The Midwestern United States have long been called “America’s heartland” thanks to their crucial role in the country’s manufacturing and agriculture industries. There’s a lot more to the Midwest than farms and factories, though. After all, the heart isn’t just a machine that keeps you going; it’s also where a person keeps the thing they cherish most.
Here in the Midwest, among the things we cherish most are our museums. As living repositories of art, history, culture, and fun, the following museums are the very best we have to offer:
Since the invention of the automobile in 1886, fast and powerful cars have come not only to dominate American life, but its imagination as well. Sometimes referred to as “Disneyland for car people,” the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska, is home to more than 120 vintage vehicles and around 400 engines, as well as exhibits on soapbox derbies, NASCAR, toy cars, and even auto-themed movies and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s sure to have the gearheads in your family scoping out Lincoln apartments nearby so they can come back over and over again.
For those whose interests lean more towards the natural than the man-made, Chicago, Illinois’ Field Museum is a can’t-miss destination. Boasting a collection of more than 24 million specimens, it’s one of the largest natural history museums not just in the Midwestern US, but in the world! Highlights include an explorable three-story replica of an ancient Egyptian tomb and Sue, one of the biggest and best-preserved fossilized T-rex skeletons ever uncovered. A visit to the Field Museum is the closest thing you’ll get to a trip back in time.
Yee-haw! Put on a ten-gallon hat and strap on your six-shooter, because the Wild West is alive and well at Medora, North Dakota’s Cowboy Hall of Fame. Part of the Center for Western Heritage & Cultures, the Cowboy Hall of Fame pays tribute to the region’s cherished rodeo, ranching, and Native American history with a diverse array of both permanent and traveling exhibitions. Best of all, the Cowboy Hall of Fame hosts fun and informative annual events like the Old-Fashioned Cowboy Christmas and the Day of the Horse Plains People.
Next, we go from the untamed prairie to a bustling metropolis: the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, is as unusual, unique, and unforgettable an attraction as you’re likely to find. Here, architectural and industrial objects are repurposed into interactive works of art, including a ten-story spiral slide, a three-story pipe organ, a beautiful and elaborate hand-sculpted tunnel system, a working 1940s Ferris Wheel (on the roof!), and the MonstroCity, AKA the World’s Largest Jungle Gym, which comprises two huge aircraft fuselages suspended the air, a fire engine, a castle turret, several giant-sized Slinkies, and more.
Every year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sparks excitement and debate among music fans everywhere by announcing its newest inductees. From Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and The Beatles to Nirvana, Jay-Z, and Madonna, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates the long and eclectic history of popular music. Though it’s far from easy getting a seat at the induction ceremony, during the rest of the year the Hall is open to anyone and everyone, hosting an ever-changing assortment of exhibits featuring rare memorabilia, instruments, and recordings.