A great family vacation doesn’t need to be costly and it doesn’t have to involve long travel (and with kids that is a plus)! Here are a few of my favorite family friendly, inexpensive and easy to get to destinations practically in your back yard.
Grand Haven Area, Michigan
Only a little over 3 hours away, this is one of my favorite places to visit. The lake coastline is charming and the dunes are breathtaking. With lighthouses and piers in nearly ever town, you can spend the day at the beach, strolling along boardwalks, fishing, hiking, sailing, touring vineyards or shopping in picturesque little towns. Grand Haven has a gorgeous boardwalk featuring marinas (some of those boats are huge!), shops, restaurants and picnic areas. There is also the world famous musical fountain which has a nightly synchronized water and light show that is free to the public. Just grab yourself a seat and enjoy! Nearby Holland is an especially family friendly area and features many activities for the kids such as Nelis’ Dutch Village a family park that takes you back in time to a real Dutch village. Kids can pet the animals, go on rides and learn crafts. There are also many farms that allow you to pick your own fruit or buy freshly picked.
Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois
Whether you like camping, staying at a rustic lodge, a B&B or a regular hotel, this is a family friendly place to visit. Only about 6 hours away, the area features rock climbing, hiking, boating and breathtaking scenery. The last time I was there, I was surprised to find a cypress grove! Here in Illinois! The trails in the park range from easy (and ADA friendly) to rugged, but I have yet to not be able to hike one. School groups, church groups and scouts visit the park to learn about nature, hike or rock climb. The area also is home to the Shawnee Wine Trail that has numerous vineyards adults can visit and enjoy. The historic Giant City Lodge is a great place to stay with cabins that look out onto the park. They also are known for there family style, all you can eat, fried chicken dinner! The park is free to visit and explore!
Turkey Run State Park, Marshall, Indiana
At a little over 3 hours away, a more rustic getaway is Turkey Run State Park. Located in the very small town of Marshall Indiana, the park offers 9 hiking trails from the easy to the very rugged (they sell t-shirts advertising “surviving” trail 3). It is free to hike and explore the park and there are other activities such as boating and horseback riding. In addition to camping, there is the Turkey Run Lodge that feature rooms and cabins in the park. You can walk out your door and see squirrels, turkey vultures (thus the name), woodpeckers and other wildlife. The lodge features an inexpensive restaurant/buffet as well. The park is very basic and very beautiful. And if you have the time, you can always go to nearby Indianapolis, which is about an hour away and sight see!
Again, these places are not far away and most of what you can do is free or at least inexpensive. We plan a vacation to at least one of these places every year (sometimes twice a year) and I have yet to be bored or disappointed.