Discover Scenery and History on Midwest Road Trips

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Advance Capital Management is sponsoring this look at Midwest road trips.

Road trips are a great way to explore any part of the world, but you don’t have to travel far to find some incredible adventures. Whether it’s taking a long romantic weekend or just hitting out for the day, there are plenty of Midwest road trips offering achingly beautiful landscapes combined with plenty of history. In fact, did you know that the Midwest is home to 61 national parks, preserves, monuments and historic sites? With that in mind, take a look at our list of recommended scenic road trip routes.

Annually, 76 million older Americans spend over $120 billion in leisure travel, according to AARP. More than a third are expected to scratch off destinations from their international bucket lists in 2016. Meanwhile, another third say they will travel domestically, with a quarter taking weekend getaways to domestic locations.

Although we love to explore outside of the USA, scratching your travel itch domestically is always a wonderful idea. Scenic American road trips are especially fun thanks to the freedom they offer. Of course, the first step is to decide where to explore and we’re here to tell you that the Midwest offers a host of boomer-friendly travel destinations.

Scenic Midwest Road Trips

Midwest road trips for you to take: Missouri, another Midwestern state, offers plenty of lake and mountain scenery in the Ozark Mountains.
Missouri, another Midwestern state, offers plenty of lake and mountain scenery in the Ozark Mountains.

Home to the Motor City and the starting point of Route 66, the Midwest has a storied automobile history. Millions of Americans traverse its roadways to reach the west and east coasts. Yet, there’s plenty to see by driving around theses scenic Midwest roads—you don’t even have to leave your car, although you know how we feel about staying active on a trip.

Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail – Michigan

Midwest wine lovers don’t have to travel far for a taste of Napa Valley. The favorable climate and sandy soil of this 30-mile peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan allows for a long growing season, which means great wine. The Wine Trail features around 25 different wineries. Even if you don’t drink wine, the drive is worth it alone. Leelanau’s lush vineyards and rolling hills can make you feel as if you’re in France.

Route 66 – Illinois

When people hear “Route 66,” they likely envision the empty road cutting across the desert landscapes of the West. However, America’s famed roadway starts in Chicago. Stop in at Joliet’s Route 66 Welcome Center then relive the mid-20th century with antique gas pumps, motel signs, photographs, maps and other items in Pontiac’s Route 66 Association Hall of Fame, which is located in an old fire station.

The Covered Bridges Byway – Ohio

You can step back in time in Ohio’s Ashtabula County when you take this covered bridge tour. There are 18 rustic and wooden covered bridges along this scenic route of rolling hills and beautiful river valleys. It includes both the shortest and longest covered bridges in the country.

Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive – Wisconsin: Kettle Moraine is an expansive landscape in southeastern Wisconsin featuring many geological formations, valleys and small bodies of water, known as kettles—all of which were formed by ancient advancing and retreating glaciers. The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, kindly marked by green road signs, spans 115-miles of beautiful natural scenery across six Wisconsin counties.

US-2 from St. Ignace to Manistique – Upper Peninsula, Michigan

After crossing the majestic Mackinac Bridge, the suspension bridge connecting Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsula, you land in the town of St. Ignace. From there you can head west on US 2, which runs along the pristine shoreline and offers incredible views of Lake Michigan. Take a minute to stop at any of the beaches and scenic lookouts, such as the breathtaking Cut River Bridge, to soak it all in.

Visit National Parks on Midwest Road Trips

Midwest road trips for you to take: Scotts Bluff National Monument contains multiple bluff that acted as landmarks for pioneers making their way west.
Yes, Nebraska is in the Midwest, too. Scotts Bluff National Monument contains multiple bluff that acted as landmarks for pioneers making their way west.

Perhaps the best budget-friendly travel idea is to explore the natural treasures and historical sites in the many Midwest national parks.

Sure, you won’t find Yosemite, Yellowstone or any of the other household names, but the region is just as rich in natural beauty and history.

The Midwest is home to 61 national parks, preserves, monuments and historic sites. And, if you’re a Senior Pass holder, you can essentially check them out for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

Here is a small sample of Midwest national parks that are within driving distance of some of the region’s metropolitan areas:

River Raisin National Battlefield Park – Located in Monroe, Michigan, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park commemorates the War of 1812 battles between the Americans and a British Army and Indian alliance led by Tecumseh. It is the only National Battlefield Park to mark a site of the War of 1812. The battlefield is only 39 miles (approx. 40 minutes) from Detroit.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site – The only home ever owned by Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president, is preserved in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln lived there from 1844 to 1861 before moving to a much grander homestead—the White House. It is open to the public free of charge in recognition of the conditions set by Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, when he donated it in 1887. Lincoln’s home is about a three-hour trip (208 miles) from Chicago.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park – In what could be considered Cleveland’s backyard is this woodland oasis of thick forests and rolling hills along the meandering Cuyahoga River. In addition to the native plant species and wildlife, this 32,950-acre park offers many hiking and biking tails. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio’s only national park, and it’s only 20-miles (approx. 28 minutes) from Cleveland.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Michigan, and it has been considered the “Most Beautiful Place in America.” It’s not hard to see why from its tall bluffs reaching up to 450 feet above Lake Michigan. The park, situated on the northwest coastline of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, is home to miles of sandy beaches and stunning views of the open waters atop its many steep dunes. And, it is less than 3 hours away (159 miles) from Grand Rapids.

What are your favorite Midwest road trips? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

Disclosure: Advance Capital Management has sponsored this article and I have been compensated for my participation.

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