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Panorama Point, Badlands National Park | © Martin Kraft/Wikicommons
Panorama Point, Badlands National Park | © Martin Kraft/Wikicommons

The Midwest's Most Interesting Landmarks

Picture of Alexia Wulff
Alexia Wulff
Updated: 9 February 2017
The Midwest, known as ‘America’s Heartland’, is the US’s eight-state region defined by its manufacturing, industrial, and farming industries. Although the Midwest doesn’t spend too much time in the spotlight, it’s home to breathtaking and diverse landscapes (think the massive Great Lakes region and the vast Northwoods). With a broad terrain comes national monuments, famous landmarks, and astonishing man-made creations unique to the heart of the US; read on to discover the seven most interesting landmarks in the Midwest.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, one of the most iconic national memorials in the US, is a massive, 60-foot-high sculpture carved into the cliffside of the Black Hills Mountains featuring the faces of four former American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Discovered in 1884, Mount Rushmore was constructed as a national monument and finally completed in 1939 after a plan was devised in the 1920s to draw tourists to the region. Today, nearly three million people visit every year, with peak season during the first few months of summer.

Mount Rushmore, 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD, USA+1 605 574 2523

Mount Rushmore | Public Domain/Pixabay

Mount Rushmore | Public Domain/Pixabay

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Chimney Rock, a symbol of the great western migration during the 19th century, served as a recognizable marker along the the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails, but also represented a milestone for travellers. A historic national monument, Chimney Rock is a testament to thousands of years of erosion in the North Platte Valley, composed of layers of volcanic ash and million-year-old brule clay rising 480 feet above the ground (not including its 325-foot spire). Visitors can revel in this majestic geological formation, visit the museum, or learn about the history of the Overland Trails and the significance of Chimney Rock.

Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Chimney Rock Trail, Bayard, NE, USA+1 308 586 2581

Chimney Rock - an erosional pinnacle near the town of Bayard, Nebraska, USA | © James St. John/Flickr

Chimney Rock – an erosional pinnacle near the town of Bayard, Nebraska, USA | © James St. John/Flickr

Gateway Arch, Missouri

The Gateway Arch is St. Louis’s most iconic structure, reigning supreme as the tallest of America’s national monuments at a whopping 630 feet high. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, the Gateway Arch was completed in 1965, standing tall as a memorial that both celebrates the accomplishments of early westward pioneers and St. Louis’s role as the ‘Gateway to the West’. The Arch, a massive stainless steel engineering triumph, rests on the west bank of the Mississippi River, a location selected to help revive the riverfront. Today, the Arch features a grand museum, a tram, and floodlights that illuminate the structure at night.

Gateway Arch, 100 Washington Ave, St. Louis, MO, USA

Gateway Arch | Public Domain/Pixabay

Gateway Arch | Public Domain/Pixabay

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, an awe-inspiring geological wonder once home to the rhino and saber-toothed cat, is the largest expanse of grasslands in the US, covering nearly a quarter-million acres of wilderness. With strikingly colored spires, buttes, and pinnacles, the Badlands draw in visitors from all over the world to experience the protected wildlife, rugged landscapes, and rich fossil beds bursting with 65 million years of geological history. The park is home to many animals, including bison, prairie dogs, and bighorn sheep; nearly 400 different species of plants; and 69 different kinds of butterflies.

Badlands National Park, SD, USA+1 605 433 5361

Rocky Buttes, Badlands National Park | Public Domain/Pixabay

Rocky Buttes, Badlands National Park | Public Domain/Pixabay

Mackinac Bridge, Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge, a five-mile-long suspension bridge stretching between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world. Built to withstand severe wind conditions, the Mackinac Bridge boasts a remarkable design – on a windy day, drivers can feel the movement of the bridge as it sways 200 feet over the Straits of Mackinac. Head here at dusk for memorable sunset views and bridge lights glistening over the water.

Mackinac Bridge, N415 Interstate 75, St Ignace, MI, USA+1 906 643 7600

Mackinac Bridge | Public Domain/Pixabay

Mackinac Bridge | Public Domain/Pixabay

Como Park Conservatory, Minnesota

Como Park Conservatory, also known as the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, is a half-acre of gardens and art galleries located on the grounds of the Como Park Zoo. This stunning botanical garden features a Bonsai Gallery, a butterfly garden, a Japanese Garden, a Palm Dome filled with over 150 species of palm trees, a tropical garden featuring plants and animals from Central and South America, along with an array of grasses, flowers, trees, and a native-grass terrace. Head to the Sunken Garden for breathtaking views of the glass greenhouse brimming with colorful flowers and lush foliage.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, 1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN, USA+1 651 487 8201

Como Park - Marjorie McNeely Conservatory | © m01229/Flickr

Como Park Sunken Garden | © m01229/Flickr

Cave of the Mounds, Wisconsin

Cave of the Mounds, a striking limestone cave in Blue Mounds, is a million-year-old geological marvel boasting beautiful mineral formations called speleothems, including soda straws, flowstones, curtains, lily pads, Oolites, and Helictites, exhibited in a brilliant array of colors from red and brown to blue and gray. A National Natural Landmark, the Cave of the Mounds boasts limestone from over 480 million years ago, and with guided tours available every day, guests can get an up-close experience of Wisconsin’s geological history.

Cave of the Mounds, 2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd, Blue Mounds, WI, USA+1 608 437 3038

Cave of the Mounds South Cavern | © Cave boy/Wikicommons

Cave of the Mounds South Cavern | © Cave boy/WikiCommons