Mid-West Long Weekend Destinations?

Mar 17th, 2015, 09:23 AM
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Mid-West Long Weekend Destinations?

We (me, my husband, and two sons-3.5 and 1.5) will be in Chicago at the end of June. We would like to add an additional destination onto this trip, and are toying with the idea of the Badlands and Black Hills. That would add an additional week to our trip, and is a 14(ish) hour drive from Chicago.

One of the main hesitations with the South Dakota option is that it would mean being away for 2 full weeks, which we've never done with our boys. It could be a long time for them to be out of routine. Or not. It's just uncharted territory.

Because of the amount of driving (almost 24 hours from our home to the Black Hills), and the amount of time required, we would like to entertain other possibilities.

Does anyone have any suggestions that might be a tad closer to Chicago (maybe 7-8 hours instead of 14), and that would be suitable for a 2-4 day visit instead of 6-7?

We'll be driving from NY, and have to be in Chicago (actually Warrenville/Naperville area) from June 22-26. We were planning on traveling the week prior, but could make the week after work instead.

We (and the boys) enjoy (kid-friendly) museums, zoos, parks, cities, the outdoors, and seeing new things. Basically, we're open to just about any suggestion.

A few ideas that we'd discussed include Minneapolis, Minnesota lakes (though my knowledge of that ends there), St Louis, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

What are your thoughts?
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 09:26 AM
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I meant to tag Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, and Illinois as well, but they somehow disappeared. Apologies!
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 09:34 AM
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Minneapolis has a lot to offer, city lakes, museums, Mississippi River.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Mar 17th, 2015, 09:35 AM
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If you are considering Minneapolis, I would go further north to Duluth and the North Shore.

Do you have passports for everyone or is that not realistic given the ages of your children? The UP with a return trip through Canada would be more interesting than just retracing your route.

I think the Black Hills would add a lot of travel time and is better saved for when your kids are older.
WhereAreWe is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 09:44 AM
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My husband and I have passports, and I believe the boys just need birth certificates for crossing the border (as long as it's by car), so going the Canadian route home via the UP is an interesting suggestion. We're in Western NY, so it would make sense anyway.
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 10:23 AM
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St. Louis has lots to offer little kids! Our boys loved the zoo, children's museum, and arch.
takemethere is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 12:53 PM
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Milwaukee has a wonderful children's museum (Betty Brinn), a world class zoo, a public museum kids like, lots of parks.
abram is offline  
Mar 17th, 2015, 07:30 PM
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@WhereAreWe-Duluth and the North Shore look like very interesting options. How long would you suggest? 4 days? And would you bypass Minneapolis altogether?

@takemethere-I've looked into St Louis a bit more, and it does sound like it could really suit our interests. Do you have any recommendations about where to stay?
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 07:49 AM
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Since your children are very young. A circle Indiana trip. 3 hours to Indianapolis and the Children's Museum. Along the way is Indiana Beach (Monticello) and lots of covered bridges. On the way back could be Fort Wayne (Children's zoo), then Shipshewana or Nappanee for Amish culture and then maybe Silver Beach at St. Joseph Michigan for the final stop. All main roads with easy on/off access to attractions.
TravelGram is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 08:20 AM
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My thoughts are that the two boys are much too young to recall much of anything about that trip. I personally wouldn't be putting in those long grueling hours of driving unless it was something really special for you and your husband. So it might be better to just wait another 5-6 years, perhaps, for the boys.

You should be considering differing routes on the return loop to NY. The idea for Indianapolis is good. You have the Children's Museum and the Zoo in White River right in Indianapolis. I don't know that the kids would be so enthralled with the Nappanee, Goshen, Shipshewana, etc. area (Indiana Amish country), though.

I would recommend Santa Claus Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus,IN before Indiana Beach in Monticello - if you were looking for a water park along the way. This would be closer to Evansville.

I have to mention that there is supposed to be a big construction project starting soon (if not already) for I-65 on/around the south side of Indianapolis, where they are adding lanes to widen it. The project is about 18 miles in length - so expecting some significant delays in that area.
That's not to say that you couldn't use alternative routes - which I *highly* endorse anyway...

For example, once you get to the south of Lake County, Indiana - you could use U.S. #41 to go south to around Rockville. You'd go right past Turkey Run State Park, and it has some easy trails, as well as the more rugged ones. The above poster mentions the covered bridges. Those are around Rockville in Parke County (also right on U.S. #41).

You can then take US36/SR39 into the Indianapolis area.

Would you have any interest in driving back through West Virginia into Virginia before going north to NY? There's some mighty purty country in that area.
exiledprincess is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 09:35 AM
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Lots of good suggestions regarding Indiana, thank you! And thank you for the heads up regarding construction. If we went to St Louis, Indianapolis might be a good spot for a stop-over, as we'll likely take the Northern route (I-90) home from Chicago. The more ideas I read, the longer this trip becomes, ha!

We've done several road trips of varying lengths with them (including NY to FL, which is close time-wise to the SD option) and so we're pretty confident that they could handle the car ride, BUT we are questioning whether we should save the Black Hills/Badlands for a time when they'll remember it. My oldest will be almost 4, and might retain snippets of memories, but mainly we just really enjoy traveling with them, and the value the memories that we're making for ourselves as well.

Regarding the WV/VA option, I do agree that it is a beautiful area (I spent a year in college in Harrisonburg), but is probably out for this trip. We tend to head South for our regular vacations, and are hoping to visit some areas further West, since we're committed to the Chicago portion.
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 12:17 PM
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Although you've taken a lengthy road trip from NY to FL with approximately the same time, going to the Badlands and Black Hills would have you driving through a much different topographical area. Many miles of flat farmland - and then even more going into the Great Plains, depending on which route you take.

I also don't understand why you think you would be going back towards Chicago from Indianapolis (after St. Louis) to use I90. IMHO, that would be counterproductive. Take a quick look at a map and you'll see why. Wouldn't it be better for you to go towards Columbus, OH and then NNE through Ohio? With such a lot of driving, you don't want to add even more into the mix.

Besides, it might be a smart thing to start researching about what other BIG road construction projects are on the books for the various states you are contemplating during your trip. They'll post the information on IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation), INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation), etc. But you can find the information at other websites as well.
exiledprincess is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 03:47 PM
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@exiledprincess, sorry if my post was confusing. We're planning on going on this excursion before we make our way to Chicago, and basically make the trip a big (albeit wobbly) loop. So, we would drive through Indianapolis on the way to St Louis. Alternatively, it looks like we could also bypass Indianapolis altogether if construction is a concern by taking I-71 and I-64 through Cincinnati and Louisville to St Louis.

Then, after spending a few days in St Louis, we would drive from St Louis to Chicago (for a business conference), and then head back to NY from Chicago (via I-90). It looks like we could instead go through Michigan and Ontario (via I-69 or I-94), but I think for this particular trip, it make more logistical sense to just take I-90 from Chicago to NY (not having to keep track of passports and birth certificates for a week).
Danielle811 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2015, 03:48 PM
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I'll take a look at the various DOT websites to get an idea of what areas to avoid. In fact, I'll be doing that for a trip we're taking to SC in May. Thanks!
Danielle811 is offline  
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