While snowbirds head south and skiers head to the coasts, we know that the secret to an idyllic winter retreat is right-smack in the middle of the country. And apparently, we're not the only ones in on America's best kept secret: According to sources at Expedia, these five Midwest cities are experiencing a whopping 30 percent increase in searches compared to 2021. So, whether you’d rather explore the wilderness by snowmobile or stay put warming up by the fire, there’s just something special about the Midwestern wonderland. Here are five trending spots for a magical Midwest winter vacation.
5 Midwest Winter Vacations That Are Majorly Trending Right Now
1. Chicago, Illinois
- Why We Love It: art & culture, winter activities, bustling city, walkable neighborhoods
- Where to Stay: On Cloud Nine (from $309/night), Modern Dream (from $383/night)
Bring on the layers and bundle up—there's no time to think about sub-zero temps when you have places to go and deep dish to eat. Bop around the Magnificent Mile shopping till you drop—or at least end up at the Art Institute, where you can try your best to count the dots in Seurat's Sunday in the Park. NBA fans can catch a home game (as well as the best mascot in the game: Benny the Bull) at the United Center featuring a roster of up-and-coming Bulls bringing an energetic basketball spirit back to the city. Most importantly, Chicago's a food paradise—whether it's a jus-dipped Italian beef (a local favorite) or the heady tasting menu at Alinea, bring your appetite. Between meals, keep warm by racking up the steps as you peruse different neighborhoods—like Andersonville, River North, West Loop, Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park—each offering their own window to the multi-cultural, multi-faceted city.
2. Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Why We Love It: Christmas spirit, hockey, winter activities
- Where to Stay: Historic Tudor (from $275/night), Modern Apartment (from $198/night)
Leave it to the state with the most Swedish and Norwegian ancestry in the country to do winter well. Instead of holing up inside through March, Minnesotans take full advantage of their winter wonderland. And while the much of the Land of 10,000 Lakes offers ample cold-weather opportunities—ice fishing, frozen lake-walking, sledding—the Christmas spirit is a-buzzin' city-side. Explore Christmas lights galore at Loring Park's Holidazzle; make reservations for Mary's Christmas Palace at Pyscho Suzy's, an "over-the-top" Christmas experience replete with inspired cocktails; if you're traveling with kids, make sure to binge The Mighty Ducks before you land in the State of Hockey. You can even visit famous spots from the movie and rent a pair of skates yourself. Gordon Bombay would be so proud.
3. Detroit, Michigan
- Why We Love It: street art, winter activities, live music
- Where to Stay: Downtown Loft (from $106/night), Modern Apartment (from $106/night)
Detroit's been experiencing somewhat of an urban renaissance in recent years, and it's time to see what's going on in Motor City yourself. Kick things off as you should in any winter season by going ice skating at the Rink at Campus Martius where you'll not only get in some quad exercise, but also some unrivaled views of the skyline and Detroit's Christmas Tree. Stay outside a little longer (pack your mittens) to check out the Heidelberg Project, an outdoor, ever-changing urban art experiment. Download the app for free to plan your walking tour. Once you can't feel your fingers, make haste to the iconic Baker's Keyboard Lounge for an intimate evening of jazz, soul food and a cocktail that will warm you to the bone.
4. Indianapolis, Indiana
- Why We Love It: indoor activities, affordable accommodations, sports events
- Where to Stay: Chic Cottage (from $100/night), Stunning Private Home (from $200/night)
If you're looking for a family-friendly winter destination east of the Mississippi, this central-Indiana metropolis is far and away your best bet. If you haven't been to the Hoosier City outside spring's Indy 500, there's plenty to do come winter. Root for the home team at a Pacers or Colts game. Go sledding in Fort Harrison State Park. Walk part of the Monon Trail. But we especially love the city's one-two punch of an art scene. Tour Newfields campus, which includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the 20th-century historic estate, the Lily House, and more. If your crew has younger critical palates, nothing beats a day exploring the Children's Museum, one of the world's largest kids' museums.
5. St. Louis, Missouri
- Why We Love It: history, art & culture, walkable neighborhoods, affordable accommodations
- Where to Stay: Edgy Soulard Loft (from $158/night), The Hill (from $100/night)
If you haven't visited the iconic Gateway Arch before, we highly suggest starting your trip off here for a little bit of site-seeing, history and thrill-seeking rolled into one—you can take a tram to the top but be warned: it may induce claustrophobia. Next, head to Forest Park, 1371 acres of public land and attractions that served as the location for the 1904 World's Fair. Take a free walking tour of the area, or come up with your own path. Either way, make time to stop in one (or more!) of the campus museums, including the incomparable St. Louis Zoo, which is open year-round. To experience St. Louis like a local, check out Soulard, a French-influenced neighborhood where you’ll find bistros and photogenic streets. In Central West End, peruse the quaint sidewalk cafés, and on Cherokee Street, make a rezzie at one of the hottest restaurants in town.