I was born and raised in Milwaukee. Since then I have lived in Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, and Virginia [Washtington, DC]. I've traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America, met heads of state, celebrities, sports figures, governors, mayors, authors, TV stars, Hall of Famers, ad infinitum. I've hosted two radio talk-interview programs. I've given speeches to as many as 10,000 people. However one thing never left me: the knowledge that my hometown of Milwaukee was a big city, but not truly "major league." It was not New York or Berlin or London or Paris or even Chicago.
When I moved to Kansas City I encountered some of the same inferiority complex. One of the first people I met walking around the Country Club Plaza in K.C. was a woman who recognized my "foreign" accent. She asked me if I were from Chicago. I told her I was from Milwaukee. Her mid-major metro inferiority immediately showed itself: "What do you think of Kansas City; kinda a cow town, huh?".
I suppose some of the same feelings of being from a city that is not truly in the big leagues is present in Indianapolis, Columbus, Des Moines, as well as Milwaukee and Kansas City. That's a shame. These are cities that have a wonderful variety of culture, sports, history, entertainment, etc., but have what New York and Los Angeles do not have: access to these places. No worry about where to park, no worry about whether it is safe, no worry about ALWAYS having to make reservations, etc. In Milwaukee and Kansas City you are not delegated to necessarily having to take a taxi to where you want to go. And, generally, most places are affordable and not burdened or secluded by outlandish prices.
Living in Washington, D.C. was a revelation to me. People rarely made eye-contact. On the subway, people "faked" reading a newspaper so they could avoid making eye contact. I have a million true stories about this factor in living in Washington. And unlike the Midwestern cities, in New York or Paris or London, strangers walking past you on the sidewalk never offer a simple smile and "hello." That is somewhat a Midwestern trait, but especially true in a place like Kansas City.
All the trappings of museums and buildings and things are present in Paris and London. But, to some extent, you have that in Milwaukee and Kansas City, or it will come as a traveling exhibit. Unlike the Midwestern cities, you have to make the effort to meet people in Berlin or Paris. If you travel, by all means, make the effort. Walking the cities, meeting the people is what travel is all about. It is not about how many museums you visited. This is a mistake made by too many Americans when they travel to Europe. Inter-act with the people. Make the effort. Show them your smile and Midwestern warmth. You will be amazed what you will find and what you will learn.
Kansas City and Milwaukee have much to teach the world.