A cultural guide to some of the most livable and swoon-worthy cities in the Midwest. Plan your next trip to one of the best Midwest cities.
The Midwest is known for its staggering beauty, friendly locals, and being a hub for agriculture. However, as the locals already know, the Midwest has much more to offer, specifically for Gen Z!
What Makes Midwest College Towns Appeal to Gen Zs?
Living in the Midwest is significantly more affordable than in other areas of the US. First of all, the cost of living is lower. And that means it’s also cheaper to rent and buy property in Midwest cities, making this region a perfect fit for this generation.
Quality of Life
Gen Z’s are known for their ardent perspective that life is for living. This generation believes people should work to live, rather than vice versa. With a lower cost of living comes more disposable income, and with abundant nature, urban activities, shopping, and food and beverage establishments, Midwest cities have plenty of options for Gen Z’s looking to spend their hard-earned dollars.
Education and Universities
There are many prestigious universities scattered throughout the Midwest. The vast array of university and higher education options is perfect for students looking to enroll or for education professionals looking for a respected institution to work for.
Entertainment and Nightlife
The midwestern United States is rife with entertainment, excellent fine dining options, intimate and expansive concert venues, and multiple national and college-level sporting teams to cheer on. Whether your vibe is amusement parks, museums, or outdoor festivals, the Midwest has plenty of options.
The Top 7 Midwest Cities for Gen Zs
1. Ames, IA
Ames, Iowa, is one of the best college towns in the US. Cheer on the Cyclones at Iowa State University. And then check out the butterfly house at Reiman Gardens and the Brunnier Art Museum on campus. Hungry? Head downtown for a bite to eat and a cold beer. Whether you want classic BBQ or something as adventurous as pizza with oat crust drizzled in honey, there are plenty of options.
2. Columbia, MO
Columbia, Missouri, is a great place to spend time, especially if you prefer walkable or bikeable cities. There are plenty of small businesses for shopping, food, and drink opportunities downtown, and lots of parks around if you prefer to ride or hike on the trails. It’s also home to Mizzou, aka the University of Missouri, the oldest public university west of the Mississippi River. Go Tigers!
3. Fargo, ND
Another great Midwest city is Fargo, North Dakota. North Dakota State University is famous for its football team, the NDSU Bison. Fargo brings elements of diversity, creativity, and innovation to the region. To see more of the city, rent a bike and explore NDSU’s campus, tackle the riverfront trails, or cruise through downtown. While you’re there, make time to visit the shops, boutiques, and galleries, or take in some live music while you grab a bite to eat along Main Avenue.
4. Iowa City, IA
When in Iowa City, stop by the University of Iowa for a Hawkeye game to get a sense of the excitement and energy in this Midwest city. To learn more about its history, check out the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame and Museum and the Old Capitol Museum. Want something to eat? There are plenty of fantastic establishments in Iowa City, whether you’re looking to take in a roof-top view, are ready to try a vegan-friendly meal, or indulge in a milkshake blended with a slice of pie.
5. Lincoln, NE
Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the smaller Midwest cities with a population of about 290,000, but don’t be fooled. This city has a lot to offer. Home of the University of Nebraska and Cornhuskers football, Lincoln is a great place to visit. When visiting the Nebraska state capitol, head to the Haymarket downtown for local bars and restaurants where you can grab a beer and a burger or a slice of pizza, or try something a little more adventurous, like Cajun or Greek faire.
6. Madison, WI
The University of Wisconsin at Madison, home of the Badgers, is a premier research facility and a hotbed of activism that attracts many people to the city. There is a lot to do here: visit the state capitol, head to the seasonal farmer’s market in Capitol Square, or swing on over to State Street to browse bohemian shops and eateries. There is a wide range of food options in Madison, whether you want farm-to-table vegan and organic dishes or a great place to have a burger and drink a craft beer.
7. Manhattan, KS
Sometimes called the Little Apple, Manhattan, Kansas, may not be as sprawling as the other Manhattan, but you’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy. Manhattan is home to Kansas State University and the Wildcats, and a campus visit can give you an idea about the energy in this town. Nearby, you’ll find blocks of shops, bars, and places to grab a coffee. There are many exciting restaurants, too. You’ll find everything from sweet breakfasts like banana foster pancakes to soups, salads, and deli sandwiches.
Plan a Visit to the Best Midwest Cities!
There are many reasons to head to the midwestern United States, and there is so much to see, do, and learn! The Midwest is home to some of the best cities in the country, the perfect antidote to a path well-trodden.
- Choosing Your Path: A Guide to Midwest Colleges for Gen Z
- Iowa State Football: A Season to Rebound
- Kansas State Sports: A Quick and Dirty Guide
- The Gen Z Money Squeeze
- The Most Popular Midwest Sports
- Why People Are Moving to the Midwest