In this article, we present 17 weekends in the Midwest, some of which you may have never heard of. These destinations are ideal for a long weekend. You might also consider visiting two or three different cities during a week’s vacation.
This map shows the destinations of 17 unique weekends in the Midwest.
1. French Lick, Indiana
This charming town in southern Indiana is a great place for a family vacation. Vacations here are usually centered at one of two resorts, the luxurious West Baden Springs Hotel or the more kid-friendly French Lick Springs Hotel.
Keep in mind that these are not Midwestern family hotels. These lush apartments feature heated indoor pools, several hiking trails and a riding school.
Enjoy an indoor heated pool, hot tub and spa at the West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, Indiana.
Check out French Lick Resort’s 2021 Spring Break Guide, a handy resource when planning your weekend getaway to the Midwest.
What you need to do: Larry Bird Hometown Tour, historic trolley tour, Big Splash indoor water park, FootGolf experience, Wilstem Wildlife Park driving safari, Escape! French Lick, and French Lick-West Baden Indoor Karting, and Marengo Cave
Where to stay: Those looking for luxury will find it in town, including the West Baden Springs Hotel. However, those looking for something cheaper will find themselves at home in the following rooms.
Best Western Plus French Lick (modern, clean, with good breakfast)
Comfort Suites French Lick (large rooms, jacuzzi)
2. Casey, Illinois
If your family loves roadside attractions, consider a trip to Casey, Illinois. Sometimes called the land of giants, this small town in the Midwest is home to 12 of the world’s largest oil rigs. There are also a lot of other Big Thing sites hidden around town, including a giant pizza factory, a corn cob and a mousetrap.
With lots of interesting social media, teens will love to share everything on TikTok or Instagram. Casey is located on I-70, just 30 minutes from the Indiana border.
What you need to do: Casey’s Candy Depot, Greathouse Pizza, play I-Spy at the Whitling Whimsy sandwich shop.
Where to stay: Eighteen to ninety nights, Casey (impeccably clean and comfortable, B&B feel).
3. New Plymouth, Ohio
Ravenwood Castle, located in Ohio’s picturesque Hocking Hills, is a charming medieval-style mansion. Does staying in a castle give you the right to brag? We think so!
As well as accommodation in castles, such as Rapunzel’s tower or the ducal keep, there are many themed accommodations, such as medieval huts, a gypsy caravan or a hunting lodge.
During the day, families can hike through Hocking Hills State Park. There are even over 25 miles of hiking trails surrounded by waterfalls, caves and cool rock formations.
What you need to do: Hocking Hills State Park, nature hikes, zipline tours, Bob Evans Farm, Wayne National Forest, Skyview Drive-In, Hocking Hills Scenic Railway train ride, R Adventure Park.
Where are they? Ravenwood Castle
4. Rolla, Missouri (opening May 2021)
Most tourists come to Rolla to enjoy one of the best secret pools in Missouri, Runaway Beach. This recreational water park is located in a converted quarry. Children can jump off cliffs, swim and slide down giant water slides all day long.
After you’ve soaked up the sun, spend a few days exploring the Mark Twain National Forest. This park is ideal for recreational sports such as fishing, horseback riding, boating and canoeing.
Floats and tubes are also popular here. Check the park’s official website to see where you can rent the equipment you need, such as boats and inflatable boats.
The Mark Twain National Forest also offers gravel trails ideal for mountain biking and over 750 miles of hiking trails. A popular route is the 11.6-mile trail to the majestic summit of Bell Mountain.
Enjoy miles of hiking trails in the Mark Twain National Forest.
While in town, be sure to stop by Stonehenge, Rolla’s main attraction on the Missouri S&T campus. Finally, parents can end the day with a glass of wine at St. Louis Winery. James in the neighborhood.
What you need to do: Runaway Beach, Mark Twain National Forest, Stonehenge, Great Escape Landscape Rooms, Area Family Entertainment Center, Kokomo Joe’s Miniature Golf and St. John’s. James Winery.
Where to stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites Rolla (brand new hotel with indoor pool), Pear Tree Inn Rolla (good location, free drinks, comfortable bed).
5. Black Hills, South Dakota
One of the most scenic routes in the Midwest runs through the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many attractions are within a short driving distance of each other: monuments, memorials, scenic drives, national and state parks.
Some call this part of the United States the land of monumental works of man and nature. In fact, there are seven different National Park System of America sites in South Dakota. The Black Hills Tour is a great option for families who love endless exploring and visiting.
What you need to do: Badlands National Park, Historic Deadwood Forest, Wind Cave National Park, Presidential Trail, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drugs, Jewel Cave, Lewis and Clark National Trail, Missouri National Recreation River, Minuteman Missel National Historic Site, Custer State Park Wilderness Loop and much more.
Where to stay: SpringHill Suites Deadwood (infinity pool)
Thor: Private safari and hiking in Custer State Park.
Travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota and visit the Wild West town of Deadwood.
6. Hockey Hills, Ohio
Looking for an adventurous outdoor holiday? Consider a trip to the Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio.
As for itineraries, many visitors rent lodges and then spend their days in the many parks and reserves. One of the highlights of the area is Hocking Hills State Park, where families can hike to cliffs, caves and waterfalls. There are also zip lines, canopy tours, horseback riding, kayaking and rafting.
The scenic beauty of Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio.
Hockey Hills has a few unique attractions worth mentioning. First of all, the John Glenn Astronomy Park is considered an ideal place to observe the stars and the Milky Way. That’s because the night sky is one of the darkest in the state of Ohio.
In addition, the Hocking Hills sandpit allows normal people to operate medium-sized construction equipment such as bulldozers, excavators or track loaders. This amusement park is perfect for people who have learned to handle construction equipment.
Finally, the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is a 21-mile paved and shaded bike path, perfect for families who want to bike under the trees or couples who want to ride past local breweries.
TheAdena bike path is perfect for families who like to bike together.
What you need to do: Hocking Hills State Park, Cedar Falls Hiking Trail, Conkle’s Hollow State Preserve, Covered Bridge Highway Ride, Hocking Hills Winery, John Glenn Astronomy Park, Hocking Hills Sandpiper, Wayne National Forest, breweries and Adena Highway Bike Rides.
Where to stay: Hocking Hills Pine Creek Cabins (hot tubs)
Thor: The cave of the old man
7. Iowa Great Lakes, Iowa
Iowa is often overlooked when planning a family vacation in the Midwest. That said, Iowa’s Great Lakes region is a great place for your next getaway.
This beautiful chain of glacial lakes begins at the southwestern border of Minnesota and extends across 15,000 acres in Iowa. People come here to enjoy life on the lake, boating, swimming, fishing, picnicking, camping and playing on the sandy beaches.
Lake Okobojiis definitely a promising recreational destination in the Midwest.
Iowa’s Great Lakes include Spirit Lake, Iowa’s largest natural lake, and five other interconnected lakes: West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Ghar, Lower Ghar and Minnewashta.
Note that West Okoboji is the crown jewel of all lakes, mainly because of its clarity. The spring water is a beautiful blue and the lake is 136 feet deep. It is considered one of only three blue lakes in the world.
West Okoboji has something more fun: a roller coaster and amusement park on the lake! Considered a timeless treasure, Arnold’s amusement park has been entertaining generations of families for over 100 years. Arnold’s is reminiscent of the majestic amusement parks of the past. It is aimed at young children, but also offers rides, carnival games and a go-kart track.
There are many state parks and public beaches on the Great Lakes of Iowa. The city of Lake Spirit has a handy website that shows which parks offer special amenities, such as sandy beaches, picnic shelters and boats.
Finally, Spirit Lake has a well-organized trail system with over 10 miles of trails in town connecting to over 100 miles of trails in Dickinson County’s main trail system.
What you need to do: Dickinson County Nature Center, Okoboji Classic Car Museum, Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, Okoboji Miniature Golf Ranch, Higgens Bill National Museum, Arnold Amusement Park
Where to stay: Rodeway Inn & Suites (economical and clean hotel), The Oakwood Inn (adults only, but available).
Arnold is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world.
8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Many Americans visit every national park in the country. Why not try painting Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota this year? Families can enjoy scenic moorland walks, wildlife viewing and quiet strolls.
The park consists of three separate areas: the small northern unit, the large southern unit, and the isolated Elkhorn Ranch unit, where President Roosevelt built his estate. The Little Missouri River, best seen at Oxbow Overlook, runs through all three sections of the park.
The park’s official website contains information and a guide to help you plan your visit.
What you need to do: Painted Canyon Visitor Center, Prairie Dog Town, South Unit 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive, North Unit 14-mile Scenic Loop Drive, Oxbow Overlook, Sperati Point Trail, Petrified Forest Loop, and Medora.
Where to stay: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Dickinson (our new favorite budget hotel in the chain).
Thor: Travel to Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Lodge.
9. Franklin, Wisconsin
If your family loves winter sports, you should definitely check out this unique adventure! Just 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee, Rock Snowpark offers skiing, snow tubing and snowboarding. But his highlight is his light trumpet.
On Friday and Saturday nights, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., families can slide down the hills under the neon lights. Fortunately, they offer material handling lifts that optimize hose turn time and reduce lifting time.
Because of its proximity, some families choose to explore Milwaukee over several days. Milwaukee is not only the frozen shipwreck capital of the world, but it also has a number of unique attractions that can liven up a trip along Wisconsin’s sandy coast.
What you need to do: America’s oldest bowling alley, Milwaukee Zoo, Milwaukee Riverwalk, Discovery World, Mitchell Park Dome Conservatory, Lakeshore State Park, Bronze Fonz, Bradford Beach, Brady Street Swing Park.
Where to stay: Hampton Inn & Suites Milwaukee/Franklin (indoor pool)
10. Ridgedale, Missouri
Plan a vacation in the heart of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains by staying at one of the most luxurious resorts in the Midwest, Big Cedar Lodge.
This beautiful lodge, owned by the founder of Bass Pro Shops, offers over 60,000 acres of outdoor entertainment on Table Rock Lake. Fishing, kayaking, water skiing and rustic horseback riding are available on site.
The resort, which is considered elite, has many facilities for playing mini golf with children, a game room, a playground and a private beach. Big Cedar Lodge also offers a children’s pool, an indoor pool and a seasonal outdoor pool.
Branson, considered the world’s capital for live music, is less than 20 minutes away. Las Vegas is known as the most family friendly city, many shows, venues and museums are now open and ready to entertain your family.
What you need to do: Table Rock State Park, Silver Dollar City, Titanic Museum, Branson Ferris Wheel, Dinosaur Museum.
Where to stay: Those looking to spend a little more money would be better off staying at Big Cedar Lodge. However, travelers looking for something more economical will love the Westgate Branson Lakes Resort (a recently renovated condo hotel).
Thor: Branson: Private helicopter flight for 1 to 4 persons
11. Chesterton, Indiana
Indiana Dunes was founded on the 15th. February 2019 at 61. National park of the country. It’s a great place to sink your toes into the soft sand and walk along the dunes, some of which are up to 12 metres high. More than 80 km of cycling and walking trails run along the coastline and through wetlands, forests and marshes.
Indiana Dunes State Park is one of the best state parks in the Midwest.
However, Chesterton is best known for its Saturday European market, held in the historic centre. Generally, there are food trucks and vendors offering a variety of food and crafts.
Some people buy homemade bread, cheese, fruit and jam. Then they take their delicious finds for a picnic on the beach.
What you need to do: Explore 15 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, geocaching, historic sites like the Bailly estate and the 1933 World’s Fair houses.
Where to stay: Valparaiso Inn B&B (for couples), Hilton Garden Inn Chesterton (clean indoor pool and jacuzzi, close to national park), Waterbird Lakeside Inn (budget hotel).
12. Noel, Missouri
When the weather gets warmer, there’s nothing better than floating on a clear river. Missouri Elk, located in the Ozark Mountains, is where locals go to enjoy a variety of relaxing water sports.
The town of Noel in particular is a recommended starting point for trips along the river. There are many places in the city where you can rent kayaks, rafts and tubes for a day on the water.
Many families eat or picnic during a stop on the sandbanks along the river. The weekend can be very busy. So, if your schedule allows, plan a ride on the subway on weekdays when it’s less crowded.
Noel, Missouri, serves as the starting point for access to a clean, green river.
This area of Missouri offers even more great opportunities for river recreation. For example, the posh Bluff Dwellers Cave is a fun family adventure.
Led by entertaining guides, visitors can view amazing cave formations and unique underground animals such as salamanders, bats and albino crabs. Children can also participate in a treasure hunt and visit the on-site geological museum.
What you need to do: Metro Tours, Blue Dweller Cave, Silver Springs City Park
Where to stay: Ozark Mountain Bakery (bakery rentals for family reunions), Econo Lodge Anderson (budget hotel), Survivor Cottage (comfortable, modern getaway for couples).
13. Decorah, Iowa
To avoid today’s air travel, many families should opt for a cultural experience closer to home. A trip to Decorah, Iowa allows travelers to experience Scandinavian culture here in the United States. This is a great option for a Europe-inspired weekend getaway in the Midwest.
This pretty town was founded in the 1800s by Norwegian immigrants and is nestled in the hills. It is said that Norwegian tourists are surprised by the people of Decorah, who seem more Norwegian than they really are.
Decorah, Iowa offers a tour of Norway in the Midwest. An ideal city for a holiday in the Midwest.
Decorah’s main street, Water Street, is home to many Scandinavian-style crafts and folk art. In addition, the Vesterheim Norweigan American Museum houses the world’s most extensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in more than a dozen historic buildings. The highlight of the show is a 25-foot wooden boat that has sailed across the Atlantic.
If discovering Scandinavian culture is important to you, you should combine your trip with Decora’s most famous summer festival, the Scandinavian Culture Festival. This festival brings Viking culture to life with folk dancing, martial arts demonstrations and traditional food.
Besides experiencing the northern culture, there is also a lot to do in this region. Family activities include visits to farms, nature parks, biking and hiking trails, and museum tours.
Admire the charm of European architecture during your Midwest weekend in Decorah, Iowa.
What you need to do: Dunnings Spring Park Waterfall and Ice Cave, Decorah Hatchery, Westerheim, Trout Run Trail, Seed Savers Heritage Farm, Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Highlandville Historical School, OZ Museum, Quilt Trail Walk,
Where to stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott (new and very well located)
14. Flint Hills, Kansas
Flint Hills, Kansas, is located in the Great Plains region of the United States. This land, with its high prairie hills and vast skies, was once full of buffalo and dotted with ranches. Today, less than 4 percent of the original 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie remain, and what remains is protected by the Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.
The Flint Hills tour includes a visit to the Flint Hills Research Center, located in Manhattan, Kansas. This museum is dedicated to the history and science of the Flint Hills.
Visitors can learn more about the endangered ecosystem through a 4D movie and hands-on exhibits. Be sure to visit Terrance’s Rooftop Prairie Gardens, from where you’ll have breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Additionally, the preserve offers 38.4 miles of hiking trails and historic buildings to explore. Those interested in stargazing can enjoy the clear night sky, as the park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The same goes for wild animals like bison, foxes, coyotes and mule deer that roam freely in the reserve.
Foxes roam free in Flint Hill, Kansas, a perfect weekend destination in the Midwest.
If you come in the summer, you can attend the annual Flint Hills Symphony, where the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra serenades the audience as the sun sets over the high prairie.
What you need to do: Drive 47 miles on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, ride a horse into the sunset at Flying Ranch, hike the Bottomland Nature Trail, Spring Hill Ranch Mansion, Kau Mission State Historic Site and Museum, Kansas State University Insect Zoo, Sunset Zoo, Tuttle Creek State Park.
Where to stay: Anderson Bed & Breakfast (romantic getaway for couples, free bike rentals), Four Points Sheraton Manhattan (Irish pub on site).
15. Crawford, Nebraska
Go back in time and experience the Wild West at Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska. This historic 1874 outpost celebrates the Wild West with free-roaming buffalo, original buildings and longhorn herds. Also, a rabid horse, the legendary Sioux chief, died at Fort Robinson.
Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska offers scenic landscapes and free-roaming wildlife.
This part of Nebraska offers a unique landscape of rocky ridges and pine hills. Camping is very popular here and attracts families who just want to relax. This is not the place to come if you want to be entertained, it’s a place for solo seekers.
Activities offered here include trout fishing, hiking, swimming, wildlife viewing and horseback riding. During peak season, outdoor jeep safaris and stagecoach rides are usually offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Step back in time and enjoy the atmosphere of the old west at Fort Robinson Park, Nebraska.
Fort Robinson State Park is open year-round, but camping, RV parking and tours are seasonal. However, lodges in the park are open from April to November – just in time for spring break. Be sure to book in advance, because the seats fill up quickly.
What you need to do: National Museum of Tropical History, Fort Robinson History Center, Hudson-Meng Buffalo Slaughter Research and Visitor Center, Jabadul Geological Park, Milk Sweet Q, Nebraska National Forest
Where to stay: If camping isn’t your thing, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Chadron is a good option.
16. Sandy, Ohio
Sandusky, home of the roller derby capital of the world, is one of the most popular family destinations in the Midwest. It offers a mile-long beach, a historic town centre, shops and waterfront cafés.
Sandusky, of course, is also home to Cedar Point, one of the best amusement parks in the world. Families who like to stay busy, with plenty of activities and attractions, will enjoy a vacation on the shores of Lake Erie.
Fortunately, there are other options for travelers who want to escape the crowds and the theme park. Lake Erie, for example, offers opportunities for fishing, boating, beach paddling and swimming.
Nearby, two small towns offer a bit of charm and history: Milan is the birthplace of Thomas Edison and Bellevue is home to the historic village of Lyme, which dates back to the 1800s.
What you need to do: Cedar Point, Jolly Trail Museum, Kalahari Water Parks, Ghost Manor Trill Center, Deer Lagoon Park, Castaway Water Park, Battery Park Marina.
Where to stay: Farrell House Lodge (quiet retreat for couples), Hampton Inn & Suites (for families, with indoor pool and hot tub, away from the chaos of the hotel’s water park).
17. North Shore Minnesota and Kings Island National Park
This part of Minnesota is a hidden gem. Begin your journey on State Highway 61, which runs from Duluth to Grand Portage at the Canadian border. The landscape includes forests, charming cottages and lighthouses, all set against the backdrop of beautiful Lake Superior. This part of the state is known as the North Shore, Minnesota.
Enjoy the fresh air of Minnesota’s forests during your next weekend in the Midwest.
After this trip, be sure to visit one of the less visited national parks, Isle Royale National Park, which dates back to the 16th century. April to 31. The month of October is open. Grand Portage is one of the few starting points for accessing the island.
Eight state parks offer a wealth of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. For example, the cliffs along Lake Tettegush State Park are a favorite spot for birds, especially peregrine falcons.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is home to five waterfalls that make for a fun weekend at the falls. Of course, the Split Rock lighthouse is the region’s landmark – a postcard image of a perfect lighthouse perched on a steep cliff on the edge of a lake.
Northern Lights at Boulder Lake Dam, Duluth, Minnesota.
There are also many other attractions for families to enjoy together. As for the beaches on the north coast, be sure to visit the unique black beach of Silver Bay or the pink beach of Iona, known for its singing.
Additionally, there are two fun ways to spend your time in the Sawtooth Mountains. First, you can take the chairlift to Eagle Mountain and then happily ski the half mile to the alpine slide. Afterwards, take the gondola to Elk Mountain and dine at the Summit Chalet.
Duluth is the starting point for a road trip along the coast of northern Minnesota.
What you need to do: Black Beach, Ion Beach, Island Royal State Park, Sawtooth Mountains, Split Rock Lighthouse, eight state parks, Eagle Mountain Alpine Slide, Moose Gondola, Betty’s Pies, Enger Park and Tower, Great Lakes Aquarium, Canal Park and more.
Where to stay: East Bay Suites, Grand Marais (lakefront house) South Pier Inn, Duluth (free breakfast, harbor view, excellent location).
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