Forget the Coasts: These Are the Best Vacation Spots in the Middle of the Country
Who says you need to hang by the water to have a good time? These landlocked states might not have much in terms of beaches, but they’re definitely not shy on jaw-dropping vistas, delicious food and fascinating art. Here, the nine best vacation spots in the central U.S.
You may associate the Mile High City with ski resorts and winter activities, but it’s actually a great place to go no matter the season. There are plenty of trails to hike, paths to bike and walls to climb, but to be honest, we’re more excited by the food scene than anything else. The city’s numerous breweries are definitely worth a day-long bar crawl, but be sure not to fill up too much before heading to speakeasy Williams & Graham. (Tip: Enter the street-level bookshop and pull on the book Savoy to get to the bar.) Eat like beatnik writers Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and grab a burger at My Brother’s Bar, where both men used to frequent. And of course, don't miss out on the Pop-Tart ice-cream sandwiches at Ice Cream Riot. We mean it.
Spending the day hiking, white-water rafting and riding around in ATVs sounds lovely—as long as we get to end the day with a long, hot shower and a proper bed to sleep in. Whether or not you’re a fan of the term, glamping is giving nature-shy folks the chance to enjoy the great outdoors without giving up those household comforts we hold so dear. Under Canvas’s new Moab location is the perfect place to set up home base as you explore the desert and neighboring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Just be sure to pack an extra battery for your digital camera—the starry skies and awe-inspiring red rock formations are just begging to be photographed.
Minnesota may not spring to mind as the perfect spot for a romantic literature-themed getaway, but it should. The Rivertown Inn, located just 30 miles outside Minneapolis in beautiful, historic Stillwater, boasts nine suites and rooms each named after a 19th-century literary figure, like Jane Austen and Lewis Carroll. After indulging in a decadent multi-course breakfast (freshly baked croissants, anyone?), climb aboard an old-fashioned trolley for an architectural tour, hike or bike easy trails in the area or just relax with a cup of coffee and check out the local artwork at Mara-Mi Studio and Cafe.
Fun fact: This bustling city is home to the world’s largest indoor desert and the largest indoor rainforest in North America. Who knew? The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium houses over 960 different species and has consistently been ranked one of the best zoos in the world. If spending your afternoon observing baby sea lions and giraffes isn’t really your thing, Omaha is also home to the stunning Lauritzen Gardens and Joslyn Art Museum and has a surprisingly robust indie music scene.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Yes, you could spend your time in Sin City partying by the pool and testing your luck at the slot machines, but why not try something a little more cultured? Las Vegas is actually home to some of the most unique art exhibitions in the country. The Neon Boneyard offers a vast collection of neon signs from some of the city's most historic spots spread across two acres, while the Cosmopolitan hotel hosts an ever-changing lineup of contemporary art including an extensive graffiti installation. The newest addition to the Vegas art scene is Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains. The brightly colored stone towers stand in stark contrast with the barren desert backdrop, meaning even the most amateur photographer will come away with truly incredible Instagram pics.
Ah yes, Ohio, the wine capital of the world. OK, not really, but Canton’s Gervasi Vineyard did take home seven medals at the 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, including the award for best Cabernet Sauvignon. Besides wine tastings, guests can participate in personalized yoga sessions, hit a few balls on the Glenmoor Country Club golf course or take seasonal cooking classes. If you get sick of the gorgeous rolling hills and rows of twisting vines (hilarious), Cleveland is only an hour’s drive to the north, where you’ll find more city-centric activities to partake in.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
This secluded island in the middle of Lake Superior is the perfect getaway for anyone trying to escape the real world for a few days. Once you make your way across the water, you’ll find 165 miles of trails to explore with gorgeous views all along the way. If water activities are more your thing, canoes and kayaks are available to rent, while those with their own scuba equipment will find the most intact collection of shipwrecks in the National Park Service. If you plan to stay overnight, you’ll need to register for a permit and book a stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge and Windigo Camper Cabins if you don’t want to spend the night in a tent.
Flint Hills and Topeka, Kansas
Life in Kansas isn’t all farming the fields and dodging Oz-transporting tornadoes. (To prove it, residents will gladly point you in the direction of the brand-new Evel Knievel Thrill Show and Museum and local hipster hot spot Blind Tiger Brewery and Restaurant.) But if what you seek is a taste of life on the prairie, you definitely won’t leave disappointed. See what life was like for explorers on the Oregon Trail with a stop at the Ward-Meade Historic Site for an old town tour before heading out to the Flint Hills Discovery Center. There you’ll see the largest intact swath of tallgrass prairie land left in North America with nearly 10,000 square miles of beautiful rolling hills. The unparalleled sunrises and sunsets will make you wonder why Dorothy ever wanted to leave in the first place.
We just can't picture Montana without images of cattle drives and cowboys popping into our heads. And that's exactly what guests will find at Bar W Guest Ranch. Fans of The Bachelor might recognize this home on the range from watching Sean Lowe’s season, during which he and two of the eligible bachelorettes enjoyed a two-on-one date at the estate. At this dreamy dude ranch (complete with cattle grazing in the fields), guests can ride horses over 3,000 acres of land and even try their hand at lassoing a young buck. Come nightfall, you'll be shocked by just how many dazzling stars you can see once you escape the metropolitan lights. The ranch also offers ladies-only weeks throughout the year for girls' trips, mother-daughter bonding and bachelorette parties, so round up your squad.