The Heart of America - Your three- part guide to the most exciting destinations in the US

Even if you were brought up in Herts, I bet you have a pretty good working knowledge of the heart of America. In your mind you may have ridden a streetcar named Desire through New Orleans with Tennessee Williams, boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh with Paul Simon, driven down Route 66 with Chuck Berry - and in reality you may have seen more episodes of Dallas and ER than you care to admit.

The East and West coasts act as a kind of insulation, allowing the heartland of the US to develop in a quintessentially American manner (and, it must be said, to vote for an arch-conservative president). Happily, these are porous boundaries, which is why on the lands stretching out for hundreds of miles on each bank of the Mississippi you will find people who still count themselves as African, Scandinavian, Italian, Polish and Indian - often, in the case of the Midwest's amazingly cosmopolitan cities, in the same street.

Scenically, much of middle America is as flat as a pizza or a naan. You can see just how flat from the top of one of Chicago's skyscrapers, or - upside down at ridiculously high velocity - on the world's finest rollercoaster in Ohio. Climatically, too, much of the heartland seems unfit for human habitation; the Midwest, in particular, is implausibly cold in winter and absurdly hot and humid in summer - when you can also expect excitement in the shape of tornadoes straight out of The Wizard of Oz.

This is the America that gave the world symbols of global uniformity: McDonald's (as first franchised in Des Plaines, Illnois, 1955) and the Holiday Inn (opened Memphis, Tennessee, 1952). So why do I keep going back? Because the heart of the US is also where the skyscraper was invented and where Frank Lloyd Wright flourished; because in South Dakota, where a mountain (Rushmore) became the symbol of a new nation, Native Americans are at last reclaiming their heritage; and because, like most people, I travel to meet people. And the folks from Mississippi to Michigan are even better characters than you find on TV.

Simon Calder, Travel Editor, The Independent

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral