America’s Midwest and Southeast regions may be the most underrated regions in the country to visit, since they're often overlooked for well-known destinations on the coast. But while you’re on your three-month trip across the U.S., you’ll want to make time to go off the beaten path and include these hidden gems on your epic itinerary.
In Chicago, Austin, and New Orleans, you’ll find glorious and iconic foods, big city sights, and excellent live music venues. Then you can change up the pace and escape to smaller, laid-back cities like Milwaukee and Madison. With HI USA hostels serving as your home base along the way, you’ll get real insider experiences thanks to walking tours and fun activities on offer at most locations.
Take a look our handy guide to traveling in the Midwest and Southeast and find out everything you need to make the most of your cross-country adventure.
Why go: art, architecture, baseball, and more await you in this lakefront metropolis.
How long should I stay: 2 to 3 days
Do I need a car: Nope, Chicago has a great public transportation system and the hostel is within walking distance of many attractions.
Must do: Eat a Chicago deep-dish pizza, bike along the lakefront trail, visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
Where should I stay: You'll be right in the heart of downtown's Loop neighborhood when you stay at HI Chicago.
Why go: Madison is known for its impressive network of parks and bike trails, lakes, and great restaurants.
How long should I stay: 2 days
Do I need a car: You should be good without one.
Must do: Eat cheese curds and visit the impressive State Capitol Building.
Where should I stay: HI Madison hostel makes for a cozy base to explore this fun college town.
Why go: Get a local perspective on the Midwest in a fun, laid-back city.
How long should I stay: 2 days
Do I need a car: You can get around on public transportation, but having a car will cut down on your travel time.
Must do: Try a frozen custard (like ice cream, but so much better), tour the Pabst Mansion or Milwaukee Art Museum, grab a local beer at a German-style brewery, or spend a day on Lake Michigan.
Where should I stay: You'll feel at home right away at HI Milwaukee, Cream City Hostel.
New Orleans, LA
Why go: Live music, festivals, colorful local culture, and stunning scenery, all with a side of beignets.
How long should I stay: 3 days
Do I need a car: Nope.
Must do: Eat as much of the great food as you can and see a parade!
Where should I stay: HI New Orleans is in the perfect location to explore the French Quarter and more.
Why go: Yes, this is technically the Southwest, but it earns its spot on this best-of list thanks to its eclectic and proudly “weird” culture and the excellent live music scene.
How long should I stay: 3 days should be enough to eat, drink and explore.
Do I need a car: Austin is pretty bike friendly, and public transportation is good too.
Must do: Get your fill of Tex-Mex food and eat traditional barbecue, check out the live music scene.
Where should I stay: Get a dose of the scenic side of the city when you stay at HI Austin, which is on the shores of Lady Bird Lake and a short bike ride from downtown.
GETTING FROM PLACE TO PLACE
Amtrak is your best bet to get you from the east coast to the middle of the country, but it’s worth searching around for good deals on flights especially since the cities here are little more spread out than the ones on the east coast.
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How to Spend Three Months in America: East Coast
Since we at HI USA know a bit about budget travel and eye-opening adventures, we thought we’d help you plan a slow travel trip with stops at HI USA hostels and awesome must-dos. Take a look at the first month’s itinerary tackling the East Coast.