7 Fun Midwest Stops off Interstate 80
Interstate 80 spans east to west for 2,900 miles, from New Jersey to the coast of California. It's the second-longest U.S. interstate after I-90, and in the Midwest, ranks as the longest interstate in Nebraska (455 miles) and Iowa (306 miles). Cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Des Moines and Omaha lie along the route—as well as off-the-beaten-path destinations well worth a stop.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland—Exit 173
You're so close to the city—Cleveland and Akron are less than 30 minutes away—yet you feel so far from the urban din at this national park. Waterfalls provide natural noise in this refuge for plants, wildlife and humans. Follow the Cuyahoga River by trail or train to forests and farmland. And walk or bike restored sections of the historic Ohio and Erie Canal's towpath.
Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery, Shipshewana—Exit 107
Savor a family-style meal at the Blue Gate amid the beauty of Amish country. Resembling a rambling white farmhouse, the restaurant holds hundreds of diners craving pressure-fried chicken and Amish beef and noodles. You must have pie—maybe Old-Fashioned Sugar Cream or Butterscotch.
Studebaker National Museum, South Bend—Exit 77
Get up to speed on motor vehicle history in South Bend, longtime home of erstwhile automaker Studebaker. Before assembling cars, the company produced buggies and wagons. See the world's largest collection of presidential carriages, including Abraham Lincoln's from the night he was shot.
Rich and Creamy, Joliet—Exit 131
Neon-lit Jake and Elwood of The Blues Brothers fame (Jake did time in the old Joliet prison) dance atop this retro-style ice cream shop on historic Route 66. Every float, sundae and shake comes with a dollop of nostalgia.
Hotel Millwright, Amana—Exit 225
This lodging spot in the Amana Colonies—seven villages founded by German settlers in 1855—is woven into a historic woolen mill. Rooms turn artifacts like yarn spools and looms into art. Unwind among the Tapestry Suite's Amana textiles, and take a little time to explore shops and restaurants in the Amana Colonies as well.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland—Exit 426
In this state-of-the-art state park: an aquatic center, ziplines, hiking and biking trails, minigolf, and a driving range. (The whole park is manicured like a country club course.) The cabins look residential, not rustic. In winter, enjoy ice-skating, sledding and indoor rock climbing.
The Archway, Kearney—Exit 275
Yes, the Midwest has another gateway arch—a drive-through version. It's a museum-bridge over I-80 at Exit 275. The log towers, steel girders and winged sculptures tell only half the story. Inside, displays chronicle the Platte River valley's history as a passage for travel westward.