The American Midwest is an absolutely beautiful region of the country. It’s filled with gorgeous natural scenery, friendly people, and picturesque small towns. Check out some of these lesser-known Midwest towns that would be easy to miss on a trip through the Midwest, but should absolutely be on your itinerary.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Elkader, Iowa
This town was established in 1846 and named after Abd el-Kader, an Algerian resistance fighter who challenged French colonialism in the early 1800s. The town is home to just over a thousand permanent residents, and boasts some pretty stunning scenery.
2. Yellow Springs, Ohio
This little-known town is home to John Bryan State Park and a curiously colored spring. The local Glen Helen Nature Preserve allows visitors to stroll through 1,000 acres of old-growth forest and check out small waterfalls flowing over limestone cliffs. Yellow Spring itself is more orange than yellow, but it's still quite lovely. The town's downtown area is terribly quaint and filled with interesting shops.
3. Minden, Nebraska
This town is known as "Nebraska's Christmas City," and with good reason. Minden pulls out all the stops during the holiday season, and the town is festooned with thousands of twinkling colored lights. Visitors can also visit the Harold Warp Pioneer Village and learn about the history of the area.
4. Put-In-Bay, Ohio
This place is pretty tiny – there are only 140 permanent residents – but Put-In-Bay packs a lot of charming punch. Located on South Bass Island, this quaint community is a great place for water sports and boating. The town's harbor is particularly picturesque. If land adventures are more your style, there's plenty of hiking, camping, and downtown exploration to be had. Check out cool attractions such as the Antique Car Museum, Chocolate Museum, and the beautiful Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial.
5. Fulton, Illinois
This small town takes its heritage seriously. Fulton's beautiful windmill is actually made of parts imported from the Netherlands, and the Fulton Dutch Days Festival is one of the town's most beloved local traditions. Attendees can learn traditional dances and munch on authentically delicious Dutch cuisine. The town itself is as pretty as a postcard, with a lovely waterfront and many scenic walking trails.
6. Crown Point, Indiana
This town is positively lousy with incredible architecture. Visitors will have a hard time knowing where to look when exploring this town's gorgeous Main Street. Besides the beautiful buildings, Crown Point is filled with friendly people and a real spirit of community.
7. Fort Scott, Kansas
Military buffs will love this town. The army once maintained its district headquarters here in Fort Scott, and many historic sights from the Civil War era are still in great condition. The downtown area is home to many old, brick storefronts and charming eateries. Check out the 50-minute trolley tour of Fort Scott for the full visitor experience.
8. Charlevoix, Michigan
You know a place has to be lovely when its nickname is "Charlevoix the Beautiful." Surrounded by scenic waterfront and filled with art galleries, shops, and charming parks, this place is as pretty as small towns come. With access to both Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan, you can try your hand at paddling or sail around town on a chartered cruise.
9. Lindsborg, Kansas
This little Swedish enclave is known for its delicious and authentic Scandinavian cuisine and friendly people. Definitely drop by for the biennial Svensk Hyllningfest, a celebration of all things Sweden. There are plenty of traditional crafting demonstrations, lots of dancing, a true Swedish smorgasbord, and an excellent parade.
10. Colon, Michigan
As you can see from the sign, this town styles itself as the magic capital of the world. There's a magician walk of fame, street planters in the form of rabbits poking out of hats, and almost every local business incorporates elements of the magical theme. The famed magician Harry Blackstone hailed from Colon, and the town is still a sort of mecca for aspiring magic makers.
11. Two Harbors, Minnesota
This charming town is home to just about 3,600 people. A quaint coastal settlement, Two Harbors is near both Gooseberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The town can also boast of having the oldest functioning lighthouse in the state, a portion of which has been converted to a bed and breakfast. Locals love the "world famous" pies at Betty's Pies, which are definitely among the tastiest around.
12. Hermann, Missouri
Hermann is the county seat of Gasconade County. Located close to the center of Missouri Rhineland just south of the Missouri River, this little town is packed with things to do. Wine connoisseurs will love the town's wine trail, which winds between seven family-operated wineries. Other activity options include zip-lining, attending one of the myriad local festivals, visiting a craft gallery, or going on a walking tour of this quaint little town of 2,389.
13. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
This is Missouri's oldest town, and actually has the greatest concentration of French Colonial architecture of anywhere on the continent. Established in 1735, Ste. Genevieve is full of historical sites and charming nooks and crannies. The town is perfect for biking around and local businesses offer all sorts of homemade and craft goods. There are several notable wineries and microbreweries in Ste. Genevieve that are well worth the trip to town.
14. Ephraim, Wisconsin
Located in scenic Door County, this sleepy coastal town is definitely a hidden gem. Wilson's Restaurant serves some of the best ice cream and summer comfort foods in the state, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any street in Ephraim that doesn't have at least one structure on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of the town or head out into the harbor for a sunset cruise.
15. De Smet, South Dakota
If you were ever a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" series, then you'll love De Smet. This little town is home to the Ingalls homestead and retains much of that old-fashioned charm that has evaporated in more developed area of the state. De Smet has a population of just over 1,000 people, and hosts a series of summer pageants in honor of Wilder.
16. Jud, North Dakota
This little town is known as the Village of Murals, and its obvious why. Almost every building in town seems to have a beautiful and colorful mural on one of its exterior walls. Check out the Doghouse Bar and Grill for some delicious local eats, and be sure to stop by Dagen's Grocery, built in 1905. It's a grocery store, hotel, and post office all in one.