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Architectural wonders you shouldn’t miss

Here are some of the most impressive and photo-worthy structures you’ll find in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.

Chicago River and buildings
Chicago architecture boat tour (Credit: Dice Sales)

The northern Mississippi River states are renowned for their architectural achievements—this is the land of Chicago’s skyscrapers and Frank Lloyd Wright, after all. Here are some of the most impressive and photo-worthy structures you’ll find in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.

Guthrie Theater, Minnesota

Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater is not only a world-class theater that hosts classic and modern dramatic works, it’s also a work of art in its own right. The Guthrie, which actually houses three different theaters, was designed by award-winning architect Jean Nouvel and completed in 2008. Notable features include the “Endless Bridge,” a cantilevered platform that extends over River Parkway in the rear of the building, and the “Amber Box,” the area surrounding the Guthrie’s black box theater that’s wrapped in yellow windows. The theater sits on an idyllic section of the Mississippi River, offering beautiful views of the nearby Stone Arch Bridge and Saint Anthony Falls.

Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin

Sitting along the shore of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum is instantly recognizable by its “wings,” a moveable sunscreen that spans more than 200 feet that’s part of the museum’s Quadracci Pavilion. The 142,000-square-foot expansion was designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and was completed in 2001. (Fun fact: The original museum structure—the War Memorial Center—that was completed in 1957 was designed by Eero Saarinen, another architectural luminary.) The Quadracci Pavilion features a cathedral-like indoor space, the aforementioned “wings” and a pedestrian suspension bridge that connects the museum to downtown Milwaukee.

Chicago Architecture Center, Illinois

Chicago is where the skyscraper was born and where Frank Lloyd Wright rose to fame, so it only makes sense that the city is a great place to celebrate architecture. The Chicago Architecture Center opened in 2018 on Michigan Avenue along the Chicago River and features nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with an elaborate scale model of Chicago models of iconic skyscrapers—many of which you can see in person nearby. The Chicago Architecture Center is also a home base for walking tours and boat tours of the Windy City’s iconic buildings.

Country Club Plaza, Missouri

Often just called “The Plaza,” Country Club Plaza is a 15-block shopping and dining district in downtown Kansas City. But it’s not your typical shopping district—the Plaza opened in 1923 with a heavy dose of inspiration from the architecture of Seville, Spain. Adding to the Spanish flavor are more than 30 statues, murals and tile mosaics, as well as architectural reproductions like the Cathedral of Seville. The Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate cars, and holds a “Season of Lights” light display from Thanksgiving through mid-January.