31 Best Midwest Family Vacations: City Breaks, Nature Escapes & Fun Things to Do

rock city gardens

Ideas for Midwest Family Vacations

From water parks to zoos to museums, the Midwest is packed with fun family activities your family will love. Spend a day hiking, at a theme park, or exploring a new-to-you city. (Weekend getaway, more like it?)

This article is broken into the best Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and other family vacation destinations in the Midwest.

If you’ve already been to one of these locations or have suggestions for places we should add to the list, leave a comment and let us know about the vacation spot your family loves.

Best Midwest Family Vacations Idea List

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Indiana Vacation Spots

Have you considered a trip to Indiana? This friendly state is known for its affordable prices, and delicious food.

Enjoy the beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan, time your visit for the Indianapolis 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world, or check out amusement parks such as Holiday World Theme Park & Splashin’ Safari Water Park for thrill rides and waterslides!

If your family loves outdoor activities, Indiana’s natural beauty makes it the perfect destination for hiking, camping, fishing, and boating.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis, IN has a lot to offer when it comes to family vacation spots.

The vibe in Indy is awesome. Laidback with big-city amenities – it’s one of our family’s favorite destinations.

If you’re headed to Indy be sure to check out Conner Prairie, with “Acres and Acres of Interactive Awesomeness.”

Conner Prairie Indianapolis
Blacksmith at work at Conner Prairie just outside of Indianapolis, IN

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis also receives high marks from kids and is worth the trip just for a museum visit. Buy tickets online in advance for the best rates.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the Largest Children’s Museum in the World

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana

Hike the gorge and enjoy the bridges. Turkey Run State Park is not what you think of when you think of Indiana.

Many people like to camp here. In the warmer months, floating the river is popular.

Visit the nature center, go horseback riding, go fishing, splash in the pool, or climb the ladders on hiking adventures! Check out Turkey Run and also Shades State Park close by.

See also:
What To Do At Turkey Run State Park With Your Family
Turkey Run State Park by Indy with Kids

Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Photo: Chambanamoms.com
Ladder climbing at Turkey Run State Park
Shades State Park

Fort Wayne, Indiana

A trip to Fort Wayne is a great time for the whole family.

Who knew history and science could be so much fun?! There’s a giant slide inside of Science Central and an amazing reconstructed Historic Old Fort, both of which 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 Science Central
Science Central is a hands-on family destination in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Wisconsin Vacation Spots

Yes, Wisconsin is famous for its cheese and beer, but there’s lots more to explore in this Midwest state.

Lake Geneva is an activity hub throughout the year, with festivals, concerts, and other events taking place regularly, plus watersports, swimming, hiking and biking.

Don’t leave without a visit to the restored Yerkes Observatory, home to the largest refracting telescope in the world!

Looking for a family-friendly city? Madison is home to the Henry Vilas zoo (admission is FREE!), Olbrich botanical gardens and the Madison Children’s Museum.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Self-described as the “Spring Break Capital of the Midwest” and “The Waterpark Capitol of the World,” it’s easy to see why this is a popular Midwest family vacations destination!

Head to Wisconsin Dells and you’ll find loads of indoor water parks like Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resorts, Wilderness and Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park.

Mt Olympus water and theme park

PS – Some waterparks are only open to hotel guests, while others allow day visitors. Check before you go.

Wilderness waterpark resort

Head into Nature

Wisconsin Dells has more to offer than just waterparks. For a spooky hike, don’t miss Witches Gulch – a narrow canyon carved out of the bed of an ancient lake.

It’s only accessible via the Upper Dells boat tour 404, but well worth it!

Witches Gulch

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is such a pretty city, with plenty to do to keep your whole family busy, from the vibrant arts and culture scene, to the delicious food and drink, rich history and heritage.
Milwaukee skyline

For a first-hand account of a family visit, read Melody’s ferry trip to Milwaukee for tips on riding the ferry across Lake Michigan and what you have to see and do while you’re there. You should definitely include a trip to the zoo!

Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee County Zoo

Door County, Wisconsin

This picturesque peninsula on Lake Michigan has beautiful scenery, charming small towns, gorgeous beaches and hiking/biking trails.

Take a scenic drive along the Door County Coastal Byway for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding countryside,

You’ll want to add a trip out to the iconic Cana Island Lighthouse to your Midwest family vacations itinerary. Kids will love riding a haywagon over the causeway to explore the island, and climbing the 97 steps to the top of the tower!

Cana Island lighthouse

Ohio Family Vacation Spots

We’re not sure why Ohio is often overlooked as a destination for Midwest family vacations but we’re going to give it some love right now!

This large state is packed with hidden gems, both natural and man-made. Here is where you should spend your time:

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, on the shores of Lake Erie, is a very family-friendly destination.
Downtown Cleveland Ohio

A variety of outdoor stops families will love include:
Cleveland Botanical Garden
Cleveland Zoo

Indoor attractions are plentiful, too and include:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
A Christmas Story House
Great Lakes Science Center
Greater Cleveland Aquarium

Bonus: The city is a short drive to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where you will find the amazing Ledges Trail as well as Brandywine Falls.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
 Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is just outside of Cleveland

Hocking Hills, Ohio

If you are an adventurous family who love to be active in the great outdoors, then Hocking Hills is the place for you. Kid-friendly options for a variety of ages include:

– Canoeing, kayaking or tubing down the Hocking River
– Rappelling, climbing or scrambling through the incredible rock formations
– Seeing the scenery from above on a zipline adventure

A must-see is the spectacular Ash Cave – the largest, most impressive recess cave in the state. Plus, marvel at the 7 waterfalls in Hocking Hills State Park, the most famous being Cedar Falls. Can you visit them all?

Cedar Falls

Cincinnati, Ohio

If you’re in Cincy, you’re in the land of 365 Cincinnati.  Check out Bridgett’s website 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.

As far as Cincinnati museums go, they are top notch. Bridgett reports that the Cincinnati Art Museum is great for all ages.

The Cincinnati Museum Center includes The Cincinnati History Museum, The Museum of Natural History and Science, and The Children’s Museum. Don’t miss it!

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.

Cincinnati Museum Center includes  The Cincinnati History Museum, The Museum of Natural History and Science, and The Children’s Museum. Photo: 365 Cincinnati

Missouri Vacation Spots

Missouri is a desirable destination for vacationing families, with kid-friendly cities, outdoor activities and history aplenty!

Sport supporters will love visiting the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Blues.

For a culture fix, Tom Sawyer fans won’t want to miss the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Print out their scavenger hunt before you visit to enjoy while you are there.

Missouri’s natural treasures are also a must:

Katy Trail State Park winds through the beautiful Missouri River Valley, and is perfect to bike or hike along. Take a picnic and enjoy the views!

Ha Ha Tonka State Park. With castle ruins, a natural bridge, sinkholes and caves, kids will LOVE an outing to this gem of a place.
Ha Ha Tonka Castle in Missouri

Meramec Caverns. These underground caves will impress children of all ages with their incredible mineral formations, plus why not float down the meandering Meramec River?

Meramec River

St. Louis, Missouri

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!

The City Museum in St. Louis is unlike any other museum we’ve ever visited. This museum is full-contact. Visitors are invited to climb, slide, tunnel, and do all sorts of other things that would never be welcome in a “regular” museum. Our kids thought it was better than Disney!

st louis city museum
City Museum in St. Louis invites visitors to climb their way through the museum, indoors and out

Other itinerary-musts in St. Louis include the Zoo

st louis zoo
St Louis Zoo

The famous Gateway Arch – you can ride to the top if you’d like!

st louis arch
The Base of the St. Louis Gateway Arch

More favorite stops:

Branson, Missouri

Thrill seekers won’t want to miss a trip to Silver Dollar City, a unique 1880s theme park set in the Ozark mountains.

Branson Missouri Roller Coaster Silver Dollar City

Not only are there all the rides and rollercoasters you’d expect, they also have expert artisan craftsmen demonstrating traditional skills such as glassblowing, woodworking and candy making.

The White Water water park will help you keep the family cool this summer! Will you brave the 75-foot free fall on the drop slides? I’ll skip that and head straight to the lazy Aloha River…

Branson Missouri waterslide Silver Dollar City

For dinner with a difference, take a cruise on the Branson Belle showboat for a 2-hour dinner and show experience on the scenic Table Rock Lake.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Being bored simply won’t be an option at Lake of the Ozarks.
The extensive number of activities both on the water and offshore include:

– Indoor and outdoor waterparks
– Boat rides
– Caves
– Zip lines
– Paddle boarding and kayaking
– Horseback riding
– Go-karting

Be prepared for an action-packed itinerary!
Ozarks boating

Float the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri

Ozark National Scenic Riverways was the first federally protected river system, and boasts two of the best floating rivers EVER. The Riverways protects 134 miles of clear, free-flowing spring-fed waterways that travel past impressive rock formations.

To float, raft, kayak or canoe down the riverways, contact one of the many authorized outfitters 404, and enjoy a relaxing trip down the sparkling waterways.

Below: Rocky Falls is one of the riverways’ most ancient wonders and one of the most visited.

Rocky Falls - part of Ozark National Scenic Riverway Missouri - canva
Rocky Falls – Ozark National Scenic Riverway Missouri

Head a little further south in the Ozarks and you’ll bump into another magnificent river – the Buffalo National River.

This is America’s first national river!
Plus, it’s one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states, flowing freely for 135 miles.

Buffalo River
Buffalo National River

Illinois Vacation Spots

Why choose Ilinois for one of your Midwest family vacations?

Of course there are the bright lights and sights of Chicago, but if your family loves a historical vibe, then Illinois is perfect.

The state is also known as the “Land of Lincoln”, as Abraham Lincoln spent most of his adult life there. Visit some of the best Lincoln landmarks:

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The immersive displays and shows really bring history to life!
Lincoln’s Home in Springfield. Get a sense of Lincoln the family man.
Lincoln’s Tomb. View the final resting place of Lincoln, his wife Mary, and 3 of their 4 sons.

Chicago, Illinois

chicago sign - midwest weekend getaways ideas

We visited Maggie Daley Park 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.

Don’t forget exploring Old Town, China Town, or the Gold Coast, along with taking in new restaurants, big-city events, or riding the subway, L or water taxi.

daley park Chicago

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!

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.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

In search of a good family hike? Starved Rock State Park is renowned for its stunning sandstone bluffs, waterfalls and views of the Illinois river.

With trails for all levels, you can pick the route that suits your family best to explore.

Head to the Visitor Center for a hiking map, and for interactive exhibits to help kids learn more about the park’s history and natural features.

Starved Rock State Park

Kentucky Vacation Spots

The children may just be begging to visit the home of KFC, but there are plenty of things to do with kids in Kentucky.

Red River Gorge is a must-see natural wonder. Ride the Skylift to view the Natural Bridge, or try the Whittleton Falls trail. It’s a 1.5 mile loop, perfect for younger family members, and it ends at a beautiful waterfall!

For a truly magical stay, channel your inner pirate and book a cliff house suspended above the gorge for a trip the kids won’t ever forget.

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, KY, has a ton of fun things to offer families. Louisville is good for at least 2 days with kids and the Children’s Museum is great.

Visitors love to tour Churchill Downs, check out the Kentucky Derby Museum, and the Louisville Slugger Museum.
Louisville Slugger Museum

The Louisville Mega Cavern is another favorite vacation spot: you can do an underground ropes course, zipline or bike ride your way through this gigantic cavern destination.

Stop at the Louisville Zoo, ride the Riverboat, and touring museums and neighborhoods will round out your visit.

visit kentucky louisville slugger
Louisville Slugger Museum

An hour south of Louisville you can enjoy horseback riding and a Jesse James hideout cave tour.

Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky

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 Mammoth Caves National Park. If you want to do a cave tour please note that most need to be booked in advance.

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, if you have never been to a cave before, take a sweater or jacket with you. It can be cold in the cave.

Also good to note- the caves are in the Central Time Zone, so adjust your watches accordingly.

mammoth caves kentucky
Mammoth Caves in Kentucky

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.

Be sure to check out our full list of 22 things to do in Kentucky.

Tennessee Vacation Spots

Tennessee is so much more than just the home of Nashville and Jack Daniels whiskey. There are plenty of fun attractions for kids!

Visit the Children’s Museum of Memphis, a hands-on museum that offers interactive exhibits and activities for kids to learn through play. Don’t miss the new Bubble Gardens, open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Check out the Adventure Science Center in Nashville and experience their totally unique and immersive Infinium exhibit.

Why should kids have all the fun? Take a tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. While kids can’t sample the whiskey, they can still take a tour and learn about the history of this famous Tennessee whiskey.

Smoky Mountains – Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN are tourist destinations with tons of activities for families.

There are so many things to choose from, like: the Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Goats on the Roof, the alpine coaster, Dollywood (do the steam engine ride), Bennett’s BBQ, Mama’s Farmhouse, and the scenic chairlift up to the top of Ober-Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium and horseback riding.

Zorbing is a newer activity available in Gatlinburg that looks like a ton of fun.
zorbing gatlinburg tennessee
Outdoor Gravity Park, Gatlinburg

Many visitors choose to spend time exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – this vacation spot has so much to see and do and most of it is free (Cade’s Cove, Clingman’s Dome and the drive to Clingman’s Dome are a must within the park.) You will also want to check out the hike to Grotto Falls if you are looking for a beautiful hike.

If you go to the welcome center in the national park, they can recommend trails that are best for the distance, incline, and views that you are looking for. Gatlinburg has beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains if you stay in one of the cabins!

chimney top hike smokey mountains
Chimney Tops hike in the Smoky Mountains

Nashville, TN

When in Nashville, go hiking, take in live music and be sure to visit the botanical gardens.

Nashville skyline

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. There are old house tours, civil war cemeteries, and other historical opportunities, too.

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 ZooCentennial 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.

Downtown Nashville

The city has plenty of good food and music during the day at bars along with lots of fun shops.

Downtown Nashville at night is really fun but not necessarily kid-friendly.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

rock city gardens
Rock City Gardens

Chattanooga in general is a great little city, with a fresh downtown area with lots of great shops, restaurants, and family-friendly attractions.

  • Chattanooga is famous for their impressive aquarium
  • Minor league baseball
  • Children’s Museum
  • a pedestrian bridge over the river
  • The incline railway where trolley-style cars climb Lookout Mountain – straight up!
  • Rock City here’s where you go to see massive ancient rock formations, gardens, and breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic views. Take the Enchanted Trail and experience Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village.
  • Ruby Falls is a lot like Mammoth Caves… kids love it!

Overall, there’s a lot to love about Chattanooga!

Just over an hour to the northwest of Chattanooga is The Lost Sea (America’s largest underground lake) in Sweetwater, TN. You can take a boat ride underground.

Michigan Vacation Spots

Known for its Great Lakes coastline, Michigan offers a prime Midwest family vacation destination.

Below is a taste of what Michigan has to offer. (Dig deeper with 14 best Michigan vacation spots.)

These are great vacation spots for spring break, fall break, winter, or a summer getaway.

Detroit, Michigan

It’s time to add Detroit – The Motor City – to your list of Midwest family vacation spots because it has so much to offer families!

Downtown Detroit Campus Martius Beach in the Summer
Campus Martius in Downtown Detroit

Getting away to Belle Isle to go to the FREE aquarium and beautiful Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is such a fun experience.

Aquarium on Belle Isle in Detroit

Catch a view of both Canada and USA borders at the same time on their multiple viewing spots.

While in town, definitely make time for the Detroit Zoo.

Plus, the ever-popular penguin exhibit has reopened after a two-year closure for repairs and should be on your must-visit list. It’s the largest penguin facility in the world!

Another amazing stop in Detroit: Visit the Outdoor Adventure Center.

Shopping the historic Eastern Market is also a favorite.

Eastern Market Shed Detroit

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 to plan a great vacation in Detroit.

Mackinac Island

Enjoy a one-of-a-kind trip to Mackinac Island, a completely car-free island located on Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It opens seasonally from May to October, so this is perfect for a summer adventure.

You can travel to the island by ferry or on the Good Fortune Pirate Ship (the kids will love this!). Once you arrive, make sure you visit the famous fudge shops, and then explore the island on foot, by bike (plenty of rental options available), or by horsedrawn carriage.

You’ll want to spend time exploring Mackinac Island State Park which has plenty of biking and walking nature trails to show off the island’s beautiful vistas, and stunning rock formations.

Mackinac Island

Michigan’s Adventure

Michigan’s Adventure is an amusement and water park open from the end of May to early September, so pack your swimwear for a fun-packed family day out!

Will you be brave enough to try the epic Shivering Timbers? The park’s signature ride is the longest and fastest wooden rollercoaster in the state.

When we go as a family, we tend to head straight to the water park lockers to put our stuff away, then enjoy some rides in the main park, before the water park opens at midday.

You can’t take picnics in with you, so either get lunch outside of peak times inside the park to avoid long queues or pop a cooler in your car and head back to the parking lot to grab lunch. You will be given a ticket for re-entry.

For more tips, check out our article on all you need to know for a day out at Michigan’s Adventure.

Michigan Adventure

Grand Rapids, Michigan

A family visit to Grand Rapids can be a lot of fun. Here are some of the favorite things to do:

Visit Meijer Gardens. Plan to visit both the indoor and outdoor sections, especially the Children’s Garden and Japanese Garden.
Frederik Meijer Gardens entrance (2)

Head to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and ride the carousel.

things to do with grandkids in Grand Rapids includes a trip to the museum.

Hike, bike, rent boats or beach it at Millennium Park.

Millennium Park header

Visit the animals at John Ball Zoo.

John-Ball-Zoo-education-staff-with-canada lynx
Leave time in your itinerary for dining – Grand Rapids has some of the area’s best restaurants.

And finally, consider taking a short drive to spend a day at Lake Michigan.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Frankenmuth – fondly known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” – is a fantastic family fun destination with great food, interesting history, and unique places to stay.

Home to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, Zehnder’s Chicken and the Bavarian Inn Lodge, there’s a lot waiting for you here.

Midwest Family Vacations in Frankenmuth, MI - Bronners-Christmas-Wonderland

One of two water parks in Frankenmuth, Zehnder’s Splash Village is a combination hotel and waterpark. Your family will love exploring and splashing around in the 50,000 square feet of waterpark fun or playing in the arcade.
zehnders-splash-village in Frankenmuth

Stay for a weekend or longer and check out the 16 Best Things to Do in Frankenmuth MI

Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is year-round Michigan vacation spot. Known for a family-friendly atmosphere and outdoor recreation, you can find families visiting for spring break, a summer getaway or a weekend trip in the fall.

A trip to Traverse City means amazing food seeing the Grand Traverse Bay, and if you plan for it, a pool to swim in.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is just a short drive from Traverse City

Catch a movie at  State Theatre for their $1.00 Kids Matinee and explore Downtown. Shops, restaurants and parks are just waiting for you to explore.

Summertime calls for cherry picking, brewery visits, and of course, beach days.

In the winter, go snow tubing at Mt. Holiday or ski on the VASA trail.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

The hub of Southwest Michigan, Kalamazoo has many attractions. One of Kalamazoo’s claims to fame is their outdoor downtown mall area. It’s filled with great shops and restaurants and is a fun family destination.
kalamazoo mall

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

You’ll also want to stop at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

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.

Air Zoo Panels Off

Find these and many more ideas at KZOOKIDS.
Visiting Kalamazoo? Your Two Day Itinerary on What to Do with Kids

Lansing, Michigan

Once you arrive at Michigan’s capitol city of Lansing, there are quite a few things to keep you busy.

Stop 1: Tour the capitol building.

Stop 2: Michigan State University in East Lansing
Take your family to the:
MSU (Dino) Museum

MSU Museum in East Lansing, MI

MSU Broad Art Museum
MSU Dairy Store

Got kids?
Don’t miss the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden – bring carrots to feed to the horses!

After that, head on over to the Impression 5 Science Museum.

And don’t forget Potter Park Zoo – purchase timed entry tickets online.

Oh, and you must stop at the original Horrocks.

And hike at the ledges in Fitzgerald Park.


Boyne Mountain Resort & Petoskey, MI

 1 Boyne Mountain Rd, Boyne Falls, MI 49713

If you’re looking for a place that offers a wide variety of indoor and outdoor fun with access to a fabulous resort setting, it doesn’t get much better than Petoskey, MI.

Boyne Falls, MI, close to Petoskey, is home to Boyne Mountain Resort and the new SkyBridge.
SkyBridge opened in 2022

Favorite activities at Boyne Mountain include:
Water Park
Indoor/Outdoor Pools
Downhill Skiing
Snow Tubing
Zip Line Experience
Snow Shoeing
Walking the SkyBridge
Boyne Mountain Resort is one of Michigan’s favorite ski vacation spots

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.

And of course, Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park!

Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark is jam-packed with splish splash family fun. Thrill waterslides make this stop a hit with teens and adults, as well as the younger set. What more could we ask for?

Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark
Avalanche Bay Water Park at Boyne Mountain in Michigan

Thinking a water park sounds good? Consider these Midwest & Michigan Indoor Water Park Destinations as well.

Muskegon, Michigan

Muskegon is a small Lake Michigan city with a direct ferry connection to a much larger Midwest vacation spot for families: Milwaukee.

While you’re in town be sure to stop by Lake Michigan. The Muskegon Harbor beach is expansive and lots of fun even on a cool spring day. It’s a great place to fly a kite.

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

USS Silversides in Muskegon Michigan
USS Silversides

LEGOLAND & Sea Life Aquarium at Great Lakes Crossings

4000 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI 48326

Why road trip it to Auburn Hills, MI?

Because Great Lakes Crossing Outlets is a one-stop fun shop for families and a perfect Spring Break option!

In addition to a wide range of shops, the outlet mall has a ton of entertainment & attractions for all ages, but especially the younger crowd.

For the tweens and teens in your group:
Round 1 Bowling & Amusement (Arcade, karaoke, billiards, ping pong, darts, etc)
AMC Theatres
Selfie Zone – 20 selfie stations, ring lights

For the younger kids, visit:
Immediately upon entering LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Michigan’s ultimate indoor LEGO playground, you’re greeted with an opportunity to save the day on two interactive LEGO-themed rides, then get hands-on in the build and play areas! 

SEA LIFE Aquarium
Sharks, Stingrays, Sea Turtles, Petting Tank &More!
Michigan’s largest aquarium lets you in on the action with an interactive touch pool, an underwater-themed play structure, an underwater ocean tunnel, daily talks & feedings, and more.

Winter Break SEA LIFE Aquarium

Peppa Pig World of Play Michigan
Carousel & Play Area in the Food Court

More to Consider While Planning Midwest Family Vacations

There’s something special about getting travel advice from people who are in at a similar stage of life.

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 “31 Best Midwest Family Vacations: City Breaks, Nature Escapes & Fun Things to Do”

  1. Sara Feldpausch

    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. Avatar photo

      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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