12 Magical Midwest Vacation Spots for Families

The Midwest region of the United States has so many incredible vacation destinations that offer families of all age ranges the opportunity to have a great time.

From thrills and excitement at amusement parks to some of the top rated zoos and aquariums in the country and everything in between, there is something for everyone in the Midwest. 

In this guide, we have selected 12 of the best Midwest vacation spots for a family weekend getaway, or to include on a Midwest road trip itinerary. Each destination includes popular attractions and activities in the area, must-see landmarks and historical sites, and local food must-haves (can’t forget the food, am I right?).

If you are planning an upcoming family vacation and have no clue where you’d like to go, by the time you’re finished reading this guide, your heart will be set on the Midwest!

1. St Louis, Missouri

St. Louis is a great city for a family vacation stop, as there is so much to do and see that caters to every member of the family. From outdoor adventures to museums, a national park, and a number of casinos and breweries to see, your entire family will enjoy the visit. 

Looking for the perfect way to see the sights and explore St. Louis? Sign up for the Urban Adventure Scavenger Hunt. This adventure allows you to explore the city and discover some of the most famous landmarks and destinations throughout the city all from the ease and comfort of your smartphone.

Other popular activities include Adventure Valley Zipline Tours, Amp Up Action Park, Ballpark Village, and of course you can’t visit St. Louis without making a trip to see the famous Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River.

Where to stay: 

2. Branson, Missouri

Branson is a city in southwest Missouri and is known to be a fun family-friendly destination. There are so many exciting family-friendly attractions that your whole family will love! There are a variety of attractions, including theme parks, plenty of outdoor activities, and thrilling adventures to enjoy.

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Table Rock Lake

Some of the most popular attractions in the area include Silver Dollar City amusement park, Table Rock Lake, the Titanic Museum, the Track Family Fun Parks, and the Aquarium at the Boardwalk. If you’re looking for a great dinner option, a visit to Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction makes for an excellent family-friendly meal that offers dinner and a show. 

Where to stay: 

  • Best Western Center Pointe Inn (3215 West 76 Country Boulevard, Branson, MO 65616)
  • Holiday Inn Express Green Mtn Drive (2801 Green Mountain Drive, Branson, MO 65616)
  • Branson Log Cabin Rentals (2201 Roark Valley Rd, Branson, MO 65616)
  • Silver Dollar City Campground (5125 State Hwy 265, Branson, MO 65616)

3. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Dells is a city in the state of Wisconsin and is known as the waterpark capital of the world, so if your family is a fan of water based fun, this is the perfect place for you! The Dells has so much to accommodate every member of your family and makes for one of the best Midwest vacations.

There are a number of fun outdoor activities and attractions to enjoy in the area, including Noah’s Ark Waterpark, BigFoot Ropes Course, Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, the Timber Falls Adventure Park, Circus World, and for rainy days, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum

Where to stay: 

4. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

The Lake Geneva region is the perfect place in the Midwest for a family trip as it offers a variety of experiences including outdoor and nature specific activities as well as fun and entertainment to enjoy in the area as well. This allows for a versatile vacation spot with plenty to keep your entire family busy.

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Lake Geneva

When visiting the Lake, visitors can enjoy fun water activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, and more. Aside from the lake, there is no shortage of fun attractions to enjoy, including Crazy Coyote’s Cave Arcade, Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures, Safari Lake Geneva, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, the East Troy Railroad Museum, and the Geneva Lake Museum

Where to stay: 

5. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island is a historic site in the state of Michigan and is known as the “Jewel of the Great Lakes”. A visit to Mackinac Island offers a hint of paradise with a variety of fun, family-friendly activities to enjoy.

If you’re looking for the perfect Midwest weekend getaway, consider a trip to Mackinac Island, voted Best Island in the Continental U.S. by Travel + Leisure.

Whether it’s a hike along the trails, a leisurely bike ride, or a relaxing tour by horse-drawn carriages, you will be sure to have a good time. Other popular activities in the area include the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum, the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, the Maze of Mirrors, Fort Mackinac, and a ride on the Mackinac Island Ferry

The island is known for its world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge! Visit one of the many fudge shops downtown to see the whole process of making the fudge and, of course, get a chance to taste the flavors and grab some to take with you. 

Where to stay: 

  • Bay View Bed & Breakfast (100 Huron St., Mackinac Island, MI 49757)
  • Bogan Lane Inn (1420 Bogan Ln, Mackinac Island, MI 49757)
  • Grand Hotel (286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757)
  • Murray Hotel (7260 Main St, Mackinac Island, MI 49757)

6. Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is a city in Northern Michigan located along the coast of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. Because of its location, Traverse City has become a very popular destination for visiting and staying when travelers are looking to see the Great Lakes. It is known for its beautiful outdoor scenery and incredible wineries and is known as the “Cherry Capital of the World.”

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Traverse City

Among the woodlands of Michigan are a number of beautiful trails, rivers, and lakes to see in order to enjoy the nature around you. In addition to the nature that Michigan has to offer, there are also plenty of fun activities and attractions to enjoy.

Some of the most popular include the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Crystal Mountain, the Great Lakes Children’s Museum, The Den at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, and the COGNiTiON Science & Discovery Center. 

Where to Stay: 

7. Rapid City/Black Hills, South Dakota

Rapid City is known for its historical significance and landmarks, but the city has so much more to offer. Between downtown Rapid City, Custer State Park and the Black Hills Mountain Region, there are so many beautiful sights to see and activities to enjoy.

Some of the landmarks and monuments in Rapid City include Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the City of Presidents Walking Tour featuring bronze statues of the most famous Presidents of the United States. In addition to these landmarks, there are a number of can’t-miss attractions that you will want to see, including Big Thunder Gold Mine, Black Hills Caverns, Black Hills National Forest, the Dinosaur Museum, the National Presidential Wax Museum, and Rush Mountain Adventure Park

Where to stay: 

8. Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky is a small city in Northern Ohio located on the coast of Sandusky Bay. Sandusky has become known as the Best Coastal Small Town in America and is certainly an excellent family-friendly vacation destination.

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Cedar Point Amusement Park

One of the most notable attractions in Sandusky is the Cedar Point Amusement Park, where thrill seekers will enjoy rides like Top Thrill Dragster and Millennium Force.

In addition to Cedar Point, there are many other exciting attractions that your family will love, including the African Safari Wildlife Park, East Harbor State Park Beach, Jungle Junction, Kelleys Island State Park, and the Merry-Go-Round Museum. 

Because of Sandusky’s convenient location, it is just a short drive to nearby cities and areas that your family will love, such as Put-In-Bay and Port Clinton, Ohio. 

Where to Stay: 

9. Cincinnati, Ohio

Heading to Southwest Ohio, the city of Cincinnati has so much to offer for a family-friendly vacation stop. With some of the United States’ best parks, roller coasters and theme parks, food, zoos, and museums located within the city, your family is sure to have a great time.

Some of the most popular and recognizable attractions in Cincinnati include Kings Island Amusement Park, the Cincinnati Zoo (Voted second best zoo in the country), the National Underground Rail-road Freedom Center, the American Sign Museum, and seeing a baseball game at the Great American Ball Park. 

Cincinnati has several food stops that are unique to the area, and you will definitely want to check them out in order to get the full Cincinnati experience. These foods include Cincinnati-style chili at Skyline Chili, Pizza at Larosa’s Pizzeria, and ice cream from Graeters. 

Where to stay: 

  • Winton Woods Campground (651 Lakeview Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45231)
  • Great Wolf Lodge Water Park (2501 Great Wolf Dr, Mason, OH 45040)
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Blue Ash (4554 Lake Forest Dr, Blue Ash, OH 45242)
  • Quality Inn & Suites Cincinnati Sharonville (2463 E Sharon Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45241)

10. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest, and third largest in the United States, with many popular attractions that your family will love. The Windy City on lake Michigan has famous landmarks, fun attractions, shopping, and some of the best food in the country, making it the perfect Midwest vacation spot.

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Chicago, Illinois

Some can’t-miss attractions in Chicago include Millennium Park, the Navy Pier, a baseball game at Wrigley Field, Skydeck Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

If you’re a fan of shopping, you will definitely want to visit the Magnificent Mile, a stretch of shops featuring over 450 retails, dining establishments, and fun activities to do. 

Chicago is also famous for some excellent food options, including deep-dish Chicago-style pizza from places like Pizzanos and Giordanos, famous Chicago-style hotdogs at Portillo’s, and Italian beef sandwiches at Al’s Italian Beef. 

Where to stay: 

11. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is a city in the state of Minnesota known as “The City of Lakes,” which makes for a great family vacation destination. With interesting monuments and statement artwork, state parks, professional sports, and more, there is something for everyone in the Twin Cities, and you better believe that your family will have the best time!

Popular attractions and activities in the area include the Minneapolis world-class park system featuring 55 miles of biking trails and hiking trails, 22 lakes, and 12 gardens to enjoy for a day out in nature.

To add to that, for shopping there’s the farmers market of Minneapolis and Mall of America, where you can enjoy not only shopping but also a number of dining options, and a theme park within the mall known as Nickelodeon Universe.

You can catch a number of professional sporting events in Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Vikings for football, the Twins for baseball, and the Minnesota Timberwolves for basketball. 

If you are looking for good eats in Minneapolis, you are in for a treat. Minneapolis is known for what is called “Juicy Lucys,” traditionally juicy lucys are cheese-stuffed juicy burgers, but through time, there has been a number of fillings introduced in the center of these burgers.

There is a known rivalry between two local spots for who serves up the best Juicy Lucy. Check out Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club to see for yourself!

Where to stay: 

12. Indianapolis, Indiana

The city of Indianapolis is most well known for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the annual Indy 500 race, where the greatest drivers in racing come together and compete for the title of the best of the best, but that is not all the city has to offer. Indianapolis is a great family-friendly vacation stop with many attractions, activities, and experiences your family will love.

USA Midwest Vacation Spots for Families - Indianapolis

Popular attractions and things to do in Indianapolis include The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Fastimes Indoor Karting, Freedom Springs Aquatic Park, Go Ape Treetop Adventure, White River State Park, and the Indianapolis Zoo located in White River State Park. 

If you want to eat like an Indy local, there are a couple of stops you can’t miss. Indy is known for making the best fried pork tenderloin sandwiches. The locals say you will find the best sandwich at either Edwards Drive-In or the Aristocrat.

Another famous Indy food is the Sugar Cream Pie, a thick custard-like pie. It has been named as the unofficial pie of the state of Indiana. You can find an excellent Sugar Cream Pie at Provision on East 86th Street!

Where to stay: 

More Midwest Inspiration

If you’re ready to hit the road in the Midwest, you may also want to read next:

download your free road trip checklist click here button

© Family Road Trip

You might also like