Gas tank getaways

Sometimes you just gotta get away. At least that what those funny Southwest Airline commercials say. And it’s true, because a bad case of family cabin fever is never a good thing. But the airline commercials are wrong about one thing—the cure for that disease doesn’t require a plane ticket.

Located as we are in the heart of the Midwest, there are plenty of family-friendly spots within a few hours’ drive of Chicago. Where you go depends on your family’s likes and dislikes. That and the weather, of course.

If your kids just wanna get wet, the indoor water parks of the Wisconsin Dells are a good pick. About 200 miles northwest of Chicago, the Dells offers an astounding 18 indoor water park choices. One, Great Wolf Lodge (page 67), will be opening its new water park in March, an expansion that doubles the size of its indoor water park to nearly 80,000 square feet.

Slightly closer to home is Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge& Indoor Water Park in Utica (page 63), 90 miles southwest of Chicago. Best of all, the water park is only about a mile from Starved Rock State Park. Once the kids are thoroughly waterlogged, you can spend a little time communing with Mother Nature.

And if that nature thing is your family’s style, there’s the woodsy Galena area and the enticing Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa (page 64), about three hours straight west. (OK, there’s shopping there too. But don’t tell the kids.) Those who would rather not hike can glide down the side of a mountain toward the banks of the Mississippi River on the alpine slides at Chestnut Mountain Resort (page 65).

Or if you want another state altogether, head an hour and a half east to the lakeside town of Michigan City, Ind., where you can have a self-contained vacation at the Beachwalk Resort Community (page 62).

If elegance is more your thing, try the Osthoff Resort (page 66) in Elkhart Lake, Wis. There isn’t a water park, but there are separate bedrooms in the suites—which means the kids get their privacy and parents do, too.

Cindy Richards

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