Stops: Indianapolis, Kentucky Derby Museum,
Drive time: 19 1/2 hours round trip
About 3 1/2 hours down the road consider a road stop in
Indianapolis, recently souped up for its first
Super Bowl. You can check out the $12.5 million newly created Georgia Street,
a now permanent pedestrian promenade built as a Super Bowl Village.
We just love the Children's Museum.
There's no wonder why it's ranked among the best places for family
fun by Parents magazine, Woman's Day and Forbes Traveler. I've
known power moms to make the drive from Chicago just to take to
their children there.
This museum is not just for little tykes, five stories of
interactive, educational fun await every age level. The
Biotechnology Learning Center rocks-we made cheese the day we
visited. If you go this spring, check out its three new
exhibits-CSI: Flight Adventures, The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head
and LEGO Travel Adventure.
A little further down the road, you'll find the Kentucky Derby Museum. It's
a terrific little two-hour stop where kids get a chance to place
bets, race interactive horses, learn about Derby fashion and horse
care. The museum offers a free walking tour of the historic
Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby has been held every May
If you're going to hit a national park, the Smoky
Mountains should top your list. It is simply breathtaking,
with majestic forests, gorgeous vistas and rocky mountain
With 800 miles of trails, the park is a hiker's paradise. There
are short treks as well as strenuous hikes. On our visit, we made
it to the top of Ole Smoky, Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, it's the
highest point in the Great Smoky National
Park. While in the area, there are many great places to stay.
We chose Nashville, about a half hour away.
You may want to check out the Grand Ole Opry and Belle Meade Plantation.
And live music is a must. Only don't forget the boots. Boots and
hats are always trending in Nashville.
It's on most eighth-graders' field trip list, but I think any
time is a great time to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
and Museum in Springfield. What makes the learning powerful is
the way the museum combines multimedia and exhibits. When we
visited, my youngest was just 5. She was awestruck by a life-size
statue of a slave auctioneer pulling a young girl out of her
mother's arms. Ava talked about it for weeks. And I believe it
still defines slavery to her to this day.
Before you hit home, consider a quick hike at Starved Rock State
Park in Utica, 94 miles south of Chicago. There's terrific
Native American history here. Known for fascinating 400
million-year-old rock formations, beautiful St. Peter sandstone,
canyons and sparkling waterfalls.