The 6 Best Road Trips to Take in the Midwest

Hit the road and discover the Midwest

From Great Lakes and rivers to rolling hills, wide-open plains and lush forests, there’s plenty to discover in the Midwest. Whether you’re up for a summer vacation, week-long road trip, or a Sunday drive, set a course for the middle section of the United States and get out there to explore some of the most diverse scenic terrains in the country. Here are six Midwestern journeys of varying lengths and distances worth considering.

Remember to travel with caution, follow good health practices, and behave responsibly when outdoors or around other people. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio’s Amish Country Byway

Take a break from the fast-paced world of smart phones, computers, and demanding schedules and enjoy the “simple life” found on the Amish Country Byway in Ohio. At first, you may feel as if time is standing still, but you’ll soon discover that the Amish folk are highly enterprising and productive. They have simply chosen to maintain their traditional beliefs and customs, continuing a lifestyle uncomplicated by the ways of the modern-day world.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you travel the Amish Country Byway, sharing the road with horses and buggies, you will experience first-hand the Amish way of life. You will also take in plenty of beautiful scenery and have a wide variety of recreational opportunities to pursue.

McAllister Covered Bridge, Parke County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana’s Covered Bridge Tour

Explore Parke County (aka the Covered Bridge Capital of the World) on well-marked driving routes. Parke County has 31 historic bridges, many built in the 1800s and still in use. They’re especially charming nestled amid fall foliage and autumn is a great time to hike or go on a horseback ride at Turkey Run State Park.

Neet Covered Bridge, Parke County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five well-marked driving routes, each about 30 miles long make finding the bridges and exploring easy. Each covered bridge comes with its own unique past.

Downtown Wapakoneta. Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Scenic Byway

The Neil Armstrong Scenic Byway celebrates the early years of Neil Armstrong’s life with special emphasis on the time period in which he obtained his pilot’s license. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. Prior to that, his early interest in flying was cultivated in his hometown of Wapakoneta. Armstrong was so determined to fly that he successfully attained his pilot’s license before his driver’s license.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The byway route through downtown Wapakoneta retraces the route of his homecoming parade after returning from the moon. Some of the storefronts have changed but several of the sights appear largely as they did during Armstrong’s boyhood.

Badlands Loop Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota’s Badlands Loop Scenic Byway

Anyone who’s ever made the patriotic pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore comes away impressed by the otherworldly Badlands geography, a scope of grassy stretches and startling rock buttes, mounds, and peaks. Throughout the 39-mile SD Highway 240 journey between Wall and Cactus Flat across Badlands National Park, 16 designated overlooks provide opportunities to stop and marvel at the surreal views.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you choose to stop and hike, keep your eyes peeled for appearances by the indigenous wildlife—buffalo, prairie dogs, mule deer, and antelope, to name just a few. The Minuteman Missile Visitor Center and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center are great spots to load up on helpful maps and advice. 

Along the Amish Heritage Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana’s Amish Heritage Trail

Traveling along lively Main Streets and scenic backroads you’ll find surprises at every turn and soon discover why it was voted the top USA Today Reader’s Choice and editors of LIFE consider it one of “America’s Most Scenic Drives.”

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This scenic winding loop takes you through the communities of Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa, and Shipshewana. Discover stunning views, historical sites, and Amish heritage along the scenic backroads. Explore country lanes dotted with inviting Amish-owned shops showcasing handcrafted and homemade.

Covered Bridges Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio’s Covered Bridges Byway

The Covered Bridges Byway in Ashtabula County (also known as the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Tour) is an especially beautiful way to take in some of Ohio’s back road scenery and discover some charming covered bridges along the way. You can drive through America’s shortest and longest covered bridge along this scenic route which features a total of 19 covered bridges in Ashtabula County. It’s perfect for a leisurely scenic drive or a weekend road trip in northeast Ohio.

Worth Pondering…

It’s not just a drive.

It’s an experience.

Experience the Past in the Present along the Amish Country Byway

Traveling the Amish Country Byway is quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a map, routes 39, 62, 515, and 60 form a sort of “eyeglasses” shape throughout Holmes County in Ohio. That’s fitting, because exploring these four roads are a great way to explore Amish Country. These routes make up the Amish Country Scenic Byway, designated in June 2002 as a National Scenic Byway. These 72 miles of roadway are recognized for their unique cultural and historic significance.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along these roadways, you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns. In the fall, the vistas become even more awe-inspiring, as nature puts on its finest show—the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of the trees amid a backdrop of that bluest sky that only fall can produce.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes. Entrepreneurial businesses owned by the Amish add to the friendly atmosphere along the byway while creating a welcome distance from the superstores of commercial America.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Agriculture is the economic heart of Amish Country and visitors to the area are likely to see rows of haystacks or fields being plowed. Holmes County boasts the second largest dairy production in the state, the largest local produce auction during the growing season, and weekly livestock auctions in the communities along the byway. The Swiss and German heritage of the early settlers in the county is evident in the many specialty cheese and meat products and delicious Swiss/Amish restaurants.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apart from the beautiful scenery, these routes have numerous special attractions that shouldn’t be missed along the way. U.S. Rt. 62, for example, winds down into the heart of Holmes County from Wilmot, passing such Amish Country mainstays as the Amish Door Restaurant and Wendell August Forge before leading you into Berlin, the area’s ultimate shopping destination.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you get to Berlin, however, you’ll pass through the cute village of Winesburg. There’s enough here to keep you busy at least an afternoon, with several unique shops, antiques, art, and sculptures for sale, and an old-fashioned corner restaurant.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Winesburg, you can turn off 62 onto State Rt. 515, a hilly, winding road that takes you through Trail, home of the famous Troyer’s Trail Bologna, and past Yoder’s Amish Farm, where you can tour two Amish houses, a barn full of animals, a schoolhouse, and even take a buggy ride. Rt. 515 ends up in Walnut Creek, intersecting with another part of the byway, State Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rt. 39 offers a wealth of things to see and do, especially in the eastern portion of Holmes County. The road passes through Millersburg, Berlin, and Walnut Creek before heading to the village of Sugarcreek.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelling east toward Berlin, Rt. 39 merges with Rt. 62 for a time, and you’ll pass numerous shops and restaurants. In Berlin, go through the light (stay on 39) and immediately turn left, for you’ve found yourself at the Berlin Village Gift Barn, one of the best places around to find just the right accessory for your RV. You’ll also discover Country Gatherings, a new off-shoot of the gift barn, featuring primitives and floral designs.

“Must-stops” in Walnut Creek include the shops at Walnut Creek Cheese and Coblentz Chocolates, both easily accessible from Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll leave the Amish Country Byway feeling much the same as the traveler who said, “Traveling to Amish Country is a great getaway from our day-to-day routines. It’s quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul. When you get away from the telephone ringing, from the traffic on the roads, it’s a gift, a refuge from the everyday noise of your life.”

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts—sewing, quilting, cooking, baking—as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.

―Beverly Lewis

A Byway Is Calling

America’s byways are gateways to adventures where no two experiences are the same

America’s byways provide unparalleled opportunities to experience the cultural, historical, ecological, recreational, or scenic qualities of the area.

There are several designations used to honor these routes. The most common type of designation is the National Scenic Byway, though there are also state scenic byways.

If a particular scenic byway is especially outstanding, it may also be recognized with the additional title of “All-American Road.”

Find the routes of your choice and get ready to hit the open road.

Arizona: Red Rock Scenic Byway

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All-American Road

Length: 7.5 miles

Take 20 minutes to drive, but allow several hours to include all activities along the byway.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All-American Road Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.” Travelers are amazed by the high desert’s power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

Ohio: Amish Country Byway

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

National Scenic Byway

Length: 76.2 miles

Allow 1-2 days to enjoy the byway, or 3-4 hours to drive it.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Discover the cultural and historic treasures of the Amish and northern Appalachian people as you wend through curves and over the hills of the pastoral countryside. Experience simple living and sustainability along charming country roads, taking you to a bygone era still present, manifest in the people and their lifestyle.

South Dakota: Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

National Scenic Byway

Length: 68 miles

Allow four hours to drive the byway or one day to experience the entire byway.

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This byway will lead you on a delightful adventure as it winds its way around spiraling “pig-tail” shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mount Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle’s Eye, and Cathedral Spires rock formations.

Virginia: Colonial Parkway

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All-American Road

Length: 23 miles

One hour to drive the byway.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Colonial Parkway not only illustrates the English colonial experience in America, but is also an outstanding example of American parkway design. Retaining its original scenic and historic integrity to a remarkable degree, the 23-mile route connects the historic sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

South Carolina: Edisto Island National Scenic Byway

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

National Scenic Byway

Length: 16 miles

Drive the Edisto Island Scenic Byway and enjoy the peaceful barrier Edisto Island provides from the hectic 21st Century world of today. The route traverses salt marsh, creeks, maritime forests, farm fields, and historic churches from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean. Stop at a roadside stand and buy a handmade sweetgrass basket, fill it with fresh local produce at a roadside market and fresh seafood dockside.

Edisto Island Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Go for a picnic on the beach, keeping an eye out for dolphin and horseshoe crabs. Go shelling. But most of all, take your time and breathe deep: this “Edis-slow ramble” is a visual delight, with much that will soothe the spirit and awaken the senses.

North Carolina and Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

All-American Road

Length: 469 miles

Four days to enjoy the byway

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Worth Pondering…

There is adventure in any trip; it’s up to us to seek it out.

—Jamie Francis

Experience a Different Way of Life along the Amish Country Byway

The Amish community is a living reminder of the principles of religious freedom that helped shape America

Take a break from the fast-paced world of smart phones, computers, and demanding schedules, and enjoy the “simple life” found on the Amish Country Byway in Ohio.

At first, you may feel as if time is standing still, but you’ll soon discover that the Amish folk are highly enterprising and productive. They have simply chosen to maintain their traditional beliefs and customs, continuing a lifestyle uncomplicated by the ways of the modern-day world.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As you travel the Amish Country Byway, sharing the road with horses and buggies, you will experience first-hand the Amish way of life. You will also take in plenty of beautiful scenery and have a wide variety of recreational opportunities to pursue.

The Amish people in Holmes County, Ohio, make up the largest concentration of Amish communities in the world, and they provide a unique look at living and adapting traditional culture.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish community is a living reminder of the principles of religious freedom that helped shape America. With a devout sense of community and adherence to beliefs, the Amish Country Byway gives a rare opportunity to witness a different way of life.

Begin your tour of the Byway by visiting the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center. Learn about the community and see Behalt, a dramatic 10-foot by 265-foot mural-in-the-round that depicts Amish/Mennonite history, painted by the late international artist, Heinz Gaugel.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then, visit Yoder’s Amish Home and witness for yourself early traditional farming ways. Also, go for a buggy ride, and tour two homes completely furnished in traditional Amish decor.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you travel the Byway during growing and harvest season, typically from April to November, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Farmer’s Produce Auction. Here you will find everything from bedding plants and dried flowers to asparagus, zucchini, pumpkins, and Indian corn. Both the Amish and English people in the area maintain a strong tradition of agriculture and produce wonderful crops, cheese, and specialty meat products.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Nature along the Byway only adds to the peaceful setting of the countryside. Enjoy an early morning picnic or fishing trip at the Killbuck Marsh.

In the 21st century, the Amish Country Byway is an important example of a multicultural community, as both the Amish and non-Amish traditions are strong in the region. These two cultures have built on similarities while still respecting differences. By working together, they have created a thriving, productive community.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish, as a branch of the Anabaptist people, are traditionally devout and religious. Like so many other immigrants, they came to America in search of religious freedom. In Europe, the Anabaptists had been persecuted for their beliefs. Horses and buggies, plain dress, independence from telephones and electricity, homemade quilts, and lots of reading materials are some of the things you might find in an Amish home.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When the Amish settled in the area, most depended on agriculture as their profession, but others who were not farmers worked instead in blacksmith shops, harness shops, or buggy shops. In addition, many specialties sprang up, such as furniture-making. Today, shops are scattered along the byway, specializing in everything from furniture to gazebos.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish and their neighbors work together, making Holmes County an important agricultural, furniture manufacturing, and cheese-producing region of Ohio and the nation.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Amish Country Byway is not one for speed. By slowing down, you get to experience the many recreational opportunities that are unique to this byway. There are carriage rides, hay rides, and sleigh rides that reflect the agricultural traditions of the area. One of the most popular activities is visiting Amish homesteads and farms, antique shops, and museums. In addition, you can find many places to stop and enjoy some good cooking or shopping.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Considerations: Early autumn means harvest season— which brings produce stands—and stunning fall foliage. Respect the privacy and religious beliefs of the Amish and don’t take pictures of them. Because of the unique agriculture and culture of Amish Country, you must share the road with Amish buggies, agriculture equipment, cyclists, etc.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The two-lane state routes and State Road 62 should be traveled at a somewhat slower pace than most paved roads. Keep in mind that many services are not available on Sundays.

As you travel the Amish Country Byway, sharing the road with horses and buggies, you will experience first-hand the Amish way of life. You will also take in plenty of beautiful scenery and have a wide variety of recreational opportunities to pursue.

Along the Holmes County Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.
―Nancy Sleeth