Family-Friendly Travel Destinations from Madison, WI

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Got a travel bug? With spring break and summer travels coming up – we wanted to offer you some great travel options… whether you are looking to spend a week away or just a night or two. We kept all ideas to a five hour distance or less (give or take a few minutes!), both inside and outside of Wisconsin. Many of the destinations mentioned offer far more than the things we’ve listed – but we did our best to take the guesswork out of it for you by offering some great suggestions!

Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Wisconsin

 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Milwaukee Art Museum – kids can get in touch with the art through free ArtPacks and even create their own art project to take home at the Kohl’s Art Generation Open Studio.
  • Betty Brinn Children’s Museum
  • The Domes – visit a desert, the tropics, and more without ever leaving Milwaukee at the unique Mitchell Park Conservatory.
  • Discovery World – kids can get hands-on experience with science and technology in exhibits like Physics & You, Innovation Planet, and Les Paul’s House of Sound, and then explore the world of water and the Great Lakes in the Reiman Aquarium.
  • Harley-Davidson Museum – kids can build their own virtual bike and try on pint-size Harley-Davidson gear in the Imagination Station.
  • Milwaukee County Zoo – more than 2,500 animals are housed on 200 acres of natural habitats at this nationally-recognized zoo open 365 days a year.
  • Jelly Belly Visitors Center – find out how delicious Jelly Belly jelly beans are made on this fun, free tour.
  • Milwaukee Public Museum – travel around the world, back in time on the Streets of Old Milwaukee, and to the depths of the ocean at this human and natural history museum. Also home to the Dome Theater and Planetarium, featuring a six-story-tall screen and 3-D projectors.
  • Sprecher Brewery – adults can sample up to four microbrews, and all ages are welcome to unlimited samples of the famous gourmet sodas (including The New York Times’ pick for best root beer in the country).
  • Milwaukee Brewers + Milwaukee Bucks games
  • Milwaukee Public Market is a public market located in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • (Near Milwaukee) Old World Wisconsin – Wisconsin’s pioneer history comes alive at this living history museum, featuring more than 60 original structures from all over the state.
  • (Near Milwaukee) Possibility Playground

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

View our guide to visiting Eau Claire, WI!

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

View our guide to visiting the Wisconsin Dells!

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin

View our guide to visiting Door County!


Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Minnesota

Twin Cities | Minnesota

  • Mall of America is so much more than a mall. It contains an indoor amusement park, restaurants, Fly Over America and more. It is definitely a must-see on your trip to Minneapolis.
  • Crayola Experience is where color, chemistry and technology magically combine to create a fun-filled, colorful adventure for a kid’s imagination.
  • Nickelodeon Universe features seven acres of unique attractions and entertainment, including 27 great rides and attractions for guests of all ages and courage levels.
  • Mill City Museum teaches about the history of Minneapolis and how it became a city.
  • Science Museum of Minnesota contains four stories of hands on fun for you and the kids. Each level offers something different and you could spend all day here exploring the museum.
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum – playful, interactive exhibits for younger kids including a look at state habitats & a rooftop park.
  • The Works Museum is a hands-on kids museum that’s all about engineering.
  • Como Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and admission is free.
  • Minnehaha Regional Park is one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks features a majestic 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, and river overlooks, attracting more than 850,000 visitors annually.
  • Lake Harriet Park
  • Valleyfair is the Upper Midwest’s largest amusement park featuring more than 75 rides and attractions including eight roller coasters, the family-friendly Route 76, Planet Snoopy, Dinosaurs Alive! and Soak City Waterpark.
  • Good Times Park brings the outside feel inside and features a well-equipped basketball court, turf field and 38ft inflatable jumper, while the Imagine & Build area features large soft units for construction play.
  • Minnesota Twins; Minnesota Wild; Minnesota Timberwolves; Minnesota Vikings games.
  • University of Minnesota campus

Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa 

Dubuque, Iowa 

Des Moines, Iowa 

  • Science Center of Iowa contains interactive galleries & learning labs plus a planetarium & IMAX cinema.
  • Adventureland Park and Adventureland Bay – with more than 100 rides, shows and attractions, including three roller coasters, there’s something for all ages are available. Adventure Bay water park is included in the price of admission
  • State Capitol of Iowa Tour
  • Blank Park Zoo – this small zoo has just what you need – for both you and the kids. It’ll only take you about an hour to go through it, and there’s even a petting zoo area for the smaller kids.
  • Gray’s Lake Park – walk, bike and picnic here for free at the 167-acre lake with a two-mile trail encircling. Enjoy the boat rental facility, a fishing pier, floating boardwalks, and a park resource center, too
  • Principal Park | Home of the Iowa Cubs
  • National Balloon Museum (12 miles south of Des Moines) – the museum archives more than 200 years of ballooning, hosts 5,000 visitors a year (with 20 countries in attendance).

Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Illinois

Galena, Illinois

  • Walk, shop and dine on their beautiful Main Street! From candy and ice cream shops to spas, wine tasting and amazing dining options, this experience is downright surreal because it all happens along a 1800s street with original buildings and no bland or routine ‘brand’ shops. These shops are as diverse as the architecture and sights that can be seen while enjoying this easy walking environment.
  • Mississippi Explorer Cruises at Chestnut Mountain Resort – jump aboard the Mississippi Explorer’s latest 1.5-hour cruise.
  • Chestnut Mountain Resort | Outdoor Activities
  • Linmar Gardens – meander on a guided tour along paths through a collection of vibrant annual and perennial flowers, planted artistically around the inviting grounds. Water features include flowing brooks, ponds, and a twenty-foot waterfall cascading from a natural bluff.
  • Alice T. Virtue Waterpark (outdoors) is a family water park with waterslide, drop slide, diving board, and full-menu concession stand adjacent to full-service park.

Chicago, Illinois

Stay tuned for a comprehensive guide to Chicago (where to stay, eat and play!)… but for now – we have these great suggestions!:

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Chicago Children’s Museum
  • Navy Pier
  • American Girl Store
  • Wrigley Field
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower)
  • Chicago Riverwalk
  • Chicago Architecture Center
  • Maggie Daley Park
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Harold Washington Library
  • Adler Planetarium
  • The Field Museum
  • National Museum of Mexican Art
  • DuSable Museum of African American History
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Six Flags Great America (in Gurnee)
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center (in Schaumburg)

Quad Cities, Illinois (and Iowa)

  • John Deere Pavilion contains hands-on exhibits focused on tractors & other heavy machinery plus educational films.
  • Putnam Museum and Science Center is a museum of history and natural science and a science center in Davenport, Iowa.
  • Modern Woodmen Park | Home of the Quad Cities River Bandits
  • Niabi Zoo is a public zoological park in Coal Valley, Illinois.
  • Figge Art Museum has an encyclopedic collection and serves as the major art museum for the eastern Iowa and western Illinois region.
  • Family Museum | located in Bettendorf, Iowa – kids learn about the arts & sciences through play-based exhibits, day programs & dance classes.
  • Channel Cat Water Taxi – open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Michigan

Holland, Michigan

  • Outdoor Discovery Center is a 155 acre nature preserve that is free and open to the public. he site consists of several habitats including meadows, remnant dune, upland forests, lowland hardwood forests, marshes and ponds. Trails consist of gravel and boardwalk and are approximately thee miles in total. Many of the trails on the property are wheel-chair, stroller and wagon-friendly.
  • Holland State Beach Park is one of Michigan’s most visited state parks.
  • Big Red Lighthouse stands proudly at the south side of the Holland Channel.
  • Windmill Island Gardens is a seasonal park featuring tulip gardens, a 250-year-old windmill, a carousel & Dutch-costumed guides.
  • Tunnel Park is a 22-acre park with its extensive Lake Michigan beachfront and is a great place for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. In addition to the unique tunnel through a dune, this park has a children’s playground complete with a dune climb and a dune stairway with scenic views of Lake Michigan.
  • Holland Community Aquatic Center

Kid-Friendly Trips from Madison: Indiana

South Bend, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana

  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is one of the world’s LARGEST children’s museums.
  • The Indianapolis Zoo
  • White River State Park contains green spaces, trails, trees and waterways along with cultural, educational and recreational attractions and events in this urban getaway’s 250-acres. It also contains the Indiana State Museum and the NCAA Hall of Champions. You can rent a Segway or a pedal boat to cruise the canal and take in the downtown skyline.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the home of the INDY 500! Check out the race cars within the Hall of Fame Museum, take a bus around the race track, and be sure to kiss the Yard of Bricks – as all the racing champions do.
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Rhythm! Discovery Center is located downtown and is the a percussion museum providing interactive, educational exhibits where guests are invited to fulfill their dreams of being a percussionist!
Alisa Sleep
Alisa was born and raised in Iowa before attending Arizona State University. She then lived in Chicago, Georgia and Florida before settling in Madison. From her nomadic lifestyle grew a love for the beach, as well as a fondness for spicy food, sushi, white wine, southern charm, Diamondbacks baseball and idyllic ocean sunsets. Alisa and her husband, Joe, are parents to Ava Mae (August 2012) and twins, Nora & Jacob (March 2014). Alisa is a work-from-home mompreneur with a passion for business, fashion, fitness, community and all things mom. When she’s not enjoying time at home with her family, you can find her sweating it out on the tennis court, training for the next big race, pinning her heart out on Pinterest and exploring Madison with her little ones (and sweet Boston Terrier, Peaches) in tow.

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