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Heartland on Exhibit

Some of America’s most iconic museums make their homes in the Midwest.

America’s Heartland is blessed with several signature museums that cater to group travelers. The Henry Ford in Michigan and the Field Museum in Chicago immerse visitors in history. The Milwaukee Museum of Art features breathtaking art architecture. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the National Blues Museum in St. Louis detail the evolution of two of America’s most beloved musical genres.

Here are five museums to include on your group’s next trip to the Heartland.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s mission is to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock ’n’ and roll. It does that through its immersive exhibits and award-winning educational programs. Groups wishing to visit the Cleveland museum between Memorial Day and Labor Day are almost guaranteed to see a live performance of some kind.

Every year, the Hall of Fame inducts a new class of musicians that are included in their own museum exhibit. Other displays tell the story of rock ’n’ roll’s importance to Civil Rights, women’s rights and the green movement. Groups can learn about the Pioneers of Rock, including Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley; catch a show on the Klipsch Stage; or learn about life on the road in the Backstage Stories exhibit. The Garage space re-creates that organic beginning of anyone’s musical experience by offering lessons on how to play guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and drums. The museum hosts a house band in the Garage space every day, so visitors have a chance to jam with them.

Group visitors can participate in a self-guided scavenger hunt that gives teams 30 minutes to answer 20 questions that can only be found among the museum’s exhibits. Another program, Voice Your Choice, gives groups a chance to make a case for who they’d like to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If groups are interested in a particular artist, the museum will bring in an expert to give them a behind-the-scenes experience.

The Henry Ford

Dearborn, Michigan

Groups could spend a few days exploring the Henry Ford complex, which includes the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Giant Screen Experience. The organization gives visitors a chance to learn about U.S. history, American culture and innovation, from stepping inside the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to exploring flight innovations beginning with the Wright brothers or touring the inside of Buckminster Fuller’s circular Dymaxion House.

Greenfield Village encompasses 80 acres of ingenuity. Visitors can step into the lab where Thomas Edison dreamed up the lightbulb or the workshop where the Wright brothers designed the first flying machine. Options include walking through four working farms or learning about the life of Henry Ford from childhood through his creation of the Model T. Liberty Craftworks, a maker community, allows visitors to watch skilled artisans re-creating American handcrafts using authentic techniques.

The Ford Rouge Factory Tour begins with a movie about the history of Ford Motor Company in the Legacy Theater. The Manufacturing Innovation Theater offers a multisensory tour of how the new aluminum body Ford F-150 truck is produced, including 3D projection mapping, vibrating seats and gusts of wind. The Giant Screen Experience offers daily films, including 3D movies.

Groups of 20 or more receive discounted pricing. Most group packages include visits to two attractions at the Henry Ford, as well as a meal.

Milwaukee Art Museum


The Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural wonder and features a rich collection of art, from antiquities to contemporary, that appeal to visitors of all ages. Established in 1888, the museum moved to the shore of Lake Michigan in 1957. In 2001, it opened the Quadracci Pavilion, a sculptural addition to the museum that created a cathedral-like space with a 90-foot-high glass ceiling and the Burke Brise Soleil, a moveable sun screen with a 217-foot wingspan that unfolds and folds twice daily. The Reiman Bridge is a pedestrian suspension bridge that connects the museum to the city.

The museum is known for its collection of American decorative arts; modern and contemporary collections; and works of German Expressionism. It also has one of the best Haitian collections in the world. The art museum prides itself on being family friendly, with a central core that includes drop-in studio space for hands-on activities.

There are 32,000 objects in the museum’s collections and about 2,000 of those on display at any given time. Groups can book self-guided audio tours or docent-led tours that highlight the building’s architecture, most popular exhibits or special exhibitions. A popular group option includes a guided tour with a docent, some free time to explore and then lunch in the museum’s café. Outside, visitors can explore the museum grounds that include gardens, plazas and fountains.

National Blues Museum

St. Louis

A cultural gem located in the heart of St. Louis, the National Blues Museum tells the history of blues music and the influence it had on many genres of American music, starting with its roots in Africa to contemporary music today. It also discusses the pivotal role race played in America.

“Blues is a Black art form,” said Erin Simon, president and CEO of the museum. Visitors love learning about the musicians responsible for the evolving blues music but many “don’t realize R&B means rhythm and blues. So many musicians were influenced by the blues. There’s something for everybody.”

The museum exhibits include digital interactives, photo opportunities for families and an indoor music venue, the Legends Room, where local and national artists perform blues, R&B, soul and funk. There’s a room where visitors can write their own blues song and a jug band room where they can play along with musicians performing on screen. The museum is close to many of the city’s top tourist attractions and adjacent to Sugarfire Smoke House, one of the city’s most popular barbecue restaurants.

Every Saturday during the summer, the museum hosts Blues on the Block, where visitors can have a picnic and enjoy live music.

The museum offers group discounts and guided tours. Museum educators are available to do presentations or give lectures, starting with Blues 101. The museum can also organize box lunches from Sugarfire and private concerts for groups.

The Field Museum


Considered one of the best natural history museums in the country, Chicago’s Field Museum has 35 permanent exhibits, including SUE, the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found, and Discover Ancient Egypt, which displays 23 mummies inside a re-created Egyptian tomb. Group visitors can step inside a full-size replica of a Pawnee earth lodge in Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories or gaze in awe at the Grainger Hall of Gems and the Hall of Jades.

Other exhibits include the Lions of Tsavo; Ancient Americas, which gives insight into the Aztec Empire; or Evolving Planet, where dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and giant sloths roam. The museum’s latest addition to its already impressive dinosaur collection is Maximo, a titanosaur, which at over two stories tall is considered the largest dinosaur ever discovered.

The museum hosts special ticketed exhibitions every year. First Kings of Europe is on exhibit until January 2024. Groups of 10 or more are eligible for discounted ticket prices. The museum also offers Field to Table catering options for purchase, including gourmet boxed or bagged lunches. Groups can also purchase meal vouchers that can be used in The Field Bistro or Explorer Café.

Early Access VIP Tickets allow small groups of 20 to take a personalized tour of the museum’s most popular exhibits before it opens to the public.