Wondering where to go with the family on weekend getaways from Chicago in the Midwest? There are tons of fun road trips with kids from the Chicago area. You’ll love exploring all the great cities, small towns, beaches, state parks & more on family vacations for spring break, summer vacation, or quick weekend getaways.
My family and I have enjoyed visiting all the cool weekend getaways from Chicago and are excited to share which destinations you should visit next. It’s amazing how many awesome travel destinations are just a short drive from Chicago.
After reading this you’re sure to find the perfect weekend getaways from Chicago right here in the Midwest. So, keep reading to get inspired by our updated list of the 11 best weekend getaways in the Midwest with kids.
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Best Family Weekend Getaways from Chicago in the Midwest
Table of Contents
Let’s get you out of the windy city and start planning where to go on your next weekend getaways from Chicago. Use this guide to decide on your next fun family vacation whether it be a city, national park, or small beach town. Create your family road trip bucket list and start planning.
Map of the Midwest
Use this map to find the locations in this article to get a better idea of the distance you’ll need to travel.
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
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 quick weekend getaways from Chicago.
You’ll find cute little towns dotting the coast, great beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan, yummy restaurants, shops, and tons of outdoor activities.
New Buffalo is a small town with a cute little downtown area boasting 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 north to St. Joseph.
It has a larger downtown area than New Buffalo to explore with tons of shops and restaurants. There is a fun children’s museum too called Curious Kids Museum located downtown.
Plus a short walk away is a cool lighthouse you can walk out to and take pictures along the Lake Michigan Shoreline.
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.
The best part is the St. Joseph downtown area is within walking distance of the beach so you can park once and explore the whole area.
Tip: It’s a good idea to get to the beach area early in the summer months as parking fills up quickly.
When visiting this area, make sure to check out the Warren Dunes State Park and try to climb the huge sand dunes.
Before you go read our cool Beach Hacks with clever ways to make a beach day with kids less stressful and more fun.
If you want 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 western Michigan, you’re sure to have a great time.
Where to Stay in New Buffalo, MI
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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
You couldn’t get much closer than heading to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for weekend getaways from Chicago. This cute town offers tons of fun activities for families year-round.
One of our favorite things is to 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 downtown.
While 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 with Lake Geneva Cruise Line. 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 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, the guest rooms have been updated over the years. Plus it offers a big indoor pool (kids love it), daily kids activities like laser tag & art projects, golf courses, a spa, and restaurants. You’ll really enjoy their wonderful family-friendly atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Lake Geneva
Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is great for weekend getaways from Chicago. I’ll admit it’s a little longer of a drive (about 4 hours) but so worth it to see this beautiful area packed with so many things to do for families.
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 enjoying the small-town charm.
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 and it’s filled with tons of popular attractions. I am gonna be honest, the area is very touristy and a little cheesy but your kids are gonna love it! Which makes it perfect for weekend getaways from Chicago.
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, Chula Vista for the great rooms’ & more relaxed feel, 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 water park 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, cross-country 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
Starved Rock State Park
Located on the Illinois River Bluff in LaSalle County IL it’s only 1 1/2 hours from Chicago. But when you get to Starved Rock State Park you’ll feel like you’re in a different world with beautiful bluffs, canyons, and waterfalls. The cool canyons which you can hike down to were formed from glacial meltwater and look stunning. In the springtime, you will see waterfalls flowing over the canyon walls.
The park has 13 miles of trails to hike with many easy trails for children to hike with you. However, there are some steep drops so be careful with younger children. The park also offers camping, picnicking, fishing, and boating. Plan at least a half-day here to do 1-2 trails. If you have more time or a weekend you can explore the whole park.
Turn your state park visit into a weekend getaway by staying at the Starved Rock Lodge. The lodge is from the 1930’s era and is located in the park with cabins and hotel rooms. It would be fun to just wake up and head out to explore the woods together in this pretty setting.
Another option is to stay at the local water park resort Grand Bear Resort. It boasts a 24,000 sq. ft. indoor waterpark and has family suites and villas. The waterpark is not huge like in Wisconsin Dells but still fun. With the addition of a waterpark, you can hike in the day and let the kids swim at night.
While in the area you can also hike at Matthiessen State Park located across the river from Starved Rock. This is a smaller park but also has pretty hikes through caverns, streams, forests, and prairie. You will also get a better view of the locks driving into this state park.
A fun second day in the area could be a morning hike at Starved Rock then lunch in downtown Utica followed by another hike at Matthiessen State Park. You will also find several touristy restaurants outside of Starved Rock and there is an area to get sandwiches in the Visitor Center.
Utica and Oglesby are the closest towns to Starved Rock if you are looking for other hotel options and restaurants.
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
If you want to add to your trip to Southern Illinois we also visited the Shawnee National Forest.
We spent two days hiking before heading to Springfield and it was a blast. There are really cool rock formations and trails our kids loved. Plus the views are beautiful. A great add-on if you have more than a weekend.
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!
To see panoramic views head to the top of Clingman’s Dome. Then go on 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 loved it. The national park is located between Cleveland and Akron Ohio and is perfect for weekend getaways from Chicago.
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. Visit 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 you’re 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 you’re 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.
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 which is why it’s really popular for weekend getaways from Chicago for familes.
A favorite of most kids is their awesome 600,000 sf City Museum, 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
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 Travelwithaplan.com blog Perfect 2 Day Family Getaway in Duluth Minnesota.
Where to Stay in Duluth
Family Road Trip Tips
Get ready for your road trip with our clever travel tips. Or visit our Travel Tips Page for even more ways to have a stress-free family vacation.
Dollar Tree Travel Games & Activities – Cheap travel games & activities to stay busy in the car, hotel room, or restaurant.
No time to shop? Check out the best Amazon Travel Games & Gadgets for Family Road Trips. We love our cool travel tray for car trips (pictured above).
Best Free Travel Apps – How to get there fast, find restaurants & hotels along your route, cheap gas and more.
Be ready for your Hotel stay with 20 Genius Hotel Hacks for Family Vacation.
Don’t leave without reading 15 Road Trips Tips to Survive Family Vacation.
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 Booking.com.
They have competitive pricing, good pictures, and helpful reviews. Check it out and see if you find a great hotel deal.
Isn’t it amazing how many great family weekend getaways from Chicago there are? So, many different types of options in the midwest 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 do you know now where to go on your weekend getaway with your family? I hope this has helped you with your planning!
Make sure to visit our Family Travel Destinations to get more great family vacation ideas and tips for easier travel with kids.
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 Chicago 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.
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