Are you looking for a fun weekend getaway with the kids? Or maybe some great family travel spots for spring break or summer vacation? There are so many fun family weekend getaways right here in the Midwest to visit. 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 great travel destinations there are in a short drive from Chicago. Keep reading to find out 9 awesome weekend getaway ideas for families.
Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago
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 lives 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 fun outdoor art. Head down to Indianapolis for a fun filled weekend getaway.
Michigan – New Buffalo & St. Joseph
What I love about going to southwest Michigan is how close it is to the city, it’s only an 1 1/2 hours to New Buffalo from Chicago. It’s also easily accessible by train. You’ll find here cute little towns 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. Josheph. 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 at 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 tree tops for great views or walk a low boardwalk down by the marsh. There is so much to do and explore in this area, you will no doubt have a great time.
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 cute town of Lake Geneva to shop, have some lunch, and ice cream. While in the 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.
If visiting in warmer months, head to the beach or take a guided boat ride on the lake. In the winter months, try skiing at Grand Geneva Resort and visit Winterfest including Ice Castles in the downtown. Need more fun ideas? Visiting my Top 5 Things to Do in Lake Geneva.
Want somewhere fun to stay with the kids? Try Timber Ridge Resort with it’s 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 love their wonderful family friendly atmosphere.
Door County, Wisconsin
We most recently visited this area for a long weekend. 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 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 my post Top 10 Things to Do in Door County Wisconsin with Kids to get more fun ideas for your visit.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The Water Park Capitol 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 favorite is the Wilderness Resort because of all the additional activities like laser tag, Go-Karts, ropes course, bumper boats, and a huge climbing play house. If you are not looking for a resort, there are tons of smaller hotels and condos to rent, too.
You will find this is a great weekend getaway in both the winter and summer months. In the winter months, enjoy the indoor water parks and outdoor activities at Cascade Mountain where you can ski, snowboard, and snow tube. In the warmer months, you will find an unending list of things to do. Try out their famous Duck boat tour of the river, zip lining, horseback riding, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, water skiing shows, and so much more. You could also stroll Downtown Wisconsin Dells to visit restaurants and shops. It’s a perfect family getaway for a weekend or even a full week. Get more ideas of things to do on the Wisconsin Dells Website.
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 is for families to do while visiting Springfield. Turns out it is a great weekend getaway to keep the whole family busy and excited.
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. We listened to the audio tour on our phone to hear stories about life in the Smoky Mountains and information about the stops along Cades Cove while we drove. Check out the free app here. Find a full list of Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains with Kids Here. Plus get tips on how to plan your trip.
The two biggest towns by the National Park are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is VERY touristy and the home to Ripley’s Aquarium, shops, and restaurants. You will also find Ober Gatlinburg, a four season Mountain play area with amusement park and ski area. We went in the summer and the kids had a blast! Pigeon Forge is the home to Dollywood and more touristy shops and restaurants. Read 7 Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg to learn more.
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.
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 in between Cleveland and Akron Ohio. 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 more remote. 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 your 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.
St. Louis, Missouri
There is tons 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 playground, fun house, 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, checkout a Cardinals game. Even Cubs fans will have fun.
Isn’t it amazing how many great 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. So are you ready to pack up and head out on your family vacation?
Do you have another great suggestion of weekend getaways from Chicago? Please let me know in the comments or any other questions you have.
Feeling like you just need a Chicago Staycation instead? Here is the Ultimate Guide to Things to Do in Chicago with Kids
Want more great family friendly travel tips and ideas? Follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Or join my email newsletter and never miss out on a new blog post. Get a free travel checklist for signing up.