Two weeks ago, I shared a list of five great mini-vacations for families living in the Midwest. We may not live in the most exciting part of the country, but there is a surprising amount of fun destinations just a car ride away. Believe it or not, it was hard to narrow down the list to just five great spots, so here are five more!
Almost all the way to Iowa, Galena is a gem of town with rolling country hills and charm oozing out of its little shops. You can find good hiking, good beer, and fantastic views pretty much everywhere you look, which makes this town a winner for me. There are also tons of wineries and tasting rooms to enjoy. Be sure to pick up an afternoon snack of gourmet flavored popcorn from the Great American Popcorn Company and some fudge from Galena Candy Kitchen.
2. Devil’s Lake
Devil’s Lake has some of the best hiking you can find within a day trip of Chicago, which really isn’t saying much, but it was still quite beautiful. Dan and I went hiking here last October right as the fall colors were at their peak and the weather was crisp and cool. The trails are very family- and dog-friendly, so bring everyone along! Devil’s Lake is also just a few miles from the Wisconsin Dells, which is perfect if you have young kids. Devil’s Lake itself doesn’t have much to offer with accommodations or food, so you’ll need to head to Baraboo or the Dells to set up camp. If you’re a true cheese-lover, stop in for dinner at MACS, where they serve fresh mac and cheese in cast iron skillets. All your dreams will come true, and you will go to bed with a terrible-but-worth-it stomach ache (the Memphis mac and cheese is the best, topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and crispy onions).
3. Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids has become quite the destination for art and culture with tons of galleries, theaters, studios, and outdoor art exhibits. Spring and summer are the best times to visit to take advantage of outdoor concerts and festivals. But of course, I can’t exclude ArtPrize, a 19-day art festival and competition that covers three square miles of Grand Rapids. This year’s festivities will be happening from September 23 to October 11. What I love most about this event is its roots in radical diversity and inclusiveness, sustainability, and social equity.
4. Mackinac Island
This is the most charming of all the charming Michigan cities, but it is quite an adventure to get there. It’s about a six-and-a-half-hour drive, plus a ferry to get from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island. But that’s all part of the charm: there are no cars allowed on the island. You can get around via bikes, horse-drawn carriages, or old-fashioned style on foot. The biking and walking options are particularly nice, since there are endless ice cream and fudge shops in this town, and I like to work off a good 5% of the vacation calories I consume. Like many other towns in Michigan, there are plenty of options for water activities, such as kayaking, cocktail cruises, sailing tours, and parasailing. If you’re into history, there are a few forts and historical museums to check out. And if you love fancy things, stay at the Grand Hotel. If you love fancy things but you’re on a budget, just walk around the Grand Hotel and pretend you’re staying there. It’s too gorgeous not to go.
I’ve only passed through Nashville on my way to Florida, but I’m so eager to spend more time there. From what I’ve heard, it’s a top-notch destination for a girls’ weekend, it’s great for families, and it’s questionable as a romantic weekend, unless your husband really likes country music (and if that’s not the case, maybe rent a secluded cabin in the Smoky Mountains instead). Take a self-guided tour of the sprawling Opryland Hotel, indulge at the famed Pancake Pantry, and stay out all night (or if you’re my mental age, until 9:00) line dancing. If you’re seeking outdoor adventures, you can find plenty of those right in the city at the many parks and outdoor music festivals. (I’m eager to see Centennial Park, which boasts a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon of Athens.) A short drive out of Nashville will get you to some gorgeous (and gentle) hiking trails.5 (more) mini-vacation destinations for Midwestern families. #travel #vacation Click To Tweet