Category: USA | Midwest
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

7 Midwest Landmarks You Must See Before You Die [2024]

You won't believe which state has two of these landmarks!
Cover photo of the entrance to the world's largest truckstop-- I-80, located in Iowa City, Iowa.


The midwest region of the United States is one of the largest cultural regions of the United States-- composed of 12 states-- and is home to simultaneously some well-known landmarks as well as some lesser-known landmarks.

Whether natural or man-made, there exist seven landmarks that every U.S traveler should see once in their life. Ohio has two of the seven landmarks I mention here. Yep, Ohio!

Here is my personally curated list of the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die!


Here are the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die...

01 // The Gateway Arch

Author standing in front of the Gateway Arch-- one of the most famous landmarks in the US-- located in St Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch is one of the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die.
Me, standing far in front of the Gateway Arch in December 2021.

Oh, how I wish the photo in this article was wide instead of tall! This blog didn't exist when I saw the Gateway Arch so I wasn't as picky about the orientation of the photo!

So, about the landmark...

Not only is the Gateway Arch among the more famous landmarks in the country, it also was my personal favorite!

The Gateway Arch-- the 630 foot tall stainless steel structure of geometric grandeur is located in St. Louis, Missouri. It's pretty difficut for us little humans to accurately estimate what 630 feet looks like until we see it with our own eyes. Thus, what mesmerized me about the Gateway Arch is just how wide and tall it really is!

Thus, getting a really good photo of the structure-- especially if you want to be in the picture-- can be a bit of a fun challenge!

This next part will blow your mind, as it did mine when I went there... did you know you can go inside the Gateway Arch? Hell, I'll do you one better... you can go to the TOP of the Gateway Arch!!

I didn't know this before I visited!

To get to the top of the famous landmark, you have to book a tour. Tickets for adults cost anywhere from $15-19.

On the tour, you will learn the fascinating history behind the construction of the arch, and then you will take a small tram up to the top of the arch. The tram is rather small and it might trigger one's fear of heights (like I have!) since you are being elevated over 600 feet in the air.

That being said-- the lift up to the top is not that bad.

Once you arrive at the top, you enter a walkway with a rather low ceiling. Peek out the windows and you'll get some glorious birdseye views of St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

02 // Mall of America

A LEGO structure over four stories tall inside the Mall of America. The Mall of America is one of the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die.
In front of a really tall LEGO stucture in the Mall of America.

In my article on how to have an amazing weekend in Minneapolis, the Mall of America was the first thing I suggested on the list!

Although technically located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is only about 20 minutes away from downtown Minneapolis. It's also quite close to the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport.

What makes the Mall of America a must-see landmark in the midwest is that the mall is a solid manifestion of American abundance and variety. With over 500 stores and a large list of dining options-- including full-scale restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings, Benihana, and Rainforest Cafe-- it is unlike any shopping mall you've ever been to.

The Mall of America has entertainment options truly for the whole family! Children will especially adore the LEGO& Land, the M&M Store (hell, adults too, who am I kidding!?), and the amusement park located right in the center of the mall-- Nickelodeon Universe.

The Nickelodeon Universe theme park is the feature I feel most distinguishes the Mall of America from any other shopping mall in the country. These aren't just cheap, low-thrill carnival rides either-- there are full-blown rollercoasters at this theme park!

You could easily spend an entire day at this landmark alone and it is absolutely a must-see for anyone's trip to Minnesota. Now, speaking of amusement parks, there's another I want to tell you about...

03 // Cedar Point

Outside the entrance to one of Cedar Point's most popular, tall, and fast rollercoasters-- the Millennium Force. Cedar Point is one of the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die.
Taken after we had gotten off the legendary rollercoaster, the Millennium Force.

While Nickeledeon Universe is certainly impressive for a fully indoor amusement park, Cedar Point simply has more room and space to work with, and thus-- is even more of an impressive landmark.

Coming from someone who was born and raised in Michigan, I've often heard people poke fun at the state of Ohio. Well, when it comes to midwest landmarks you must see, Ohio has not one but two of them-- the first being the Cedar Point amusement park!

Cedar Point is located in Sandusky, Ohio, which is only a little over an hour away from downtown Cleveland. Deemed 'The Roller Coaster Capital of the World ®', Cedar Point features some of the world's most exhilarating rollercoasters in terms of height and speed.

As shown in the picture, the Millennium Force is one of the park's most famous rollercoasters, standing at an impressive height of 310 feet and obtains a top speed of 93 miles per hour.

Other high adrenaline rides at Cedar Point include the Raptor, the Wicked Twister, Valravn, and the Corkscrew.

There is one ride I refuse to go on called the Slingshot! It's a seat where you are tilted back 45 degrees and then launched over 350 feet in the air. For reference, you are launched higher than the height of the Millenium Force! I'm not brave enough for that one!

If you've heard about Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster being the world's second tallest rollercoaster, well, I have bad news for 2024: the ride is permanently closed!

If roller coasters are too much thrill for you, no worries! There are plenty of great rides for all ages and fear tolerances.

There is also a waterpark on Cedar Point's campus called Cedar Point Shores!

My last recommendation for this landmark: I suggest you start at the back of the park and work your way toward the front. It'll minimize waittimes, even moreso if you get a fast pass!

04 // Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

Outside the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
Standing on some of the letters, which spell out 'LONG LIVE ROCK N ROLL'.

And here, we arrive at the second landmark in the state of Ohio-- the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, located in downtown Cleveland.

For a weekend trip in Ohio, you could definitely do both a Cedar Point trip and a visit to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

The museum celebrates the achievements of a music genre which has had an undeniable influence on American culture, not to mention popular music all throughout the globe. Some of the world's most famous rock bands and artists have been inducted into the world-famous museum, such as Nirvana (my all-time favorite band), Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles.

Many artists whose music can hardly be construed as 'rock' have been inducted into the museum as well, such as The Notorious B.I.G, Dolly Parton, Depeche Mode, and... yeah, even Jerry Lewis.

So, ultimately, the museum is moreso an establishment honoring some of popular music's most influential artists-- with an emphasis on rock.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and a tour can last close to three hours. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes to stand and walk in!

05 // Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore-- the famous American landmark, located in South Dakota.
I intentionally delayed mentioning this one until later!

Source: Unsplash

Regarding the level of fame that Mount Rushmore has, I feel it's about as famous as the Empire State Building in New York City and the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California. I wanted some other landmarks to get some attention in this article first!

Mount Rushmore is a mesmerizing stone sculpture that, in a way, looks almost as if it could have naturally formed! It pays patriotic tribute to four U.S presidents. From left to right, you have George Washington, Thomas Jeffeson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

South Dakota is a state rarely mentioned but at least it has the bragging right of being the state where Mount Rushmore is located. On a side note, I hear the Badlands in South Dakota are rather beautiful too!

Of all the landmarks on this list, Mount Rushmore is by far the toughest to get to. Since I love to fly, I will provide information for three different airports and the time it would take to drive to this iconic landmark.

The nearest airport is the Rapid City Regional Airport, in Rapid City, South Dakota. The cost to fly there may be rather high, as not many international airports directly fly into it. From this airport, it would only take about 50 minutes to drive to Mount Rushmore.

If you want to save some money on the flight and instead, are fine driving a much longer distance, then you can either fly into Sioux Falls Regional Airport, which is located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Minot International Airport, which is in the state above-- North Dakota-- in the city of Minot.

Driving from Sioux Falls Regional Airport to Mount Rushmore will take you about five and a half hours. From Minot? You're looking at close to seven hours!

Travelers who are fond of doing roadtrips especially should not pass up the opportunity to see this patroitic landmark in person!

06 // Willis Tower

Mount Rushmore-- the famous American landmark, located in South Dakota.
The Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago, Illinois

Source: Unsplash

Formerly known as the Sears Tower, the Willis Tower is located in Chicago-- a big city I deem the pinnacle of the midwest.

The Willis Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the midwest and, as of 2024, the third tallest skyscraper in the United States. It stands at a most triumphant 1,450 feet-- 1,729 feet if antennas included. If you exclude the antenna on top of the Empire State Building, the Willis Tower is taller than the renowned Manhattan skyscraper!

When standing near these giant edifaces, you look up, up, up, more up... almost until you feel your neck can't possibly bend back any further, and there is still more of the building to see! You may have to walk backwards and then arch your neck again to get the whole building in view!

Skyscrapers spellbind me. Their heights alone render them some of humankind's most colassal achievements.

What's really fun about the Willis Tower is making your way to the top floor. The floor is made of transparent glass, giving you the illusion you are "walking on air" above the city of Chicago! Even though you know you're not, your brain psyches you out-- which adds to the thrill and fun!

07 // The I-80 Truckstop

Mount Rushmore-- the famous American landmark, located in South Dakota.
Outside the entrance to the world's largest truckstop-- I-80, in Iowa City.

When it comes to landmarks in the midwest, my list thus far contains five states: Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Illinois. I am wrapping this list with a sixth state: Iowa!

Just like how one may not initially think a mall would be included in a list of best landmarks, I think one would suspect even less a truck stop would be included! But, I'm serious about this one: the I-80 Truckstop in Iowa City, Iowa-- is quite deserving to be mentioned in this article.

The world's largest truckstop is about 2 hours away from Des Moines International Airport. Inside the truckstop is a full-fledged truck museum, with cute souvenirs like your name being written on a toy truck. In addition, there is an impressive array of dining options-- some are sit-down restaurants and others are fast food. The convenience store portion too is comparable to a small grocery store!

You can buy frickin' weaponry here! I guess a trucker has got to be prepared in the unfortunate event his truck breaks down in an unsafe area!


Half of the states in the midwest have some quite amazing landmarks. There is more to see in the vast United States than just the Empire State Building and the Hollywood sign!

And just because states like Michigan or Nebraska were excluded this time doesn't mean they aren't worth checking out either!

Whether you may make a long road trip out of these landmarks or fly & drive to them individually is up to you. Each of them will add countless value to your exploration of the United States.

I hope you've enjoyed my personally curated list of the 7 midwest landmarks you must see before you die!

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