5 Secluded, Outdoorsy Summer Getaways from Chicago

Escape this summer at one of these outdoor family vacations.

Looking for a summer vacation destination without the crowds? These scenic getaways are often quiet with ample opportunities for outdoor exploration.

Getaway Barber Creek, Mich.

Getaway is a super cool company that provides nature escapes within a few hours of major cities, which you can rent by the night. Getaway Barber Creek opened in Grand Junction in April. Disconnect from technology while nestled in nature with a tiny cabin retreat. Huge picture windows beckon you to slow down and take in the sunrise or snuggle up watching the stars. Put your cellphones in the lockbox to help you completely unplug, recharge and reconnect as a family.

Bunk beds fit two-four people. You don’t have to interact with others if you don’t want to as there’s no front desk. A door code will be sent to you in advance. Enjoy simple times bonding around a campfire and trekking around the Kal-Haven Trail via bike or foot. South Haven is also close by, with a beach, farmers market and more to explore.

Marquette, Mich.

Photo Credit: Travel Marquette

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the vibrant terrain of Marquette, where you can paddle past multi-colored picturesque rock formations, hike to panoramic shoreline views, be mesmerized by brilliant blues and greens of 70 dramatic waterfalls, and soak in the cool colors of sunsets reflected upon mirror-like waters. If you’re brave, jump off Blackrocks into the cold waters of Lake Superior. Or visit McCarty’s Cove swimming beach that features a lifeguard, volleyball, picnic tables, grills, a playground and views of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.

Rent bikes from West End Ski and Trail and pedal a portion of the 47-mile Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Six miles north of downtown Marquette, you can hike Sugarloaf Mountain for some of the most incredible views in the U.P. Stay at Rippling River Resort where you can enjoy 57 acres of secluded natural beauty by the Carp River in a luxury log cabin or rustic tent site. 

Red River Gorge Treehouses, East Central Kentucky

Photo Credit: Tina Brouwer

Outdoor enthusiasts will be excited for an expedition to the Red River Gorge. Its natural playground of canyons, dramatic cliffs and sandstone arches in the Daniel Boone National Forest will feel like a breath of fresh air. Hike the Sheltowee Connector/Suspension Bridge over the Red River and wade in the banks of a natural swimming hole. Climb rocks, ride horseback and canoe the days away. You can also watch Kentucky horse racing at Keeneland.

Savor a suspended sleepaway at Red River Gorgeous Tree Houses. The Tradewinds Treehouse is actually twin treehouses perched in the canopies with a private bath house, slide to the ground and a spring-fed hot tub. Adventurous families will seize the day in the newest extreme tree house, The Cliff Dweller, which is mounted along the cliff and accessed by a giant floating staircase.

Camp Aramoni, Tonica

Near Starved Rock State Park, this new luxury campground opens Aug. 1-Oct. 31. Featuring semi-permanent safari-style tents from South Africa, upscale amenities and chef-driven cuisine, it is the first and only luxury campground in Illinois. Book your secluded, socially distanced escape on a 96-acre property boasting indulgent amenities.

Two of the tents, Big Bluestem and Sweet William, are geared towards families. Each includes two sets of twin bunks beds, plus additional beds for the parents. En-suite bathrooms, soft linens, private decks, heating, air conditioning and mini fridges make for the nicest camping experience you might ever have.

Spend your days exploring the private shoreline, hiking, riding bikes or swimming (no lifeguards on duty). The kids will get a kick out of the general store and parents will love the locally sourced breakfast. Stop by the Airstream bar for coffee by day and cocktails in the evening.

Southern Illinois

Photo Credit: Cortney Fries

Down towards the southern tip of Illinois, it tends to be hillier, greener and warmer. Shawnee National Forest offers some awesome hiking opportunities and secluded small towns worth exploring with your crew. On our last visit, my family stayed at the Big Sky Cabin in Alto Pass (bigskycabins.com), where we could enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Giant City State Park and Shawnee Hills Wine Trail by day, then a large firepit, pool table and arcade games by night.

We highly recommend zipping through the trees with Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour and riding horseback with Giant City Stables. Visit Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch to spend time amongst fluffy alpacas. Our favorite winery is Blue Sky Vineyard, which features a Tuscan-inspired interior, expansive outdoor terraces, yummy pizza and a super-friendly staff. The Kitchen on Lafayette and The Iron Whisk serve up some delicious home cooking.

We’ve also stayed at the Davie School Inn (davieschoolinn.com) in Anna, which is an old-school building turned B&B. It’s super fun to play in the gym, sit at the old school desks and the owners make the most incredible breakfasts. The treehouses at Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins (timberridgeoutpost.com) are another bucket list-worthy stay, by the glorious Garden of the Gods.

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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.


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