The states that make up part of America’s Heartland—Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois—truly showcase all the country has to offer. From world-renowned attractions like the Mall of America and Chicago’s famous skyline to charming Mississippi River towns and breathtaking natural beauty, travelers will uncover a real picture of America on this six-day adventure.
Day 1 – Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Morning: Fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Afternoon: Visit Mall of America
Mall of America is the largest retail and entertainment center in North America. Located just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the mall welcomes over 40 million visitors annually, making it one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. More than 500 stores occupy the mall, and shoppers will be happy to learn that there’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes in Minnesota.
Evening: Explore Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis
Nicollet, formerly known as Nicollet Mall, has long been the core shopping and entertainment district in downtown Minneapolis. The street is only open to buses and taxis, so it is very pedestrian-friendly. Visitors will discover many bars and restaurants with sidewalk seating, public art and lots of shopping options.
Other ideas: Those travelers looking for a more adventurous trip in Minnesota can plan a multi-day excursion with Boundary Waters Outfitters. They help you plan a canoe trip of any length through the wild and scenic Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Quetico Provincial Park, which sit on the border of the United States and Canada. The Boundary Waters are in far northern Minnesota, about a five-hour drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Day 2 – Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
Morning: Discover art options in Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are must-see attractions in the Twin Cities. The sculpture garden is home to the famous iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry” by Claes Oldenburg, and the museum highlights contemporary artists with rotating and permanent exhibits.
Afternoon: Explore St. Paul, Minnesota
Situated across the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, St. Paul offers many unique experiences for travelers as well. Tour historic buildings like the Minnesota State Capitol or the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Explore America’s longest river at the National Park Service’s Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.
Evening: Find classic Twin Cities cuisine
There are a few signature items that every visitor should try when they visit Minneapolis and St. Paul. The “Juicy Lucy”—a cheeseburger with the cheese inside the meat patty—was invented here, but there’s a dispute over who came up with the idea first. Visit Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club to decide which one you prefer. Looking for craft beer? Stop by notable breweries like Summit, Surly, or Fulton.
Other ideas: Explore the Mississippi River—and grab some drinks or dinner—on one of the excursions offered by Padelford Riverboats, which launches out of St. Paul. Learn about the history of the Twin Cities at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.
Day 3 – Wisconsin Great River Road
Morning-afternoon: Explore the Wisconsin Great River Road
The Wisconsin Great River Road travels for 400km through 33 river towns and among towering bluffs along the iconic Mississippi River. There are several unique attractions to discover along the way, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the Big Woods Cabin, a recreation of the famed “Little House on the Prairie” author’s home, in Pepin and the historic Potosi Brewing Company, which started serving ales and lagers in 1852.
Evening: Drive to Galena, Illinois (45 minutes from Potosi)
Several national publications have called Galena one of the best small towns in the United States, and this charming city has something to offer visitors all year long.
Other ideas: If you stay on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River, you’ll encounter welcoming, historic small towns like Red Wing and Winona, where you can find bustling downtowns and plentiful recreational opportunities along the Mississippi River.
Day 4 – Galena, Illinois
Morning: Take a trolley tour of Galena
Galena’s Tri-State Trolley takes visitors on a leisurely tour through Galena’s historic sites and neighborhoods, including 1800s-era buildings downtown and the home of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.
Afternoon: Explore Galena’s attractions
Main Street in downtown Galena is lined with souvenir shops, antique stores and boutiques, perfect for an afternoon of shopping. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit Longhollow Canopy Tours, which will take you on a zipline tour of the scenic countryside. Take a tour and sample tasty spirits at Blaum Bros. Distilling.
Evening: Discover delicious dining in downtown Galena
Downtown Galena has restaurants to please any traveler’s appetite. Visit Log Cabin Steakhouse, which has been serving customers for 80 years, for a true Midwestern supper club experience. Discover traditional Italian delights at Fried Green Tomatoes or Vinny Vannuchi’s.
Other ideas: If you’re interested in learning more about the Mississippi River region in Illinois, explore Great Rivers Country, which follows the Mississippi from northwestern Illinois all the way to the state’s southern tip. You’ll find historic cities like Quincy and Nauvoo, as well as recreation options along the river and one-of-a-kind attractions like the John Deere Pavilion in Moline.
Day 5 – Chicago, Illinois
Morning: Drive to Chicago (3 hours, 15 minutes)
Afternoon: Shop the Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is a 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago that extends all the way to Lake Michigan. The shopping and entertainment district is home to over 450 stores, 275 restaurants and 60 hotels.
Evening: Catch a concert at The House of Blues
Chicago is a great destination for live music of all kinds, from rock to jazz to blues. If you want to take in a concert, head to Chicago’s House of Blues, which welcomes local and national touring acts. If you’re in town on a Sunday morning, don’t miss their world-famous gospel brunch.
Other ideas: Learn about Chicago’s architecture and the city’s history on tour of the Chicago River with Shoreline Sightseeing, which offers several excursion options. Head to Millennium Park to see its impressive public artwork, including “Cloud Gate” (also known as “the Bean”).
Day 6 – Chicago, Illinois
Morning: Depart from O’Hare International Airport