Daunted by the coronavirus threat, adventure-deprived families are opting instead for quick getaways that don’t require flying, a whole lot of planning and taking off work for a week or more. Initially fueled by millennials who didn’t want to burn a lot of vacation days, micro-cation family road trips are a perfect anecdote to being trapped at home.
We’ve done the planning for you for several spots that will have you appreciating each other and the great outdoors.
Enjoy a small big “city” at Fort Wayne, Ind.
Take advantage of Fort Wayne’s riverfront and enjoy the new all-accessible Promenade Park, which includes a tree-top canopy walk, playground, a kids canal and art installations. Explore more of the riverfront by bike or, if you prefer, by kayak. Get friendly with more than 1,500 animals at Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, while kids (and adults) can feed their curiosity at Science Central with more than 130 hands-on exhibits. Walk around town and go mural spotting. Looking for more adventures? Enjoy the floral beauties at the botanical conservatory or get your art fix at Fort Wayne Art Museum.
When hunger strikes in Promenade Park, make a stop at the new Trubble Riverside Café & Tap for snacky food and brews. The Hoppy Gnome is a great spot for tacos and brews for the adults. Or stop by a local institution, Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island, for chili topped hot dogs. Grab a slice or two at 816 Pint ‘n Slice, then walk a few steps to Porch Off Calhoun, an alleyway transformed into a seating area with planters, art installations, lighting, and a great way to take in the awesome murals. Don’t leave town without chocolates from local chocolatier DeBrand Fine Chocolates.
Family fun at Lake Erie’s shores and islands: Put-in-Bay and Sandusky, Ohio
For thrills, Cedar Point cannot be beat. It is expected to open this month. But take time to explore other options like the indoor and outdoor waterparks at Kalahari Resorts as well as Safari Adventure Animal Park. Stay entertained at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center including a skating rink, black light mini golf, arcade, escape room, VR games, and yes, one of the Midwest’s scariest haunted houses. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about carousels at The Merry-Go-Round Museum and take a spin on one of the historic carousels. Or have the kids learn while playing at the new Sandusky Children’s Museum.
Get off the mainland and spend the day on the island at Put-in-Bay. Let the adventure begin with a ferry ride aboard Miller Ferry. Once on the island, grab a golf cart (E’s Golf Cart is closest), then explore! Sneak in a history lesson at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial. Families can spend hours at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center that includes a cave tour, mini golf and gemstone mining.
In Put-in-Bay, don’t miss perch tacos at Goat Soup and Whiskey, ice cream at Dairy Isle, or lobster bisque at The Boardwalk. Watch freighters and boats move while munching at the outdoor Dockside Café. A visit to the area should always include ice cream, especially if it’s at Toft Dairy, a Sandusky institution.
- Put-in-Bay: Put-in-Bay Condos; BayShore Resort
- Sandusky: Great Wolf Lodge; Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point; Tru by Hilton Sandusky
Be one with nature in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
To truly get away from it all, a visit to the Upper Peninsula will allow you one-on-one time with nature. Hike to see the sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or on a Pictured Rocks boat tour. Waterfalls are abundant in the area, but don’t miss the awe-inspiring Tahquamenon Falls. Other kid-friendly standouts include the easily accessible Morgan Falls, Miner Falls and Canyon Falls Roadside Park. Watch humongous boats pass through at Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, the oldest city in Michigan. Learn about shipwrecks at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Shipwreck Tours are tentatively set to begin again July 10. If you’d be interested in seeing bears (but not in the wild!), Oswald’s Bear Ranch is sure to be a family favorite.
Pasties are the local regional specialty and can be found almost everywhere you go. Try Muldoons Pasties & Gifts in Munising for a taste or Hiawatha Pasties. Stop at the rustic Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for brews and the restaurant’s famous whitefish. Hudson’s Classic Grill & Bar offers a fun classic diner experience the entire family will enjoy.
For beachy fun calling to families in St. Joseph, Mich.
Families needing beach time should look no further than Southwest Michigan’s beaches in St. Joseph, Holland and South Haven. The hard part? Choosing where to go. Good news? You can’t go wrong with any of the destinations here. Bonus: The towns are close enough so you can easily beach hop from one location to the other.
Hang out at Silver Beach with its soft, sandcastle-perfect sand with the pier and lighthouse close by. (Stay for those epic sunsets!) For a little slice of Europe, Holland has an adorable Dutch-themed amusement park, Nelis’ Dutch Village, and even a 250-year-old windmill. Follow the yellow brick road to the heart of downtown to see the enchanting bronze sculptures of characters from the Wizard of Oz. For fun in the sun, bask on the beaches of Holland State Park and Tunnel Park. South Haven attracts families to South Beach with its iconic red lighthouse. When the kids need a break, play at the all-wooden playground Kids Corner.
After all the fun in the sun, Silver Beach Pizza will be calling your name. Combine the best of both worlds with a pie and wine flight at Crane’s Pie Pantry. A visit to South Haven is not complete without homemade ice cream from Sherman’s Dairy Bar (a kiddie size is huge enough for an adult!) Holland’s New Holland Brewing is perfect for families. Head a little further inland from South Haven to find Joe’s Blueberries for an afternoon of blueberry picking.
Slow down + enjoy a simpler life in Amish Country, Ind.
Take a buggy ride around town. Bike or walk a portion of the 16-mile Pumpkinvine Nature Trail linking Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana. Shop ‘til you drop at Shipshewana Flea Market, the Midwest’s largest one around. Stop by the Davis Mercantile for more kid-friendly shopping finds like a candy shop, toy store and a 1906 Dentzel Carousel.
From May to September, go on a mission to see the beautiful Quilt Gardens. Get up close and personal with bison at Cook’s Bison Ranch. At Dutch Creek Animal Park, feed farm animals aboard a safari-style wagon. Superhero lovers will want to stop at the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum in Elkhart!
Experience a home-cooked Amish meal at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, then have a slice of one (or two) of the pies. (Not easy with more than 30 varieties to choose from!) Bring your appetite to the Blue Gate Restaurant where comfort food is served family-style.
Tips to plan a micro-cation
- Leave in the evening after work. That gives you a full day the first day of your vacation.
- Plan simple things to do like relaxing, sightseeing and eating good food. Allow spontaneity.
- Don’t pick a big city. Planning a short trip in a big city may get a little overwhelming and stressful.
- Book lodging with a kitchen to avoid restaurants when possible.
- Unplug. Try to stay off electronics or at least minimize use.
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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s July 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.