Exploring Midwest Cities in 36 Hours | Midwest Living

Exploring Midwest Cities in 36 Hours

It's a challenge to get to know a city in just one weekend, but our writers are up to it. See their recommendations for what to do, where to eat and where to stay for a fun and adventure-packed weekend in Midwest cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Des Moines, Omaha, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
  • St. Louis

    The red brick city by the river built its national profile on baseball, beer and the Arch – all of which still occupy prominent positions in the hearts of locals. Get beyond the stadium and into the neighborhoods, though, and you’ll discover a range of the city’s subcultures, where entrepreneurs, civic activists, immigrants, college kids and risk-taking residents are creating cool wherever they land. Today’s St. Louis aims to be a biotech innovator, an artistic hub and a liveable city with world-class (and many free-of-charge!) attractions.

    36 Hours in St. Louis

  • Madison, Wisconsin

    Madison, Wisconsin

    Perched on an isthmus between two lakes, Madison is anchored by the pedestrian-friendly State Street, with University of Wisconsin-Madison at one end and the Wisconsin State Capitol building at the other. Bring your appetite (Madison claims more restaurants per capita than most cities), your comfy shoes (dress is relatively casual, even at higher-end haunts) and, if you can, your bike (The League of American Bicyclists named Madison one of only five Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Communities in the country).

    36 Hours in Madison, Wisconsin

  • Detroit, Michigan


    Explore the Motor City’s rich history, arts, entertainment, and culture while discovering some of the newer hot spots and the flourishing farm-and-food scene. A weekend in Detroit will show you why the city is turning up as a top tourist destination in regional and national pubs as well as travel guides such as Lonely Planet. If you've never been—or haven't visited in a while—it's time to see what all the attention is about.

    36 Hours in Detroit

  • Omaha, Nebraska


    This big city on the Great Plains may be best known for its sublime steaks and world-class zoo, but you’ll also want to explore diverse restaurants, the hip music scene and revived historic neighborhoods.

    36 Hours in Omaha


  • Topiary Park

    Columbus, Ohio

    Columbus may be best known as a center for government—it’s Ohio’s state capital—and as home of The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!). But to really know Columbus, get out and explore its revitalized downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. Take the bike and pedestrian pathways along the scenic Scioto River, see the sculpted evergreens at Topiary Park, walk the red-brick streets of meticulously restored 19th-century German Village, and experience the trendsetter vibe of the shops, restaurants and galleries in eclectic Short North. 

    36 Hours in Columbus

  • Chicago, Illinois


    Big city, little time? You can still pack a lot into a short Chicago visit, and get a feel for the city by mixing touristy sites and local hangouts. This itinerary includes photo ops at “The Bean” and Saturday Night Live’s “Wayne’s World” couch, plus stops at authentic Mexican restaurants, hipster basement bars—and, of course, a deep-dish pizza spot.

    36 Hours in Chicago

  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin


    A weekend visit to Brew City should include a brewery tour, but that’s just one part of the Milwaukee experience. Explore art, architecture, German food, lakeside parks and maybe a festival on an adventure-packed stay in Milwaukee.

    36 Hours in Milwaukee

  • Indianapolis


    Known as the Racing Capital of the World for its famous speedway and the Circle City for a landmark monument, Indianapolis offers a weekend of adventures that extend to top-notch museums, an attraction-filled downtown park and stellar restaurants.

    36 Hours in Indianapolis

  • Cincinnati, Ohio


    The Queen City wears its history with pride from a lofty perch on the Ohio River. Here, traditional mingles with trendy, century neighborhoods have been renovated with respect and a cultural mindset encourages art and creativity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the revitalization of the once-forsaken neighborhood Over-the-Rhine, where you can now hit a craft brewery before attending the ballet.  

    36 Hours in Cincinnati

  • Des Moines, Iowa

    Des Moines

    A visit to Iowa's capital city means a chance to try new restaurants, visit local boutiques, take in tons of free art and browse an epic Saturday-morning farmers market. Find out how to make the most out of a weekend getaway to Des Moines.

    36 Hours in Des Moines

  • Twin Cities

    Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, the larger of the Twin Cities, does everything on a grand scale. The city says it has more theater seats per capita than any city outside New York; its skyline include the 1929 Foshay Tower, the first skyscraper built west of the Mississippi; and its miles of trails trace the second-longest river in America—the Mississippi. But you can still find the city’s Scandinavian roots in areas like the North Loop. Saint Paul, the state capital, charms visitors with the 1905 capitol topped by four golden horses and with Victorian-era architecture in neighborhoods where Irish, French and German Catholic roots run deep. Here’s our guide to exploring both cities on a weekend getaway.

    36 Hours in the Twin Cities 

  • Taste of Oregon

    Dayton, Ohio

    A long weekend in Dayton, Ohio, means a chance to delve into aviation history, see riverfront waterworks, appreciate art, eat at both retro-cool and new chef-driven restaurants, and shop in a trendy historic neighborhood. Check out our getaway guide.

    36 Hours in Dayton

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

    Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

    The rugged North Dakota badlands complement the laid-back charm of tiny Medora for a getaway that promises awe-inspiring views, comfortable accommodations, cowboy eats and even a musical revue. Medora sits at the entrance to the park's South Entrance, providing the perfect jumping-off point for an exploration of the area. 

    36 Hours in Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park

  • Itasca State Park

    Park Rapids, Minnesota

    Come to cross the gentle headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi, and you’ll fall in love with the virgin pine forests, tranquil blue lakes and bike trails that make Itasca State Park and the Park Rapids area one of Minnesota’s favorite “Up North” destinations. Stay in historic log cabins and spend the evening star-gazing or listening to loon calls after a day of hiking, biking and exploring the area's small towns. 

    36 Hours in Park Rapids, Minnesota

  • University of Michigan Law Quadrangle
    Photo courtesy of Visit Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (population 120,000) brims with trendy bars and restaurants, cultural offerings, and picturesque nature trails and waterways—all just 45 miles from Detroit. You'll snack on Spanish tapas, visit a farmers market, hear live folk music, canoe on Lake Huron and visit the University's famed Law Quadrangle (pictured) on our weekend getaway.

    36 Hours in Ann Arbor 



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