Even though plane tickets are now a fortune, you don't have ditch the thoughts of taking a spring break trip. You don't even have to travel far to widen your child's horizons.
That said, car rides can be a drag for kids. Parents, too. When we road trip as a family, we keep drive time less than six hours at a stretch. Frequent stops-both roadside and overnight-are key. It keeps the fun fresh. And we learn a lot along the way. Another trick? We never backtrack. Instead we drive home a different way than we came. I call it looping-a fantastic way to keep the scenery changing and the adventure unfolding.
So if you are looking to get out of town, here are four fantastic Chicago Loops-trips that loop your travel and double your fun. Because they're road trips, they won't tug the purse strings too much. But they will definitely top your kids' lists. You will never want to fly (direct) again.
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Stops: Discovery World in Milwaukee, Madison, The Burpee Museum
Drive time: 8 hours round trip
Pictured: Discovery World
Discovery World, Milwaukee, Wis.: Two hours up the road, make a quick stop at Discovery World, the cutest science museum right on the lake. My little science lovers light up at the chance to land an airplane, lie on a bed of nails, even pet a stingray. The perfect place to learn by exploration, Discovery World does a terrific job of combining innovation, science and technology into exhibits that will kick your kids' brains into over-drive.
Madison, Wis.: Stop and stretch your legs in the biking capital of the Midwest, Madison.
You'll find lots of hiking trails at the UW-Arboretum. Or if you're looking to lunch, hike out to Picnic Point. Bike rentals are also readily available if you want to take a spin and discover for yourself how this quaint town has earned its title.
Wisconsin Dells, Wis.: In 2010, TripAdvisor named Wisconsin Dells the number one family destination in the U.S., third in the world. Although it's the water park capital of the world, the Dells has a lot to offer everyone-indoors and out. In fact, it's one of the few places where they've managed to weather-proof the family vacation.
We love the Tommy Bartlett Science Exploratory where simple scientific wonders await. The new Bigfoot Zipline also tops our list-it's Wisconsin Dells' number one attraction, with fun, zany guides and the longest racing zipline in America.
The Burpee Museum, Rockford: Break up the drive home to Chicago with a road stop in Rockford, the home of the sock monkey and Jane the T. rex. The fully restored 21-foot skeleton of Jane is on display.
Kids can discover what happened during the 66 million years Jane lay buried and fuel their inner archeologist imaginations by checking out the expedition's Montana base camp.