There’s a lot to enjoy about life in the American Midwest—there’s a nice mix of rural landscapes and populous cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, the locals are well-grounded and easy to engage with, and the Great Lakes lie within arm’s reach offering all sorts of fun. But one of the Midwest’s greatest strengths also happens to be one which you might least expect: weather.
Sure, the sun beats down all year long in California and Texas, and maybe Alaska is great if you look exceptionally good in a sweater. But if you’ve ever witnessed the childlike joy of Californians playing in snow for the first time, or spoken with transplants from more temperate regions, you’ve probably gotten the sense that there’s something missing from a life where the climate remains constant year-round. “I like seasons,” a recent Florida transplant recently told me regarding why she moved. Still waters stagnate, and living in an unchanging environment can lead to feelings of stagnation and restlessness. Midwesterners’ ability to experience four distinct seasons in full every year creates a sense of variety, engagement, and even progress.
Even more so, the Midwest’s full range of seasons means that each season has its own plethora of ways to occupy your time and experience the area. Here are some of the many activities available in the Midwest in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
In the Midwest, more than in other places, springtime is a season where change can truly be felt. The transition from winter into summer is always a chaotic one here, with heat, sleet, and snow all unpredictably coming and going from week to week, day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. One thing you can count on though is the wide selection of spring activities available throughout the Midwest.
Those who enjoy the outdoors have an especially broad range of choices. Spring is the ideal time for bird watching—the St. Paul Audubon Society in Minnesota hosts an annual warbler weekend every May, UW-Stevens Point hosts a census where you can watch the courtship of prairie chickens, and plenty of other parks and preserves across the Midwest offer much for birders to see. Hunting for morels, an expensive and tasty mushroom, in places like Whitewater State Park is another rewarding springtime activity for nature enthusiasts, as are the various festivals for maple syrup and wildflowers.
The more city-oriented have plenty to do as well, from seeing the Chicago River dyed green for the St. Patrick’s Day parade to exploring the many free museums of St. Louis.
The Midwest may not be near any ocean beaches, but we get our fair share of warm weather and we definitely have our own ways to enjoy the water in summertime. Surfing Lake Michigan, canoeing down the Mississippi, and staying in water parks in the Wisconsin Dells delivers all the same summer thrills you can get on the coasts. In addition you can kayak, backpack, and fish at many of the numerous state parks and nature preserves throughout the Midwest.
Midwestern cities offer plenty of summer fun too. Chicago hosts open-air music festivals including Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and many smaller neighborhood fests, while the Twin Cities area boasts numerous open-air art festivals including the Uptown Art Fair and Art-A-Whirl. These open-air festivals let you really feel the warmth that’s crept into the air and get the most out of the summer weather.
People may flock to New England or the Pacific Northwest to see trees take on their fall colors, but the Midwest has no shortage of sights to see this season. For the purist there are all the fall classics—pumpkins, hay rides, and corn mazes galore. There are also such attractions as the Bayfield Apple Festival, which annually attracts more than 50,000 visitors, and the unexpectedly huge Warrens Cranberry Festival in Wisconsin. On top of that, one might recall that Germans represent the most prominent ethnic group in the upper Midwest. As a result, every state in the region has formidable Oktoberfest celebrations, and with a list of celebrations at your fingertips it’s easy to choose what dates in which states hold the most appeal for you. These activities are all more than just things that happen to be going on in fall—they epitomize the spirit of the season and let you really feel that it’s fall.
It’s not all quaint countryside activities, either. Chicago continues to host the biggest music festivals around for all sorts of listeners—the World Music Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and Riot Fest bring all sorts of crowds into the city throughout September. Take advantage and enjoy these last few fests before winter hits.
This is where those Californians and Floridians really miss out and perhaps the most underrated aspect of life in the Midwest. Skiing and snowshoeing by candlelight, tracking wolves in Wisconsin, and ice-fishing on the various lakes and waterways in the region adds up to plenty of outdoor activity that gets the most out of the season.
The cities continue to provide as well. Chicago holds exciting New Year’s celebrations which last year included the spectacle of a giant star rising up the side of a building in an attempt to rival New York’s ball drop. The Twin Cities meanwhile offer the opportunity to see and experience ice palaces in St. Paul and the especially colorful examples in Eden Prairie just outside Minneapolis.
The distinct presence of each of these seasons gives life in the Midwest a sense of activity and variety. You feel the natural passage of time, and it’s hard to get bored when an entirely new set of things to do becomes available every couple of months. But of course, not every season is for everyone, and the changeability of the weather in the Midwest has its own issues—you can’t do the one same thing you love all year long, and weather changes can damage property. Your boat, for example, may need to sit unused while the water is frozen over, and unexpected inclement weather can cause issues with any equipment that needs to be outside.
A solution to these problems though may be to have your boat or other equipment shrink wrapped to protect it from the elements. Consider investigating such services with Unlimited Shrinkwrap in McHenry, IL, and you can ditch the cons of the Midwestern climate to fully enjoy the pros of every season of life here.