Last week I shared my choices for the most underrated destinations in the Midwest; this week I present the most overrated destinations.
10. Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
A vital commerce site and river bypass between Great Lakes along the Canadian border, but ships pass through as infrequently as Old Faithful, so you’re usually staring at empty locks. If you’re in that gorgeous region of our nation, there are superior places to visit like Traverse City, Leland, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island, the Porcupine Mountains and much more.
9. NCAA Hall of Champions, Indianapolis, IN
Indy has so many great sites that this isn’t worth including on your itinerary. Situated at lovely White River State Park downtown, the museum is adjacent to NCAA headquarters.
For a nominal fee, you are propagandized that all “student athletes” work, study and compete at least 18 hours per day, will be future doctors, lawyers and scientists, and all college sports are equally important. There is very little memorabilia on display, and you’ll be done touring in 30-45 minutes.
If you want an authentic in-state basketball museum, head 50 miles east to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. You’ll thank me, especially when you see the largest high school gym in the world next to it.
8. Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
If you’re in the Hoosier State and want a great place to watch college basketball, do not go here. Even local fans admit the 43-year-old facility is subpar, lends poor sight lines, and has overpriced tickets. If you’re not in the first few rows, it is difficult to enjoy the action.
Visitors also deal with profane students, fans who think it’s still 1987 with Bob Knight at the helm, zero convenient public parking and, thanks to local environmentalists, no interstate access. All these obstacles are for a team with just two postseason appearances the past six seasons.
For a fantastic college basketball experience, stick to the capital city and walk into historic Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University.
7. The Corn Palace, Mitchell, SD
Nearly a century old, this multi-purpose facility is hyped by signs starting in Minnesota, but doesn’t live up to the billing. If you’re on Interstate 90 in South Dakota going west, drive three more hours to the unique Wall Drug, which also serves as gateway to the majestic Badlands, incredible Black Hills and, of course, Mount Rushmore (a site every American should visit).
6. South Bend, IN
Notre Dame University has a pretty campus on the right day, but like much of the flat toll roads, turnpikes and topography between Cleveland and Chicago, South Bend is an industrial town that’s seen better days.
Not considered part of Indiana by many residents to the south, as culturally, geographically and politically, the city of roughly 100,000 residents more resembles southern Michigan and Illinois, South Bend was also recently ranked the third unhappiest city in America.
5. Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
A nice indoor destination for locals on a cold winter day, the MoA is otherwise just a larger, more crowded mall with the same stores as your hometown. I suppose it’s worth a 5-mile cab ride when laying over at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, but I’m surprised how many families travel hundreds or even thousands of miles from around the nation to visit. I love driving and haven’t made the 75-mile trek down there in over a year.
4. Chicago, IL
I literally visited Chicago for business 38 times in a recent 30-month period, so perhaps my view is slightly tainted.
The Windy City has great food, and on pleasant summer days, it’s “cool” to be downtown at the beaches, Navy Pier or a museum — if you can conquer the horrific traffic, ubiquitous tolls roads and find a place to park for under $30. Confiscatory taxes, political corruption, a racially segregated city with a sky-high murder rate, brutal weather and many abrasive folks make Chicagoland undesirable.
3. Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH
Canton is the antithesis of Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While MLB’s version draws fans from all walks of life to a quaint upstate New York village of 1,800 residents, the NFL’s “shrine” sits in one of America’s most depressing cities that loses significant population every decade.
As if the location weren’t bad enough, perhaps the ludicrous $23 admission fee might affect you. The facility itself is under continuous construction so displays are frequently closed. It also lacks the interactive exhibits you find at most sports museums.
2. Madison, WI
If people make the difference in a locale, that’s also true in Madison — unfortunately. In my dozens of trips to Wisconsin’s capital city, I found a pleasant area surrounded by many pristine lakes ruined by its residents.
Collegians from around the country, their professors and local progressives team up to form Berkeley of the Midwest, where generally one ideological mindset is tolerated.
Most of downtown is swallowed by the enormous university. Once you peel through the masses, the capitol building is constantly obscured by either renovations or violent protests, thus you rarely get photos outside or inside the building.
1. Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
The picture above offers the best of “The Friendly Confines” on a pleasant evening. Why? You don’t have to see or hear the people around you, who are often erstwhile fraternity and sorority folks reliving college, or inebriated fans tired of watching bad baseball.
Wrigley Field is an uncomfortable facility, with many obstructed views and pricy tickets. It is situated in an overcrowded yuppie area that’s dangerous to drive around due to urban hipsters on bicycles. There’s no parking under $35 near the stadium either.
Because the ballpark is somehow so revered, Wrigley takes the top spot on my list. If you seek a historic baseball stadium, however, visit Boston’s Fenway Park.