Did you know that January 28th is National Plan for Vacation Day? I LOVE planning vacations and what better time to start planning? I reached out to fellow travel bloggers to learn about their favorite vacations from 2019 and, wow, did they pull through! Here are the best Midwest destinations to visit in 2020 with your family.
So tell me, have you started planning your vacations this year? Where do you plan on going this year? Did I miss your favorite vacation?
I’ve yet to visit Galena, Illinois but I definitely want to make it happen after reading this Melissa’s post from Outnumbered 3 to 1.
Galena offers such small town character, with plenty to keep you entertained. From shopping spots and delicious cuisine to historical/ghost tours, distilleries, charming inns, and more, Galena is sure to impress.
Looking for Fall fun? Rader Family Farms, centrally located in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, is a great place to spend your day! There is something for everyone – corn mazes, apple chucking, children’s activities, picking your own pumpkin, and, my favorite – pumpkin donuts! Each year, the Farm adds more activities. You could easily spend your entire day there! And, while you are in town, there are great restaurant options as well.
Pam and her family had an overnight adventure at Pokagon State Park in Indiana. Find out why she loved staying here on her blog, Our Adventure is Everywhere. Have you ever stayed at a state park lodging?
Pokagon State Park is the place for winter fun. With an exciting and unique frozen toboggan run, beautiful winter hikes and a cozy Inn, it’s a terrific place to spend a long winter weekend with the whole family.
Hendricks County, Indiana
After three visits to Hendricks County, Indiana, I keep finding more reasons to return. Located just west of Indianapolis, this collection of communities is full of friendly people, great food, and creative things to do. You can blow glass, DIY tie-dye, go horseback riding, pick apples, take a hayride through a pumpkin patch, stroll gorgeous gardens, and “Yes, and” your way through improv. The pork tenderloins are some of the best you’ll find anywhere (even in Indiana, which is saying something). There’s a bakery where the smiles are even better than the bread, and a barbecue shack by the tracks with tender brisket, a brewmaster’s idea of a beer cooler, and pie that made me cry. Hendricks County is conveniently located by the airport and three U.S. highways provide easy access. This is a Midwest destination you definitely want to include in your upcoming adventures.
Santa Claus, Indiana
For all things Santa you can’t miss a visit to Santa Claus, Indiana. We’ve been there a few times and we simply can’t get enough of it! Katy Mann from Indy with Kids totally feels the same way. Whether you decide to visit during winter or summer, you’re bound to have a fun time with the family.
Santa Claus, Indiana and the surrounding areas were such a delight to visit during 2019. We took our four children for a weekend this summer and ran wild at the Holiday World amusement park and water park and then spent some time horseback riding, exploring and getting to know former president, Abraham Lincoln through his boyhood home. We returned during the holidays to see this holiday town through the eyes of Christmas, and it was a weekend full of parades and holiday fanfare. I choose the Santa Claus, Indiana area for my favorite destination this past year because of the mix of amusement, history and outdoor activities.
I’ve always heard great things about Shipshewana. Brandy Gleason from Gleason Family Adventure shares her 5 favorite things to do in Shipshewana. My kids would love to go on a buggy ride!
In the heart of Amish Country Indiana is the town of Shipshewana located in LaGrange County. It’s here where you can sit and watch the Amish, stroll the streets to shop quaint places and go to the Shipshewana Flea Market for a day of deal finding. When bringing the kids along you need to have a plan of things to do with them in between all the relaxing and shopping because we all know kids can make or break a trip. Read these 5 family friendly Shipshewana, Indiana destinations for you, they will make your time here full of fun and family memories!
Erin from The Epicurean Traveler loved all the foodie options in Bloomington, Indiana. We only had one day here last spring on our awesome Indiana roadtrip and it wasn’t long enough to eat all the food! Next time for sure!
You may know it as home to Indiana University, but Bloomington, Indiana, offers visitors diverse activities and cuisines beyond IU’s iconic Sample Gates. In this Midwest college town, families can visit Buddhist monasteries, shop Indiana’s largest producers-only farmers’ market, and splash around in one of its inland lakes. Those of us over 21 can also sip award-winning wines at Oliver Winery, the largest winery east of the Mississippi River.
As a culinary traveler, I certainly recommend a weekend getaway to Bloomington for the food. You’ll find 80 restaurants serving global cuisines from 18 countries, and at least 20 places to grab a slice of pizza. Don’t miss the tender Memphis-style, dry-rubbed barbecue ribs that fall off the bone at SmokeWorks in downtown Bloomington’s charming Courtyard Square!
Indianapolis is a fantastic choice for family travel in the Midwest! It boasts the world’s largest children’s museum (with free wi-fi AND sensory maps!) as well as their 7.5 acre Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience – all included in admission! The Indiana State Museum, Catacombs, President Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, White River State Park and the nearby Indiana Cave Trail are all other great family friendly attractions!
I absolutely adore Dubuque, Iowa’s first city. When we visited we had a wonderful time (loved those murals!). Jeff from Our Changing Lives highlights his visit to Dubuque. We absolutely agree with his recommendations and will have to check out the Dubuque Botanical Gardens and the cute coffee shop next time.
Dubuque, Iowa is home to variety of entertainment options. History abounds all around this bluffed city, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Make plans to be a modern day explorer in Iowa’s First City.
A Midwest town I fell in love with was Abilene, Kansas. Being home to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum (newly reopened with a major face-lift), I knew I would enjoy Abilene. Still, many other attractions really blew me away.First, I was over-the-moon for Ginger, a retired greyhound racing dog that greets visitors at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. The Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad was a lovely way to experience the great outdoors on a 100-year-old steam engine and see fantastic farming scenery on the open-air train ride. A great photo opportunity is at the Eisenhower Park & Rose Garden, a peaceful and colorful setting.A tour of the eclectic Seelye Mansion ended with me bowling in a retro wooden bowling lane. Then I perused a cool telephone exhibit a the Heritage Center, followed by a ride on a 1901 vintage carousel.I also ate one of the best meals of the year at Brookville Hotel, which serves a fried chicken supper and all the fixings that are finger-licking good! Abilene is conveniently located off Kansas I-70 and is chock full of friendly Midwesterners.
Saugatuck, Michigan is one of our top destination choices when looking to take a break from busy Chicago life and unwind. The quaint downtown is filled with locally-owned art galleries, fantastic eateries, and eclectic shops. It’s the perfect place for casual strolling and lengthy conversations with locals. Or, in the warmer months basking in the sun at the beach. This city has it all!
New Buffalo, Michigan
The charming resort town of New Buffalo, Michigan is a gem with plenty of wineries, breweries, shopping, and beaches to keep you active during your visit. There are also several really good antique shops in the area. One of my favorite places to stop in during my time there is Beer Church, a brewery and Napoletana inside a Civil War-era church.
This Old World Bavarian town may be famous for it’s delicious chicken dinners, but there are also plenty of indoor and outdoor activities for kids, sweet treats for days, and a variety of family-friendly accommodation options.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
We’ve had stopovers in Grand Rapids and it seems like our time there is never enough. We’d really like to stay and enjoy it like Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear did.
Grand Rapids was once known for its rapids on the Grand River. Today, it’s a prime location for coffee shops, art festivals, museums, gorgeous riverwalk, and more. Our guide to 2 days in Grand Rapids, Michigan is full of local secrets including amazing breweries, best eats, and places to visit.
West Traverse Bay, Michigan
Joan from Gramcracker Crumbs took her grandchildren to West Traverse Bay for a fun adventure…on a boat! The floating bed and breakfast looks amazing. And much props to Joan – I want to be a cool grandmother like her!
My up north Michigan trip this past summer included a night sleeping on the Tall Ship Manitou out of West Traverse Bay, Michigan. They had simple but comfy bunks below deck! Ship is tied to the dock overnight. Early morning breakfast was cooked fresh on board and served family style with both crew and guests.The Bed and Breakfast package turned out to be my granddaughter’s favorite part of our vacation. Attention to detail and the friendly crew made it special for grandma too!
Vicki and her kids from That Was a First loved her visit to Ely, Minnesota. In fact, she tells you ten reasons why your kids will love it as well. The mac and grilled cheese is calling my name as well as Dorothy’s Rootbeer.
Ely, Minnesota is a fantastic family vacation destination in northern Minnesota, and offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. You can learn about the wildlife in the northwoods, with visits to the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center. Both Centers are full of unique exhibits, offer daily programs, and have large live animal displays. Your family can enjoy the outdoors with a trip into the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a walk or bike ride on the Trezona trail, or maybe try some fishing on a nearby lake.
Don’t miss visiting the fun shops on Sheridan Street or eating a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants in town. We loved the crazy sandwiches at Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium along with a Dorothy Molter Root Beer. You can learn more about this root beer at the Dorothy Molter Museum, and buy some to bring home.
Gretchen from Odyssey through Nebraska gushes about why she loves her hometown of Lincoln. Psst. Stay tuned for her two books coming out in 2020 on her hometown, A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln and 100 Things to do in Lincoln Before You Die.
Lincoln, Nebraska is my hometown. When you grow up in a location, sometimes it is easy to miss what makes a place unique and special. For me, what makes Lincoln great is the fact that we are one of the biggest small towns you could visit. Friendliness abounds. But Lincoln also has a lot of interesting features.
Lincoln has unique museums. One is devoted to roller skating. Another celebrates quilting on an international scale. Celebrate the Germans from Russia culture. Visit the North American tractor testing facility and see how far agricultural equipment has come at the Larsen Tractor Museum.
We also have specialty dining. Original Runza sandwiches feature hamburger and cabbage rolled up in bread dough. At Honest Abe’s, both burgers and freedom (to think outside of the topping box) are on the menu. Valentino’s Pizza has been serving up slices for decades. This is only a taste of what Lincoln has to offer.
Medora, North Dakota
Just take a peek at Sara’s post with photos aplenty on Medora, North Dakota and you’ll want to visit in a heartbeat. I sure do!
Medora North Dakota is a charming mountain town located at the entrance of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The people and the magical feeling that I have felt when visiting, is truly magical and something everyone should experience. Medora is home to the longest running outdoor musical in the country and one of the finest family friendly shows that you can find today. If you are lucky, you will get a glimpse of Medora at the Chateau de Mores Historic Site.
Find out why Cleveland rocks from The Adventures of Panda Bear’s Constance.
Famous for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland is more than just music. In fact, “Cle” is also home to the world’s largest rubber stamp. The city has beautiful architecture, delicious Polish eats, and a world-class art museum all of which are easily discoverable. 48 hours in Cleveland, Ohio is just what you need to explore “The Forest City!”
Geneva on the Lake, Ohio
Have you heard of Geneva on the Lake? Lori from Maps Memories and Motherhood recounts her time with the family at this town. Looks like a fun time with plenty of things to do for the family.
Geneva on the Lake, Ohio on Lake Erie is a family-friendly, fun and memorable spot for all ages with access to Lake Erie and water sports, zipline/adventure courses, a unique town, and lovely accommodations at the Lodge at Geneva. The town has a very 1950s feel and is remniscent of giant state fair midway with a 2-lane road running through it — teeming with arcades, restaurants (both walk-up and sit down), and souvenir shops.
I love exploring small towns, and I couldn’t resist the charm of Granville, Ohio, which is often referred to as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. My husband and I enjoyed both a luxurious stay and top-notch food at the historic Granville Inn. Just a few steps from the Inn we found ourselves amidst boutique shops and eclectic eateries where both tourists and locals gathered. Granville is the perfect small town for a weekend getaway in the Midwest!
Katie from Zen, Life, and Travel highly recommends Columbus, Ohio, and I couldn’t agree more! She highlights all things Columbus in this awesome ultimate guide!
Columbus, Ohio is a fantastic destination to visit any time of year! For starters, you’ll find one of the best zoos in the country. If you want to feel like you’re on a safari, be sure to check out the Heart of Africa exhibit. You’ll see cheetahs, zebras, gazelle, and lions, plus you can even hand feed a giraffe! If you’re traveling with kids, COSI is a must. This hands on kids science museum features lots of interactive exhibits, galleries, a planetarium, and even a National Geographic giant screen theater to keep the whole family entertained. If you’re looking for some great restaurants and shopping, head to Dublin, Ohio. This suburb has 2 fantastic areas – historic Dublin and Bridge Park – that are connected by a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Scioto River (opening in 2020). Try Harvest Pizza for some of the best pizza in central Ohio and don’t forget to stop at hometown favorite, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams which is just down the block, for dessert.
Badlands, South Dakota
How amazing would it be to camp at the Badlands? Find out why Jody Halsted of Camping Tips for Everyone recommends camping in or near Badlands National Park.
You’ll find comfortable cabins, rustic campgrounds, and the remoteness of backcountry camping within the park, and all the comforts of KOA (toilets, showers, and evening ice cream socials) near by. The benefit of staying near the park is arriving early in the morning, before temperatures get too hot, to hike then spend the afternoon relaxing at your campsite before joining a ranger led Dark Sky event in the evening.
I’ve never been to Beloit, but after reading about 9 reasons you’d want to visit Beloit from Lori of Oh! The Places I Go, I’d love to check it out myself.
Beloit, Wisconsin is a mid sized city with a deep industrial past as you quickly find out when you visit. Situated on the Rock River, Beloit is a wonderful getaway for families. A short drive from Chicago, Beloit is a food mecca, but also offers tons of activities for everyone. Walk it’s scenic miles of trails or head to Riverside Park right in the downtown area and rent a paddle boat. Visit the historical sites or shop one of the most quaint downtown areas in Wisconsin. There’s a host of activities going on year round.
Blogger tips: Do not miss stopping at Flying Pig or Northwoods Premium for treats for the kiddos. Take a walk to the Ironworks Complex for wonderful artwork paying tribute to the foundry that once operated there. In summer enjoy Friday’s In The Park. Grab a bite to eat and enjoy some live music.
Door County, Wisconsin
From the peaceful slowing of your body to ‘lake time’ to the incredible food found up and down the peninsula, Door County invites you to enjoy every minute. While Door County may have a little something for everyone, it is truly a paradise for outdoor adventure. Hiking and cycling paths wind through every park, while boat tours range from relaxing to adrenaline pumping, and you can even find a few activities that will launch you through the skies.
Madison is easily one of my favorite places to visit. Find out why Sue from Food Travelist also highly recommends this destination. (And yes, you’ll find some of the nicest people here!)
If you’re looking for a place that is beautiful, fun, and will welcome you wholeheartedly, check out Madison, Wisconsin. This Midwestern town is the capital city, a vibrant and green college town and home to some of the nicest people in the world.
You will be surprised by all the wonderful food choices you will discover. Madison has great global cuisine, everything from Peruvian to Korean. And long-established local, seasonal, and sustainable practices add farm-fresh ingredients to delicious traditional Midwestern fare. Food carts, fine dining, funky diners, and scratch bakeries are just some of the treats you’ll find. Madison’s sweet tooth is pretty active, so it’s no surprise the city is home to some of the best chocolatiers in the world. And don’t miss the local dairies for some of the best ice cream you’ll ever eat. Be sure to try the world-famous cheese curds, too.
Madison is also a place where people spend a ton of time outdoors enjoying the two beautiful lakes and miles and miles of bike and hiking trails. No matter what season you visit you’ll find plenty to do. Cultural activities like the Chazen Museum of Art, Overture Center For The Arts, Olbrich Botanical Gardens and Madison Children’s Museum are top on the list. The Henry Vilas Zoo is admission-free and their mission of conservation and sustainability is on full display. There’s even a beach right across the street to cool off on a warm summer’s day.
Kenosha happens to be one of my favorite budget-friendly day trips from Chicago. Jeff from Our Changing Lives talks about the many fun things to do along with all the food hot spots. There are a few on his list I NEED to try including a new-to-us Irish spot.
“Situated on the shore of Lake Michigan, Kenosha offers visitors historical attractions, abundant dining options, and scenic views. This affordable vacation destination is a great family-friendly option.”
Wisconsin Dells is always a fun time. And Kylie from Between England and Iowa thinks so, too!
I love the Wisconsin Dells for the huge amount of tourists attractions that they offer, there’s something for everyone! The Wisconsin Dells is known as the ‘waterpark capital of the world’, the outdoor parks shut during the winter but many of the resorts have large indoor waterparks with adapted versions of the large ‘outdoor’ slides so they can be enjoyed year round! Some of my personal favorite attractions are The Kalahari indoor waterpark (which offers day passes, great if you’re not staying at the resort) and WizardQuest. Buffalo Phil’s is a fun restaurant, drinks and small meals are delivered to the table by miniature railway. Its sister restaurant, ‘Moose Jaw’ gives every visitor moose antler hats to wear regardless of whether you are a child or an adult!