The midwest portion of the United States is terribly underrated, undeservingly so since they have so many fantastic cities.
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7 Best Midwest Escapes for Families
One of the best things about the midwest is the diversity of what you will find there. Every destination is completely different from the next. There’s essentially an unlimited amount of experiences to have in the midwest.
1. Chicago, Illinois
Per Ava Roxanne Stritt from Spa Travel Gal, Chicago is an excellent destination for the entire family.
From toddlers to teenagers and their parents, there is a wide range of attractions and activities to choose from. Whether you want to be outdoors communing with nature or indoors solving a mystery, you will never get bored. My article offers five activities and locations to help make your trip a memorable one for years to come. All of them are both fun and economical for families.
The first that I recommend is Millennium Park. This park is open year-round with different activities depending on the season. The kids will want to spend all day here so hopefully you find accommodations nearby. When it’s summertime, let the little ones splash around in the Crown Fountain pool while water pours from the gargoyles. If you visit in spring, take part in a scavenger hunt in Lurie Garden and seek out birds, bees, worms, and dragonflies. It is a great way to teach children about nature. Winter is no dud; that’s when the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink opens with a beautiful view of the lights.
Visit Spa Travel Gal to find out all 5 Top Activities Your Family Will Love in Chicago!
2. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio is a fantastic city with a little bit of everything. They have a great zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, which you are probably already familiar with (remember Harambe). They have two theme parks, Kind’s Island and Cooney Island. Their playgrounds tend to be quite nice. Highfield Discovery Center inside Glenwood Gardens is incredible. It’s a fantasy playground filled with fairy gardens, trains, a butterfly garden and more. For foodie families, there’s an endless supply of wonderful places to eat. If for some reason you feel like splurging, head to Boca to enjoy an exquisite meal. Check out our Top 15 Things to do in Cincinnati for even more things to do.
3. Door County, Wisconsin
Door County, Wisconsin is a peaceful getaway. Visit in May to beat the summer crowds and benefit from off-season pricing. Not to mention spring will be in full bloom. Enjoy lilacs, cherry blossoms and daffodils.
While there be sure to climb to the top of the Cana Island Lighthouse in Bailey’s Harbor, where you will be rewarded with some of the best views of Lake Michigan’s Door County shoreline.
To score a great photo of the lighthouse walk along the rock-ledge shore.
For those that love wandering down quaint little roads take a pleasurable drive along the hilly two lane peninsula dotted with roadside cherry stands, state parks and small towns.
Along the way stop for a bike ride. There are many scenic trails in the parks lined with wildflowers.
At night, sit under the stars and enjoy an evening production at Peninsula Players Theatre south of Fish Creek.
Door County has an especially good selection of affordable mom-and-pop hotels, including Julie’s Park Cafe and Motel in Fish Creek. From late April to mid-June, and you can get a king room for $70-$80.
4. Kansas City
According to Susan Lanier-Graham of WanderWithWonder.com Kansas City is a fun family destination in the midwest.
This metropolitan area of more than 2 million residents straddles Kansas and Missouri, and offers something for the entire family looking for a fun family vacation destination.
History and Culture of Kansas City
Nothing is better for summer vacation than finding great museums, filled with interesting collections, which also happen to be free. Kansas City has several exceptional examples. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has more than 35,000 pieces in its collection. Be sure to visit the Egyptian galleries. The museum is open daily except Monday.
The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is also free and open every day except Monday. The main museum, at 4420 Warwick Blvd., offers a vast array of art. The Kemper Museum App can help you navigate it. Be sure to check out the museum shop and stop by Café Sebastienne for lunch or dinner featuring dishes crafted with produce from local farmers and some colorful artwork of its own.
Kansas City is also home to the country’s only museum dedicated to the First World War. The National World War I Museum & Memorial is a way to make history come alive. You’ll find recreated trenches, videos, original objects, and interactive tables.
Head just out of town to nearby Independence and walk through America’s past at The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. You can get a taste of life in the 1950s and even see a life-size replica of the Oval Office as it was during Truman’s presidency.
Playing in Kansas City
There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained during your summer visit to Kansas City.
Stop by the Richard Petty Driving Experience at The Kansas Speedway to feel the thrill of the steep embankments and let your heart pound as your driver races around the speedway. Junior ride alongs are available for the little racers.
Just 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City, Moon Marble Company lets us all release our inner child. Marble making demonstrations take place at 3 p.m. daily through the summer. Buy beautiful handmade marbles, pick your own colored marbles in rows of bulk bins, and even find some of those classic games and toys of yesteryear.
Kansas City Barbecue is a Necessity
While visiting Kansas City, be sure to try the city’s famous barbecue. With more than 100 barbecue establishments in town, you’ll see that everyone has their favorite BBQ spot. Try one of the five locations of Jack Stack Barbecue, which has been smoking meat since 1957. Try the burnt ends—those crispy pieces cut off the brisket that are filled with the best flavor. Other favorite Kansas City barbecue joints include Arthur Bryant’s and Oklahoma Joe’s.
A summer visit to Kansas City is filled with art, history, food, and fun. The city is also known for its festivals, so no matter which time of year you visit, you can always find family fun in Kansas City.
5. Kenosha, Wisconsin
Oh the Places We Go recommends Kenosha, Wisconsin. Nestled between Milwaukee and Chicago, the small town of Kenosha is one of our favorite getaways with many budget-friendly options – many free! The Lake Michigan town has a wonderful downtown area with a fun sculpture walk. Don’t feel like walking? Hop on an authentic streetcar trolley ($1/person) that makes its rounds around downtown, then hop off at one (or all) of the museums including the Civil War Museum or our personal favorite, the free Dinosaur Discovery Museum. To add to the experience, don’t miss eating at the train restaurant, Choo Choo Charlie’s which also has a stop nearby.
Since you are right by the lake, you should of course check out the Southport Lighthouse and its museum. If you’re up for a challenge, climb the 72 steps to the top of the lighthouse for fabulous views. Looking for a sweet way to end the weekend? Stop by the Jelly Belly Warehouse for a free factory tour to learn more about the beans. The real highlight though is getting a chance to go on a tram tour through the warehouse. Samples are given, and you’re also able to taste test their Jelly Belly flavors including the Harry Potter ones like dirt and grass.
6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Crazy Family Adventure says Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a great place to visit with your family. You can go to Discovery World where you and the kids will spend hours playing with all of the different exhibits that they have from virtual reality to touching sting rays. Before walking over to the Art Museum to check out the kids area and do hands on art projects or walk around and explore the art and the amazing architecture of the building. All of this is located on the beautiful waterfront of Lake Michigan where if the weather is cooperating you can take a bike ride or spend time down by the beach. If you are a sports fan you can catch a Major League baseball game, professional basketball game, NHL game or even a professional soccer game.
Milwaukee is also known for beer and has a lot of great breweries that you can visit with kids! The Sprecher Brewery tour even offers all you can drink soda to keep the kids occupied while Mom and Dad sample the many flavors of beer. The city is home to a variety of restaurants for every food type with delicious food and fun. The Safe House restaurant requires a secret password to get in and AJ Bombers will drop peanuts off at your table from an airplane.
There is also the Harley Davidson Museum, the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Milwaukee Zoo. From indoor fun to outdoor fun there is plenty to keep the whole family busy when you visit Milwaukee.
7. Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Family Travels on a Budget says Put-in-Bay, on Lake Erie in Northwestern Ohio, is an idyllic summer vacation getaway for families.
The fun begins with a ferry ride to the island (leave the car behind). After checking in at your hotel or rental house, discover why people are drawn back year after year. It’s best to explore by bike or golf cart to enjoy the slower pace of the “good old days.” Rent kayaks for water adventures and discover the wildlife of the region. Get budget-friendly day passes to the adventure center and play putt-putt, tour the limestone cave, climb the rock wall, or participate in one of the many other activities.
Learn about the War of 1812 at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. As an added bonus, enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds while you watch the waves — yes, Lake Erie has a surf! In the Harbour Square area, enjoy local cuisine, go window shopping or tour the Chocolate Museum! Yes, a museum dedicated to chocolate! We love Put-in-Bay for its slower pace — golf carts! And we also appreciate how budget-friendly it is — attractions are reasonably priced. Weekday lodging is discounted for added savings (and often includes a free golf cart rental). With so much to do and a relaxed pace, Put-in-Bay makes an ideal summer getaway for families.
Where’s your favorite place for a family vacation in the midwest?
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