St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is home to Gateway Arch, a symbol of St. Louis's status as the "gateway to the West." Guests can ride to the top of the 630-foot structure in small, oval-shaped tram cars, and enjoy views of the river, Busch Stadium, and city hall. Just outside of the city is the sprawling Forest Park, with a free zoo, planetarium, art museum, and ball fields. Don't miss the unique City Museum, an indoor/outdoor playground with massive jungle gyms, tunnels, and a Ferris wheel on the roof.
"The Second City" is the Midwest's most vibrant metropolis
. Witness Wrigley Field's famous ivy-covered walls as you take in a daytime baseball game. Lake Michigan hosts numerous fun events, including an annual Air & Water Show that bills itself as the largest spectator event in the United States. The city's Field Museum is home to Tyrannosaurus Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found. Of course, no trip to Chicago is complete without an artery-clogging meal or three; try Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza for a real Chicago treat.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Really, you can't go wrong anywhere in Wisconsin Dells. It's the water park capital of the country, featuring 21 separate parks within city limits (18 are indoors, while the remaining three - including the biggest, Noah's Ark - are outdoor parks). Noah's Ark features an almost endless list of themed rides, including four separate water play areas for young children.
One of the biggest and best amusement park destinations outside of Orlando is Sandusky, Ohio, home to the world-famous Cedar Point, plus waterparks and smaller resorts. Cedar Point's bread and butter is the roller coaster, and they're always opening bigger and faster rides. The most recent roller coaster, Maverick, opened in 2007 and is the park's 17th. Of the several outdoor and indoor waterparks in the area, Kalahari is especially noteworthy, proclaiming itself the country's biggest indoor park.
Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills are a far-flung spot for most Americans, but they still attract millions of visitors each year thanks to a combination of natural beauty and astonishing feats of man-made engineering. Most famous is Mount Rushmore, an enormous granite carving of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The region also contains the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is the largest sculpture in the world, and the imposing Devil's Tower mountain, just across the border in Wyoming.
Minnesota's North Shore
Minnesota's North Shore stretches for miles along the coast of Lake Superior. It features cobblestone beaches and imposing cliffs, many of which are home to lighthouses. The region features acre upon acre of hiking, climbing, and swimming options, with stunning natural waterfalls, and even ancient pictographs on rock walls. The North Shore is a wonderful summer destination, but it's also great for wintertime activities like skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.