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Eau Claire, WI

Nestled in the forests of western Wisconsin is an audio artist’s paradise, anchored by homegrown indie acts such as Bon Iver, S. Carey, and Field Report. Eau Claire—yes, Eau Claire—is home to a rising music scene, thanks to a constant influx of new talent from the local University of Wisconsin satellite (and its top-notch music program) and an industrious base of performers who broke big and never left. (When’s the last time Justin Vernon played a free concert at your neighborhood park?)

Louisville

Louisville has done the seemingly impossible: reinvented eclectic neighborhoods while keeping chains largely at bay. The rising wave of vintage and antiques shops reflects the city’s distinct character as the merging point of the South and the Midwest and the hub of bourbon and horse countries. Here, a curated guide to getting the most from Louisville’s main antiques districts.

Cleveland

You grow up in Cleveland fielding a lot of lame cracks: Yep, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire—what a laugh riot. You’re right, Cleveland sure does rock—haven’t heard that one before. But these days, a group of brilliantly inventive chefs are skewering perceptions of C-Town, turning it into a foodie destination. It started with Iron Chef America’s Michael Symon, a gold-medal ambassador for the Rust Belt if ever there was one, who built an empire around snout-to-tail butchering and unpretentious Midwestern comfort food (fried bologna sandwich!). He’s not the only one drawing on deeply rooted Cleveland food traditions—and then splintering them into something thoroughly novel.

Indianapolis

By adding more than 100 miles of bike lanes in the past five years, Indianapolis has transformed itself into one of the most cycling-friendly cities in the country. (Even hipster paradise Portland wants to know how Indy did it.) The centerpiece is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile urban loop connecting some of the area’s greatest sights. Here’s how to explore the city on two wheels.

Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids has a rich history of brewing great beer—one cut woefully short when Prohibition plugged its ale slingers’ spigots in 1920. They didn’t start flowing in earnest again until recently, as the craft beer boom catapulted this southwest Michigan town and its 40-plus breweries into the national spotlight. Here, the five best places to get your hops fix in Beer City, USA (reigning champ since 2012).

Detroit

In Detroit, “renaissance” is a familiar word. It hovers above the city in its tallest building, GM’s Renaissance Center, and gets tossed around in think pieces about the Rust Belt. But now the term applies to Detroit’s cultural vibe, too. The Motor City is in the midst of its own creative rediscovery, fueled by a renewed interest in its gritty art scene. In these five neighborhoods, you’ll find murals, sculptures, and neograffiti by artists of local and international fame who are reshaping Detroit’s story.

Cincinnati

Yeah, you probably know that Cincinnati was once the nation’s pork-processing capital. But what you likely don’t know is that it has an architectural pedigree that would make design buffs weep. See the University of Cincinnati’s $300 million investment in buildings by starchitects such as Frank Gehry, Bernard Tschumi, and the late Michael Graves—an ongoing project that The New York Times dubbed the “most ambitious campus design program in the country.” But there’s plenty to marvel at among the city’s old-school buildings, too—and a two-day trip is just the right amount of time to explore both the historic and contemporary.