To commemorate the 35th anniversary of Midwest Living, take an aerial tour of our region’s diverse landscapes. That tired insult of flyover country? Take a look down at what you're missing.

By Hannah Agran
June 04, 2021
Advertisement

We have an anniversary to celebrate: Midwest Living turns 35 this year. Being a child of the '80s may sound young to those of us on the north side of the millennial generation, but think about it. That's some 30,000 pages showcasing the natural beauty, vibrant cities, diverse flavors, inviting homes and lush gardens of a region that's too often overlooked. You don't need us to tell you there's more to the Midwest than meets the coastal eye.

We are the middle of everywhere. The people and places we share each issue aren't just influencing this region's culture, but the entire country's. So to mark this milestone, we've put together a collection of features that explores our regional identity, in all its charm, variety, style, sway, quirkiness and wonder. The journey starts with an aerial (or should we say flyover?) tour. Welcome to your Midwest.

BEAUTIFUL BLUE Marquette, Michigan

Lake Superior in Marquette,MI
Marquette, Michigan
| Credit: NICK HEARN/@NCKSTAGRAM

Comparing the turquoise waters of the Great Lakes to the Caribbean always sounds a bit twee—until you see them. Outside the college town of Marquette on the remote Upper Peninsula, roads hug the shore, offering tantalizing peeks through the trees to sparkling Lake Superior.

GROUND GAME Green Bay, Wisconsin

modern agriculture in Wisconsin
Green Bay, Wisconsin
| Credit: MIKE ROEMER

The scope and science of modern agriculture reveal themselves from the sky. Tidy stripes of wheat, corn and soybeans. Vast mosaics of fields. Precise emerald circles drawn by center pivot irrigation.What you don't see from 35,000 feet are the people—the families whose hard work nourishes livestock, fuels cars and feeds the world.

CAPITOL GAIN Des Moines

Des Moines Iowa
Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines
| Credit: ACTIONSPORTS/BIGSTOCK

Lady Liberty has her shining torch—and Iowa has its statehouse, capped with a 275-foot-tall dome sheathed in 23-karat gold leaf. (Never mind that Midwesterners aren't the ostentatious types.) Site of legislative debates, Fourth of July fireworks and peaceful demonstrations, it is a monument to democracy and the city's gleaming eastern gate.

WESTERN SPIRIT Custer, South Dakota

Needles Highway Black Hills South Dakota
Needles Highway, Custer, South Dakota
| Credit: BRANDON RUBNER/@BRANDON10K

The Lakota first called the mountains that rumple South Dakota paha sapa, or black hills, because of the way pines darken their forms from a distance. See the terrain up close (and wildlife like bighorn sheep, too) along Needles Highway. The road loops around pinnacles thrust from the earth 70 million years ago, then hewn by wind, water and time.

BIG SHOULDERS Chicago

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago
| Credit: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Some cities sprawl in four directions, but the azure expanse of Lake Michigan limits Chicago to three. Skyscrapers and condos press as close as they can to the shore, like kids inching up to waves to wet their toes. A ribbon of beach holds the mall back, except Navy Pier—the wild child who plunges right in.