I’m originally from the middle part of the US—born in Texas and raised mostly in Missouri, with a few years in Ohio as well. While I felt incredibly bored by these places growing up, I have to admit: I’ve become somewhat protective of them in middle age.
Certainly, there’s an argument to be made that the between-the-coast states are where found find the “real America.” This makes sense in some sense, given that this makes up the majority of the country’s land area (if not quite population).
Whether you’re a foreign visitor who wants to discover an underrated part of the US, or an American who’s asking yourself “what is flyover country?”, this is the article for you.
Contents1 Why the Middle of the US Gets Neglected2 What to Do in Flyover Country2.1 See St. Louis’ ancient and modern monuments2.2 Drive Kentucky’s “Bourbon Trail”2.3 Explore Utah’s national parks2.4 Scream your lungs out at Cedar Point2.5 Feel New Mexico’s White Sands between your toes3 How Do You Get to (and Around) Middle America?4 Other FAQ About Visiting Flyover Country4.1 Why is it called flyover country?4.2 Is Chicago flyover country?4.3 Is flyover country worth visiting?5 The Bottom Line
Why the Middle of the US Gets Neglected
As I mentioned in the intro to this piece, I often felt despondent growing up in middle America. I craved grand, great adventures; while the suburbs are a safe and predictable place to be (especially for families with kids), I dreamed of roaming cities where I could meet interesting people with aspirational lives. Many coast-dwelling Americans, frankly, skip the middle of the country because they also believe this to be true.
In order to overcome this, no matter your nationality (I’m sure many foreigners are reading this), you first need to reset your perception of flyover country. In some cases, this is about actual destinations and experiences in the various states. In other cases, it’s about incentivizing yourself to travel there, whether you investigate the upcoming Kentucky sports betting promos before the Derby, or scout out top restaurants in St. Louis before you visit the Arch or Cahokia Mounds.
What to Do in Flyover Country
See St. Louis’ ancient and modern monuments
I grew up primarily in St. Louis, so I have to start this article off a biased note. While some people don’t consider major cities to be “flyover country,” I disagree with this assessment. After landing in St. Louis, contrast the 1950s futurism of the St. Louis Arch with Cahokia Mounds, which are ancient Native American burial grounds. Finish up your time in St. Louis with Italian food on “The Hill,” or eating authentic Asian cuisine along Olive just west of the U City Loop.
Drive Kentucky’s “Bourbon Trail”
When you ask the question “where is flyover country?”, Kentucky is definitely a state that will come up often. However, Kentucky is actually home to a number of sophisticated cultural experiences—and I’m not just talking about the Derby. If you love bourbon, make sure to (with the help of a designated driver) drive the “Bourbon Trail” between the state’s large variety of distilleries.
Explore Utah’s national parks
The American West (which many people would also argue is not part of flyover country) is home to countless national parks; it’s difficult to name just one state that’s best for visiting them. In my opinion, however, Utah is one of the best. National parks wholly extant within the state’s borders include colorful Zion National Park and dramatic Arches National Park. Monument Valley is also partially within Utah, as is the Insta-famous “The Wave.”
Scream your lungs out at Cedar Point
Which states are considered flyover country? Ohio, like its southern neighbor Kentucky, is definitely on the list. While there are many great experiences in Ohio, one of the most unique is Cedar Point. Growing up, I loved rollercoasters; although the now-ancient Magnum and Raptor were cutting-edge back then, they still pack a punch. Even better than the rollercoasters? You’ll spend the day on beautiful Lake Erie, with fresh breezes and beautiful views.
Feel New Mexico’s White Sands between your toes
I write about White Sands often, and with good reason. Whether because it looks like snow in the middle of the desert, or because its “sand” (which is actually fine gypsum) is cool to the touch, even on the year’s hottest days, there are few more unique places to visit anywhere in the world. Plus, it’s not terribly far from other destinations, from New Mexico’s Santa Fe and Taos to underrated El Paso, Texas.
How Do You Get to (and Around) Middle America?
Ironically, the best way to get to flyover country is to board a flight that doesn’t “fly over” it. In general, you’ll want to find the largest city closest to the place you want to visit, which will serve a couple purposes. First, some big city creature comforts before you go off the beaten path; you’ll also have the widest selection of and best available for rental cars.
Indeed, once you get to this part of America, you’ll definitely need your own set of wheels. After all, one of the most crucial answers to the question is “what is flyover country?” is “a place you have to drive to get just about anywhere.” Try to see this as a feature, and not a bug: Driving allows you to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and not be beholden to public transport.
Other FAQ About Visiting Flyover Country
Why is it called flyover country?
The name “flyover country” derives from the fact that (especially in the early jet age), the majority of US flights flew over the middle states; many routes connected the east coast with the West Coast. While the deregulation of the airline industry has lessened this phenomenon, the name has stuck.
Is Chicago flyover country?
Many people exclude major cities, even those within flyover states, from the definition of “flyover country.” I don’t, simply because you often need to spend time in such cities in order to go off the beaten path in this part of the US.
Is flyover country worth visiting?
Some of the most unique destinations and authentic experiences in the US can be found in flyover country, whether you want to discover typical local food or drink, or simply go someplace that most travelers to the US miss. You should absolutely come here if you’re a foreigner with plenty of time to spend in the US, or an American looking for something different.
The Bottom Line
What is flyover country? When I was growing up, I’d have said it was the “daily hell” I wanted to “leave” more than anything else in the world. Now, of course, I’ve mellowed: I consider the middle part of the US a misunderstood and unique place, and actually encourage others to visit under the right circumstances. Traveling to flyover country can open your mind and widen your travel your horizons, not only for foreigners who want to get off America’s tourist trail, but for US citizens who want to destroy a stereotype or two. Need help planning your trip off America’s beaten path? Hire me as your Travel Coach!