There comes a time in everyone’s life where they look at the calendar and instantly think, “Where has the summer gone?!”. After months of dreaming about beaches, lazy days, and family vacations, it seems that summer goes by faster each year. But here’s the good news: It’s not over yet! There’s still time to pack your bags, load up the car, and hit the road for one last hoorah. Grab your family, because we’re going to take you on a tour of the best road trip destinations from Chicago that you can still enjoy before the summer ends.
1. Holland, Michigan (2 hours and 40 minutes from Chicago) – With plenty of unique shops, fascinating cultural history, and beautiful waterfront scenery and beaches, Holland, Michigan really is like a little piece of its namesake. The Windmill Island Gardens, home to their famous 250 year-old original Dutch windmill, is a great place for kids to learn about history, and even explore the windmill in a guided tour. Nelis’ Dutch Village is also a must-visit for families. This charming village offers clog-making demonstrations, tours of historical Dutch homes and buildings, an ice cream shop (with amazing cake batter ice cream), rides, a petting zoo, traditional Dutch games, and a multi-room cheese, fudge, and souvenir shop, where you can even purchase your own pair of hand-made clogs!
2. Galena, Illinois (3 hours and 30 minutes from Chicago) – Located in Northwest Illinois, just a short drive from the Mississippi river, is scenic Galena, Illinois. With a historic downtown area filled with unique shops and restaurants, it’s easy to spend an afternoon taking it all in. For an added historical touch, you can also visit the home of General Ulysses S. Grant, as well as Galena’s other State Historic Sites. If you decide to rent a home or condo at the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, you’ll also be able to enjoy their amenities, such as beautiful evening or morning boat rides, hiking trails, an indoor pool and arcade for the kids, and several golf courses for parents.
Travel Tip – While on the road, it’s sometimes hard to find places to eat where the whole family can find something they enjoy. One of my personal favorite places to get a quick, family meal on the go is Noodles & Company. If you’re heading to Galena, a great halfway point to stop at for lunch or dinner is the Noodles & Company on State Street, just off I-90 in Rockford. The kids will have a chance to stretch their legs, and enjoy one of their many delicious global dishes. Also, be sure to download their NoodlesREWARDS app to earn special deals, wherever you are!
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3. Madison, Wisconsin (3 hours from Chicago) – With a little history and a lot of fun, Madison makes for a great family mini-break. The kids will love the Madison Children’s Museum, where they can explore the Log Cabin and learn about Wisconsin’s history, or participate in interactive exhibits like their Art Studio or Possible-opolis. For the nature lovers, check out the 800+ animals at the Henry Vilas Zoo, or head to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens for a fun, free activity. Of course, parents need their fun too! With its many unique restaurants, Madison is a foodie’s paradise. You can even take a look at their sample itineraries to help you plan your own, and make the most of your culinary adventure.
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4. Indiana Dunes, Indiana (1 hour and 15 minutes from Chicago) – If nature is your game, look no further than the Indiana Dunes. Being so close to Chicago, the Dunes are a great spot for a weekend getaway. Grab your suit and spend the day swimming in Lake Michigan, or relax on the miles of scenic beaches. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike around the sandy dunes, or go on a bird-watching excursion in the Great or Inland Marsh. While the Dunes Learning Center is a great place for visitors to learn about nature conservation, West Beach also offers weekly interactive Junior Ranger programs for the kids. Located just a few miles from the Dunes, you’ll find historic downtown Chesterton. Be sure not to leave without stopping at Designer Desserts Bakery, home of such scrumptious cupcakes as the Lemon Dream, Holy Cannoli, and the Malt Shop Special, among dozens of others. Looking for something a little more urban? Drive a little further into the state and visit Fort Wayne, Indiana!
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5. Springfield, Illinois (3 hours and 30 minutes from Chicago) – For those looking to incorporate a bit more education into their vacation, Springfield, Illinois is a perfect place to start. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, explore the Air Combat Museum of aviation, and visit the Illinois State Capitol (pictured above). To let loose with some fun and games, take the kids to the Knights Action Park, where they’ll have a blast at the water park, amusement park, and endless arcade games and family activities. When you get hungry, make a stop at the famous Cozy Dog Drive-In for some all-American cuisine and nostalgic atmosphere. As they say at the Cozy Dog, “Try ’em, You’ll Like ’em!”
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6. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (3 hours and 30 minutes from Chicago) – There’s hardly a better place to cool off after a hot summer than in the Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capitol of America. For multigenerational families, the Wilderness Resort is a great choice. With exclusive waterpark passes included with every stay, kids will love exploring the 8 different indoor and outdoor parks, while parents can relax in one of several poolside cabanas, or treat themselves to a drink without even getting out of the water, at Margarita’s Swim-Up Bar. After spending a day on the slides, be sure to check out the arcade, or play a rousing game of golf on Wisconsin’s #1 Golf Course (source: tripadvisor.com). In the evening, take a stroll around town and explore the many gift shops, restaurants, and family attractions, like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum or the DOA Room Escape.
Interested in visiting Wisconsin Dells? Book your stay through our trusted partner Trip Beat here!
Photo Credit: Noodles & Company
Travel Tip: Of course, who can leave Wisconsin without enjoying some mac and cheese? Stop for dinner on the way home at the Noodles & Company right off of I-90 in Beloit, Wisconsin for their famous Wisconsin Mac and Cheese. It’s the real deal.