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7 Flyover States That Aren’t Boring

7 Flyover States That Aren’t Boring

Today, the phrase “flyover country” or “flyover state” is a pretty broad term. As far as the US is concerned, the term originally referred to a state that sees more air traffic passing over it in relation to the number of flights landing and departing from it.

Nowadays, the term has evolved. It’s used to refer to the general geographic center of the US, every state between the East and West coasts, or anywhere in the Midwest, Great Plains, and the Mountain States too. And sorry, Jason Aldean fans, we’re not talking about the flyover states song, although Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma are definitely flyover states!

It’s often used as something of a pejorative – if it’s a flyover state, there’s no point in settling down because there’s nothing there. Baloney.

These flyover states may be some of the best-kept secrets in Middle America, and each one is worth visiting. Let’s take a look at our favorite flyover states that aren’t boring and see for yourself!

Flyover States That Aren’t Boring

1. Arkansas

Lakeview from a Window

Ask most Americans about their knowledge of Arkansas, and they might say it’s where Johnny Cash or former President Bill Clinton were born. They might even tell you it’s the home of Walmart.

This is all true and fine, but does Arkansas a disservice. If you can say one thing about Arkansas, it’s staggeringly beautiful – there’s a reason it’s known as “the Natural State.”

Home to 52 state parks, 3 million acres of national forest, the Buffalo National River, and the serene Lake Ouachita, Arkansas is best enjoyed through the great outdoors. Arkansas has a sub-tropical climate and can get quite hot and humid, particularly in summer.

The northwest highlands are generally a little cooler, and the southeast warmer and more humid. You might see snow in winter, but little more than dusting.

The northwest highlands, home to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, bordering Missouri,  host many parks, allowing you to admire Arkansas’s more rugged side. Dense forests, steep cliffs, ravines, and cave systems make up most of the Ozark Plateau and are great for serious hikers and campers looking for real wilderness.

Wide shot of the Thorncrown Chapel in  Eureka Springs, Arkansas
raksyBH / Adobe Stock

The historic Eureka Springs in the Ozarks region is a beautiful and tiny must-see town surrounded by mountains, valleys, and forests. It’s a great base camp to experience the Ozarks. Interesting attractions in the area include the Christ of the Ozarks, Thorncrown Chapel, and Magnetic Springs.

The northwest is also home to the incredible Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The Crater of Diamonds National Park in Murfreesboro is unmissable.

An area south of the Ozarks with incredible forests, the park includes the last diamond mine in the country. It offers opportunities for you to do some diamond mining yourself, with chances of turning up a precious gem around 1 in 250 (not bad odds!)

Travelling Arkansas is best done by road as domestic flights around the state are limited by the airports available. Fortunately, car and RV rentals aren’t that expensive because the beauty of Arkansas is best enjoyed up close. Costs of food, room, and board are also very low, with Arkansas being one of the cheapest states in the country to live and visit.

2. Iowa

Historical Monument and City Lights

It’s not all cows and cornfields, but let’s face it: Iowa’s vast plains do lend themselves to agriculture. Yes, it’s flat, and driving around Iowa can be fairly dull. Iowa has a temperate climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters.

Because of the less-than-inspiring terrain and the word best used to describe the weather being “meh,” Iowa is a state best enjoyed indoors, with the best activities based around the state capital, Des Moines. A big college town with a new-meets-old feel, Des Moines is a safe, young, and fine-looking city, and the capitol building is among the prettiest in the nation. The city is jam-packed with fantastic attractions like the Des Moines Art Center and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

Other great hotspots include the 25-acre Blank Park Zoo and the famous Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, home to over 1,200 different species of plants and frequent live music performances. Dining in Des Moines is a real adventure as the city is home to an increasing number of innovative and zany eateries, including Fong’s Pizza, the result when pizza and Chinese cuisine combine (with tiki drinks and karaoke), and Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, a bonkers horror-themed burger and milkshake joint serving incredible culinary creations.

Des Moines is also home to one of the most important events in American Politics: the Iowa Caucuses. Thousands flock to Iowa every four years for the selection of presidential candidates for the two main political parties.

If you’re heading outside Des Moines, remember most of the state’s points of interest are going to be fairly close to major population centers like Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Iowa City is a UNESCO World City Of Literature – the first in North America!

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum

There are few attractions speckled throughout the vast farmland, one a seemingly weird choice. You’ll think I’m odd for recommending a gas station, but the Iowa 80 Truck Stop (or I-80 TA) is no ordinary gas station – it’s the largest truck stop in the world.

Frequently described as a town in its own right, I-80 TA in Walcott has tons of restaurants, fantastic retailers, a movie theater, and a library. It must be seen to be believed.

Despite the six commercial airports scattered about the state, you’ll get the best experience if you drive through the Hawkeye State. Gems like the Bridges of Madison County, the Amana Colonies, the Canteen Lunch In The Alley (the best place for Maid Rites), and the Field Of Dreams movie site can really only be appreciated by car.

Every corner of the state has something to boast about – the Driftless Area has unique topography and the town of Mason City. You might recognize it if you drive through – it was the inspiration for “River City” in the Music Man. Iowa is an incredibly cheap state to visit and a fantastic option for budget getaways if staying in or around Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, or any of the welcoming small towns.

3. Kansas

Landscape in Botanica, The Wichita Gardens at Kansas
Kit Leong / Shutterstock

“Oh, but Kansas is so boring! Dorothy jumped into a tornado to escape it!” Phooey. The Sunflower State rocks.

Possessing a mild climate that only sees extremes in summer and winter, its gentle hills, expansive plains, and few forests, Kansas is remarkably pretty, especially in the sunflower season. There’s plenty to do in big and small-town Kansas, as well as great outdoor activities, best summed up by the “Eight Wonders of Kansas.” Originally a means of getting visitors into the state, touring the 8 Wonders is a fantastic way to learn more about the state and see it up close.

The first stop is Monument Rocks (aka Chalk Pyramids), just north of Scott City. These looming chalk formations, reminiscent of rock formations in Utah, are packed with tiny fossils of ancient sea creatures, millions of years old.

Next is the enormous St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria. Built in 1911 and known as “The Cathedral of the Plains,” St. Fidelis is an impressive spectacle for anyone interested in American architecture.

Onward to Cheyenne Bottoms between Hoisington and Claflin. This stunning wetlands reserve is a gorgeous scape of tranquility, home to millions of shorebirds.

Head over to Greensburg to see the world’s deepest hand-dug well, appropriately named “Big Well”, which has been turned into an incredible, subterranean museum. After Greensburg, head east to Hutchinson, home of Cosmosphere, a brilliant space museum and planetarium hosting the largest assortment of Russian space artifacts outside of Russia. Also in Hutchinson is Strataca, a former salt mine and museum allowing visitors to ride mine carts 650ft below the earth’s surface! Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, north of Strong City, should be your next stop just to witness the vast, awesome beauty of one of Earth’s last tallgrass prairies.

The 8th and final wonder is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home in Abilene. This is where former president and 5-star General Dwight Eisenhower was born and raised, and has since seen the additions of a library and museum.

Kansas Speedway
The_Kansas_Speedway.jpg: Balajiderivative work: Nascar1996 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

If Kansas ever added the 9th wonder, I’d suggest the Kansas Speedway, which hosts NASCAR events and private races all year, and more recently, the American Royal BBQ Competition. Which reminds me; Kansas is the rightful home of barbecue. If you love barbecue, GO. TO. KANSAS.

Kansas has great camping and hiking opportunities, with many parks and campgrounds located just west of Kansas City. Domestic flights around Kansas aren’t the cheapest in the US, but the state is easily accessible through short flights.

If you ask me, driving around Kansas is highly recommended for the views alone. Because Kansas has a very low cost of living and is very cheap to visit,  you’ll have extra cash for ribs and brisket!

See Related: Epic Midwest Road Trips [Getaways & Vacation Ideas]

4. Minnesota

Bridge and City Night lights

Next on our flyover states list is Minnesota. The best thing about Minnesota might just be the Minnesotans, but there are more than just great people to enjoy here!

The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is also the land of sprawling farms, as most of the state is quite flat and well-suited for agriculture. It’s why General Mills set up shop here.

There are still huge forested areas in the northern Boundary Waters of the state that border with Canada. These amazing expanses of untouched wilderness are perfect for camping, hiking, canoeing, fishing, or just escaping modern life.

Minnesota is famous for its harsh, lengthy winters, which may give you a reason to avoid the state in colder months unless you’re into winter sports. Another nickname for Minnesota is the “State of Hockey,” but it should also be recognized for the cornucopia of winter sports enjoyed there, such as all types of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, broomball, and ice fishing.

Apart from the stunning northern wilderness, the best parts of Minnesota have to be the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Minnesota’s capital, Saint Paul, is home to fantastic museums, great food, theatre, music, and the longest stretch of Victorian-era homes in the country on Summit Avenue. Minneapolis is definitely the state’s nightlife capital, with tons of great bars and restaurants, but there’s plenty to see during the day, such as Target Field Stadium, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, featuring the world-renowned Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Spoon and Berry Sculpture in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

No trip to Minnesota is complete without visiting the one and only Mall of America, the largest indoor shopping mall in the country, and also home to one of the world’s largest indoor theme parks in the form of Nickelodeon World. Minnesota’s domestic beer brewing scene is massive. SummitSurly, Fulton, and Lift Bridge are all very popular names, brewing very popular beers.

Flying within Minnesota isn’t great, with commercial airports being somewhat sparse and airfares on the pricy side. Driving is your best bet despite being slightly monotonous in the flatter, less lake-y parts of the state. But if you’re visiting in winter and aren’t used to driving in severe cold weather conditions, take all the care in the world.

While the costliest in our list of flyover states, Minnesota’s cost of living, room, and board is decidedly average compared to the rest of the US. Note there isn’t any sales tax on food or clothing; great if you plan to hit up the Mall of America!

See RelatedIdeas for Weekend Getaways in Minnesota

5. Missouri

Arch Monument

Also known as “the Show-Me State,” Missouri takes its name from the Missouri River, which feeds into the mighty Mississippi, near the city of St. Louis. Missouri’s climate is varied, as temperate climates of the northern Midwest collide with sub-tropical climates from the states southeast of Missouri. Terrain-wise, Missouri is mostly made up of beautiful, lush plains, rolling plateaus, and verdant forests, but it’s what lies beneath the surface that truly makes Missouri stand out.

Missouri is a spelunker’s dream, being home to over 6,000 caves and mines, the most famous being the Meramec Caverns in Sullivan, located in the Ozarks, and the Bonne Terre Mine, home of the world’s largest man-made subterranean lake, which has boat tours and freshwater scuba diving. The state’s two largest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, are both well known for their culinary scene, awesome nightlife, and live music. Do note that Kansas City itself is split between Missouri and Kansas – Missouri has the larger, more lively side.

The Kansas City Zoo in autumn Missouri
Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com

Kansas City is home to the popular Kansas City Zoo, but it doesn’t stop there. The striking National WWI Museum & Memorial is a must-see for history lovers, the curious Noir Arts & Oddities shop is made for for anyone looking for the weirdest possible souvenir, and you’ll need to see one of the most incredible man-made structures on Earth: SubTropolis.

Built underground near the river, SubTropolis was designed to be the world’s largest underground business complex. While it remains almost completely empty and has no ticketed entry, SubTropolis is almost as big as a city and can be driven through (trust me, you’ll want to drive). Also, hidden within SubTropolis is a one-of-a-kind paintball complex!

St. Louis has plenty to keep you occupied as well, such as the City Museum, a constantly evolving scrapbook of St. Louis history and culture, the enormous (and free) St. Louis Zoo, and the stunning Gateway Arch that frames the city center. Not afraid of heights? Catch a ride to the top of the arch and see this beautiful city from the best angle!

One of Missouri’s best gems is Silver Dollar City in Branson. A totally unique, quirky 1880-themed amusement park with tons of rides of varying intensity and plenty of other activities for the whole family, including train rides and paddleboat cruises.

Missouri is surprisingly well-connected for domestic air travel, and airfares are quite reasonable; however, the state is most pleasant to drive, and if you’re more into hiking and camping, you’ll probably enjoy it more if you make it a road trip with an RV. For costs, Missouri is fairly cheap regarding food, room, and board, so considering what the state has to offer, she’s a real bargain.

See Related: Best Things to do in Rolla, Missouri

6. North Dakota

Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota
Randy Runtsch / Shutterstock

Next on our list of best flyover states to visit in North Dakota; the perfect getaway for anyone who can’t decide between a hopping city nightlife, delving into American history, or landscapes so beautiful, they’ve earned the state the well-deserved nickname of “Heaven on Earth.”

The eastern half of North Dakota has a more temperate climate, getting quite humid in the summer, while the western half is more arid. Across the state, summers are hot but manageable, while winters can be brutal.

The landscape, wherever you go, is to die for; the state is without a doubt one of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the whole country and home to several stupendous national parks, the most famous and arguably most beautiful being Theodore Roosevelt National Park of Medora in the Badlands.

The park gets its name from the first President Roosevelt, who spent much time in the area the park now covers, living the “strenuous life.” It’s here where Teddy Roosevelt started conceiving the idea of national parks, and it’s plain to see why.

The park is a fantastic way to experience yesteryear’s frontier lifestyle, where green pastures meet jagged cliffs, every hillock leads to a more perfect view than the last, and wild horses roam free…along with the bison, deer, moose, elk, bighorn, cougars, coyotes, prairie dogs, turkeys, and golden eagles. Hiking and camping here are highly recommended, plus there are opportunities to explore this magnificent space on horseback.

If you’re in Medora in the summer, check out the Medora Musical. The live, open-air musical is about the most American thing you’ll ever see and brings the Old West to life through song, dance, and fireworks!

For those who want to learn more about the history of American frontier life, a trip to Williston will lead you to the Fort Buford State Historic Site and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. Fort Buford, once an essential military supply depot during the American Indian Wars, and Fort Union Trading Post both house terrific exhibits, artifacts, and reenactments that help paint a clear picture of life in the Dakotas for settlers and Natives during those devastating wars.

Fargo Theatre in North Dakota
FiledIMAGE- stock.adobe.com

North Dakota has plenty for the city bug, too, mostly in the largest (and still quite small) city, Fargo. For a taste of some of Fargo’s favorites, check out Smiling Moose, a deli with fresh soups and incredible sandwiches loved by locals. Mezzaluna is the hotspot for finer dining, with fresh takes on American classics and innovative cocktails.

For beer lovers, the Drekker Brewing Company offers a tour of their sleek brewery and serves delectable beers in their Viking long hall-themed taproom, which is a great place to start or end your night out. The nightlife in Fargo is off the hook, with a number of great bars and clubs, which is wild considering the town has a population of less than 130,000 and is less than 50 square miles.

One of the best attractions is the Fargo Theatre. Visiting this art deco marvel from the 1920s is like stepping back, hosting regular movies, live music, theater performances, and the 5-day Fargo Film Festival every March.

Flying domestically around North Dakota can be tricky, but the true charm of the state is the gaps between destinations. North Dakota is best seen from behind the wheel, and RV rentals are highly recommended.

Cost-wise, North Dakota is a little below average. Considering what she has to offer, just from her natural beauty alone, it’s the bargain of the century.

7. West Virginia

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Architecture
StockVizions / Adobe Stock

Last but not least is the undisputed champion of literal flyover states: West Virginia. “The Mountain State,” where John Denver’s Country Roads is one of the state’s official anthems, West Virginia has got it going on!

Weather in West Virginia follows the typical four-season beat. Summers are hot, winters transform the landscape into a peaceful snowy scene, and spring and fall bring mild temperatures along with vibrant foliage or blooming wildflowers, depending on your visit.

A trip to West Virginia opens up a world that caters to anyone who loves a mix of nature, history, and some good local eats. West Virginia’s geography is a playground for outdoor fans and shutterbugs.

The state is covered in mountains, valleys, and rivers worthy of exploration. The Appalachian Mountains take center stage, offering plenty of chances for hiking, rock climbing, and even top-tier whitewater rafting, especially in the adventure hotspot known as the New River Gorge (and the epic New River Gorge Aerial Park). That said, the Allegheny Mountains don’t disappoint; this ain’t the Mountain State for nothing! Check out Blackwater Falls State Park, and you’ll see what I mean.

Marines from Wounded Warrior Battalion East paddle their raft on the Gauley River
English: Maj. Paul Greenberg / Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

West Virginia is also home to some beautiful towns and cities steeped in history. Charleston, the capital and largest city, has deep historical roots dating back to the American Civil War. The West Virginia State Capitol is worth a visit, showcasing some impressive architecture.

Another major hotspot for history enthusiasts is Harpers Ferry, site of the famous raid by abolitionist John Brown in 1859. It was here that Brown raided the local armory with the intent of supplying and instigating a slave revolt in West Virginia.

West Virginia’s beer scene is pretty good, and the culinary scene isn’t lacking either. Farm-to-table is pretty common no matter where you are. Sample traditional Appalachian dishes such as ramps and cornbread or make your way through all the pepperoni rolls you can eat.

Most people who are visiting West Virginia are here for the exquisite scenery, searching for that ideal country road. Check out scenic byways like the Highland Scenic Highway for a visual treat of mountains and forests, just like in the song!

For a more immersive experience, think about renting an RV. It’s the perfect way to absorb West Virginia’s historic cities, charming small towns, and outstanding natural beauty.

Best of all, West Virginia is an exceedingly budget-friendly option for travelers. The state is one of the cheapest places to live in the country.

FAQs

What is the most flown-over state?

Flight data shows West Virginia is the king of flyover states. On a yearly average, West Virginia sees 2,400 flights arriving domestically compared to over 466,000 flyover flights, a flyover-to-destination ratio of 116 flyovers to 6 destination flights.

What are some other flyover states?

Other states that qualify as flyover country include Alabama, Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska.