The mere mention of the American Midwest recalls images of rolling farmland, rugged landscapes, and a pioneer past. However, the modern reality of Middle America is as dynamic as it is charming. On a single weekend, travelers can indulge their sense of curiosity and adventure while enjoying typical small-town hospitality with a visit to these Midwest states. Whether visitors seek culture, nature, outdoor activities, or history, they can find it in America’s heartland. The region is full of things to do year-round. Autumn, however, is a special time, as the grasslands turn golden, and the forests burst with red and auburn hues. Many of the traditional dishes here are hearty and served hot, perfect for enjoying in crisp fall weather.

Take a weekend away and enjoy the dynamic intersection of the modern and traditional that characterizes the Midwest. A plethora of adventures and unique treats await travelers to the geographic heart of the United States.

12 Chicago By Boat And Scenic Grandview Drive In Illinois

The Midwest was shaped by river travel and trade, so travelers get a unique experience by seeing Chicago, the region’s leading city, by boat. Take a Chicago River or Lake Michigan cruise at sunset to learn about the city’s history and architecture and to enjoy the skyline in all its glory. Visitors should also indulge in the local specialties, including deep-dish pizza and hot dogs overloaded with creative toppings. After a day in the city, escape into nature on blissful Grand View Drive in Peoria, Illinois. Constructed in 1903, this scenic drive and hike offers panoramic views of the Chicago River Valley and is resplendent with fall colors in the autumn.

Related: 11 Interesting Things To Do In Illinois (That Aren't In Chicago)

11 White River State Park And Indianapolis Catacombs In Indiana

Adventurous travelers looking to get off the beaten path for a weekend should plan a visit to the Indianapolis Catacombs. Also known as the Market Street Catacombs, this network of underground tunnels was initially built for the storage and transport of goods below the expansive City Market and former Tomlinson Hall. Above ground and away from the city, Knobstone Trail is the longest walking trail in the state, but one of the least crowded, despite featuring amazing views of two state parks. The strenuous hike features steep relief and is best for experienced trekkers.

10 Iowa State Fair And The National Mississippi River Museum And Aquarium

It’s hard to overstate the Mississippi River’s role in making the Midwest region what it is today. Visitors can learn about this unique body of water and its vast ecosystem at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Savvy travelers can pair this visit with a trip to the Iowa State Fair to get a taste of rural American life at its best. The Fair is an annual open-air event held at the end of summer, featuring livestock competitions, games, amusement rides, and food stalls. Visitors would be remiss to skip the local favorites like fried pork sandwiches and decadent sugar cream pie.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About A Scenic Road Trip From Omaha To Iowa City

9 The Badlands And The Prairie In Kansas

Kansas represents the quintessential Midwest landscape. To appreciate the vast stillness of America’s grassland region, a visit to Konza Prairie Biological Station is a must. This biological study area is partially open to visitors and includes a moderately difficult hike with a view of the Flint Hills and serene tall grass prairie below. Visitors seeking the opposite of a secluded and meditative prairie hike can dive into Kansas City’s raucous and energetic professional and semi-pro sports scene. Because Kansas has many sports teams, travelers can enjoy a wide range of sports entertainment. Major league baseball and soccer, NFL American football, and USA rugby division I sports are just a few options for sports lovers to get into the action. Visitors should sample local Kansas-style barbecue at a football tailgate party for a quintessential mid-American autumn tradition.

8 American Musical History And Mackinac Island In Michigan

Few places in America pulse with the nation’s vibrant musical history, like Detroit, Michigan. Travelers to the state should pay a visit to the Motown Historical Museum to take in the sounds and memories of the golden age of American popular music. After the museum, visitors should keep their dancing feet busy with a stroll in beautiful Mackinac Island State Park. The island is rich in history and natural beauty and was the second area to be designated an American National Park, after Yellowstone. The eponymous named local fudge is a sweet treat that should not be missed.

7 Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse And Frederick R. Weisman Museum

Maritime aficionados may be pleasantly surprised to find a lighthouse away from the East and West coasts. Split Rock Lighthouse stands on the craggy coast of Lake Superior and has a colorful history. The view of Lake Superior from here is simply unbeatable. The Frederick R. Weisman Museum offers a very different but equally stunning view. The Museum was designed by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry and featured multiple curved silver faces and forms. The collection within is well worth an afternoon perusal. Travelers should also take a moment to taste the culture of Minnesota. The simply named hot dish, a stuffed and decadent version of the pot pie, is a local favorite worth savoring.

6 Meramec Caverns And Forest Park In Missouri

St. Louis is home to one of the largest urban parks in the US. At 1,300 acres, Forest Park is larger than New York’s Central Park and includes golf courses, museums, a theater, and multiple other amenities. Below ground, the adventure continues with a guided tour of Meramec Caverns, a limestone cave network with a height of 7 stories in some areas and many rare formations. Travelers with a hearty appetite should try the smokey-sweet St. Louis-style barbecue.

Related: Let's Talk Missouri: Why The Ozarks Aren't The Only Thing Worth Visiting In This State

5 First Nations History And Fontenelle Forest In Nebraska

The American heartland is an ideal place to explore the history and culture of the First Nations. Travelers to Nebraska are welcome to visit Winnebago, Santee, and Omaha reservations to experience the celebration of the powwow, purchase local handicrafts, visit a variety of museums, and take part in special experiences. For a magical experience in nature, visitors should spend time roaming Fontenelle Forest. Wooded paths and an adventure park for both laid-back and daring visitors.

4 Maah Daah Hey Trail System And Lake Sakakawea In North Dakota

The third-largest manmade lake in the US at 368,000 acres, Lake Sakakawea is a beautiful outdoor destination for active travelers. Camping, sailing, windsurfing, and hiking are available here, at the terminus of the 4,600 miles-long North Country National Scenic Trail that stretches to Vermont. Maah Daah Hey trail network, although much shorter, has a unique appeal. Offering 16 diverse trails for cyclist and equestrian visitors, the trail network runs through rolling prairie and steep, scraggly badlands.

Related: North Dakota Vs South Dakota: Which State Is Worth Visiting?

3 Ohio Freedom Center And Ashe Cave

In Ohio, spend the weekend learning about history at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The Center is dedicated to the Underground Railroad network that led many to freedom during the dark days of American slavery and forged discussions about the future of freedom and equality. Ashe Cave in Hocking Hills State Park includes a circular trail and a straight trail that is handicap accessible. Both trails lead to the mouth of the cave and a 100-foot waterfall. Ohio's visitors can enjoy Cincinnati chili, which is served over spaghetti noodles and topped with cheese.

2 Mount Rushmore, Wildlife, And Native American Foods In South Dakota

South Dakota is famous for Mount Rushmore, and the iconic landmark is well worth a visit for its natural majesty, as well as the gigantic heads of former US presidents, blasted into a sheer rock face. There are, however, many other unique experiences worth seeing here. Travelers can safely move amongst South Dakota’s diverse wildlife on scenic drives. Bear Country is a drive-through wildlife area where active, endearing, but certainly, wild bears frolic around visitors’ vehicles. Indulge in local Native American specialties like wasna, dried meat made of bison, elk, or deer, chokecherries, and animal fat.

1 Caverns And Cranberries In Wisconsin

Witches Gulch has been described as eerie and unsettling. The black limestone walls of the long narrow canyon are painted with green moss, and only a sliver of sky is visible above, creating a truly mysterious ambiance. The brief hike through the gulch is usually accessed as part of a Wisconsin Dells boat trip. A weekend in Wisconsin is made sweeter by a visit to a cranberry bog, as this state is the leading US producer of this tart-sweet fruit. Travelers who arrive in early autumn can get involved with a cranberry harvest and learn firsthand how these berries are cultivated. Travelers should also take the opportunity to try the cuisines brought to the area by the diverse waves of immigrants to the area, including rösti from Sweden and booyah stew, believed to be Belgian in origin.