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Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest

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Are you looking for fun family weekend getaways? Or maybe some great midwest family vacations for spring break or summer vacation? There are so many amazing family weekend getaways from Chicago right here in the Midwest.

My family and I have been exploring and researching all the best weekend getaways from Chicago to share with you. It’s amazing how many awesome travel destinations there are in just a short drive from Chicago. Keep reading to get inspired by our list of the 10 best family weekend getaway in the midwest.

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Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest

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Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is located only 3 hours from Chicago and offers one of the best Children’s museums in the country. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is worth the drive down in itself! It hosts amazing exhibits for all ages of children with hands-on activities they will love.

While there, visit the great Indianapolis Zoo which houses Elephants (our favorite), dolphins, orangutans, and more. Then check out the super cool Conner Prairie, a historical museum with live people acting out the prairie life. Kids will love seeing how people lived years ago on the prairie and immerse themselves in that time period.

If the weather is nice, head to the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, a 100-acre outdoor sanctuary. It’s free and the kids can run around, hike, and get some energy out while you look at cool outdoor art.

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Michigan – New Buffalo & St. Joseph

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New Buffalo Beach

What I love about going to southwest Michigan is how close it is to the city. It’s only 1 1/2 hours to New Buffalo from Chicago and is easily accessible by train for a weekend getaway. You’ll find cute little towns dotting the coast and great beaches.

New Buffalo has a small downtown with several fun restaurants and a big public beach area. It’s a little quieter and laid back than St. Joseph. There are great wineries and blueberry picking in season too.

Want more action? Head a little further up north to St. Joseph. This town has the Curious Kids Museum and a pretty lighthouse you can walk out to and take pictures.

As you head to the beach at Silver Beach County Park, you will pass the Silver Beach Carousel and water pad area for little kids. There is also a great playground on the beach.

When visiting this area, make sure to check out the Warren Dunes State Park and try to climb the huge sand dunes. For an easy family hike, check out Galien River County Park and take a walk up into the treetops for great views or walk down a low boardwalk to the marsh. There is so much to do and explore in this area, you will no doubt have a great time.

Where to Stay in New Buffalo, MI

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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

You couldn’t get much closer than heading to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin from Chicago. This cute town offers tons of fun activities for families year-round.

Take a hike on the Geneva Lake Shore path and gawk at the beautiful homes. Then head into the historic town of Lake Geneva to shop, have some lunch, and ice cream. You’ll love all the delicious restaurants in downtown.

While in downtown, check out the Geneva Lake Museum and the displays on the history of Lake Geneva. Inside, you’ll walk down a re-created street displaying how people lived in the area. It’s a fun way to get in some history and entertain the kiddos at the same time.

If visiting in warmer months, head to the beach or take a guided boat ride on the lake. Kids will love visiting Safari Lake Geneva a conservation ranch with over 50 animals from 5 continents.

In the winter months, try skiing at Grand Geneva Resort and visit Winterfest including Ice Castles in the downtown. Need more fun ideas? Visit my Top Things to Do in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.

Want somewhere fun to stay with the kids? Try Timber Ridge Resort with its own indoor water park and ski hill in the winter. It offers nice rooms for various sizes of families and fun family activities.

We also love to visit the Lake Lawn Resort located about 10 minutes from Lake Geneva on Lake Delavan. It’s been around for 140 years and has a great history in the area.

Obviously updated over the years, it offers a big indoor pool (kids love it), daily kids activities like laser tag & art projects, golf course, spa, and restaurants. You’ll really enjoy their wonderful family-friendly atmosphere.

Where to Stay in Lake Geneva

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Door County, Wisconsin

We most recently visited this area for a weekend getaway. It’s a little longer of a drive but so worth it to see this beautiful area packed with things to do for the family.

Door County is not just one town but a collection of 15 cute towns on a peninsula in Wisconsin. You will find Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other giving you spectacular views of the lake.

Some of our favorite activities are visiting the State Parks, hanging out at the beach in Sister Bay, going to a fish boil (a must-do), wine tasting, visiting local museums, and checking out the small towns.

There is so much to see and do you could easily spend a full week up here and not see it all. Want to learn more? Read Top 10 Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin with Kids to get more fun ideas for your visit.

Where to Stay in Door County

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

The Water Park Capital of the World is Wisconsin Dells. I am gonna be honest, the area is very touristy and a little cheesy but your kids are gonna love it!

You will find tons of amazing water park resorts in the area, each one filled with pools, slides, arcades, family activities, and so much more. Our personal favorites are the Great Wolf Lodge for their MagiQuest adventures and Wilderness Resort because of all the additional activities like laser tag, Go-Karts, ropes course, bumper boats, and a huge climbing playhouse.

If you are not looking for a resort, there are tons of smaller hotels and condos to rent, too. Take a look at all your Hotel Options to get a better idea.

Wisconsin Dells is a great weekend getaway at any time of year. You could stroll Downtown Wisconsin Dells to visit restaurants, shops, arcades, and museums all year long.

In the winter months, enjoy the indoor water parks, amusement parks, skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. In the warmer months, you will find an unending list of things to do. Try out their famous Duck boat Tours, zip-lining, horseback riding, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, water skiing shows, and so much more.

It’s a perfect family getaway for a weekend or even a full week. Get more ideas in my 30 Best Things to Do In Wisconsin Dells All Year Long.

Where to Stay in Wisconsin Dells

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Springfield, Illinois

Springfield is filled with tons of history and fun for your family to explore. Start out by visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Next, get a feel for how Abraham Lincoln lived by visiting the only house he ever owned at Lincoln Home National Historic site. From there, stroll through the Bicentennial Plaza to the Illinois Governors Mansion and Illinois State Capitol.

In downtown Springfield, you will also find a great kids museum called Kidzeum of Health and Science Children’s Museum. It offers three floors of fun for the kids to get some energy out and explore.

Lastly, step back 200 years and walk the streets of a reconstructed pioneer village in Lincoln’s New Salem.

If you are looking for more museums in the area, there are tons. To name a few, the Illinois State Military Museum, Illinois State Museum (has a hands-on play area), Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation Museum, and Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Museum (civil war museum).

Want to explore the outdoors? Check out Henson Robinson Zoo, stroll through nature trails at Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, and Knights Action Park which has a water park, arcade, miniature golf, and go-karts.

I honestly was surprised how much there was for families to do while visiting Springfield. Turns out it is a great weekend getaway to keep the whole family busy and excited.

Where to Stay in Springfield

The Great Smoky Mountains

Visit America’s most popular National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, and you will be in awe of the beauty. Your family will love hiking throughout the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Appalachian Trail.

There are perfect hikes and walks for all ages plus find great ranger-led nature and history walks for the whole family. The best part is that entrance into the National Park is free!

There is even a great scenic drive called Cades Cove which is an 11-mile loop tour where you visit restored log cabins, churches, a working mill, and beautiful scenery. This is a great option when the kiddos are too tired to hike but you want to see more.

Find a full list of Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains with Kids Here. Plus get tips on how to plan your trip.

Related Article – 15 Screen-Free Travel Games for Kids at Dollar Tree

Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

The two biggest towns by the National Park are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is pretty touristy and the home to Ripley’s Aquarium, shops, and restaurants. You will also find Ober Gatlinburg, a four-season Mountain play area with an amusement park and ski area.

We went in the summer and the kids had a blast! Read 7 Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg to learn more.

Pigeon Forge is the home to Dollywood and more touristy shops and restaurants. This is also a great place to stop while in the Smoky Mountains.

Looking for places to stay? We rented a cabin in the woods and really enjoyed being outside of the touristy town area. However, there are also tons of condos and hotels in town to rent. Plus there is always camping as an option.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg, TN

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Did you know there was a beautiful National Park in Ohio? We recently discovered Cuyahoga Valley National Park and love it. The national park is located between Cleveland and Akron Ohio and a perfect weekend getaway.

It is one of the newest National Parks in the US and was created to save the history of the lock system along the Cuyahoga River.

Some highlights of the park are an easy family hike to the scenic Brandywine Falls. Visiting two great visitor centers that explain the history of how the lock systems worked in the 1800s and the people who lived in the area.

But the biggest highlight for us was an amazing hike through moss-covered boulders that make you feel like your in another world. Your kids will love climbing all over these beautiful rocks and exploring the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is different than most because you will find towns mixed in throughout the park system rather than being in a more remote area.

The bonus is you have easy access to lots of hotels and lodging in Akron and Cleveland. Plus your near restaurants and shops. This would be a great day trip too if you’re passing through the area.

Learn more about all there is to do and tips for your visit in Best Guide to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Brandywine Falls.

Where to Stay in Akron and Cleveland

Related Article – 20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable

St. Louis, Missouri

There are tons of attractions to see while visiting St. Louis, Missouri. The big favorite with kids is their awesome 600,000 sf City Museum for kids, a mixture of playgrounds, funhouse, things created out of found objects, and architectural marvels. It’s a must-see in St. Louis!

Another great museum is the St. Louis Science Center to get your kids curious about atoms, oceans, dinosaurs, and dark matter. Check out the Old State Capitol and make sure to climb up the stairs to see the murals. Ask the Park Ranger how to make your voice rise to the top.

Want to head outdoors? Get out and visit some animals at the St. Louis Zoo. There are also beautiful gardens and 79 acres to visit at the Missouri Botanical Garden with both indoor and outdoor conservatories.

No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. Take a tram ride to the top of the arch for great views, explore the new Arch Museum, and watch a documentary on how it was built. Learn all about the people who passed through St. Louis on their journey out west.

After visiting the Arch, head over to the river for a riverboat sightseeing cruise. Then head to the heart of downtown to explore the Citygarden filled with art and water features for the kids.

Lastly, if it’s baseball season, check out a Cardinals game. Even Cubs fans will have fun.

Where to Stay in St. Louis

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Duluth, Minnesota

Have you been to Duluth Minnesota yet? It has been labeled the “Best Outdoor City in America”. Hike the outdoors with the kids, visit the beautiful lake walk and enjoy great food. Find out more family-friendly outings in my friend Jen of blog Perfect 2 Day Family Getaway in Duluth Minnesota.

Where to Stay in Duluth

How to Find Out the Cost of Your Trip

Find out the full cost of your upcoming vacation with my free Trip Cost Calculator. Use this easy tool to help build your travel budget and get a better idea of how much you need to save for a vacation. You can adjust each travel item cost until you find a total amount that you can afford. Then build your dream vacation around your personal travel budget. 

Wondering Where to Stay

I am always searching the internet for the best hotel and lodging deals for our vacation. The site I am finding the best deals on right now is They have competitive pricing, good pictures, and helpful reviews. Check it out and see if you find a great hotel deal.

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Isn’t it amazing how many great family weekend getaways from Chicago there are? So, many different types of options to choose from based on what your family loves to do. You can’t go wrong with any of these family weekend getaways in the Midwest. So are you ready to pack up and head out on your family vacation?

Do you have another great suggestion for family weekend getaways from Chicago? Please let me know in the comments or any other questions you have.

Need a Staycation Instead?

Feeling like you just need a Chicago Staycation instead? Here is the Ultimate Guide to Things to Do in Chicago with Kids.

Or get inspired with things to do at home in our 40 Staycation Ideas for Families and 60 Fun & Free Things to Do with Kids Screen-Free. All will keep your family busy and happy while spending quality time together.

Be ready for your weekend getaway with our 20 Tips to Make Traveling with Kids Enjoyable and 15 Best Travel Games from Kids at Dollar Tree so you’re ready for an awesome family vacation.

Want more great family weekend getaways ideas and travel tips? Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Or join my email newsletter and never miss out on a family travel destination, easy weeknight meal or mommy hack.

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Family Travel Tips & Activities for Kids

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.
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16 thoughts on “Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest

  1. So many great spots! Now, I’m intrigued on traveling to Indianapolis with my family sometime. We love going to Children’s Museums. The best Children’s Museum we’ve been to, which you can add to your St. Louis destination, is The Magic House.

    1. Thanks Val – We will have to check out the Magic House next time we are in St. Louis. Thanks so much for the suggestions! Definitely check out the Indianapolis Children’s Museum you won’t be disappointed.

    1. Stephanie – Your right these are great destinations not just from Chicago but really the whole Midwest. Working on a new blog about Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio. That will be great blog for Cincinnati Families too. Look for it soon.

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