From small-town parades to giant urban sculptures; changing seasons to friendly faces, there's a wide array of reasons why we're proud to call the Midwest home. Check out the following potpourri of 101 shining examples. We know. There are lots more. But we had to stop somewhere.
1. The absolute, unspoiled solitude of the Nebraska Sandhills.
2. The stranger who helps dig you out of a snowdrift.
4. Norton wine. Cheers to the overall growth of Midwest vineyards, and to this product of a Missouri grape, in particular, for the worldwide praise it's won.
5. Low cost of living.
6. Motown. The funky, soulful music style was born in and named for our very own Motor City (a.k.a. Detroit).
7. The Indy 500 -- the world's greatest rev fest.
8. The ethereal swoops and swirls of the Northern Lights.
9. Iowa pork chops.
10. Art festivals. The Art Fair SourceBook annual ranking consistently puts half of the nation's top 10 right here.
11. Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, South Dakota.
12. Valleys erupted in full fall color set against a clear, blue autumn sky.
13. Big yards for kids to play in.
14. Real people. Real friends.
15. Storytellers, such as Mark Twain, James Thurber, Jean Shepherd, Garrison Keillor and more, skillfully weaving logic and humor into their Midwest-rooted tales.
16. Kansas' Flint Hills -- North America's largest remaining tract of original tallgrass prairie.
17. Potlucks loaded with delicious hotdishes.
18. Not quite the center of the universe, but still impressive: Rugby, North Dakota, is the geographic center of North America.
19. Corn on the cob drenched in golden butter.
20. A notable (and comfortable) lack of pretension.
21. Green Bay Packers fans.
22. Buggies clip-clopping along blacktop highways in Ohio, home of the largest Amish population in the world.
23. The electric green of spring.
24. Garden-fresh tomatoes, so red and ripe, they’re near bursting.
25. Still, silent, frozen lakes.
26. The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota -- the U.S.'s biggest indoor shopping area.
27. Wisconsin Dells and its successful integration of new water parks and golf courses with old standbys like the Ducks and the Wonder Spot.
28. Our green thumbs. We fully appreciate the plants that thrive in our midrange growing zone. Research shows that Midwesterners garden more than people living in other regions.
29. Real, distinct seasons.
30. The Big Ten and the Big 12. Great universities; great teams.
31. Biking the Midwest's scenic trails, such as Missouri's Katy Trail State Park, a stretch of small towns and river views that's the longest rails-to-trails project in the country.
32. Broadway shows sans Broadway prices. Tickets to major productions are often 50 percent cheaper here.
33. Hoosier basketball.
34. A solitary oak tree towering over shimmering prairie grasses.
35. Iowa native Grant Wood and his famous, oft-parodied, painting American Gothic.
36. The International Peace Garden, on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada.
37. Rhubarb's sweet/tart combination in any form, from pie to crisp to muffin.
38. Extensive homeownership, thanks to some of the lowest average home prices in the country.
39. Small-town July Fourth parades.
40. Nights lit by a full moon reflecting off a blanket of untouched snow.n
41. Omaha Black Angus steaks.
42. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
43. Island magic, from the rugged bluffs of car-less Mackinac, to the sweeping dunes of the Manitous, to the wooded beauty of Madeline.
44. Long, flat, straight roads under a wide-open blue sky.
45. Kansas City barbecue.
46. The Great Lakes.
47. State and county fairs: blue-ribbon winners, midway rides and superbly bad-for-you food on a stick.
48. Laura Ingalls Wilder.
49. Wacky winter festivities, like frozen turkey bowling and polar bear dips.
50. Topographic diversity, from rolling hills to open plains, the Ozark Mountains to the north woods.
51. Outdoor concerts. Lawn chairs, picnic baskets, and a symphony echoing through balmy summer nights.
52. Tasty regional specialty foods, including Nebraska's Runzas and Michigan's pasties.
53. Sitting, safe, before a crackling fire, as winter winds whip outside.
54. Lake-caught delicacies, such as Michigan whitefish and Minnesota walleye, plus events they inspire, like fish boils in Door County, Wisconsin.
55. Short commutes.
56. Drugstore soda fountains. Small- town, Norman Rockwell-esque destinations where coffee is sometimes still just a nickel.
57. White-steepled churches poking above oceans of fields.
58. Two awesome beer hubs: St. Louis, which gave the world Budweiser et. al., and the entire state of Wisconsin, where legacies include brews from Miller to Leinenkugel to Sprecher.
59. Spam. Minnesota's own bit of kitsch in a can, (in)famous worldwide.
60. Canoeing the Current River in Missouri, with its clear-running waters and spectacular bluffs.
61. Celebrations of Native American heritage, from present-day powwows to awesome tributes, such as the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.
62. Fresh Air
63. Our storied work ethic.
64. Bald eagles. The Midwest is arguably the best place in all the lower 48 to see our national bird.
65. Plenty of Claes Oldenburg's way-larger-than-life sculptures, including Shuttlecocks (Kansas City), Free Stamp (Cleveland), Spoonbridge and Cherry (Minneapolis), Plantoir and Crusoe Umbrella (Des Moines).
66. Fresh water -- one of the largest concentrations in the world.
67. Farm markets. They always offer the freshest bounty, whether right in the city (like on the state capitol grounds in Madison, Wisconsin) or along a remote two-lane road.
68. White Christmases.
69. Rich, starry nights and places where you can appreciate them.
70. Great golf. Despite our condensed season, we cater to our links-loving population with the most courses per capita.
71. Cheers rising from Little League games in neighborhood parks.
72. Dried cherries from Michigan's orchard country.
73. Lilacs. Their soft color and sweet spring scent unexpectedly wafting through the window.
74. The Mississippi River, which begins as a trickle tucked into Minnesota's Itasca State Park, then spends the bulk of its mileage carving through the Heartland's wooded valleys, big cities and historic small towns.
75. Sun-warmed skin that smells of sunscreen, mosquito spray and barbecue smoke.
76. The Cubs. Just because.
77. Branson, Missouri, "Live Music Show Capital of the World."
78. Open, quiet space.
79. RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). This weeklong event is among the longest, largest and oldest bicycle tours in the world.
80. The Wild West feel of North Dakota and South Dakota, with their buffalo, Badlands, cattle ranches and frontier towns.
81. The sweet, spicy aroma of freshly mown grass.
82. Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. With more than a million acres of pristine woods and lakes, most motor-free, it's one of the best places to experience nature's raw beauty.
83. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
84. The Buckeye Trail. Ohio's nearly 1,300-mile hiking trail offers views ranging from a Lake Erie beach to suburban Cincinnati.
85. Front porch chats with neighbors.
86. History taught via re-enactment at places such as Indiana's Conner Prairie, where learning about the past seems like time travel.
87. Great ethnic neighborhoods and towns, from the Mexican enclave of Pilsen in Chicago to the Czech town of Wilber, Nebraska.
88. Cheese. Of course, Wisconsin overflows with delicious curds, but don't overlook other standouts, such as the Swiss from Ohio's Amish country and the renowned Maytag Blue from Newton, Iowa.
89. Snow days.
90. Tailgating. Nothing like sparking up the grill and breaking out the cooler with other diehard fans in the stadium parking lot.
91. Henry Ford, who brought the automobile to the masses and rooted the car-making industry firmly in Michigan.
92. Fireflies at dusk in the backyard, and hopeful kids with Mason jars chasing the unpredictable glow.
93. Sipping coffee at a sidewalk cafe on the Plaza in Kansas City.
94. Midwest common sense.
95. Door County, Wisconsin, straddling Lake Michigan and Green Bay, for its draws, such as sunset beach walks, cherry picking and antiques stores.
96. Not one or two, but three of the country's biggest balls of twine (in Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri).
97. The Impressionist gallery and the centuries-old coats of armor at the Art Institute of Chicago.
98. Historic lighthouses.
99. The way the sky darkens, the crickets chirp louder and the air turns warm and tense right before a summer afternoon thunderstorm.
100. Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- in summer, whispering pines and lapping Great Lakes; in winter, snowmobiling and ski slopes.
101. The secure feeling of knowing you live in a place where you feel completely at home.