Great Fall Drives in the Midwest


The Midwest offers a perhaps surprising array of interesting sights, people and culture for those who take the time to explore it by car.

Chicago to Denver, in particular, offers a great driving route. In total, the entire adventure outlined below covers nearly nearly 1,800 miles, so set aside about four days.

Starting off in the Windy City, Chicago remains the heart of the Midwest. Centrally based, the city marks a good starting point to meander through the country's interstates and local roads. First explore Chicago's offerings; with such a significant variety of museums, parks and landmarks you cannot go wrong.

Chicago's 24.5-acre Millennium Park is a stunning achievement of design, art and architecture. Converted from a rail yard, the park now houses public art and provides space for civic events. Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry designed the key element of Millennium Park, the Pritzker Pavilion. The pavilion serves as the venue for the park's outdoor performing arts.

Traveling south down Interstate 57 provides greater insight into the farming culture of the Midwest. Peering out your window you are likely to see plenty of farmland speckled with cattle, horses and crops. It is wise to catch a moment's rest in a local village, where you can purchase fresh produce from regional farms.

Crossing over the mighty Mississippi River brings you into the city of blues, Memphis. This metropolis is where the South, the West and Midwest meet. Home to American music's three kings -- Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and B.B. King -- Memphis is piping hot with plenty of quaint music clubs.

Visit Beale Street, the city's historic district, and immerse yourself within the four blocks consisting of record shops, clubs and restaurants. Beale Street is renowned for cultivating new musical acts. This is where B.B. King played his guitar and started his musical career.

Hopping onto Interstate 40, make a pit-stop in Arkansas' state capital, Little Rock. To stretch your legs, head down to the city's River Market District, which has plenty of restaurants and shops to explore.

If time is not a concern, perhaps the William J. Clinton Presidential Center will be of interest to you. Housing the largest presidential archive, the library contains more than 2 million photographs and 80,000 artifacts from the Clinton presidency.

Further along Interstate 30 takes you into Dallas. Thanks to the riches from the oil and cotton industry, Dallas offers a wealth of cultural amenities, including the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

The concert hall, located within the arts district of downtown Dallas, is the permanent home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Chorus.

Looking for history? Stop off at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Focusing on the life, times and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, the museum exhibits use film, photographs and artifacts to document the events of JFK's assassination.

Dallas' nightlife is something to behold. Do not count out this city and its respective hot spots. The Joule is a five-star Starwood Hotels property that features a striking rooftop pool and bar that cantilevers over the easement below. Get some rest, relaxation and fresh air at this exceedingly contemporary, trendy hotel -- you will not regret it.

Putting the pedal to the metal, dash north to Amarillo, Texas. Home to one of America's greatest roads, Route 66, Amarillo is known as "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

Likely, much of this driving has you and your passengers craving a calorie-rich meal. If so, The Big Texan Steak Ranch is where you want to grab a bite to eat. The infamous Texas King is a 72-oz. steak, which comes free if an individual can eat the entire meal in less than one hour. Come with a serious appetite or suffer the consequences of a $72 dinner.

Following U.S. Highway 87's wandering tarmac into New Mexico, the scenery changes. Soon, you find yourself in a setting that resembles an introductory drawing class' three-dimensional drawing. You know, the one where the road and telephone poles fade into the horizon.

However, do not get too wrapped up in the captivating landscape and miss the Capulin Volcano. Soaring into the skies at 8,182 feet above sea level, a windy road spirals up to the volcano's rim. If you are feeling lucky, take a hike to the crater floor.

Hopping onto Interstate 25 leads to your endpoint, Denver. The Mile-High City offers a combination of quaint shops, friendly locals and unique cafés.

An exceptional stopover is The Downtown Aquarium, a complex that houses an aquarium and a restaurant (owned by Landry's). The aquarium is distinctive because it focuses on American river habitats. Holding about 1.2 million gallons of freshwater and marine aquaria, The Downtown Aquarium is the largest between Chicago and California.



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