The Midwest region of the USA is known as America’s Heartland. It’s a patchwork of big commercial cities and small towns that are considered the broadest representation of American culture. It is also the home of more than one quarter of US Presidents and the birthplace of inventors and entrepreneurs credited with most of the technology that fuels the world's economy including aviation, the auto industry, electric lighting, petroleum and steel production.
From cowboys to country music; legendary outlaws to American icons; small-town America to soaring skyscrapers, this fly-drive through the Midwest states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois is a journey of true discovery and contrasts.
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Your adventure kicks off in funky Fort Worth which offers the perfect blend of cattle-drive town and modern city. Fort Worth is what Texas is all about: rodeos, cattle-drives and attractions dedicated to cowgirls and boys. Pull on your boots and head on down to Billy Bob’s, the world’s biggest honky-tonk. Take a saddle seat at the bar and order a cold beer then dine on juicy steaks at The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro where even the chefs wear cowboy hats! Or saunter around the Western-era shops, steakhouses and saloons in the historic Stockyards district.
Distance: 249 miles
Leave Texas behind for Tulsa, in neighbouring Oklahoma. Nostalgic neon signs, mom-and-pop motels and kitschy Americana is in abundance in this historic Route 66 town.
Tulsa also offers an eclectic mix of Oklahoma’s trademark friendliness, great food, live music, art and history in a compact, strolling city. Cherry and Brady Street are for wandering and the Philbrook Gallery and Gilcrease Museums are for browsing world and American art.
In the evening head to the Admiral Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre. Originally opened in 1951, with many drive-in theatres in the USA rapidly disappearing, this is a unique experience!
Distance: 128 miles
Leave the neon glow of Tulsa behind and journey along Oklahoma's section of Route 66 with stops at quirky towns such as Claremont, home of Hollywood legend Will Rogers, or visit the oldest totem pole park in the state in tiny Foyil. If you want to notch up another state and are a petrol head, cross the border into Kansas and visit the Decades of Wheels Museum which pays homage to the Golden Age of travel.
As you cross into Missouri, stop in historic Carthage. Dating back to 1842 this Route 66 town was named after ancient Carthage. Head to the charming square for lunch and a browse around the antique shops before arriving in ‘The Live Music Entertainment Capital of the World’, Branson. Nestled in the base of the Ozark Mountains the entertainment is non-stop with over 100 theatres open 24/7. This is the place to see some of the USA’s best tribute acts - Legends in Concert, take in an Elvis extravaganza or tap your toes to a good ol’ Country & Western Show.
When you’re not enjoying world-class talent, head into nearby Mark Twain National Forest for fishing, hiking or wildlife spotting, or take a trip on the vintage Branson Scenic Railway through the Ozark Mountains. You might also want to play a round at Payne’s Valley – Tiger Wood’s first public golf course.
Distance: 127 miles
Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest park in the state of Missouri, offers 17,000 acres of untouched natural beauty. Hike the trails through oak-hickory forests, explore hidden coves around the lake, or enjoy watersports. Perched on the edge of Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach is the perfect place to relax in the sun after a few hectic days in Branson!
Distance: 212 miles
Distance: 220 miles
Before leaving Kansas City, cross the Missouri river and visit the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas. The house is owned now by the International Ninety-Nines, an organisation for women pilots, Amelia was their first president. Here you can stroll around the delightful home which is furnished and decorated with many original items and is full of interesting items and memorabilia related to Amelia’s life and her love of flying.
Then it’s on through the heart of Missouri on Highway 36, known as The Way of American Genius because of the notable Americans connected to this region - Mark Twain, Walt Disney and J.C Penney.
Along the way you'll encounter the charming town of Marceline. Don't be surprised if the town seems familiar to you. This friendly place is where Walt Disney spent many of his boyhood years. This small railroad town inspired a lifelong fascination for him and by the time Walt had his own family, it fuelled his vision of Disneyland. When the park opened in 1955, visitors entered the Southern California theme park through Main Street USA, an idealised rendition of downtown Marceline in the early 1900s. Such Main Streets are at the gates of most Disney theme parks today.
Set on the Mississippi River, the quaint town of Hannibal is known as the boyhood home of Mark Twain and the setting for many of his novels including the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Visit his Boyhood Home and Museum, take a guided tour of the impressive 18th century Rockcliffe Mansion overlooking the river, or enjoy a stroll around the historic downtown district. In the evening enjoy a leisurely dinner cruise along 'Ol' Man River on a Mark Twain Riverboat.
Distance: 116 miles
Likely the first thing you’ll spy when you arrive in St. louis is the iconic St Louis Gateway Arch. Set on the edge of the Mississippi River, the monument takes its name from the city's role as the ‘Gateway to the West’ during the expansion of the United States in the 19th century. Ride the tram 630 feet to the top of America's tallest man-made monument for incredible views over the city and river. The photo opportunities in the air and on the ground are fantastic.
St Louis is also known for music and you can experience different genres from rock and roll, jazz, blues, classical, country, folk, rap, hip-hop and more. Grand Center’s award-winning Jazz at the Bistro offers unparalleled live music in a gorgeous setting. At the Broadway Oyster Bar you can enjoy fine dining whilst listening to live blues music.
For something more casual check out BB's Jazz, Blues & Soup venue. For a rocking atmosphere and a big dose of music history head to the famous Blueberry Hill Restaurant in The Delamar Loop neighbourhood. Home to legendary live music room, the Duck Room, this was where Chuck Berry played in the 1990s. Today, the Duck Room plays hosts to many live acts of all music genres. The neighbourhood is also full of fun shops and restaurants, so worth a mooch.
Hop on board Amtrak's Texas Eagle today for a journey through the heart of Illinois to the Windy City, Chicago. Architectural marvels, world-class museums, dynamic entertainment and award-winning dining awaits you in one of the world's greatest cities.
Get a birds-eye view of the city’s stunning architecture cruising on Lake Michigan, check out the shops along the Magnificent Mile, or take a walk on the wild side on a Mob & Gangster tour and learn what life was like in the city in the days of Al Capone, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. We’d also recommend a visit to the John Hancock or Willis Tower - or both! Navy Pier, set along Lake Michigan is another great place to soak up Midwest fun.
Depart Chicago early afternoon for your flight back to the UK.
Want to extend this holiday? Maybe longer in St Louis? An East Coast city stopover?
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