Forget the mad dash to the airport, the travel delays, and the
TSA pat-downs. Instead, take these easy, breezy gas tank getaways
to semi-local destinations.
Blue Harbor Resort & Spa. This is the
perfect weekend away with kids (or even better-as a family reunion
with tons of cousins) because once you settle into your room, you
never need to leave the resort for anything. The water park has
enough to occupy the big kids (they've got four big-kid slides and
interesting water-apparatus equipment which is great for kids
5-10), a large splash area for babies and even a small pool with
two slides for toddlers and younger children. The resort also has
an arcade, a kids club with activities scheduled throughout the day
(usually for a minimal fee), storytime at night and s'mores during
the summer. There is a spa, plus plenty of restaurants within a
5-mile radius of the resort, but if you don't want to leave, you
don't have to. There's a snack area by the pool, and restaurants
that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel rooms themselves
are nicer than your average waterpark hotel-and they've got
everything from lofted to aquarium-themed suites.
Giant City Lodge. For the outdoorsy family,
this is the perfect vacation. You'll be staying in a cabin in the
woods, and it's incredibly peaceful. Out here, they've got great
trails for hiking, rock formations for rappelling, gorgeous lakes,
stunning natural bridges and tons of other outdoor activities for
families. It's similar in style to Starved Rock, but it's less of a
tourist destination-so it's quieter and calmer, rustic and
peaceful. They've got a restaurant where fried chicken is the
specialty, and everything is made from scratch.
Pentwater. Visit this cute little town on the
water, which has an adorable downtown, complete with a town center
sporting classic ice-cream parlors, independent stores and
mom-and-pop restaurants. Pentwater may be small, but it's got lots
going on in terms of parades, gallery strolls, pancake breakfasts
and other community events that are open to the public. We're
especially partial to the annual Memorial Weekend Amateur Salmon
& Trout Fishing Derby (May 24-26), where fishermen young and
old gather to try to win more than $3,500 in prizes. For more
information about their community events, check the website.
Pentwater has some bed-and-breakfasts (Hexagon House Bed &
Breakfast is one of the best) and a few hotels, but families would
have better luck renting a little house or a cottage on the water
for a more relaxed, spacious vacation.
New Glarus. Otherwise known as America's Little
Switzerland, this exotic village in Wisconsin will make you feel as
if you've actually left the country sans jetlag. Founded by the
Swiss, it has plenty of Swiss festivals, restaurants, shops, music
and events that keep its heritage alive. The Swiss Historical
Village & Museum is a 14-building compound that allows visitors
to learn more about the founding of the area in 1845. Glarner
Stube, a Swiss restaurant, is the perfect spot to grab lunch or
dinner with the family. They've got tons on the menu kids will
gobble up, such as fried cheese curds, real cinnamon sticks and
cheese fondue. Parents will appreciate the selection of drafts from
the local New Glarus brewing company. The New Glarus Bakery is
always a hit for dessert, and it serves-no surprise here-Swiss
fresh baked goodness including butter cookies, fancy Swiss pastries
and apple fritters. While you're there, you really should stay in
one of their traditional Swiss hotels, such as the Chalet
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
See more of Danielle's stories here.
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