Fantastic family vacations in the Midwest you should take this season

Copper Harbor USA in the fall

Get inspired by this list of family vacations in the Midwest perfect for a getaway with the kids!

Are you planning a family vacation in the Midwest? Then, you are in for a treat!

Finding exciting places to go and fun things to do for every family member is easy.

The Midwest has tons of unique towns and cities filled with zoos, museums, theme parks, recreational centers, natural parks and reserves.

So whether you want a quiet family vacation by the lake or an outdoor nature-filled adventure, there are lots of options to choose from.

We have many friends who live in the Midwest and, for this article, we have picked their local expertise so whether you are visiting the Midwest from near or far, we believe you will find something you will love!

Top Tip >> The Midwest has some fantastic cities worth visiting with children. If you find the idea of a big city a little overwhelming, check out our tips for a successful city break with kids.

Before planning your trip, make sure you check local restrictions and closures and always abide by State laws. We have provided links to the official websites of the attraction we mention, so you can check specific entry requirements that may apply.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

12 of the best family destinations in the Midwest perfect for a getaway with the kids

Midwest getaways for families are an excellent way to keep your kids busy and excited.

You can feed their imaginations at any of the family-friendly museums in the region or spend the day exploring a zoo as they get to know more about wildlife.

Some of the best family vacations in the Midwest are:

Take a family friendly city break in Chicago, Illinois

Thanks to excellent connections to Europe, as well as the rest of the United States, Chicago has been on our family travel list for some time now.

Blue and white boat river cruising in Chicago

There is so much to see and do and we have so many friends from the city, tempting us with amazing lists of things to do in Chicago with kids, we believe this is the perfect family city break in the Midwest.

Actually, it is one of the best city trips you can take in the USA with kids!

Among the many kid-friendly attractions in Chicago for a fun-filled family getaway, there are:

A river cruise: a must-do in Chicago for all ages!

Millennium Park: a fantastic area with splash pools in summer and ice skating in winter and the home of iconic Cloud Gate

Navy Pier, home to a Ferris wheel and Chicago’s Children Museum

Shedd Aquarium, which has several exciting activities for kids including penguin encounters and stingray feedings

The Kimpton Gray Hotel is a good family-friendly hotel to visit Chicago.

Enjoy Copper Harbor with kids, Michigan

Copper Harbor is home to the best fall vacations in the Midwest for families.

Aerlial view of Foliage in copper Harbor Michigan USA

Michigan boasts of the most extensive state forest system in the eastern United States, and this means that its 4 million acres of Greenland are available for exploration.

From hiking through the scenic waterfall and pine trails to mountain biking and beer bar hopping, there is plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family.

Midwest fall getaways are not complete without a visit to the abandoned copper mines and prehistoric lighthouses.

You can also plan to spend Halloween in one of the ghost towns, where you can get a good scare during the nighttime ghost tours.

Discover family friendly Milwaukee

Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and a lovely place for a city break with the kids.

There are many things in the city to keep kids and adults happy and a mix of indoor and outdoor family attractions that will keep your family happy whatever the weather.

Family-friendly attractions you and your kids may enjoy are:

The Harley-Davidson Museum, perfect for vehicle-loving kids (I am sure I am not the only mom with one of those?!) which has several hands-on exhibits that are fascinating for kids. Find info and ticket here

Discovery World Science + Technology Center, a waterfront museum on Lake Michigan where your kids will enjoy learning about science and technology through their intriguing exhibits. Find tickets and info here

Milwaukee County Zoo, a nice zoo you can visit in one afternoon, a pleasant outdoor attraction for kids and an easy one for parents to enjoy, thanks to the many exhibits and safe spaces. You can find info and their policy about conservation endeavors here

Mitchell Park Domes, a horticultural conservatory with large domes from the 50s hosting plants from different environments including the desert and tropical climate. The domes offer plenty of activities for kids that you can find here and are a perfect place for an educational and fun experience in the Midwest!

Older kids and parents will also find plenty to do in Milwaukee.

The city has a nice river walk, it is close to the beach and has nice stops for foodies such as the market and Sprecher’s Brewery: they offer family-friendly brewery tours and made the most delicious soda pop for kids as well as a quality brew for adults.

Family-friendly hotels in Milwaukee are:

Milwaukee Marriott Downton – family-friendly hotels in a perfect central location

Aloft Hotel – great family hotel in a central location

Enjoy Lake Geneva with kids, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva in Wisconsin is a fantastic family-friendly Midwest vacation destination, all year round.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, USA
View lake Geneva in the summer, Wisconsin

In summer, kids and their parents can enjoy the many water activities and outdoor opportunities this area has to offer or enjoy Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark.

easy to reach from Milwaukee and Chicago, they offer fantastic family vacation packages that are perfect for a fun-filled getaway.

In winter, you can see magical ice castles, a true winter wonderland adults and children will adore!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Located in Medora, North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in 1978 as a memorial park and as a place of value for its diverse cultural and natural resources.

Featuring painted canyons and beautiful prairies, this expansive National Park is an excellent location for weekend getaways in the Midwest.

For an overview of the entire park, take the 36-mile Scenic Loop Drive, where you also get up-close views of wildlife.

Your kids will have the opportunity to be junior rangers when you join any of the ranger-led tours on the park – always a highlight of all our national park adventures!

A visit to the park is easy to combine with a stop at the museums and other historical sites in Medora.

Active families will love the other fun, family-friendly activities in the area such as camping, horseback riding and hiking.

Good to know! The Theodore Roosevelt National Park runs a cool junior ranger program you can also enjoy from home. Perfect to help your kids start getting ready for their Midwest adventure or keep the magic of the place alive once back home. Find info and resources here.

Visit Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota

I don’t know about you but I have always wanted to see the presidents’ carved in Mount Rushmore.

If you or your kids are the same, then a family Midwest getaway in the area is just perfect.

The National Monument is interesting and iconic and the Black Hills of South Dakota offer plenty of opportunities for family fun.

Discover how to visit this area here.

Mount Rushmore from the distance with the presidents carvings and trees
National Memorial, Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Go outside in family-friendly Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota

If you need a serene location for family vacations in the Midwest, you will love the Brainerd Lakes region.

This is the perfect place to experience a laidback lakeside family vacation in any of the family cabins and resorts.

The scenery is fantastic, perfect for an outdoor family vacation in beautiful Midwest nature and there are plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied.

Kid-friendly things to do in the area include farm visits, walking and cycling trails, ziplining and plenty of water activities such as paddling and sailing.

For days of pure-play, you will also find mini golfs and go-karts.

Canoe on Minnesota Lake, USA
Yellow canoe with fishing net on a northern Minnesota lake with pine trees

Enjoy Kansas City, Missouri with kids

If you are a family of meat lovers, Kansas City should be at the top of your list of family vacations in the Midwest.

Well known as the home of barbecue and featuring deliciously tender and tangy meats, Kansas City offers the Original KC Barbecue Tour.

Here, tourists get to visit the best places to eat and explore the city’s barbecue displays.

Kansa city also offers a lot of excellent locations for historical sightseeing and tons of family-friendly attractions.

Some kid-friendly activities here include:

LEGOLAND Discovery Center, a place that needs no introduction and that any logo-loving kid will adore

Airline History Museum, in the heart of Kansas City, is fantastic for plane loving kids

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is a unique museum about life on the American frontier in the mid-19th century, a cool place for a fun and educational afternoon with the kids.

Kaleidoscope children museum, a wonderful stop for creative kids, offering art-based workshops for little ones

Science City at Union Station, an interactive science museum for families, perfect for toddlers and school-age kids

Kansas City also has lovely museums that make the city a varied and fun place to visit at any age.

Explore Columbus with kids, Ohio

Columbus has lots of fun locations and activities for a fun family weekend.

Columbus Ohio skyline with park at dusk
Columbus, Ohio, USA skyline on the river at dusk.

One of the first places to stop at is The Center of Science and Industry. This place features interactive exhibits about space, the oceans and energy as well as a dinosaur exhibit and a ‘big science park’ for little ones to get their energy out!

Science-loving kids will have a fun time exploring here!

If you have kids who love books or you want to get them more acquainted with them, be sure to check out The Book Loft, where there are five rooms dedicated to children’s books.

More than just a bookstore, the Book Loft is a lovely place with gardens, rooms and decorations that make it perfect as a family stop.

You can also take a relaxing stroll through the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and explore the canopy walk, splash area and herb garden.

Your kids will love splashing around in the jets of water AT Scioto Mile Fountain. This is a super fun activity on a hot day – make sure you bring water shoes and a change of clothes!

If you have creative and artsy kids, you should also check out the Cultural Arts Center, where you can take painting and ceramics classes.

Take a family trip to Mall of America, Minnesota

At the Mall of America, your family can enjoy an elevated shopping experience in a theme park environment.

Exploring the entirety of this mall will take several days, so take your time and plan an entire weekend getaway at the Mall of America.

With a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, blacklight mini-golf area, a movie theatre, a flight simulation, a free-fall ride and many more attractions, this has become the biggest indoor theme park in the U.S.

There are over 50 restaurants on-site and a variety of unique stores and displays to explore. Take a trip to the Mall of America, and you can be sure of experiencing one of the best Midwest family vacations.

Vist Omaha with kids, Nebraska

Omaha is one of the best places for Midwest weekend getaways for families.

There are lots of fun, kid-friendly activities, and you will not want your visit to end.

Start by spending the day at the Durham Museum, which used to be the central train station in Omaha.

This is a cool museum with interesting historical exhibitions that are fantastic for an educational trip but also model trains, which small kids usually adore.

Next up, head on to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, where you will see some of the most exotic and rare creatures.

This zoo is often mentioned as one of the best in the world and has areas replicating the habitats and climates from different parts of the world:a fantastic experience for kids!

The first time we visited a location like this was during a family vacation in Montreal and stayed as one of the highlights of the whole trip.

You should also check out Hollywood Candy, where your kids can have the Willy Wonka experience!

For a thrilling adventure, the Fontanelle Forest provides an excellent green space for families to explore and enjoy zip-lining and hiking.

The Ozarks, Missouri

This stunning geographical highland region is even more gasp-worthy during the fall season.

Start with a visit to Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, where you can take a tram tour of the 10,000-acre park and get up-close views of the wildlife. This nature park boasts stunning fall trees, spring-fed waterfalls, mysterious caves and sandstone cliffs.

The Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve is another must-see. It is home to The Lost Canyon Cave, where visitors can go on golf cart tours.

It also has a natural underground waterfall and an underground wine cellar, bourbon room and cocktail bar.

I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of fun and relaxing family vacations in the Midwest and it helped you plan a weekend way with the kids. Safe travel planning!

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collage of photos from the Midwest with overlay text: 12 fantastic family getaways in the Midwest

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