Spring Break Trips That you can Drive to From Grand Rapids – From Chicago to Indy to Chattanooga

Indianapolis skyline driveable spring break feature image

Not Too Far Away Spring Break Trips for GR Families

Still pondering a spring break trip but didn’t book a flight? 

Once our family decided LAST MINUTE that we’d like to get away for a few days during spring break. But we needed something close. If you are in the boat, this list below is loaded with ideas.

No matter where we live – if we love it or not – it’s always nice to get away for a bit. The great thing is that we can get a new perspective, breathe a little, rest and we don’t have to go far!

So, here’s a list of places just a short drive away to guarantee and amazing spring break, some without even leaving the state.

Spring Break Destinations Grand Rapids Kids Map

To both help you out and save them for myself for upcoming years, I’ve broken them up into two categories: Driveable in a Day and One Tank Trips in Michigan.

If you’ve already been to one of these Spring Break destinations, leave us a comment and let us know what you loved in that town. 

More ideas can be found in our Indoor Water Park destinations within a few hours of Grand Rapids.

One Tank Trips
Drivable in a Day Destinations

One Tank Trips – Spring Break Ideas for Your Grand Rapids Family Vacation

When the kids are really little, or if you just want to maximize your time having fun, these destinations just a few hours from Grand Rapids should be at the top of your list. Hop in the car after breakfast and arrive by lunchtime!

Chicago, IL | 2 Hours, 53 Minutes; 178 Miles

The great city to our south has much to tempt you with. Standard tourist options like Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, American Girl Doll Store, and shopping the Magnificent Mile top the list for many.  Don’t forget that exploring Old Town, China Town or the Gold Coast, along with taking in new restaurants, or riding the subway, L or water taxi are big-city events not to be missed.

Daley Park Chicago Kozlowicz
Maggie Daley Park

*Inside Scoop: you get into the Museum of Science and Industry, and other places, FREE when you use your Grand Rapids Public Museum Membership!

Maggie Daley Park. We visited in the winter when the skating ribbon was covered in ice. Summer months promise rollerblading and a rock climbing wall. Also, DO NOT MISS Slide Crater Park. Unbelievable! Located near Millennium Park.

Also, If you want to take in a show or visit places like the Skydeck while you’re there, check out GOLDSTAR  Or CityPass for discounted tickets before you go.

Boyne Falls | Approx. 2-1/2 Hour Drive Time

Boyne area is home of a fun place for the whole family – Avalanche Bay. I love a vacation where I can just unpack and not worry about having to go anywhere for a few days all the while making lasting memories. “Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark” has all of the fun located in one spot! What more could we ask for right?

Avalanche Bay Waterpark

Greater Lansing Area | Approx. 1 Hour Drive Time

Michigan State University is not just for college students.  Kids and families alike will enjoy the MSU (Dino) Museum, MSU Broad Art Museum, MSU Dairy Store {educational and outreach center} and Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden. Ice cream treats are standard fare on this trip!

Head on over to the Impression 5 Science Museum (also free with your GRPM membership!), a forever favorite with all ages for learning and fun. And don’t forget Potter Park Zoo!

Here’s our list of the Top 10 things to do on a trip to Lansing.

Battle Creek  | Approx. 1-1/2 Hour Drive Time

Known for its giraffes and African-themed decorations, Binder Park Zoo is worth the drive. Peacocks roam the sidewalks and may dine next to you, making your experience quite interactive. Choose to feed the giraffes lettuce or just watch. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another land in their Safari area.

No matter what you decide, a trip to Binder Park Zoo will be remembered for a long time.

binder park zoo girafe

Detroit  | Approx. 2 Hour Drive Time

Did you know the Motor City has so much to offer families!? Getting away to Belle Isle to go to the FREE aquarium and beautiful Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is such a fun experience. Catch a view of both Canada and USA borders at the same time on their multiple viewing spots.

Belle Isle Conservatory Detroit

Visiting historic Eastern Market is also a favorite. There you can rent bikes to head down to the riverfront where you’ll find playgrounds, a carousel, and a large splash pad. Relax with the family just under the gorgeous Renaissance center where you’ll find food and bathrooms.

Find these ideas and more at at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to plan a great vacation to Detroit.

Kalamazoo  | Approx. 1 Hour Drive Time

Our neighbor to the south, Kalamazoo has many attractions. A few favorites for families include the Kalamazoo Valley Museum downtown, which offers FREE admission and often has special events or activities going on.

A trip to Kalamazoo would not be complete without a stop at the Air Zoo, which houses many full-sized airplanes along with rides, simulations and a great gift store. The Air Zoo is best enjoyed by school-aged kids and older. Find these and many more ideas at Kzoo Kids.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum Play Station

Muskegon  | Approx. 1 Hour Drive Time

USS Silversides is a real, restored WWII submarine anchored in Muskegon. This memorial and museum uniquely offers overnight experiences for groups and the general public and has been delighting West Michigan families for generations.

My husband still fondly remembers his troop’s trip from 30 years ago!

Have fun as you plan your next midwest vacation. And let us know where you decide to go and what you do there!

Fort Wayne, IN | 2 Hours, 49 Minutes; 175 Miles

A trip to Fort Wayne is what I like to call an “Easy-on-Us” getaway. With lots of reciprocal options offered with our Grand Rapids memberships it was a great time for us all!

Who knew History and Science could be so much fun?! There’s a giant slide inside of Science Central and amazing reconstructed Historic Old Fort both of which that you won’t want to miss.

Don’t forget your walking shoes! Fort Wayne was made for walkers and bikers and the Fort Wayne Trail System did not disappoint.

fort wayne with kids

Traverse City, MI | 2 Hours, 19 Minutes; 143 Miles

My hometown and never on my radar for a Spring Break trip until just a couple of years ago! Well a lot has changed in the last 30 years and with some help from my friends at TraverseCity.com our trip back for Spring Break Rocked!

A trip to Traverse City means amazing food, tubing at Mt. Holiday, seeing the Bay, and if you plan for it, a pool to swim in. I know both you and your kids will love and remember a trip here for years to come.

Catch a movie at  State Theatre for their $0.25 Kids Matinee and exploring Downtown. Visit the mysterious Grand Traverse Commons for an interesting experience. Bike TART Trail where we found this amazing park:

Traverse City park

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Little Feet mobile compressor

One Day Drive Time – Spring Break Ideas for Your Grand Rapids Family Vacation

Driving a little farther out from Grand Rapids creates such a sense of anticipation in kids. You’re going to this special new place that will definitely be different, but also maybe a little warmer. Score!

I love that these exciting destinations are still just a car ride away, and there’s no airfare needed.

Wisconsin Dells, WI | 5 Hours, 48 Minutes; 377 Miles

Drive to Wisconsin Dells and you’ll find loads of indoor water parks like Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resorts and Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Parks. Some are only open to hotel guests, while others allow day visitors.

Milwaukee, WI | 4 Hours, 7 Minutes; 276 Miles

Milwaukee is such a pretty little city! It’s really not much further of a drive than a weekend in Chicago–with plenty to do to keep your whole family busy. If you want to skip the inevitable Chicago traffic, you can take one of the ferry services across the lake for a unique and memorable family trip. You can read all about Melody’s family trip to Milwaukee for tips on riding the ferry and what you have to see and do while you’re there!

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Cincinnati, OH | 5 Hours, 46 Minutes; 361 Miles

If you’re in Cincy, you in the land of Adventure Mom. Check out Nedra’s blog for the latest on what to do in her cool town. Be sure to put the Newport Aquarium on your to-do list, as well as the beloved Cincinnati Zoo. The Garfield hotel is recommended for families- they boast large apartment-sized rooms for a good price. Before you leave, be sure to check out Fountain Square to see what’s going on there. Fountain Square is a public space where Cincinnatians gather for special events, free concerts, tailgates, an outdoor market and more.

St Louis, MO | 6 Hours, 37 Minutes; 446 Miles

Everyone says it. You have to go! We could not wait to try out the City Museum… so many friends had said “it will blow your mind.” So, we decided to make that our spring break trip one year and it was terrific!

Other itinerary-musts in St. Louis include the Zoo, the Arch, and the Magic House Children’s Museum. If you’re looking for a frozen treat, stop by iconic Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard.

Mammoth Caves National Park, KY | 7 Hours, 19 Minutes; 459 Miles

If this is your destination, pack your walking shoes. There are tons of walking paths for hiking and biking, and of course, the caves to explore at this National Park. The caves are not stroller-friendly and do require long-distance walking, so this trip is not recommended for kids 5 and under… kids also need to not get frightened of the dark, bats, cave spiders, etc…. you know your child. Also good to note- the caves are in the Central Time Zone, so adjust your watches accordingly!

There are many other tourist-type activities built up around the National Park, from roller coasters to ziplines to horseback riding if those are up your alley.

Nashville, TN | 8 Hours, 34 Minutes; 545 Miles

Nashville came in a close second- we will definitely go to Tennessee on a future vacation. Here’s what other parents have told us:

When in Nashville, go hiking, take in live music and be sure to visit the botanical gardens (they are reciprocal with Frederick Meijer Gardens!). You can also take a plantation tour at Belle Meade Plantation and get a look at how plantations of the south used to be… tour the mansion, the stables and see the gardens.

Or walk through the Opryland Hotel… the glass atriums contain nine acres of lush indoor gardens, winding rivers and pathways, and sparkling waterfalls where you’ll find shopping and restaurants to add to the adventure.

Nashville’s Dragon Park is a free children’s park that most kids will love to explore. Also consider stopping at the Nashville Zoo, Centennial Park features a Parthenon replica that is modeled exactly like the one in Greece. Gruhn Guitars is a great little stop, they have some very old and expensive instruments.

Indianapolis, IN | 4 Hours, 26 Minutes; 254 Miles

If you’re headed to Indy, be sure to check out Indy With Kids before you go for an insider’s look at the city. Their huge list of Indoor Play Places has it all.

If you go, be sure to check out Conner Prairie, with “Acres and Acres of Interactive Awesomeness.” The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis also receives high marks from little kids.

Indianapolis for kids

Chattanooga, TN | 10 Hours, 8 Minutes; 676 Miles

This fun destination has:

  • An impressive aquarium
  • The incline railway “The Incline’s trolley-style cars climb through the natural beauty surrounding historic Lookout Mountain at a breathtaking 72.7% grade – straight up! Sit back, and enjoy the scenic views of the mountains and valleys from the observation windows on the train as well as the panoramic views from the observation tower at the Incline’s top station. Come see for yourself why the Incline is one of the most fun things to do in Chattanooga!”
  • A place called Rock City “Located atop Lookout Mountain, just 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City is a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, and breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic views. Take an unforgettable journey along the Enchanted Trail where each step reveals natural beauty and wonders along the woodland path. Experience the magic of Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village.” 
  • Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is a lot like Mammoth Caves… kids love it!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | 5 Hours, 26 Minutes; 361 Miles

Travel to another country for spring break? Yes! A short trip and you’ll be on your way to a place similar to Europe but much faster! I recommend getting the CityPass to enjoy these locations:

Read all about our family’s trip and why it’s worth the drive and experience!

Toronto with kids casa loma

Niagara Falls| 5 Hours, 45 Minutes; 372 Miles

First, I highly recommend getting an Adventure Pass for Niagara Parks. After that amazing experience you’ll just be getting started. Did you know that there’s so much more to do in the area? We were fully immersed in the Niagara Falls experience with this 4D attraction Niagara’s Fury. One of our family favorites on this trip was hiking the Niagara Glen. You’ll also love Old Fort ErieLaura Secord Homestead,  Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory and much more! For more tips and information check out our families full trip to Niagara Falls.

More Trips and Tricks to Consider While Planning Your Family Vacation

There’s something special about getting travel advice from people who live nearby.

Check out these articles. Let us know if there are questions you have that we haven’t answered. Wondering about a specific destination? Ask – we might be able to help!

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37 thoughts on “Spring Break Trips That you can Drive to From Grand Rapids – From Chicago to Indy to Chattanooga”

  1. Hello-curious where in traverse city is the playground is that is pictured under that section? Thanks for all the wonderful ideas!

  2. Sondra Konyndyk

    Hi melody,
    As a seasoned mom and now grandma I love road trips and I loved reading your ideas and inspirational tips … Don’t let people like Cindy 🙂 get you down! It takes optimism to throw your kids in the car and just go for it … Head to a new place … See what you can find there and explore! Have the fun is in the underplanning! Our best family memories were and are made in the adventures we created on the spot!

    So thanks for loving my home town ! Thanks for some great ideas that I’m going to use on an impromptu summer getaway… Keep it up and to all the road trippers out there : there’s one thing you can’t control and that’s traffic! So just go with the flow. Pack some snacks and games! You guys all have TV’s and all sorts of toys to keep your kids happy happy happy !!!!! 🙂 if it takes a little longer getting there that’s just part of the adventure.

  3. First I’m laughing at the drive times, you should check drive times, all are from Grand Rapids and still optimistic especially if you are traveling with children – and why else are you going. You really don’t want to arrive with crabby children who have been sitting for hours with nothing to do. If you live outside of GR adjust your times accordingly. Also drive times do not include stops for gas and/or food, traffic holdups, be aware of this as you make your plans. You will not be able to drive 90 mph all the time.

    You also must plan a place to stay overnight if you plan to do anything in any of these cities so, especially at Spring Break, make reservations. I have been in some of these cities at Spring Break without hotel reservations, and the only rooms left are in places I wouldn’t stay. I highly recommend calling ahead or checking the internet to make reservations for many of the popular events because you can’t just park and walk in immediately. Some events are completely books weeks ahead.

    In Indianapolis, consider the Zoo with it’s shark petting tank, Go Ape: Treetop Adventure, take your bikes and ride the Culture Trail which connects to the Monon Rail Trail for approx 15 miles (one-way) of riding, the trail is also walkable, White River State Park is downtown.

    In St. Louis don’t forget the famous St. Louis Zoo, botanical gardens, science center, The Gateway Arch was mentioned, try it at night – highly recommend making reservations days ahead, The Magic House, Grant’s Farm where the Budweiser Clydesdales are housed, Purina Farm (family friendly), City Museum and for fun a St. Louis Cardinals game.

    Mammoth Cave is a fun stop, I’d recommend a hotel at Horse Cave, Ky just off the expressway. If you are making plans to tour Mammoth Cave, make resevations! You might be too late already. I called 2 weeks before Spring Break a few years ago and they laughed at me because I thought I could make reservations at that late date.

    With young children I would highly recommend Chattanooga as a 2-day trip. Ten + hours one day trip is highly optimistic with young children. Chattanooga is a great history trip. Up on Missionary Ridge there are plaques showing the process of the Civil War. I found my great-grandfather’s troop’s trek up Missionary Ridge as a Union Soldier.

    Too long of a comment, but from my own experiences in the past 5-6 years.

    1. Melody V

      Hi Cindy, Thanks for all of your ideas! And yes,the drive times are straight from Google Maps from Grand Rapids, so of course you will need to add time for stopping. If you’re like me, you try to make it as far as you can early in the day before having to stop too much. And driveable in a day- my intentions were that you could drive to the destination in a day. Spring break is a busy time for many places so reserving a hotel room ahead of time is a good idea.

  4. Amy Figy Straley via Facebook

    If we could EVER get over all the dang sickness, you guys could come visit us!! NOW..Ziggy has Strep Throat…which has been going around school..and so is barfing flu!! Miss you guys!!!

  5. Amy Figy Straley via Facebook

    If we could EVER get over all the dang sickness, you guys could come visit us!! NOW..Ziggy has Strep Throat…which has been going around school..and so is barfing flu!! Miss you guys!!!

    1. I would agree – we had a great time there last fall! Melody, if you’re ever interested in a write-up on the Smokies, I could easily pull one together 🙂

  6. We enjoyed St. Louis three years ago. It is a fantastic city. We loved the City museum. We were there when they opened and they kicked us out at closing, with a short picnic out of the back of our car in the middle. The roof is worth the extra cost. We loved the zoo especially petting the sting rays. It may be too early in the season for them but they don’t charge for the first hour the zoo is open to pet them. Turtle park, a park with giant climbable turtle sculptures, made a great first stop to stretch legs after the car ride. We also enjoyed the science center, the arch, walking around downtown and a riverboat ride. We also took the Budweiser tour to see the Clydesdale horses. We were not interested in the rest of the tour. The guide was more than happy to let us out. We were returned to the hospitality room for free beer, soda and pretzels. Such a great city, I could go on and on. Enjoy!

  7. Awesome article and great advice. Your website continues to be such a resource for my family. Thank You. 🙂

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