The heartland. Home to fields of wheat and country music, right? Of course, there’s more to it than that, I’m sure even the most urbanite coastal dweller knows about the mountains in Colorado, the city of Chicago and the breathtaking national parks in Wyoming. But there are undiscovered places in flyover country. Of course, these places are perfectly well known by locals, but travelers haven’t discovered these areas yet, making them prime places to explore and enjoy tourist-free.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
This is the place to go if you love nature. This slice of pristine wilderness will bring out the adventurer in you, but be ready for chilly temperatures in the winter. Isle Royal National Park is actually a remote island cluster in Lake Superior near the border of Canada.
There are shipwrecks in the surrounding waters and moose and wolf packs roam the island. There are few human-made sites on the island and wheels are prohibited. No cars. No bicycles. Not even canoe portage devices. (Wheelchairs are allowed however.) The island is so remote that, as of the 2000 census, there is no permanent population.
The remote locale makes Isle Royale an escape into nature. Adventurers hike, fish, boat and kayak on and around the island. Some of the wilderness trails are quite difficult and can take as long as 2 weeks to complete. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about wolves attacking your campgrounds; the wolves are illusive and stay away from humans.
This town is home to retail giant Walmart. That means there’s a lot of money. A lot. You can stay in the lap of luxury and also enjoy a small-town feel. The historic downtown area is well manicured with brick buildings, fountains and landscaping.
Walmart’s presence adds to an already unique mix of cultures. People from India, drawn to the town by high paying jobs in Walmart’s corporate offices, play cricket on baseball fields. The small-town Midwestern feel mixes with southern influences, including large Baptist and Methodist churches. There are historic houses and the original 5-and-dime store that would eventually morph into Walmart. There’s even a relatively new museum of American art, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which houses art by Americans from the colonial era up to now.
Bentonville is a weird mix of small and big, historic and new, south and Midwest. It’s a place you must visit to understand.
The Missouri Rhineland
Everyone knows California makes great wine, but almost no one knows that Missouri’s vineyards saved France’s wine industry from extinction.
In the mid-1800s, a louse destroyed nearly all the wine making grape crops in France and other parts of Europe. Charles Riley, Missouri’s state entomologist at the time, knew that Missouri’s grape crops were resistant to that particular louse. He sent millions of rootstocks to vineyard’s around the world and ultimately saved the French wine industry. There’s even a statue of Riley in the French city of Montpellier.
Missouri has a long winemaking tradition, but factors conspired to make it less well known than California, none of which is the wine itself.
Visit the Rhineland for small towns nestled in rolling hills. Most of the towns are German and boast delicious hardy meals, cured meats and of course: wine. Missouri’s climate doesn’t accommodate most of the grape varieties that Americans are familiar with. Instead, you’ll find Native American and French-American hybrid grapes such as Vignoles, Chambourcin, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc.
Columbus is the forgotten city of the Midwest. It has the second largest population in the Midwest (second only to Chicago), making it bigger than more well-known cities like Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis and Minneapolis.
Columbus probably likes keeping itself a little hidden. It’s quietly kept itself out of national controversy all while promoting a healthy economy.
Columbus has everything that comprises great cities: history, sports, culture, arts and food. You can find a little something for everyone, including a college vibe from nearby Ohio State.
Traditional German and Italian neighborhoods still serve up good food and fun festivals. Along with old red-brick buildings in historic parts of the city, there are examples of Greek revival and art-deco as well as a large Victorian style glass green-house.
The city also boasts large festivals like the massive street party in the North Market District and the dining event Restaurant Week Columbus.
The more you dig, the more there is to do in this city.