A Drive Through Middle America Part 1
When most envision the United States, they think about the New York City, Boston, and D.C. on the east coast; Miami and the Florida Coast; and California and the west coast. While these are all great areas, they are only a small portion of this vast land. I remember speaking with a young couple in England who said that for their honeymoon they wanted to rent a Ford Mustang and drive from coast to coast across the United States. What a wonderful idea! Let me guide you on drive through the fly-over zone of the U.S., starting in the heartland and ending at the Grand Canyon with fun stops along the way. Today, we will start in Cincinnati, Ohio and make it to Kansas City, Missouri.
I-71 from Cincinnati to Louisville
We will begin our drive through Middle America in the heartland at Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati has a nice waterfront on the Ohio River. Just off of I-71 you will see the Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. This is a great first stop. Behind the park lies a nice riverfront park called Sawyer Point. The Taylor Southgate Bridge crosses the Ohio River into Newport, Kentucky. There you will find a nice pedestrian shopping area and the Newport Aquarium.
Newport Aquarium – The Newport Aquarium offers a wonderful experience for the family. The aquarium has 14 separate exhibits and 70 galleries with over 90 species from all over the world. You can walk through clear tunnels as sharks and rays swim over and around you. The biggest news lately is the release of rare shark ray pups into its coral reef exhibit. LINK
The 90 minute drive from Cincinnati to Louisville covers scenic, rolling, green hills and woodlands. Arriving in Louisville, I-71 merges with I-64 and runs by downtown next to the Ohio River.
Downtown Louisville – Downtown Louisville is easily accessible and offers plenty of entertainment options for traveling families: The Mohammad Ali Center, Kentucky Arts and Crafts Museum, Kentucky Science Center, Frazier History Museum, an acclaimed dining scene, and more. Click here for more details.
I-64 from Louisville to St. Louis
Continuing our drive through middle America, heading west on I-64, we cross into Indiana. You might be surprised to find southern Indiana to be quite scenic. Much of I-64 here runs through the Hoosier National Forest with miles and miles of hilly, hard wood forests.
Squire Boone Caverns and Village – About 20 minutes south of Corydon, Indiana (less than an hour from Louisville) you will find Squire Boone Caverns. This cave system was first discovered Squire Boone and his famous frontiersman brother, Daniel Boone. Squire Boone made this area his home. A 1 hour cave tour, a working grist mill, a frontier village, and a tree top zip-line are well worth a detour. LINK
Holiday World – Seemingly in the middle of nowhere in southwest Indiana you will find the town of Santa Claus with Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari theme park. Holiday World has 3 of the nations top rated wooden roller coasters (The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage) as well as North America’s only wing-coaster (The Thunderbird). The water park has two of the world’s longest water coasters plus a lot of other wet choices to keep you cool. LINK
Our drive through middle America now crosses into Illinois; cornfields await. I-64 through Illinois is also a well-known speed trap; so, set your cruise control. You will really need to take a detour south to find a scenic spot.
Garden of the Gods – The first of two Garden of the Gods you will encounter on this drive lies 1 hour south of I-64 at Mill Shoals. The Garden of the Gods offers scenic views with steep, rocky hills and overlooks. Sandstone formations called hoodoos are part of the draw. This is a great place for families that enjoy nature and hiking.
Crossing the Mississippi River into downtown St. Louis, you will pass and get great views of the iconic St. Louis Arch. Keep on I-64 through downtown as it will take you to my favorite part of St. Louis, the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District.
Missouri Botanical Garden – Not far south of I-64 in St. Louis is the beautiful Missouri Botanical Garden. Founded in 1859, this 79 acre park is not to be missed for garden lovers. It includes the largest Japanese garden in the United States. In the same vicinity as the Garden are the acclaimed St. Louis Zoo and St Louis Art Museum. LINK
I-70 to Kansas City
I-64 merges into I-70 at Wentzville, just outside of St. Louis as we continue our drive through middle America. Unfortunately, much of the scenery of the 4 hour drive across Missouri is obscured by the plethora of road signs. It seems never-ending!
Les Bourgeois Vineyards and the Katy Trail – The Katy Trail is a rails-to-trail state park that stretches across the state of Missouri. In “Mid-Mo” (as the locals call it), just off of I-70 is the town of Rocheport where you will find Les Bourgeois Winery and Vineyards. This is a great stop. The Winery offers tastings and a bistro with outdoor seating on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River with splendid views. You also have immediate access to the Katy Trail as it wanders along the river for hiking or biking. LINK
Driving into downtown Kansas City, take a short detour south to Crown Center.
Hallmark Visitors Center – Kansas City is the home of Hallmark cards and the Hallmark Visitors Center is a fun and FREE! excursion that the whole family will enjoy. Take in galleries of classic cards, keepsake ornaments, Charlie Brown and Peanuts memorabilia, and talk with a creator of Hallmark cards and keepsakes. In the Crown Center district you will also find Kaleidoscope kids art center, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, The National World War I Museum, and The Money Museum, all within walking distance. LINK
I hope you have enjoyed the first leg of our drive through middle America. Check back in a couple of days for A Drive Through Middle America Part 2: Kansas to the Grand Canyon.