along the Little Traverse Bay, visit McLean and Eakin Booksellers, dine in some excellent restaurants, shop in great stores, pick up some treats at American Spoon, swim at Petoskey State Park. Most importantly—can't miss sunsets over Lake Michigan."—Edie Bowman Posey

Presque Isle “It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. Lake Huron, Long Lake and Grand Lake are all there to enjoy. Beautiful views everywhere."—Darisa Holliday

South Haven “Beach, sun, great food, great shopping, friendly and warm people. Four seasons of wonderful times."—Lisa Wesolowski Stegall

Minnesota

Hackensack “Idyllic small town. Not touristy, but lots of cute shops, restaurants, friendly residents, and a wonderful resort where I stay. Ten miles from Leech Lake, so perfect location. 127 lakes within a 10-mile radius of Hackensack. Lots of fishing, sight-seeing, relaxing, laying out, hanging out by the campfire, fun."—Carrie Harmon Olerich

Lanesboro “It's a wonderful secret little town with so much to offer. The 70-mile paved bike trail is the best."—Kirsten Mensing

Red Wing “Everyone must take in the glorious view of the Mississippi River Valley. I've experienced it here by hiking on Barn Bluff, riding the Amtrak train and driving to scenic heights that overlook the wide expanse of rivers and bluffs. My husband and I enjoy outdoor dining at the Brickhouse Pub & Grille, shopping downtown (fabulous men's clothing store), and scouring through the multitude of antiques shops. I have also enjoyed an overnight stay with my mom and sisters at the Moondance Inn. I've been visiting Red Wing for nearly 30 years and never tire of its beauty and bounty."—Tracie Solum Henkel

Missouri

Augusta “Wineries, vineyards, Katy Trail, apple picking and beautiful scenery. A must-do for any age."—Colleen Foster

Cole Camp “Antique and gift shops, wonderful restaurants (from Calgaro's Pizza to The German Table), friendly people and the best small-town fair."—Teresa Viebrock

Hermann “Beautiful German settled town along the Missouri River with seven wineries in the vicinity, great food, lots of bed and breakfasts, shops and beautiful old houses and buildings."— Jean Ellen Mynatt Oltvedt

Kimmswick “Quaint town with a great restaurant–The Blue Owl. Amazing bakery! And neat little shops everywhere. A fun day. Close enough to St. Louis for a day trip, too!” – Irene Salkowski

Neosho “Visit the National Fish Hatchery (over 100 years old) and visit the grotto in Big Spring Park."—Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Weston “Love the Avalon Cafe. Love the shopping. Especially love My Sister's Closet resale clothing store. We love to go there because we love history and the views of the river, and it's a great walk from Weston Bend State Park into town. Camping at the state park is great, too."—Kathy Sapp Blackburn

Nebraska

Aurora “Ever see photos of the bullet going through an apple, or a drop of milk frozen in time? That's the work of Doc Edgerton of Aurora, Nebraska. There's a science museum in his hometown (one of a couple of museums in Aurora). And it's not far from Grand Island, home of the Nebraska State Fair (newest state fair in the nation), the world-famous Sandhill crane migration, and much more."—Steve White

Burwell “Home of Nebraska's Big Rodeo. Since 1921, Nebraska's Big Rodeo has been thrilling rodeo fans with nonstop rodeo entertainment. Every summer (the last full weekend in July), Burwell's population explodes with rodeo fans ready to getin on the excitement. Burwell is also home to the Calamus Reservoir. Lots of fun to be had on this beautiful lake with white sandy beaches and great opportunities for watersports and fishing. Burwell has a wide variety of great restaurants and many different opportunities for lodging."—Stacie Newlin

Chadron “Chadron, Nebraska, has their Fur Trade Days. About 25 miles down Highway 6 is Crawford and Fort Robinson. The Fort has enough activities to keep you occupied for at least a week, but it's also a great place to just relax. North of Crawford is Toadstool Park, Drifter's Cookshack, and the Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Research and Visitor Center. There's also a gorgeous 3-mile hiking path from Toadstool to Hudson-Meng."—Heather Nabower

Fremont “Every summer, they have this incredible celebration called John C. Fremont Days. Plus, they have this wonderful old museum where you get to experience how things were done around the 1800s, the Louis E. May Museum. If you want to experience fun from history while enjoying treats from the past as well, I highly recommend Fremont."—Amanda F. Rodriguez-Williams

North Dakota

Casselton “Casselton has the Maple River Winery and the Maple River Distillery."—Susan Kempel

Mandan “Rodeo Days—huge parade, three-day rodeo, art in the park and more. And the biggest Independence Day celebration in the state."—Sarah Mudder

Medora “It's a beautiful little historic town nestled in the North Dakota badlands. Must-see tourist attractions include taking in the Medora Musical in the outdoor amphitheater, which depicts the region's 'Wild West' days; visiting the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (south unit) where bison, elk, and wild horses roam; and a tour of Chateau de Mores, which was the home of the French nobleman who founded Medora. he boutiques and shops there are great as well."—Staci Bradley McGrath

Wishek “German-Russian heritage celebrated each fall with Sauerkraut Day."—Katie Lukens Pinke

Ohio

Cardington "Our heritage festival June 28.”—Jackie Kopke

Grand Rapids “It is located right along the Maumee River. You can walk along the canals, which takes you to area parks. There is a canal boat ride and a mill to tour. It has quaint little shops selling antiques, art, gifts, etc. Also, plenty of little restaurants and cafes to dine."—Jamie Swinford Heath

South Dakota

Deadwood “There are so many things to do, winter or summer. Strolling Main Street is always fun for the family. The summer is full of concerts and staged shootouts from the 1800s. And also the many casinos."—Tessila Bernett

Keystone “After visiting Mount Rushmore, you have to try Big Time Pizza and then stop for taffy downtown (where you can watch it be pulled)." – Caroline Christopherson

Wisconsin

Bailey’s Harbor “The Lake Michigan shoreline, the Ridges Sanctuary and the Cana Island lighthouse."—Bill Johnson

Baraboo “Home of the Ringling Bros. Circus and Devil's Lake State Park. Also surrounded by the beautiful Baraboo Bluffs. Aldo Leopold shack is just a few miles outside of town. We also have the International Clown Museum and International Crane Foundation."—Kathy May

Boulder Junction “Great dining options, fun shopping, best fishing in Wisconsin. Johnny Depp stayed at the Big Bear Hideaway while filming Public Enemies. Must-do activity: visit the Aqualand Ale House for great camaraderie, delicious food, and a cold beer or a glass of wine."—Ted Pittman

Ephraim “Shop at Beach People and go to The Old Post Office Restaurant for a fish boil and Wilson's Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor for ice cream. And of course relax looking at the beautiful views of Green Bay.”—Debbie Wishnow Janicek

Lake Geneva “Historic boat tours, Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, indoor water park, skiing and fantastic food."—Harding Webb

Lake Nebegamon “I love Lake Nebegamon. Peaceful small town just a short drive from Duluth."—Annette Netsch

New Glarus “Beer and bike paths. What more could you want?"—Dina Sipiora

Spring Green “It has some quaint shops including the General Store—my favorite.”—Kim Markey

Stoughton “Downtown shops, friendly people, amazing theater with wonderful performers, Norwegian festival in the spring. Great town to live in and enjoy."—Mary Jo Minter

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