Three short road trip ideas for Chicago families

Whether your family wants to commune with nature, take a thrill ride or discover a new city, there are plenty of family vacation options within a half-day’s drive of Chicago.

Whether your family wants to commune with nature, take a thrill ride or discover a new city, there are plenty of options within a half-day’s drive of Chicago.

1 Finding nature

Carroll County, nestled along the Mississippi River betweenGalena and the Quad Cities, is home to far more wildlife thanhumans. The UpperMississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge reaches
four states-Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. It’s a place
for hiking, bird-watching, and teaching kids about nature, wildlife
and the river.

Head to the Ingersoll WetlandsLearning Center in Thompson to give kids a lesson in river
conservation. Take a bike ride on the Grand Illinois Trail. Or
drive north on Illinois 84 to Savanna and the Scenic Bluff Ranch for a
horseback trail ride.

If your kids need a little more animal interaction, stop by theDreamsweptAlpaca Farm in Byron on your way home. Call first to make sure
one of the owners, Michele Goetzka (815-954-6210) or Paul Goetzka
(815-474-5049), will be available to tell you about these animals
and show the kids how they make their fiber into yarn.

2 Getting wet

Wisconsin Dells has an
indoor water park to fit every family’s needs. For younger
children, choose a smaller water park where the water is shallow,
the slides are gentle and the thrills are minor. Before you know
it, they’ll be big enough for Wisconsin’s largest indoor water
park: the KalahariResort.

The biggest challenge comes for parents who have kids of varyingages. The little ones get lost in the big water parks and the bigones get bored in the little water parks. If that’s your family,head to a larger park (all of which have areas for little ones),but bring along another adult or two so you can divide andwatch-one to splash with the tots in the gentle part of the parkwhile another follows the older kids to the top of the steepestslides. And always check theWisconsin Dells website for deals and details before heading to
the Dells. For a water park adventure closer to home, try KeyLime Cove in Gurnee or Grizzly Jack’s Grand BearResort in Utica, which has both an indoor water park and an
indoor amusement park.

3 Discovering a new city

By Chicago standards, Fort Wayne, Ind., is a
pretty small town. By Indiana standards, it’s a metropolis. The
state’s second largest city (behind Indianapolis), Fort Wayne is a
three-time All America City Award winner in honor of its “high
quality of life, low cost of living and warm Hoosier Hospitality,”
according to the city’s tourism office.

The Fort Wayne Children’sZoo was named one of the 10 best in the country and there’s a
nature oasis in the center of the city, the Foellinger-FreimannBotanical Conservatory, that includes an interactive Discovery
Center for the under-7 set, complete with Woody the Talking Tree
and a worm tunnel for kids to crawl through.

Teach your kids a little history with a visit to the homeof Chief Richardville, a Miami Indian and the richest man in
Indiana when he died in 1841 or a stop at the Fort Wayne FirefightersMuseum.

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