9 Beautiful Autumn Destinations in the Midwest, USA

There is no denying that the popular areas to visit in the United States are NYC, Los Angeles, & Las Vegas. There’s also no denying that they’re fun & exciting… if you’re into the big city life of course. The United States is truly a massive country, so there is so much more to this beautiful place than the big, well-known cities. The midwest states are often left out; I suppose you could say they’re the “hidden gems” of my country.

Being from the midwestern state of Wisconsin, I’d love to introduce you to some beautiful autumn destinations in the midwest. Many of these activities and destinations are great year-round, but they’re especially gorgeous with the added autumn colors. I’ve collaborated with several other midwest-based bloggers that will share some of their favorite destinations, autumn festivals, and activities in their home state!

 

Wisconsin: by Me of course! 😉

Autumn Destinations Midwest USA | Wisconsin | Petrifying Springs park  Autumn Destinations Midwest USA | Wisconsin | Petrifying Springs Biergarten

If you know me and/or have been following me for awhile, you’ll know that hiking is my favorite activity! (Along with eating Wisconsin cheese curds, naturally). There are so many fantastic hiking spots in Wisconsin, and they only get more beautiful with true autumn foliage! Devil’s Lake State Park has both challenging and easy hikes with stunning views, and Governor Dodge Park nearby Madison has a beautiful waterfall (What? A waterfall in Wisconsin??).

By far, my favorite place to hike is a local county park in Kenosha, Wisconsin: Petrifying Springs Park. It’s a local favorite with pretty trails perfect for hiking, biking, or jogging. There is a dog park for your pooch to play, as well as swings and play structures for children (or the adult with a fun spirit). Plus, we have a Biergarten as a lovely new addition! Serving beers, wines, mimosas, Bavarian pretzels, and other snacks! Including… a Biermosa (a.k.a Manmosa). It’s weiss beer with orange juice. Okay, I know it may sound strange, but… as someone that dislikes beer, I absolutely loved it. Slight warning: It’s quite a large glass, (as I had to hold it with both my tiny, 10 year old hands haha), so have only one if you’re not a big drinker. There are sodas available here if you’re not a drinker!

 

Kansas: by Diana at Mojo Traveler

Autumn Destinations Midwest USA | Kansas

For many travelers, the state of Kansas is synonymous with the Wizard of Oz. While there are many places in the Sunflower State that claim a connection to Dorothy and Toto, the Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego is home to more than 2,000 pieces of Wizard of Oz memorabilia.
The first full weekend in October each year, Wamego hosts the Wizard of Oz Festival that includes Dorothy and Toto look-alike contests, apple bobbing, and more. Just down the street from the Wizard of Oz Museum is the Oz Winery with fun labels and images devoted to your favorite Oz characters.
The museum is open all year, but it’s always a lot more fun when the Wicked Witch of the West is flying through the streets of Wamego.
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Western Iowa: by Lindsay at Siouxland Families Blog

Autumn Destinations Midwest USA

Western Iowa is a perfect autumn destination in the midwest because it offers one of America’s most unique geological features—the Loess Hills. The only other place on Earth with as extensive a loess (windblown sand and silt from tens of thousands of years ago) deposit is in central China! The Loess Hills Scenic Byway takes you though these sandy hills where you can see a unique mix of prairie, woodland, river, and farmland ecosystems. With flora and fauna to fit all four habitats, autumn is a perfect time to visit. Wildlife abounds, from ornate box turtles and spadefoot toads to foxes, river otters, wild turkeys, deer, and more, but the prairie plants like asters, black-eyed susans, cone flowers, cardinal flowers, and various tallgrasses, and woodland trees including sumacs, oaks, and maples, steal the show in fall with their elaborate color display.
The Loess Hills Scenic Byway runs just a bit east of the Missouri River, which forms the Iowa/Nebraska state border, and I’d suggest visiting both Sioux City in the northern Loess Hills and Omaha, just a bit West of the southern Loess Hills for great places to eat and stay. Loess Hills State Park in the South and Stone Park and its Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center or Five Ridge Prairie in the north for fall hiking (and Iowa State Parks are free to visit!). Both cities offer lots of great restaurants, bars, and hotels, plus family friendly attractions like the Omaha Zoo (which is arguably the best in the world!) and Children’s Museum, and Sioux City’s Railroad Museum and Launchpad Children’s Museum. You can also stay at lodges at the State Parks if you’re looking for a more rustic experience!
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Michigan: by Jessica at Sweet + Savor

Autumn Destinations Midwest USA | Michigan

When October hits, Michigan’s natural splendor bursts on to display as fiery reds, yellows and oranges fill the landscape. One of the best ways to take advantage of this glorious time of year is visiting wine country in the Traverse City region. Grape harvest is in full swing at the wineries, making it the perfect time to learn about the winemaking process and take in a few tastings. With over 50+ wineries in the area, it’s easy to spend a weekend vineyard hopping and taking in the sights. I highly recommend taking a drive up both Old Mission and Lelanau Peninsulas which offer spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bays and stopping along the way at some of the award winning wineries. 

No visit to Michigan is complete without trying the apples (in any form)! The apple industry is booming, coming in 3rd in the nation for production, and fall is the perfect time to take in all things apple.

One of my favorite apple rituals is cider tasting (both regular and hard) paired with a sugary cinnamon cider donut. With such pristine and plentiful crops, hard cider continues to be one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages in the state. Cideries are popping up in droves across the region, and even breweries and wineries hopping on board and trying their hand at making hard cider. The ciders are crisp, flavorful, and carry a nice balance of tartness and sweetness— the essential flavors of fall.

Next time you are looking at taking a road trip this fall, make sure Michigan is on your list. She won’t disappoint.

Autumn Destination Midwest USA | Michigan

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Indiana: by Lindsay at Let Me Give You Some Advice

Autumn Destinations Midwest USA | Indiana

The crisp air whips past my face as the leaves under my bike tires twirl in small circles. The vivid colors of the changing trees rush past me, and I remind myself once again, that Indianapolis is at its best when autumn rolls around. It’s the perfect time to explore the Circle City.

Start by grabbing a yellow bike from one of the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare locations and wandering the Cultural Trail, an urban biking trail that connects many neighborhoods downtown. Stop off in White River State Park and explore one of several local attractions like the Indianapolis Zoo, NCAA Hall of Champions, or the Indiana State Museum.

Autumn Destination Midwest USA
Culture Trail

For a complete escape from the city, head to Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park, just a few miles north of downtown, for hiking and stunning fall foliage. Or take your family back in time at Conner Prairie, a living history museum with fall offerings like a Headless Horseman Festival during October. And nothing beats a stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Finally, to make sure you stay warm and cozy after your fall adventures, you’ll want to grab a pint of a local brew. Check out Sun King or Black Acre Brewing Company, or try some mead or cider at New Day Craft. If coffee is more your style, you’ll want to visit local roaster, Hubbard and Cravens, at one of their many locations through the city.

No matter what time of year you visit, Indianapolis is a year-round city but she sure does show off in the fall!

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Illinois: by Renada at Follow the Detour

Autumn Destination Midwest USA | Illinois

Chicago, Illinois has year-round entertainment appealing to a wide variety of tastes. However, Chicago in October is special. In October, the city hosts two highly anticipated annual events.

In its 53rd year, the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) is the longest running international competitive film festival in North America. The Festival screens films from over 90 countries over ten jam-packed days. This year, the festival runs October 12 – 26. What started as a new directors’ competition has evolved to bring audiences previews of upcoming American films and special guests including directors from Europe, the Middle East, and South America.

If architecture is your passion, then Open House Chicago sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Foundation is for you. Held October 14 – 15, 2017, this unique event gives the public free access to over 200 architectural gems, from the well-known to the unknown, from Pilsen to the North Shore.

To get your “Fall color” fix, head to Starved Rock and Matthiesen State Parks about 90 miles southwest of Chicago. Starved Rock State Park is an easy drive from Chicago and was recently voted Illinois’ #1 attraction. The park has over 13 miles of hiking trails. The trail leading to Lovers Leap gives an impressive view of the sprawling Illinois River. Two miles southwest, at Matthiesen State Park, take in the millennia-old rock formations on one of many hikes where foliage abounds.

Whichever park you choose, stop at Two Girls and a Cupcake on Route 178 after your day in the outdoors. Cupcakes are made fresh daily and they stay open until they sell out.

Chicago and Illinois in general offer visitors activities for all tastes, whether you want to explore a world class city or slow down a bit and explore a state park, you will find it here.

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Minnesota: by This Big Wild World

Autumn Destination Midwest USA | Minnesota
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

I continue to be amazed by the misconceptions that people have about Minneapolis. Like it’s always cold, it never gets hot, and Minnesotans all have funny accents. Ok, the accents are a real thing, but Minnesota experiences all four beautiful seasons. For me, Fall is a time that Minnesota really shines! Here are a couple of my favorite spots to explore this time of year.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is operated by the University of Minnesota and is in Chaska, a Southwest suburb of Minneapolis. This place is perfect to explore by foot or by car. I personally loved the Wildflower Garden, but there’s truly something for everyone. If your schedule allows, entry is free on the 3rd Monday of each month (and who doesn’t like free?).

If you prefer to stay have more of an urban Fall colors experience, there are loads of options right within the city of Minneapolis. My top picks are Theodore Wirth Park, Minnehaha Falls, or a walk along the tree-lined West River Parkway along the Mississippi River (all are also free!). Theodore Wirth has miles of trails to explore by foot, bicycle or even mountain biking and it’s right in the heart of Minneapolis. Minnehaha Falls is on the South end of Minneapolis, near MSP Airport, accessible by the Light Rail system. While the waterfall is the big attraction, there are miles of trails surrounding the waterfall on both sides of the Mississippi River. West River Parkway winds around the West bank of the Mississippi River right along the city center of Minneapolis (between Plymouth Ave N and 11th Ave S). You can cross the river by foot on the Stone Arch Bridge and grab a hot drink on one of the patios lining the brick road of St. Anthony Main.

If you aren’t much for outdoor adventures, turn yourself to one of the many microbreweries and distilleries for an afternoon of fun with the locals!

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Ohio: by Heather from Ohio Girl Travels

Autumn Destination Midwest USA | Ohio

Although Ohio is an inviting Midwestern state to visit any time of year, during the autumn season, Ohio’s brilliantly colored landscapes beckons visitors to explore. From the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio River, the autumnal shades of fall flourish throughout the entire state. Get up close and personal with Ohio’s nature with an invigorating hike at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Hocking Hills State Park, Wayne National Forest or one of seventy Ohio State Parks. Take a fall foliage train ride on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, cruise Ohio’s Scenic Byways, watch farmers harvest the season’s bounty, visit Amish Country, explore our small charming towns and our vibrant cities, sip on local wines at one of 260+ wineries and attend one of the numerous fall-themed festivals. Ohio’s most popular fall festivals include the Barberton Mum Festival, Bob Evans Farm Festival, Ohio Sauerkraut Festival and the Circleville Pumpkin Show (which attracts more than 400, 000 visitors from across the country and around the world).

Come visit Ohio this fall to view colorful fall foliage, feel the crisp autumn air, and to experience our friendly Midwestern spirit…no matter what you are looking for this fall, you can find it here in Ohio!

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Eastern Iowa: by Michelle at Simplify, Live, Love

Autumn Destinations, Midwest USA | Wild Cat Den Iowa

Wild Cat Den State Park in Eastern Iowa is a lovely place to get away from the pressures of daily life. Featuring beautiful hiking trails, amazing bluffs and outcroppings, a working grist mill, and primitive campsites, it’s one of our favorite spots to head with our family and visiting friends.

Wild Cat Den is located 10 miles west of Muscatine and 15 miles east of Davenport. One of our favorite things to do on hot days at Wild Cat Den is play in the creek overlooking the Pine Creek Grist Mill. It’s also fun to tour the grist mill to see how corn is turned into flour. If you’re lucky enough to be there when the Melpine School is open, be sure to stop in the one-room school house and learn how kids were taught in the olden-days.

Another fun thing to do at Wild Cat Den is hike to Devil’s Punch Bowl. Our kids enjoy scrambling the rocks and looking for fun places to take pictures. We always find interesting wild life to learn about and trees to climb as well. The covers quite a lot of terrain and features some impressive elevation changes as well. It’s not stroller friendly or accessible, but it is a lot of fun if you’re adventurous and looking for a challenge!

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If I’ve surprised you by all the activities and gorgeous scenery the midwest, USA has to offer in autumn, then I am successful in my goal! Which of these midwest states would you be likely to visit based on your travel style?

 

9 Beautiful Autumn Destinations you must visit in the Midwest USA

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