Multigenerational travel – trips that involve at least three generations – are on the rise in the United States, where 36 percent of families planned to travel with kids and grandparents in 2015. That can be a great advantage for kids, who can build confidence and feel more loved and understood after spending quality vacation time with family. Vacationing with grandparents and cousins additionally provides children with a variety of role models.
Adults value the opportunity to catch up with family members and make lasting memories. Traveling with young ones can also encourage older adults to live in the moment and seek an adventurous experience. For a list of our favorite places to travel in the Midwest with the entire family, read on!
Multigenerational Travel in the Midwest:
Wisconsin Dells is both a city in Wisconsin and the home of several theme parks and activities, giving it the reputation of the “Water Park Capital of the World.” The Wisconsin Dells was voted the best vacation destination for teens, but there’s something for all family members. Take a tour on the Original Wisconsin Ducks, restored boats used in World War II, through the Wisconsin River and all around the Dells. Visit the circus or the drive-in theater for classic fun, or try something new at the Dells Lumberjack show or the pied piper reenactment performed on a giant glockenspiel.
Parks include Noah’s Ark – the largest water park in the United States – Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, and the beautiful forested reserve surrounding Wisconsin Dells Lake called Mirror State Park.
Visiting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis might be a bucket list item for some. But beyond this classic tourist destination, St. Louis offers excitement and memorable moments for all ages and family members. Six Flags St. Louis is home to the 62 mph Screaming Eagle, a wooden roller coaster, as well as Hurricane Harbor Water Park. See a Cardinals game with St. Louis’ diehard baseball fans, or visit the St. Louis Zoo – a free attraction and one of the nation’s leading zoological parks.
Adults are encouraged to taste their way through the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, home to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Brewery tours are a local favorite for a sampling of craft beers like Schlafly, Bottleworks and Square One.
Potentially the greatest claim to fame in Indianapolis is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to several major car races including the Indy 500. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is a low-expense attraction featuring 75 race cars as well as trophies and exhibits. College sports fans can visit the NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis. But for those who aren’t sports nuts, the city still offers a worthy vacation experience.
The Indianapolis Zoo, despite its name, is not simply a zoo – it’s accredited as a zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden. See the red panda, king penguin, cheetah, warthog, African lion and a baby walrus, then explore the three-acre White River Gardens and the dolphins and sea lions of the Indianapolis Zoo Aquarium.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Grand Rapids in the fall, you’ll definitely experience ArtPrize, an art competition that takes over the streets and businesses of Michigan’s second-largest city in enormous public art exhibit. Throughout the rest of the year, art is still a focus for this city with its various art museums and entertainment options. And for a break from city life, take a drive about 40 minutes west to Lake Michigan to swim at the Grand Haven State Park beach.
The John Ball Zoo presents opportunity for all ages, with nearly 1200 animals of 238 different species. Visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the world’s “must-see” museums according to “1,000 Things to See Before You Die.” Featuring plant designs, rock landscapes, 170 breathtaking sculptures, and the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, it’s easy to see why this botanical garden has gained national attention.
An island made up mostly of state park land, Mackinac Island is a trip back in time to the Victorian era. It’s the perfect summer retreat, complete with fudge, horse rides and the historic Grand Hotel – which was built in 1886 and boasts the world’s largest porch. Motor vehicles are not allowed on the island, creating a great escape to a bygone era.
Mackinac has two butterfly conservatories, complete with crafts and activities for kids and their families to enjoy. Visit the Haunted Theatre for a scare, or take a carriage tour on a horse-drawn buggy. Bring bikes if you’d prefer not to walk or ride horses for your entire stay.
6. Brainerd, MN
In Central Minnesota, you’ll find peace and quiet in nature, but plenty of enjoyable activities in the small town of Brainerd. Located 130 miles north of the Twin Cities, Brainerd is surrounded by lakes and filled with trails and golf courses, including the 11-course, 180-hole chain Brainerd Golf Trail. Visit nearby Nisswa for markets and gift shops, as well as a unique opportunity to witness a turtle race.
Brainerd is one of the various Midwest towns claiming to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, but it is the only town with an amusement park dedicated to the lumberjack. The park features 27 rides for kids and, of course, a talking Paul Bunyan statue. A 120-mile bike trail is also named after Bunyan, a much-loved folklore legend in Brainerd.
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This article was written by Caitlin Klask.