30 Great Midwest Stops & Activities

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It’s always good to take a break, create a memory and play together.  Over the years, Harvest and our family have collected a few stops that we try to work in for fun when we are traveling in ministry.

These unique places around the Midwest are great for student ministry breaks while you’re on a trip and many of them work on a shoestring budget (or no budget at all*). If you’re going on a trip with a church group, your family, or just have some free time – here are 30 of my favorite driving stops around the Midwest.

1. Superman, Metropolis, IL*

A great stop in Illinois’ most southern city, to get out and stretch, see the Superman Statue, take some pictures and hit the road again. The statue is about 3 miles off the interstate. Free to visit and several Harvest Teams have stopped by over the years.

2. Smallest Post Office, Muddy, IL*

This is a quick drive by stop we make each time we’re at Beulah Camp in Eldorado, IL.  It was the smallest post office in the United States until 2002.  Now the honor of the smallest goes to a small town in Florida. But, the Muddy, IL Post Office is the smallest I’ve ever seen and is worth a drive by if you happen to be on those roads in southeastern Illinois.

3. Patti’s 1880’s Settlement, Grand Rivers, KY*

This is a great stop for any student ministry trip or family trip if you want a quick place to stretch, walk around in an old-fashioned log cabin village or have lunch.  It doesn’t cost anything to walk around the paths, shops, and gardens.  There is an ice cream shop and mini-golf available too.  Harvest has stopped here on numerous occasions.  The food is great too – home of the 2-inch pork chop.  The one time Harvest did have lunch there, a church member purchased the meal for our team – it was a nice surprise!

4. St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO*

One of the last “free admission” zoos left in the USA is in St. Louis, MO.  It’s a high quality stop and you can spend hours there if you want to.

5. Moonshine Hamburgers, Martinsville, IL

This is a great little place that could be a day trip destination.  Be sure to get there before 12:30 because they shut off the grill and it’s closed.  There are often over 100 people having lunch inside and outside the small country store in the middle of nowhere.  They’re known for their hamburgers. INFORMATION: 6017 E 300th Rd. Martinsville, Illinois // (618) 569-9200

6. Lincoln’s Home, Springfield, IL*

If you’re driving through Springfield, take advantage of this completely free stop that is worthwhile!  It’s a tour of Lincoln’s Springfield Home.  You have to stop and get a ticket at the main center, then a tour guide takes a group at a time through the home. some fascinating information.  It’s considered a National Historic Site and operated by the National Park Service.  It’s the only home Lincoln ever owned and Springfield has done a good job of preserving the surrounding buildings so the whole street feels like the 1800s.

7. John Deere Pavillion, Moline, IL*

Here’s a great stop that doesn’t cost you a penny – it’s the John Deere Pavillion.  Located in downtown Moline, IL, home of John Deere Company, will impress the country kids and the city slickers.  You can step inside humongous combines and tractors and have fun with some of the simulators and movies they show.  There is a gift shop located across the street and free parking.

8. Logomarcino’s Old Fashioned Candy Store, Moline, IL

If you are at John Deere Pavillion, it’s worth the quick walk to this neat little old-fashioned candy and ice cream shop! We’ve also had lunch there before too.

9. Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN*

Harvest has stopped and walked through Opryland Hotel on many occasions.  There are 9 acres of indoor gardens, waterfalls, and vegetation.  It’s worth finding a parking place and taking a stroll through this amazing “hotel lobby”.  The nice walking paths make it great for all ages. Our family has stopped by and I’ve taken many student ministry groups and college groups by.

10. Upper Room Chapel, Nashville, TN*

One great stop as you are passing through Nashville, TN is the Upper Room Chapel, which is part of the international Upper Room headquarters and hosts thousands of visitors each year. Speakers from different denominations and countries take part in the weekly Wednesday morning worship service. The focal point of The Upper Room Chapel is a nearly life-size woodcarving of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. The Last Supper, sculpted by Ernest Pellegrini of A. H. Davenport, Irving and Casson of Boston, MA. The woodcarving is an extraordinary work of art, created by fifty people over fourteen months’ time. There is no cost to tour the chapel, but donations are accepted.

11. Harvest Headquarters, Troy, IL*

If you’re on a Midwest trip, going North, South, East or West, there’s a good chance you may happen by Troy, Illinois (Exit #18 Interstates 70 and 55, just outside St. Louis).  If you see the Troy exit, you’re exactly one mile from the Harvest Headquarters located inside Troy United Methodist Church, Troy, IL.  Stop by!  Take a look at the cute little town of Troy, say hello to us, look at the wall of fame (pictures of all the Harvest Summer Teams since 1996), get a tour of the facilities (Home of Fire-Up Sr. High Conference and roots of the Kids Conference, The Well, Beautiful U, and all the other events) and have some coffee.  It would be great to have you stop by – youth groups welcome!

12. Precious Moments, Carthage, MO*

It’s been a while since we’ve been here and since I’ve heard much about Precious Moments, but the chapel is impressive and I think it’s still free of charge to see.

13. Giant City Hiking Trails, Makanda, IL*

We often stop and take a hike at the Giant City State Park.  The “tourist” hike takes about 45 minutes, is a simple loop (with a few stairs) and great rock formations.  When you are there you can also take a look at the Giant City Lodge, which is a large, old stone and log lodge with great fried chicken dinners. In the parking lot of the lodge is a water tower with a spiral staircase leading to an observation deck.

14. Ark Encounter & Creation Museum

This place isn’t free, but it’s really cool and you can get tickets for both and save a little money. The two locations are about 40 minutes apart and they are really amazing to experience!

15. Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, IL*

Pere Marquette is located along the Great River Road, just north of Alton, IL.  It’s not on the way to too many places, but if you’re in the St. Louis area, it’s a great stop for hiking, visiting the massive wooden / stone lodge, or having lunch. We typically go there in January to look for eagles on the river.  You will also love the scenic drive to several overlooks along the route to the top of the bluff.

16. Clark Memorial, Vincennes, IN*

Harvest has spent a few weeks, over the years, in Vincennes, IN doing ministry events.  One stop that is fun – if you happen to be in that part of the world is the Clark Memorial.  It’s impressive, fun to visit and a great for pictures.

17. Largest Rocking Chair, Casey, IL*

If you’re traveling through eastern Illinois on I-70, it’s worth stopping in Casey (pronounced Cae-zee by the locals) to see, what seems to be, “world’s largest everything”.  The rocking chair is impressive.  Across the street, they have the largest wind chime along with a quaint little deli and bakery. You could have lunch or just take pictures and go.  It’s all free.  While you’re at it, take a look at the world’s largest pencil and golf tee, both close to the same area.  One bank is also in the process of building the ‘world’s largest token.” One thing I love is that all these things in Casey, IL have a scripture verse on them!

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18. Old Illinois Capitol, Vandalia, IL*

There’s a great historical stop in Vandalia, IL – the old state capitol building. It has the original wood floor upstairs, where Lincoln walked, and much more great history.  It doesn’t cost to go in, but you can give a donation. The building was built really quickly in hopes that they would keep the state capitol in Vandalia.  But, as history proves, it was only used for a short while before officially moving to Springfield, IL.  It’s open Wednesday – Sunday.

19. Hannibal, MO*

Home of Mark Twain and Huck Finn, this river town is fun to drive through.  Harvest often stops for a stretch break to climb the 200 something steps to the lighthouse.  It’s free and fun.  There are several other things to see and do if you are staying longer.

20. Garden of the Gods, Shawneetown, IL*

There are several hiking trails around Garden of the God’s, but there is one great, relatively short walking path that will lead to amazing views!  Hardly seems like you’re in Illinois.  We visit Garden of the Gods each time we’re at Beulah Camp in Eldorado, IL. After your hike, you can drive just a few miles, get a soda, and take a look at the historic Shawneetown Bank.

21. Brown County State Park, Nashville, IN

There’s a great state park just outside of Nashville, IN where you can hike, picnic, and if it’s fall, drive through some of the most beautiful scenery.  It costs a bit to get into this park, but it’s by the car/van load and it’s worth it!

22. Holiday World, Santa Clause, IN

Holiday World is my favorite amusement park.  It’s small, clean, nice, close and you get free drinks all day.  Harvest has been there several times to sing at the park. In addition to the amusement side, they have a world-class water park included in the ticket price.  If you’re coming back from a mission trip or vacation, or just want to have a fun weekend, this is a good one.

 

23. Lewis and Clark Memorial, Hartford, IL*

Take a stroll through the fort where Lewis and Clark stayed during the winter before their long expedition.  Located in Hartford, IL this is a great museum including an outdoor exhibit.  You can also visit the confluence tower, which overlooks the two rivers.

24. Amish Country, Arthur and Arcola, IL*

We love to drop by Arthur and Arcola, IL – home of the Illinois Amish Community. There’s something relaxing about seeing buggies drive by, see teams of horsing plowing the fields, and slower pace of life. While you’re there, you can have a great lunch, stroll downtown, shop at Beechy’s, Bakery’s, or any number of other places.

25. Bill Gaither Studios, Alexandria, IN*

This is a great stop if you are in Northern Indiana.  You can visit the book store, have lunch, stop for ice cream, and tour the famous Gaither Studios!  Last time Harvest stopped by, we got a picture will Bill Gaither himself. It’s the Southern Gospel mecca.

26. Living History Farms, DeMoines, IA

Awesome place.  Harvest traveled here many years ago and again, most recently, I took our family.  The living history farm is a recreated 1880’s town complete with a church, dentist, blacksmith, homes, stores, hat shop, doctor, printer, etc.  Volunteers and staff dress up and “live” in the town while you visit.  You can also take a wagon ride, then hike through the progress of farming from the Native Americans, to homesteaders, to the early 1900s, and on to modern.  It’s fascinating and educational.

27. The Homeplace, Dover, TN

We’ve loved visiting here a couple times over the years. This 1850’s working farm is really peaceful.

28. State Capitol Building, Springfield, IL*

It’s always fun to walk through state capitol buildings.  They are free, impressive, historical and educational.  When you’ve been to a state capital, it feels like you’ve really been to the state.  The last time I was a group in the Illinois State Capitol, one of us had to go through the metal detector about six times, finally ending with a wand search trying to determine what set it off over and over. It was a great memory.

29. Marcoot Creamery, Greenville, IL

I have known the Marcoot girls for years through Beulah Camp and Harvest Trips. They have turned their family farm into the Marcoot Creamery.  For about $3, you can take a tour and have ice cream!  You can also stop by anytime to watch them make cheese or purchase some.

30. Hardwork U, College of the Ozarks, Branson, MO*

My family loved stopping by this school recently!  This college, one of the few in the country where students work their way through – literally – has tons of stuff to see and do including the authentic water-powered mill, a tractor museum, an amazing chapel, a lodge, a dairy farm tour, greenhouses, fruitcake factory, and beautiful scenery.

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