Central US States: Complete Travel Guide



States Found On The Central States

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

According to the U.S. Census, the three-region model defines the Central US as the Midwestern United States plus the western, central, and southern portions of the United States. By this definition, the Central States include THe Midwest which consists of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.


The Southern States that are not quite east enough to be considered part of the East Coast, nor west enough to be part of the West, are considered part of the Central States. These states include Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The Central States, numbering 21 states in total make up the largest region in terms of the number of states but the lowest when it comes to population. This means miles and miles of incredible wilderness to explore and the incredible discoverable wildlife that lives there.

The Best Of The Central States For Travel

Black Hills of South Dakota
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Black Hills of South Dakota

The Central States may not have the population totals of the east or west coast of the United States, however, incredible locations like the Great Lakes and the cities that border them draw countless travelers every year, while to the south travelers have incredible sites such as Graceland in Tennessee, culture, and cuisine in New Orleans, and the ranches of Texas are all incredible draws for travelers.

Those that are inspired by riding across miles of plains and grasslands, living life on a ranch like a cowboy will love visiting states like Texas and Oklahoma. Travelers who may not be crossing South Dakota have definitely seen the Wall Drug signs too!

The Central States: Climate And Geography

the sunset over a countryside in nebraska
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the sunset over a countryside in nebraska

The climate of the Central States varies greatly as travelers move from north to south. Some of the coldest and snowiest places in the US are found here. The Dakotas and Minnesota are infamous for their winters, but during the summer, they are some of the most beautiful places travelers can explore in the US.

Moving south, the weather becomes warmer and more subtropical. The wetlands and waterways of Louisiana are well known, and the mountains and valleys of Alabama are lovely. Texas is a massive state with an incredible mix of high and low elevations.

The Climate of the Midwest

Waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
Photo by Taylor Noble on Unsplash

A waterfall at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

Most of the Midwest has a humid continental climate. This means that temperatures vary greatly from summer to winter, and there is measurable precipitation year-round. With four distinct seasons, the Midwest is a popular destination for those looking to discover autumn foliage, or to summer around the Great Lakes where it will be much more pleasant than in the states to the south. Here is a look at the average temperatures for Des Moines International Airport in Iowa.

  • Spring
    – 43 – 63 °F (April)

  • Summer
    – 68 – 86 °F (July)

  • Fall
    – 45 – 63 °F (October)

  • Winter
    – 16 – 32 °F (January)

The Climate of the Southern States

Lighthouse Rock - Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Texas
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Lighthouse Rock – Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Texas

The southern United States has a humid, subtropical climate. This climate appeals to numerous people and businesses for many reasons. Throughout most of the south, unless at a high elevation, winters are generally mild to quite pleasant while summers bring more humidity and heat.

There is also a chance of tropical storms hitting the area during Hurricane season. Here is a look at the average temperatures for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

  • Spring
    – 62 – 78 °F (April)

  • Summer
    – 76 – 90 °F (July)

  • Fall
    – 64 – 79 °F (October)

  • Winter
    – 46 – 62 °F (January)

Bison on grasslands, Custer State Park
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Bison on grasslands, Custer State Park

The wildlife of the Central States contains some of the most iconic animals in the US. These include the bison which are now protected and growing in number. Other animals here included the adorable Black-footed ferrets, the majestic pronghorn antelope, the greater sage grouse, and the rare mountain plover.

Many of these animals are unique to the Great Plains and once flourished across this massive stretch of land. Many of these animals are rebounding and starting to flourish again in the plains, which is perfect for travelers to experience.

What The Central States Are Known For

Chicago style deep dish pizza
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Chicago style deep dish pizza

Travelers are drawn to the Central States for a variety of reasons. Their major cities are popular draws for their food, culture, entertainment, and even their sports teams. The Dallas Cowboys are the most watched football team in the NFL, and cities like Chicago boost popular teams in multiple leagues.

The geography of the Central States contains the majority of the Great Plains, the southern Appalachians in Alabama, the wetlands of Louisiana, and the massive stretch of land Texas encompasses.

Travelers love traveling to these states to enjoy the cuisine as well. Southern food is famous across the US and there is no better place than New Orleans to enjoy it. Those looking for some barbeque love visiting Texas. To the north, Chicago has its own unique takes on several styles of food including pizza.

Staying in the north, many of the Central States border the Great Lakes offering travelers the best chance to explore them.

The Major Cities of the Central States

San Antonio, United States
Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

A view from above San Antonio, United States

When travelers think of major cities in the Central States they probably first think of the metropolises that have sprouted up along the Great Lakes, or Southern Cities to the South such as Houston and Dallas, Texas, or New Orleans, Louisiana. However, there are plenty of interesting cities in between.

Fans of Elvis and music in general love visiting Memphis Tennessee, the home of Graceland and so much more. Indianapolis, Indiana, is home to the Motor Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame. Minneapolis, Minnesota, isn’t only the birthplace of Prince, but it is also home to the Chain of Lakes, the Mississippi River, and hockey!

There is so much to discover in the major cities of the Central States.

  • Chicago
    – 2.7 Million

  • Houston
    – 2.4 Million

  • San Antonio
    – 1.6 Million

  • Dallas
    – 1.4 Million

  • Austin
    – 1 Million

The Great Plains of the United States

A gathering storm over Kansas
Photo by Raychel Sanner on Unsplash

A photo of a A gathering storm over Kansas

The borders of the stretch of land known as the Great Plains may be debated, but it is a fact that the majority of these plains are found in the Central States. Typically, the term refers to the territory from Montana to Minnesota and down to New Mexico and Texas.

Eastern parts of some West Coast States are included in the area of the Great Plains such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, but the vast majority is found throughout the Central US.

The length of the plains is measured at 3,000 miles (4,800 km), their width from 300 to 700 miles, and their area approximately 1,125,000 square miles (2,900,000 square km). This is roughly equivalent to one-third of the United States!

Louisiana to Texas: Delicious Southern Food

Good, homestyle southern barbecue
Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash

Some good, homestyle southern barbecue

Southern food is famous throughout the US and even overseas. Perhaps one of the most famous parts of southern cuisine would be barbeque, and travelers will definitely find plenty of it. Texas might have the most famous barbeque in the southern Central States, but it’s hardly the only option.

Other popular southern cuisine includes biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, old-fashioned chicken and dumplings, classic fried chicken, collard greens, and so much more. Foodies looking to explore some of the most iconic parts of American Cuisine with its incredible variety of influences and flavors.

The Great Lakes

Battleship Rocks formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Upper Peninsula, Michigan
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Battleship Rocks formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The Great Lakes are one of North America’s natural wonders. Creating the border between many of the American Midwestern States and Ontario, Canada. These lakes are ideal for a summer retreat and are flocked to every year. Minnesota borders northern Lake Superior, Wisconsin offers incredible access to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, Illinois and Indiana border Lake Michigan, Michigan offers the most access to the Great Lakes with borders with all except Lake Ontario, and Ohio shares a long border with Lake Erie.

  • Things To Do In The Central States

    Chicago at night

    Travelers are drawn to the Central States for a variety of reasons. Their major cities are popular draws for their food, culture, entertainment, and even their sports teams. The Dallas Cowboys are the most watched football team in the NFL, and cities like Chicago boost popular teams in multiple leagues.

    The geography of the Central States contains the majority of the Great Plains, the southern Appalachians in Alabama, the wetlands of Louisiana, and the massive stretch of land Texas encompasses.

    Travelers love traveling to these states to enjoy the cuisine as well. Southern food is famous across the US and there is no better place than New Orleans to enjoy it. Those looking for some barbeque love visiting Texas. To the north, Chicago has its own unique takes on several styles of food including pizza.

    Staying in the north, many of the Central States border the Great Lakes offering travelers the best chance to explore them.

    • The Nicest Beaches Of The Central US

      Galveston Sea Wall and Beach

      The Central States are far from landlocked. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama all have coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico. Beaches in Texas like Galveston and South Padre Island are always popular draws for those visiting Texas, especially in the southern heat! Baton Rouge in Louisiana is a famous stretch of coastline, and so are Biloxi, Mississippi, and Dauphin Island, Alabama.

      To the north, travelers can forget about some of the stunning beaches along the Great Lakes. Traverse City and South Haven Michigan are incredible beach escapes. North Beach and Big Bay Town Park Beach in Wisconsin are also always popular. Some of the best stretches of coastline along the Great Lakes aren’t even technically beaches with sites like Picture Rocks, Michigan, that will take travelers’ breaths away.

    • Best Central US Hiking

      Overlook on a hiking trail in the ozarks

      Hiking is an incredible way of discovering the natural landscapes of the Central States. The wide, open spaces of the Midwest are a popular draw with plenty of underrated parks. Coastlines around Lake Michigan and the Wisconsin River contain popular routes such as the Ozark Trail and the Starved Rock State Park. 

      States to the south like Alabama have hundreds of miles of hiking trails over mountains and through valleys. Georgia is often accredited as the start of the Appalachian Trail, however, Alabama and Tennessee also share some of those mountains.

      Texas is a truly massive state, with much of the terrain being the rugged desert landscape that travelers may expect, but it is truly a diverse place with far more to offer than is often popularized. Travelers may be surprised at the diversity they’ll find on the trails here. Lush swimming holes, wildflower meadows, and epic summit views are just some of the wonders that the Lone Star State offers. Hikers are sure to find the hikes and terrain they’re looking for in the Central States.

    • Natural Wonder: The Great Plains

      The Great Plains, Nebraska

      The borders of the stretch of land known as the Great Plains may be debated, but it is a fact that the majority of these plains are found in the Central States. Typically, the term refers to the territory from Montana to Minnesota and down to New Mexico and Texas. 

      Eastern parts of some West Coast States are included in the area of the Great Plains such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, but the vast majority is found throughout the Central US.

      The length of the plains is measured at 3,000 miles (4,800 km), their width from 300 to 700 miles, and their area approximately 1,125,000 square miles (2,900,000 square km). This is roughly equivalent to one-third of the United States!

    • Central States Wildlife

      Bison buffalo grazing in the Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

      The wildlife of the Central States contains some of the most iconic animals in the US such as the bison which are now protected and growing in number. Other animals here included the adorable Black-footed ferrets, the majestic pronghorn antelope, the greater sage grouse, and the rare mountain plover.

      Many of these animals are unique to the Great Plains, found nowhere else, and they once flourished across this massive stretch of land. Many of these animals are rebounding and starting to flourish again in the plains, which is perfect for travelers to experience.

  • Texas

    Texas-Longhorns-Landscape

    The Lone Star States is famous across the United States and has made quite an impact on what is Americana. Travelers visiting Texas do so for nearly as many reasons as there is different terrain in the states. Galveston, Texas, is an incredible draw for beachgoers looking to enjoy Texas’s legendary coastline. Those looking for major city appeal will find it as four of the five largest cities in the Central States are found in Texas. Each city offers something a bit different, from the more progressive feeling of Austin to the more traditional Dallas. Travelers looking to enjoy nature will find plenty of that too. The varied terrain of Texas has something for every hiker. Those looking to live their cowboy fantasy will also find no better place to do so than in Texas.

    • Houston

      Skyline of Houston, Texas

      Those who know about Houston probably know that it’s the home of the NASA Space Center, one of the main attractions in the city. Indeed, lovers of everything outer space are drawn to this fascinating destination. However, Houston has so much more to offer visitors with varied interests.

      From museums to aquariums, theaters to shopping outlets, there’s never a dull day in this Texas metropolis. Plus, as if this isn’t enough, lovers of water activities can head to Galveston Bay where kayaking, swimming, and fishing are among the experiences.

      There’s certainly a lot to learn about Houston.

    • Corpus Christi

      the sunset over a harbor in corpus christi, texas

      Corpus Christi is actually one of the oldest US cities, with a history that can be traced back to the early 1500s. This history is peppered with stories of Spanish settlers, Native Americans, and World War II tales.

      Still, the beautiful city of Corpus Christi has an idyllic position on the Gulf of Mexico, with a somewhat secluded bay of its own. The islands of Padre and Mustang separate this bay from the Gulf, and they boast some of the best beaches that the city has to offer. Moreover, Corpus Christi consistently experiences high wind speeds, making this a popular windsurfing and kite-boarding destination.

      This enchanting destination has so much to offer its visitors.

    • Dallas

      Dallas, Skyline

      Dallas is the third-biggest city in Texas, after Houston and San Antonio. Its rich history, thriving arts and culture scene make it a great tourist destination. 



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