No time (or budget) for a week-long vacation this summer? Don’t despair! There are plenty of great destinations close to home perfect for a little family excursion. Check out a few of our favorites here.
Get down and dirty
Have a little explorer at home? The Indiana Cave Trail lets families discover four distinct caves in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky. From the subterranean river cruise of Bluespring Caverns to gemstone mining in Marengo Cave, this is a fun trip for kids of all ages. If you have the day, plan on seeing two caves. If you have an entire weekend, it’s possible to visit all four. Register for a cave trail passport and earn a t-shirt when you do!
Ride the rapids
Just a little over two hours away in downtown South Bend is the East Race Waterway, a 1,900-foot-long, man-made whitewater rafting park. Beginners are welcome; the only requirements are being 54 inches to ride and children under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The Waterway is open to the public on weekends and costs only $5 per person per ride. While visiting, guests can also enjoy a climbing wall, bicycle rentals, fishing, playgrounds and expansive walking paths. (Note: East Raceway is open through Aug. 27.)
Hit the big city
Chicago is your spot for urban adventure. Start at Navy Pier to get the true tourist experience and admire the views of Lake Michigan. Next, hop on an architectural boat tour of the windy city. Adults will appreciate the history, while kids will simply love cruising around the water. Thrill seekers won’t want to miss a trip to the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago which allows guests to step out 1,353 feet above the ground for breathtaking views of the city. And don’t leave town without grabbing a slice of world famous Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Staying for the weekend? Add these family favorites to your itinerary: The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, The LEGO Store, American Girl Place, The Bean at Millennium Park and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Dive right in
Looking to cool off from the summer heat but tired of the neighborhood pool? Hop in the car and head less than 100 miles north to Berne, Indiana, home of the Pine Lake Waterpark. The beautiful lake, sandy beach and multiple fun attractions are sure to make this one of your family’s favorite summer destinations. The park features a splash pad, a log walk, numerous slides (including kiddie slides) and a tower to leap from into the lake. What’s even better is that a family of five can attend the park for less than $50. (Note: Labor Day is the last day of the season)
Shop till you drop
Everyone in the family is sure to find a few treasures at the Shipshewana Flea Market, the largest of its kind in the Midwest. Located in Amish country in northern Indiana, the Shipshewana Flea Market has just about everything. During the summer months, guests can enjoy the “FLEA”ture, a special vendor village in the heart of the market featuring some of the most coveted items, with themes from “shabby chic” to “junk in the trunk.” Make the trip even more fun by creating a flea market scavenger hunt for the kids and wrap up the day with a delicious Hoosier tenderloin sandwich from the food court. Want to make it a weekend? Book a room at the Farmstead Inn and give yourself time to take in all the beauty of the Amish countryside.
Drift down the river
Venture back to yesteryear when riverboats were the height of sophistication and travel and embark on a cruise with BB Riverboats out of the Port of Cincinnati in Newport, Kentucky. Float down the Ohio River on the Belle of Cincinnati, the company’s flagship vessel. Guests can enjoy themselves on one of three decks, all surrounded by Victorian decor, during a sightseeing cruise or a lunch or dinner cruise. Looking for something more kid-specific? Throughout the summer BB Riverboats offers fun excursions such as Ice Cream Social Sundays, Pirates of the Ohio Cruises, a Princess Cruise and a Super Hero Cruise. Staying the weekend? Be sure to head over to the Newport Aquarium for more maritime fun and visit the new Stingray Hideaway exhibit.