Let’s talk about Midwest family vacations. The Midwest is the most underrated part of the United States, but it’s got a little bit of everything! If the rest of the world knew that the Midwest has beautiful beaches, extreme sports, awesome amusement parks, cool dining experiences, and so much more, then it would certainly become a top tourist destination!
Plus, with a lower cost of living in most Midwest states compared to other parts of the United States, gas prices, hotels, groceries, and other costs are fairly affordable. You can have fun at a fraction of the cost of luxury condos and resorts on the coasts. This is a huge plus for families with kids! Why pay extra when fun and relaxation don’t have to cost an arm and a leg on a Midwest family vacation?
So the next time you plan a trip and find yourself ignoring the “flyover states,” take a second look. Here is a list of Midwest family vacation suggestions that you and your family will love!
Let’s start off our list of Midwest family vacation ideas strong with Indy! There is so much more to explore in Indiana than the Indy 500 (though that’s already a draw for many)!
In Indianapolis, families will love the Children’s Museum. It’s the largest in the world, with five floors of exhibits that will keep your little ones entertained for days! Heck, you’ll have a great time, too! You can dig for dinosaur bones, ride a carousel, walk through a fun house, see the stars in the planetarium, watch a play, jump on a train or inside a submarine, and so much more!
Not far from the Children’s Museum is the Indianapolis Zoo, which has several unique features, like a dolphin show! Sports fans can visit the NCAA Hall of Fame, and there are a number of teams they can support depending on the season: Pacers and Fever basketball, Colts football, Indians baseball, and Indy Eleven soccer. Art lovers can enjoy interactive outdoor exhibits like the Twisted House at the Indianapolis Art Center and the famous Funky Bones installation at the Newfields art museum.
Want something a little more trendy on your Midwest family vacation? On the north side of town in the Carmel Arts and Design District, you’ll find boutique clothing shops, art galleries, public art displays, novelty stores, and great places to eat. And, of course, you can always find great food and perfect selfie spots in the heart of downtown Indy on Monument Circle (which is lit up like a giant Christmas tree during the holidays)!
If you have time to make a day trip outside of Indianapolis, consider driving north to Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan, which was recently made a national park. There are also several Midwest family vacation places to go caving in southern Indiana, a great option for those who are more adventurous.
And, we can’t forget about Holiday World! While a bit of a drive from Indy, it’s well worth the trip. This amusement park boasts free parking, free drinks, and free sunscreen, and it has a variety of rides for your family, all with holiday-related themes. Whether you like coasters, water slides, or the kiddie rides, you’ll have a great time at Holiday World without breaking the bank on your Midwest family vacation!
Next on our list of top Midwest family vacation spots is Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa is a great Midwest family vacation place to visit for those who love the outdoors. There are places all over the state for biking, hiking, and water sports. In fact, within the Des Moines Metro area, you’ll find the Children’s Enabling Garden (perfect for families with toddlers) and Easter Lake and Gray’s Lake, both beautiful spots with small beaches. Trails and parks weave through almost every neighborhood, so it’s not hard to find a place to play!
Outside of Des Moines in Madison County, you’ll find breathtaking views of the countryside as you drive through the hills and famous covered bridges (yes, like the ones from that movie with Meryl Streep). One of the best scenic Midwest family vacation spots is at the top of Clark Tower in Winterset. If you go north of Des Moines, you’ll find Ledges State Park, another spot with stunning views. Spend a day at the park having a picnic beneath the beautiful cliffs and splashing along the winding creek. The best part is, that you can enjoy all of these Midwest family vacation spots for free!
For those wanting to get some shopping done on their Midwest family vacation, there is the Outlets of Des Moines, an outdoor mall with great stores and restaurants. If you are looking for unique novelty items, try RAYGUN, Chocolate Storybook, and the Beaverdale Confections.
One of the best events in Des Moines is the National Balloon Classic. Held each summer, people come from all over the country to watch the sky fill up with hot air balloons. This event is much like a festival, with food trucks, music, and more!
If that’s not enough, give Adventureland a try during your Midwest family vacation! This small amusement park has a number of coasters, shows, and rides for little ones. It also has a beautiful water park and is conveniently located near plenty of restaurants, hotels, and even a casino.
Read More: 10 Cheap Places to Travel in the US
This list of Midwest family vacation spots wouldn’t be complete without Cincinnati! Located right on the border of Ohio and Kentucky, Cincinnati is an affordable place that offers a lot of fun.
First, make sure you check out the Newport Aquarium! This is one of the best aquariums around. Staff allow visitors to touch some of the animals, and you can even walk a rope bridge above the shark tank (if you’re not afraid of sharks and heights, that is). In the same area as the aquarium, you’ll find plenty of Midwest family vacation places for shopping and dining.
You’ll also want to check out Smale Riverfront Park. This is a free park right along the Ohio River. It’s got a playground, giant swings, installed exercise equipment, a carousel, a splash pad, interactive musical features, and more! Plus, you can easily access the nearby suspension bridge and walk over the Ohio River!
If you want to spend a bit more time relaxing, get some ice cream at one of the many United Dairy Farmers stores or book a riverboat cruise. Or, if you want something more thrilling, check out a Cincinnati Bengals game. There are plenty of options to keep you and your family happy during your Midwest family vacation!
If these Midwest family vacation suggestions haven’t piqued your interest so far, consider some of these bonus ideas.
Chicago: This Midwest family vacation spot needs no explanation. If you like art, music, museums, theater, and deep-dish pizza, head to Chicago! Your trip will likely cost more compared to vacationing in other Midwest family vacation locations, but you will have plenty to do and see. There are also plenty of affordable direct flights into and out of Chicago if you’re traveling by air.
St. Louis: St. Louis, Missouri, is full of history, and you can learn a lot about it if you visit the Gateway Arch. Make sure you ride to the top of the Arch, too, and you’ll be amazed by the views! You can also enjoy riverboat rides along the Mississippi River, funky interactive exhibits at the City Museum, and free public access to the St. Louis Zoo!
South Haven: This quaint beach town in Michigan is a picture-perfect Midwest family vacation spot! Walk along the streets to ice cream stores selling famous Mackinac Island Fudge, or head down to the beach to claim your spot in the sand. Your children will love the splash pads and playgrounds; you’ll love the dining options and the relaxing sights and sounds of Lake Michigan. There are tons of Airbnb options in South Haven, too, so you can find a place to stay that will make you feel right at home.
It’s time to get out and explore something new! Start planning your next getaway today! Your Midwest family vacation will be one for the books. Guaranteed.
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