Family Fun in the Midwest
From Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the fantastical caves and Badlands of South Dakota, the Midwest’s national and state parks offer every family recreational activity conceivable, including hiking, swimming, backpacking, fishing, rafting and dune surfing. In quaint towns, Main Streets awash with pastel-painted diners, kitschy souvenir shops and ice-cream parlors give way to sandy beaches or wooded forests and offer an idyllic throwback to the traditional American family vacations. Whether it is biking through open plains or hiking through parks steeped in Native American history, the Midwest is a timeless land.
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The Prairie State, with its historic sites, iconic cities and wide-open spaces, including 50 state parks and myriad wildlife and nature centers, makes for a well-rounded family vacation. Illinois is home to larger-than-life Chicago, which captures the imagination of kids big and small. The third largest city in the nation is a modern day Gotham City, complete with pioneering skyscrapers, a dynamic music and arts scene, stunning lakefront trails and beaches, arguably the most kid-friendly meals of any state (think pizza, hot dogs and gargantuan desserts). A tapestry of rivers, lakes, prairies and farmland unfurls along Illinois’ five scenic byways.
Illinois Featured Family Parks coming soon…
As the nation’s farming heartland and boasting 72 state parks, Iowa is an outdoor playground that offers a diversity of family activities ranging from hiking, biking, trout fishing, hunting and canoeing to farm stays, quirky “ye olde” towns and traditional festivals. Children and teenagers let their imaginations run wild at Maquoketa Caves State Park as they crawl through a prehistoric world of 16 caves and surreal rock formations connected by a trail system. Backbone State Park’s famed Backbone Trail challenges athletic teens with its rocky ridge hikes and canoes for rent. For a slice of pure Americana, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is one of the oldest and best state fairs in the nation.
Iowa Featured Family Parks coming soon…
What child doesn’t love a lakeside vacation? The Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is jam packed with activities for adventurous families on land and water. In Itasca State Park, children smile with glee as they walk across the Mississippi River and are spellbound by Itasca Lake’s resident bald eagles. With skiing, snowboarding and a mountain train, the Lutsen Mountains are a magnet year-round for thrill-seeking kids and teens. Some 130 years old, the much-loved Lutsen Resort is one of the nation’s best family oriented lakeside resorts, complete with nightly bonfires, Adirondack chairs and s’mores on the beach. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness consists of some 1,200 miles of canoe routes.
Minnesota Featured Family Parks coming soon…
A Great Plains state that nurtures some of the most fertile farming in the nation, Nebraska is a nourishing sort of place. Along nine scenic byways, fields of corn, wheat and soybean and craggy ranchlands stretch to limitless horizons. Nebraska’s native son, Buffalo Bill, is immortalized at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte, where the famed cowboy’s former homestead has been preserved. Riverside camping opportunities, picnic areas and horseback riding are among the ranch’s child-friendly pursuits. Along the old Oregon Trail, children will enjoy jutting Chimney Rock, a symbol of the great western migration. Just north of Alliance on Highway 87, the whole family will get a kick out of Carhenge, a sculpture fashioned from 38 vintage cars and painted gray to resemble England’s Stonehenge.
Nebraska Featured Family Parks coming soon…
With the exception of Alaska, North Dakota has more untouched wilderness than any other state. Children can follow in the footsteps of America’s iconic adventurers, including Lewis and Clark, Sakakawea and President Theodore Roosevelt, who all left their imprint upon this raw and rugged state. Children are captivated by the painted canyons of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where, along grassy trails (ideal for novice hikers), bison graze and prairie dogs prattle. Along with dinosaur fossils and nods to Sakakawea and Sitting Bull at every turn, quirks come in the form of a rare albino buffalo (that goes by the name of White Cloud) in Jamestown’s National Buffalo Museum.
North Dakota Featured Family Parks coming soon…
With its Wild West history, populated with Sioux warriors, gunslingers and gold prospectors, it’s no surprise that South Dakota is the poster child for a spirited family vacation. The untamed lands contained within South Dakota’s 56 state parks are synonymous with adventure. At Badlands National Park, children can join a Junior Ranger summer program; on guided hikes, fledgling naturalists examine fossils and learn about Badlands’ staggering diversity of plant and animal species. At Mount Rushmore, teenage minds can contemplate the ideals of American government while, a short drive away, Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument—the world’s most labyrinthine and dazzling cave systems—prove a magnet for young and old.
South Dakota Featured Family Parks coming soon…
Idyllic and innocent, Wisconsin captures the hearts and minds of young children. With bright yellow tractors and red barns, cherry pies served by the roadside and picturesque lighthouses that watch over 19th-century villages, Wisconsin is a world of timeless pleasures. At the state’s two national parks and 64 state parks, children can explore mystical forests, build sandcastles on pristine beaches and swim in cobalt blue lakes. A rite of passage for Midwestern families, the Wisconsin Dells, the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” offers thrills and spills.
Featured Family Parks
Jellystone Park Warrens
Westward Ho RV Resort & Campground
Fond Du Lac, WI
On every family’s radar, Churchill’s polar bear and beluga whale populations enchant youngsters, while Riding Mountain National Park is feted for its excellent hiking trails (including plenty of novice backpacking) and jaw-dropping wildlife inventory including bear, moose, coyote, black bear and more than 220 species of bird. Less than a two-hour drive east of Winnipeg, Whiteshell is where Manitoba’s highest peak, Duck Mountain, lords over a dozen rivers, more than 200 lakes, Rainbow and Whitemouth Falls, a goose sanctuary and petroform stones created by First Nations people to communicate with ancient spirits. At Whiteshell’s southeast border, Grand Beach’s lovely white sands and monumental dunes, which rim the 264-mile-long Lake Winnipeg, are popular with families.
Manitoba Featured Family Parks coming soon…