Bright Lights, Big City: The Midwest

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Chicago Magnificent Mile

Ah, the beautiful Midwest: the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, the farmland, and the major cities. It’s a unique blend that attracts thousands of visitors and new residents every year. The busy, gritty streets of Chicago and the congenial heartland of Omaha have little in common, but the charm of these Midwestern metros is the diversity. If you think a Midwestern city is right for you, here are a few that define this unique landscape.

Chicago, Illinois: The Windy City was incorporated in 1837 and has become an international hub for industry, commerce, finance, and more. The city is famous for its arts, culture, architecture, and food (deep-dish pizza! Chicago dogs!). Chicago is defined by skyscrapers and fast-moving pedestrians, but it is also quite beautiful – Chicago contains 552 parks, 33 sand beaches on Lake Michigan, historic lagoons, and elegant gardens. The largest park (and probably the most famous) is Lincoln Park, which covers 1,200 acres. Grant Park, known as “Chicago’s Front Yard,” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes the famed Art Institute of Chicago and Buckingham Fountain.

Detroit, Michigan: The automobile was born in the Motor City and the city is still synonymous with the auto industry. But Detroit was founded in 1701, and before Henry Ford founded his car company here in 1903, Detroit was the Paris of the West because of its beautiful architecture. Broadway Avenue Historic District and the Randolph Street Commercial Buildings Historic District, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still show off some of this classic architecture. Detroit’s beautiful waterfront is lined with miles of parks and several fountains, adding even more charm to this “Renaissance City.”

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Where Detroit has motor oil coursing through its history, Milwaukee has beer. Milwaukee is located on Lake Michigan and residents enjoy some of the lowest real estate prices in Wisconsin. Milwaukee is a beautiful city, home to the Milwaukee River Walk, Miller Park, and the Milwaukee Art Museum, and offering historic locations such as the Third Ward. The rest of the city includes skyscrapers galore and lofts, condos, and apartments along the lake and the river. Milwaukee, once home to the Big Four beer breweries Pabst, Miller, Schlitz, and Blatz, has only one brewery remaining today – Miller Brewing Company, which is one of the city’s largest employers. But this is still the city of beer – brewpubs can be found all over the city. Milwaukee is a fun and dynamic city – Lake Michigan is ideal for sailing and windsurfing, and the city is famous for its festivals.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: The stunning “City of Lakes” contains 20 lakes, waterfalls, creeks, wetlands, and the Mississippi River. The Chain of Lakes district is one of seven that make up the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a series of linked parks that wind around the city and offer biking, running, and walking paths as well as swimming, fishing, boating, and ice skating. The Minneapolis park system is considered one of the best-designed, best-maintained, and best-financed in the country. But Minneapolis isn’t just a pretty face – this is the second largest economic center in the Midwest. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Minneapolis include Ameriprise Financial, Bancorp, and Target.

St. Louis, Missouri: Founded in 1764 by the French fur trader Pierre Laclede and his aide Auguste Chouteau, St. Louis became a major port on the Mississippi River after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The city’s landmark Gateway Arch, built in 1963, is located on the exact spot where Laclede told his aide to build a city. It is considered the gateway to the west and was built as a monument celebrating the westward expansion of the US. Even though St. Louis is a major economic center, it is wrapped in natural beauty. The city features a wealth of native shade trees, including hickory, maple, and oak. The city offers over 100 parks, including the Missouri Botanical Garden, Citygarden, and Tower Grove Park.

Cleveland, Ohio: Situated along Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio, Cleveland is a diverse city that dates back to 1796. Once considered a manufacturing center, Cleveland’s economy now includes manufacturing as well as healthcare, financial services, and biomedical research. Cleveland, the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World,” is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland is a kaleidoscope of breathtaking architecture ranging from Art Deco to Beaux-Arts and beyond. Arts and culture are prevalent throughout the city – this is home to one of the best orchestras in the world, the Cleveland Orchestra. Playhouse Square Center is the second-largest performing arts center in the country, and the Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the nation’s premier art museums.

Indianapolis, Indiana: Indianapolis isn’t just the nation’s 12th largest city; it is also the fastest-growing city in the country. From its diversified economy to its sporting events to one of the best downtowns in the United States, it’s no wonder people are flocking to this booming metropolis. The Indianapolis 500 is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May and is considered one of the most important motorsports events in the world. If you choose to live in Indianapolis, get ready for a downtown that offers roughly 300 restaurants, 200 shops, movie theaters, museums, art galleries, attractions, and more. The Indiana State Fair is held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, usually in August. Other fairs and festivals include the Indy Jazz Fest, the Carmel Arts Festival, and the Talbot Street Art Fair.