Here’s something you may not know: Many people in the Midwest actually like our region being known as “flyover country.” Why? Because it keeps our beautiful parks, regional attractions, and great RV campgrounds readily available for those of us who love to live here.
U.S. Presidents from “flyover country”
Here in “flyover country” we are proud of the folks who called the Midwest “home” and then they each went on to become one of the most powerful and well-known people in the entire nation: the President of the United States.
Presidential history buff road trip in “flyover country”
Depending on your available time and budget, you can visit the birthplaces or hometowns of 11 U.S. presidents throughout the Midwest region aka “flyover country.” Bonus: Many presidential libraries are located within the state of the president’s birth. (Note: The majority of U.S. presidents have established their Presidential Library within their home state. While this has become the custom, it is not mandatory. Each President, along with the advice of the Archivist of the United States, makes this decision.)
President Bill Clinton (christened William Jefferson Blythe III). Visit his birthplace in Hope, Arkansas, and see why it holds a special place in President Clinton’s heart: “In many ways, I know that all I am or ever will be came from here….” President Clinton’s library and museum are in Little Rock.
Abraham Lincoln. Although born in Larue County, Kentucky, Lincoln spent his early life in Indiana. (Visit Lincoln’s boyhood memorial in Santa Claus, Indiana.) When Lincoln turned 21, the family moved to Illinois. Plan to tour: Lincoln’s New Salem village, Lincoln’s home, Lincoln’s Presidential Library, and Lincoln’s tomb—all in Springfield, Illinois.
Ulysses S. Grant. (The “S” doesn’t stand for an actual middle name. It’s due to a mistake on his application form to West Point.) Grant’s family moved to Galena, Illinois, in 1860. You can visit Grant’s home in Galena, but to see his Presidential Library, you’ll need to travel to Starkville, Mississippi.
Ronald Reagan. An upstairs apartment (over a bakery and a tavern) in Tampico, Illinois, was the birthplace of Ronald Reagan. You can tour the apartment and then go next door to see Reagan memorabilia. To visit Reagan’s presidential library, you’ll need to travel to Simi Valley, California.
Benjamin Harrison. Born in North Bend, Ohio, President Benjamin Harrison was a grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison, and a great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison, a founding father who signed the United States Declaration of Independence. Visit his Victorian mansion in the Old Northside Historic District of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Herbert Hoover. Hoover was born in a two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa. You can tour the site along with his Presidential Library and Museum. The museum offers a self-guided tour via a free app and the staff is happy to supply younger visitors with a scavenger hunt for the museum.
Abraham Lincoln. Visit the log cabin and tour the beautiful surroundings in Knob Creek Farm. Lincoln lived here with his family while age 2 – 8 years old. This National Historical Park is seven miles from Hodgenville, Kentucky.
Harry S. Truman. (As with President Grant, the “S” in Truman’s name is not an abbreviation for a middle name. It was a compromise between his grandfathers’ names: Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.) Born in Lamar, Missouri, Truman’s childhood home was a 1 ½ story clapboard dwelling. You can tour the home in Lamar and then drive to Truman’s Presidential Library in Independence, near Kansas City, Missouri.
Gerald Ford. Although born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ford’s boyhood home is no longer standing. Instead, you can tour a Memorial Garden situated on the birthplace site. You’ll have to travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to tour President Ford’s Library and to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to tour Ford’s Presidential Museum.
Rutherford B. Hayes. See President Hayes’ Library and Museum in Fremont, Ohio. The Hayes’ 31-room Victorian mansion is also located there. The spectacular home and the grounds around it reflect President Hayes’ love of nature, featuring all kinds of flowering plants. It’s not possible to visit President Hayes’ birthplace in Delaware. The site is now home to a gas station.
James A. Garfield. Visit President Garfield’s birthplace in Moreland Hills, Ohio. A replica of his 1830s log cabin also features historical pieces from that time. You can also tour a later home of this president at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, in Mentor. After Garfield’s death, his widow added a library wing to the home, setting the precedent for future presidential libraries.
Have you visited any presidential museums or libraries? What about any of these in flyover country? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Learn more about presidential libraries here.
- 7 of the most unusual, must-visit Midwest tourist attractions
- 6 gorgeous Midwest waterfalls to add to your travel list