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Travel Guide

Great Plains

The Great Plains, the heart of the United States

Known as America’s Heartland, the region of Midwest extends to the West of Mississippi across Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, all of which together form the Great Plains in the heart of the United States. Don’t let this name fool you into thinking all you can find here are dull and monotonous places: the Midwest will surprise you not only with its infinite horizons, its forests and desert landscapes, but also with the historic Route 66 and the incredible cities like St. Louis and Kansas City with their clubs where you can listen to some legendary blues, rock and jazz. 

Which states does it include?

North Dakota
South Dakota
Nebraska
Kansas
Oklahoma
Iowa
Missouri

When to go?

Spring and summer are the best moments to visit the Great Plaines area, warmer temperature in the southern states, where the weather is more wet. Quite cold and freezing weather during fall and winter.

Thanks to the rich history of outlaws, indian tribes and buffallo hunters, the region of the Great Plains is part of the myth of the Wild West, and even today the cowboys and Native Americans living there are more than just tourist attractions but actual parts of the everyday life. You can ride down the endless roads where once travelled the warriors like the Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the first Pony Express and heroes like Calamity Jane and Billy the Kid! From the wild Ozark Mountains to Mount Rushmore, from the lunar landscape of the Badlands to the gold mines of the Black Hills, across the mythical land washed by the rivers Missouri and Mississippi you will find extravagant attractions and live an “on the road” adventure in the heart of America!

North Dakota

The Great Plains between United States and Canada

Did you know that in North Dakota you will find the world’s biggest statues of a buffalo, a turtle and a Holstein cow? Driving down the Enchanted Highway you will encounter plenty of other gigantic statues of animals or local personalities, interrupting the typical American countryside landscape with haycocks and long sheafs of grain.

Birthplace of Sacagawea, the Native girl who led explorers Lewis and Clark all the way to the Pacific Ocean, North Dakota will allow you to follow the footprints of the president Theodore Roosevelt with the national park named after him: with its 30.000 hectares is the primary natural and wildlife area in the region, populated by the buffalos, moose, antelopes, prairie dogs and pike, the official fish of the state.

If you are interested in older and recent American history you better not miss Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, from which General Custer left for the battle of Little Bighorn, and Minuteman Missile Site, the underground missile command center not far from Bismarck, the state capital.

The surrounding fields still hide giant metallic doors that used to hide nuclear missiles during the Cold War. When traveling to discover this state, don’t forget about the time zones, since in the southwest of the state, as well as in the entire South Dakota, they use the so-called Mountain Time, which means you have to move your clock back one hour compared to the Central Time!

South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore State

“Great Faces, Great Places.” This is the motto of the state of South Dakota, better known as “The Mount Rushmore State,” in honor of the eponymous and world-famous mountain with the faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into it.
There is another face that is slowly taking shape in Black Hills Mountains, the face of Crazy Horse on his horse. Once finished, with its 172m it will be the biggest sculpture carved into a mountain, ever. And South Dakota definitely holds many records in addition to this one: the town of Mitchell is home to the only building in the world made from grains of corn, which is renovated every year with more than 300,000 cobs of corn, and at the Jewel Cave National Monument the speleology enthusiasts will find the second-largest cave in the world, with a network of galleries that extends for 233km! And if you thought the only great canyon in America is the one in Arizona, the White River Badlands will prove you otherwise with its greatness that lies not only in its dimensions but also, and even more so, in its strange vibe with all the peaks, gorges, pyramids and rock formations resembling sand castles.
If you are curious to experience the gold rush and its vibe, there is a town of Deadwood, the national historic heritage site made famous by the eponymous TV series, where you can watch amusing reconstructions of the life in the Wild West and explore an underground gold mine.
Not many people know that South Dakota was the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie, inspired by her own memories in the house of De Smet, which is today open for visitors.
Other places that you shouldn’t miss include Mammoth Site, the largest fossil site in the United States, and Custer Park, home of 1,500 wild buffalos and friendly donkeys known for approaching the visitors for food, the so-called “begging burros.” 

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Nebraska

Discovering an america still little known

Is there a better official beverage than milk for a state whose official nickname is  “Cornkusker State”? Despite the unflattering nickname, Nebraska actually has quite a history, from the times of the first pioneers and the battles between the “palefaces” and the Sioux, all the way to the more recent times when the state witnessed the birth of some great names from Marlon Brando and Malcolm X to Fred Astaire and Hilary Swank.

Cruising along the Nebraska highways, you will see military airplanes darting across the sky towards one of the many bases located outside Omaha or the headquarters of the American Air Force. Omaha, in fact, is home to the Strategic Air and Space Museum, with two enormous hangars housing military airplanes from the 1950s and 1960s and enormous bombardiers that once bore nuclear missiles, just like the ones we saw in Kubrick’s cult movie Dr Strangelove. For more “western” scenery, take one of the modern roads running parallel with the historic Oregon Trail towards northwest, where you will instantly recognize the valleys and stone promontories from John Ford movies.
At North Platte, you can visit the ranch that was home of the father of the rodeo, Bill Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, and go up the Golden Spike Tower to admire the Bailey Yard, the meeting point of the railroads connecting the Eastern and Western coast of the United States at the world’s largest railroad classification yard. If you are an automobile enthusiast, you simply have to visit the unique and bizarre collection that each year attracts over 50,000 visitors: the Carhenge, a controversial piece made out of 38 wrecks of old Plymouths, Chevrolets and Cadillacs, painted gray and arranged in a way that replicates famous Stonehenge.
The fans of outdoor sports can try kayaking, canoeing or tubing down the Niobara Scenic River

See the suggested tours in this area:
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6.422
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8.041

Kansas

In Kansas, small-town charm mixes easily with big-city attractions.

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam, where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day” – these are the lyrics to “Home on the range,” the official state song of Kansas, which describes perfectly the warmth and the hospitality of its inhabitants and the sunny fields of wheat that earned Kansas the nickname of the “Wheat State”. Don’t think of Kansas as the home of tornadoes and yellow brick roads, because the “Sunflower State” as it is also known as, is so much more. Not many people know that this state too has some interesting records: it was the first state to give women the right to vote and the first state with a female mayor and a female senator in America; the only state that dedicated a whole museum to all those who have lost the race to the White House and the birthplace of the famous Pizza Hut chain, as well as of the most aircrafts used in the world, produced in factories such as Cessna.
The museum of World Treasures in Wichita is also a one of a kind lace, with its Egyptian mummies, the Abraham Lincoln’s cane, set design elements from The Wizard of Oz, and many other curiosities. Somewhat different but still amazing is the Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, considered to be the best space museum in the nation, where you can see the real command module of famous Apollo 13.
In Kansas City, whose real center is actually located in the adjacent state of Missouri, you will find one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, with a façade made of 25 books almost eight meters high, with titles selected by the residents themselves.
If you want to experience Wild West, you can take a ride in a stage coach up to the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, the “Cowtown” per excellence, where everything is in the Western style: from the railway station to the pharmacy, from the saloon to the funeral parlor and the little prison. Like all the other states, Kansas too was the birthplace to some extraordinary figures, such as Amelia Earhart, the first woman ever to fly across the Atlantic solo, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. 

See the suggested tours in this area:
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4.494
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6.422
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6.086
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4.083

Oklahoma

The native american State

Did you know that Oklahoma is home to as much as 39 different Native Indian tribes? In fact, the name of the state derives from the Choctaw word “Oklahomma,” meaning “red man.”
The wealth of the “Sooner State,” as it is called after the first white colonists that occupied free territories building entire towns in a single night, lies in its oil wells and in the historic Route 66, which is preserved in Oklahoma in its original state to a great extent, attracting millions of visitors each year.
Along the Mother Road, as Route 66 is sometimes called, you will see many tourist attractions, often quite bizarre and unusual: from the 24m long Blue Whale of Catoosa to Route 66 Museum in Clinton, from the 23mt high golden statue of an oil driller in Tulsa to POPS in Arcadia, a soda ranch that offers as many as 600 different soda flavors with a giant neon soda bottle sign as its symbol. The capital, Oklahoma City, is a great place to make a stop and have a drink in one of the places in the distinct Bricktown District or go shopping on the Paseo Drive.
Not far from the center, in Stockyards City, you will walk side by side with real cowboys and for those of you who are crazy about Westerns there is the National Cowboy Museum with an entire collection dedicated to John Wayne! Leaving the capital and going towards Tulsa, you will pass from extensive prairies to an area known as Green Country, with its postcard landscapes full of lakes, woods, rivers and creeks and a very strong influence of the Native culture. In this part of Oklahoma you will find the capitals of Cherokee and Osage nations – Tahlequah and Pawhuska. One of the strangest attractions in the region is the USS Batfish, a submarine from World War II, docked no less on a field in the city of Muskogee.
The sight of this sea giant will certainly make you think of the ships found in the desert in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” 

See the suggested tours in this area:
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4.083
21 days / 20 nights
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6.086
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4.494
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6.422

Iowa

Plains, excellent cuisine and Indian traditions

Who doesn’t know about “American Gothic”, the famous representation of Grant Wood as the man with the pitchfork and one of the most parodied paintings in the world?
Did you know that the house painted in the background is located in Eldon, Iowa? Even just the possibility of re-enacting this painting on your own should be inspiration enough for a trip to the “Hawkeye State,” as Iowa is known in honor of Black Hawk, the chief of Sauk Indians who used to live in these lands.
It is said that today in Iowa there are more pigs than people, but even though Iowa is far from one of the desired destinations in the collective imaginarium, this place definitely hides some pretty unique attractions. For example, the Hobo Museum in Britt which collects works, music and books written by the Hobos, the homeless people who voluntarily choose the nomadic way of life and who each year have their own convention right here! Iowa also has its movie connections: in Madison County, not far from the state capital, Des Moines, you can walk across the typical covered bridges like the ones Clint Eastwood featured in his movie of the same name, and you can visit the house where John Wayne was born. Would you like to spend a night as a gangster? The Hotel Julien Inn in Dubuque will shelter you like it sheltered its old owner, Al Capone, who used to hide here whenever he had to flee from Chicago for a while.
In Pennsylvania you have the Amish, in Utah you have the Mormons, but Iowa also has its own typical utopic community – the Amana Colonies, seven villages of German origin what, however, do not refuse modernity and tourists and in fact offer typical cuisine based on bretzel, spatzel, weiner schnitzel and craft beer. If you want to try your luck after a hearty meal of meatloaf and corn, you have to leave the mainland and get on board of one of the steamboat cruising up and down the Mississippi, which are the only places in Iowa where gambling is legal. 

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Missouri

Music, culture, beer and baseball!

Missouri is the most populated of the Midwestern states and it is known as the Show-Me-State, a nickname honouring the traditional scepticism of its not so impressionable residents.
One of the most interesting cities is definitely Saint Louis, the city of the three B’s: baseballbowling and beer, which are the most popular passtimes, along with history and culture, strongly linked to Mississippi. It is right along this river that you will find the famous Gateway Arch, a parabolic structure of 215m with a rack you can use to go up and admire the city and the surrounding plains.
Other attractions include the zoo, Anheuser-Bulsch brewery where Budweiser is made, the Cathedral with the world’s largest collection of mosaic and the Forest Park, St. Louis’ own Central Park.
The true soul of this city is, however, tied to the music, with concerts every night in numerous clubs and bars following the spirit of Miles Davis, Scott Joplin and Chuck Berry. If you were raised with the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the town of Hannibal won’t leave you disappointed: along its streets you will recognize the places that inspired Mark Twain, you will be able to visit the museum dedicated to him, dine on a cruise ship on Mississippi, or, if you are feeling bold, you can compete in skipping stones or painting fences!
Kansas City will offer you the best barbecue you will ever have in your life, with about a hundred places specialized in this kind of food!
The city is also a cradle of jazz music, which developed during the Prohibition thanks to the names like Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Count Basie; you can listen to exceptional jam sessions until the break of dawn in the Power and Light District. After that, move on to the pristine Ozark Mountains for an exciting swim in their canyons and see a show in one of the fifty theaters in Branson, one of the most visited tourist destinations in the United States, so much so it was even nicknamed “the Disneyland of the Ozarks.”

See the suggested tours in this area:
12 days / 11 nights
Car tour
4.083
21 days / 20 nights
Car tour
6.086
21 days / 20 nights
Car tour
6.422
15 days / 14 nights
Motorcycle tour
4.494