[note] This article has been updated for 2017. We’ve added some cool new places to visit that are just a gas tank away. Let us know what your favorite “gas tank away” trip is. We’d love to share the tips with our readers. [/note]
by Jill P
Spring Break will be here before you know it. If you’re looking for ideas that are a quick day trip (or overnight) that is from 2-5 hours from Kalamazoo, we have great travel ideas for you!
So pack up the kids, grab some snacks, fill up the gas tank and head to one of these drive-able destinations.
(photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)
Discover: Museums and attractions galore! Some of our favorites include: Shedd Aquarium, Alder Planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Children’s Museum, and The Field Museum. The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Museum of Science and Industry all are part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program. If you travel a lot or love museums, you should look into getting a membership at one of our local museums i.e. Grand Rapids Public Museum, Air Zoo, or the Battle Creek Kingman Museum to enjoy reciprocal benefits.
RELATED: Michigan Indoor Waterparks
Dine: Chicago is the place to get your pizza fix. Giordano’s and Gino’s East of Chicago are some pizza joints offering great deep dish pizzas. Expect to wait for a table during the busy dining hours. Plus, Rainforest Cafe’ and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. offer some fun family dining options with kid-friendly menus.
Play: Millennium Park is one of favorite family places to check out and run around. It’s open year-round. Looking for another fun play place? Who can resist checking out all of the action on Navy Pier? We love the Ferris Wheel reaching 150 feet into the sky with great views of both the city and Lake Michigan.
Stay tuned: We’ll be coming out with our 10 Great Chicago Attractions for kids soon!
Discover: Check out Discovery World with tons of hand-on science and technology exhibits. Some of favorites include the automation dream machine, simple machine ship yard, and the Reiman Aquarium.
Plan to head to the Harley-Davidson Museum®. This spectacular one of a kind museum celebrates the rich history of Harley Davidson and the passion of the riders and has become the mecca of Harley riders throughout the world.
Dine: Catch a quick bite at the Milwaukee Public Market. There’s plenty of places to grab a quick bite or a snack from one of the many vendors at the market. Purple Door Ice Cream is a local favorite stop for ice cream. Try some of the custom flavors including green tea, balsamic strawberry, chai pink peppercorn, whiskey and fig & black tea. Try their signature ice cream flights of 4 flavors.
Blue’s Egg is a local brunch hot spot and is constantly busy. Blue’s serves modern American brunch every day from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. Make sure to try the stuffed hash browns.
Play: Looking for a fun playground for the kids to burn off their extra energy? Check out the playground at the Henry Maier Festival Park. All of the summer festivals are held here, so if you head over in the summer expect to see it very busy.
Bounce Milwaukee is a locally owned and family tested facility, which features inflatable sports arena, laser tag, rock climbing wall, vintage games and obstacle courses. A great place to burn off excess energy that the kiddos may have.
(Henry Ford Museum)
Dearborn, Auburn Hills & Ann Arbor
Discover: Dearborn and Ann Arbor are located within a 40 minute driving distance from each other, so we typically try to do a few things in each city while we are in the area. Plus, with some new attractions in Auburn Hills, you’re going to want to make a day or overnight trip out of it. The Henry Ford Museum is a great gem of Michigan. With such historic exhibits that include the Rosa Parks Bus and presidential vehicles that transported American presidents, there are so many exhibits that give you a flavor for American History.
(Ford Rouge Factory Tour: photo courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum)
The Ford Rouge Factory Tour is close by and has recently been redesigned. See our full review here. Note: Greenfield Village does not open until April 15, 2016. We learned this the hard way last year by showing up during Spring Break.
Dine: The buffet at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor is a quick easy-on/easy-off stop on your way to the Henry Ford Museum. You can stop at Zingerman’s Deli near the University of Michigan campus and get their famous chocolate bread and hot chocolate. Or while in Dearborn, check out Buddy’s Restaurant Pizzeria for a laid back environment and good pizza. Locals swear by it and rate it Detroit’s #1 square pizza since 1946. If you’re at Great Lakes Crossings Outlets, you can grab a meal at Rainforest Cafe‘ or one of the eateries in the food court for a quick meal.
(Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum)
Play: Try strolling around the grounds of the University of Michigan. It’s never too early to plant the seeds of college for your children. The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum has plenty of hands-on and interactive for the kids to enjoy. You’ll want to allocate at least a few hours for the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
(photo courtesy of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan)
Or get your tickets in advance to visit the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan. LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan is a 32,000-square-foot indoor attraction at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, featuring millions of LEGO bricks and themed exhibits including a 4D cinema, two interactive rides, large soft play areas and much more. See our full preview here.
(photo courtesy of Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium)
After enjoying the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan, head over to Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium in the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets with more than 5,000 sea creatures.
(photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo-Kerrie Best)
(photos courtesy of Children’s Museum of Indianapolis)
Discover: Think Spring and head over to the Indianapolis Zoo.The Indianapolis Zoo is a wonderful urban zoo. The daily Dolphin Presentation is one of the zoo’s most popular attraction and is included with regular Zoo admission. Check out the Visit Indy website for a ton of ideas of things to do while you’re there. Our friends at Indy with Kids also have a ton of ideas for family friendly fun!
Dine: Check out the Old Spaghetti Factory. I remember eating at one of these when I was a kid and they are a ton of fun. Plus, there’s a ton of other kid-friendly restaurants on the Visit Indy website.
Play: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is loads of fun. There is something for everyone at the museum so make sure you block enough time out to check it all out. A reader recommended exhibit is the ®Dinosphere: Now You’re in Their World. Children and families are immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs last roamed the Earth.
Wanting to check out a great local garden? Garfield Park Conservatory & Sunken Garden is a small, but inviting garden. Admission is just $2.
Discover: Explore downtown Traverse City with great shopping and restaurants. You kids will love the samples at Cherry Republic (along with the fun play area). No trip to the Traverse City area would be complete without a visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. the park covers a 35-mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline, as well as North and South Manitou islands. The Junior Ranger program is a fun way to learn about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and engage the kiddos.
Dine: Some of our other favorite dining places include Jolly Pumpkin Old Mission, North Peak Brewing Company, Cherry Republic Grand Cafe, Poppycock’s, and Slabtown Cafe and Burgers. Traverse City is known for its great food and there are tons of family-friendly dining options. The hard part is choosing which place to check out.
Of course, for desert, you’ll need to check out Moomers Homemade Ice Cream which is know for “the best ice cream in America”.
Play: We fell in love with ELF (Eat, Love, Frolic) located in the Grand Traverse Commons the last time we were in Traverse City. Your kids will love this great indoor play place and you’ll love the chance to hang out in a low-key atmosphere to grab a cup of coffee. Great Lake’s Children’s Museum is a great place to explore and will keep the younger kiddos engaged. Another favorite hangout for the kids is the Incredible Mo’s with bowling, arcade, laser tag, mini mo’s playroom, a restaurant, and more!
Discover: Take a stroll down Main Street where you will find many interesting shops. Shops to explore include Cheese Haus, Zak and Mac Candy Store, Frankenmuth Taffy Kitchen, Rau’s Country Store and Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen, which even offers free samples.
Dine: Plan to stop at Zehnder’s Restaurant, you better come hungry! Zehnder’s is known for their all-you-can-eat “world famous family-style chicken dinners” which features breads, appetizers, entrees, and dessert. A full children’s menu is available, or you can add a child to your family-style meal for a reasonable price.
Frankenmuth Brewery was founded in 1862, making it Michigan’s “original craft brewery.” With 19 beers on tap, the restaurant also features a large outdoor space looking out over the Cass River. A full children’s menu is available.
Play: Located inside Zehnder’s Hotel is an amazing indoor water park. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still grab a day pass. The waterpark features a raft ride, water basketball, river, water geysers, even private cabanas.
No Matter what time of the year it is, it’s always Christmas at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. A trip to Bronner’s is a must when visiting Frankenmuth. There are decorations and ornaments for just about anything you can think of – many of which include free personalization.
Do you have any fun day trips planned for over Spring Break? We’d love to hear what you have planned! Please leave your ideas in the comment section below.