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5 places tailor-made for Chicago families

Traveling with kids over spring break can be fun … if you stick to three key rules: Keep the travel time to a minimum, avoid stopovers at all costs and come prepared with a plan that’ll keep the whole family entertained.

We did the work for you, and found fabulous spots that fit the bill. Bon voyage.

With spring break upon us, we’ve put together some ideas for trips just right for families.


Holland, Michigan

Travel time Two-and-a-half-hour drive

Why it’ll rock your kid’s world It’s a classic beach destination, but that doesn’t mean this beautiful locale can’t be the perfect place to spend your spring break, too. Dress warmly (it’s still likely chilly at spring break time), pack a picnic lunch, go through the tunnel to Tunnel Park Beach, where you can play volleyball, spend some time at the playground (complete with new equipment) and then have a relaxed lunch with the family. Then, head over to the Outdoor Discovery Center of Wildlife Unlimited, where you can look for frogs, eagles and turtles in and around the ponds, and you can talk a long walk on the trails-which are even easy to maneuver with a toddler or a stroller in tow. Just five miles away from Holland, in Zeeland, is Critter Barn, where children can collect eggs in the chicken coop, milk a goat and get up close and personal with bunnies, ducklings, calves, goats, donkeys and sheep. The Home Roller Rink and Bam! (Century Lanes Bowling) are always great indoor destination for rainy spring break days.

Stay here Holland Inn & Suites, 2888 West Shore Drive; (877) 556-3361, hollandinnmi.com. They’ve got an amazing indoor heated pool and hot tub that’ll entertain the kids for hours-and it’s typically only about $30 to upgrade from a regular room to a suite, so parents don’t have to pay too much extra for some alone time.


Indianapolis, Indiana

Travel time Three-hour drive

Why it’ll rock your kid’s world The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is rumored to be the largest in the world at 472,900 square feet-and this spring, it’ll debut Leonardo: The Mummified Dinosaur. The Guinness World Records lists Leonardo as having the best-preserved dinosaur remains in the world (about 90 percent of his body is still covered in fossilized soft tissue). Pint-sized race-car drivers will enjoy the Dallara IndyCar Factory, where they just rolled out their new interactive kid zone. The highlight: A track where kids can build their own small racecars and race them.

Stay here Crowne Plaza Indianapolis at the Historic Union Station, 123 W. Louisiana St.; (317) 631-2221, ihg.com/crowneplaza. The hotel’s $8 million renovation will be completed just before spring break. But that’s not the only reason why you should book this ASAP. Your kids also will get a history lesson because Thomas Edison worked here as a young telegraph operator, though he was later fired for poor work. Families can stay in one of the hotel’s 23 original Pullman train cars on the original tracks.


Charlotte, North Carolina

Travel time Two-hour direct flight

Why it’ll rock your kid’s world They can see a real rainforest at Discovery Place, one of the state’s most visited attractions. This kid-friendly science center boasts extensive aquarium space in addition to the rainforest and science lab stations. You can’t go to the heart of NASCAR without checking out the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where they chronicle six decades of the motorsport’s history (more than 90 percent of the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams are based in the region). Kids can hop in a Gen 6 car where they can use iRacing technology to feel like they’re in a fast lane of a racetrack. They also can jack up a car, change a tire and fuel it.

Stay here Great Wolf Lodge, 10175 Weddington Road NW, Concord; (704) 549-8206, greatwolf.com. You’ll be staying in an indoor water park with more than 80,000 square feet of excitement, including a zero-depth entry area for the babies. They’ve also got a kid spa and nightly fireside story time.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Travel time Two-hour direct flight

Why it’ll rock your kid’s world If you thought Vegas was only an adult wonderland, think again. Release your child into any of those buffets, and it’ll be the best dining experience they ever have. Just imagine their little faces when they see the endless desserts. But there’s more to Vegas than buffets. It also sports a roller coaster at New York-New York hotel, a free 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium at the Silverton Hotel and a real chocolate factory tour at the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory (about 10 miles off the strip). At night, there are magic shows to see, musicals to sing along to and circus entertainment to enjoy-all of which can be done for half price when you score tickets at the discount ticket booths located throughout the strip.

Stay here Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; (702) 632-7777, mandalaybay.com. You’ll be steps away from the Shark Reef Aquarium (yet another amazing kids attraction). This hotel also has an incredible pool, which boasts a wave pool plus a lazy river. It’s also got 20 restaurants and a ton of kid-friendly shows (these rotate, but usually include a Cirque du Soleil show).


Atlanta, Georgia

Travel time Two-hour direct flight

Why it’ll rock your kid’s world Does he love pandas? Zoo Atlanta is only one of four zoos in the nation housing giant pandas. And Lun Lun, the zoo’s female panda, gave birth in July to the first panda twins born in the United States since 1987. You can give kids a history lesson by checking out The Wren’s Nest. It was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, who created Uncle Remus, one of American literature’s first fully developed black characters. Today, the home features most of the Harris family’s original furniture and belongings. It also hosts various kid-focused events, including storytelling every Saturday afternoon. And while we all know that soda isn’t good for children, it’s lots of fun to visit the World of Coca-Cola. It’s a massive interactive experience, complete with a tour and lots of opportunities to taste (you can try 100 flavors from around the world). Finally, no trip to Atlanta would be complete without checking out the Center for Puppetry Arts, where they have a puppet museum featuring more than 350 puppets and puppet shows (Charlotte’s Web will be the featured performance this spring).

Stay here Westin Peachtree Plaza, 210 Peachtree St. NE; (404) 659-1400, westinpeachtreeplaza.com. They have a Westin Kids Club, and kids will receive a bag full of gifts, including their own room key, a make-your-own postcard kit, a hat and more. Westin’s Service Express program offers help with many child services, including baby sitting, bottle warmers and more. Children will love traveling to the top of the 73-story hotel, which is the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere, for dinner or dessert at The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar & View, a revolving restaurant.


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