We Minnesotans know that although the first day of spring is March 20th, we should tread lightly with our expectations that winter-like weather is really over. There is something about this time of year that puts vacation on the brain. Maybe it is the impending spring break or the thought that we are inching ever-so-close to our beloved summer, but whatever the case, I’m ready to plan for some fun.
When it comes to planning a vacation for your family, I often joke that there is a big difference in a family trip vs. a family vacation. A family trip means you often come home more exhausted than when you left – have you ever experienced one of those?! So in an effort to cajole your planning efforts towards a family “vacation” instead of a “trip,” I asked some of my fellow mom friends for some of their tried and true family-friendly vacation destinations.
– Get a membership to the Minnesota Historical Society. It gives you access to all of the sites in Minnesota – 26 in total. Family favorites from this friend include Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River, and the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Your membership also provides access to sister sites outside of Minnesota.
– Canary Beach Resort in Villard is just south of the Alexandria lakes area. The beach is great for kids from building sandcastles to jumping in the lake and playing on the inflatable slide and trampoline. Horseshoes, shuffleboard, sand volleyball, fishing, paddle boats, campfires on the beach – activities galore for everyone in the family.
– Camp du Nord in Ely is a magical place in the north woods that combines hiking, nature and so much more for families. Summer camps for families involve planned activities and childcare in the mornings, so that the adults can “do their thing” too. Expect no cell or internet service – perfect for those needing to unplug.
– Clearwater Lodge on the Gunflint Trail is another northern destination that will supply plenty of beautiful views and a perfect retreat in the heart of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Families have the option to stay within the lodge or private cabins. This friend rented a cabin and her family had their own dock and canoe to use. The lodge will also set you up with a fishing boat if desired. Hiking and horseback riding are some other highlights. This lodge is a short drive from Grand Marais.
– Consider Cascade Vacation Rentals if you prefer to rent a home when visiting the North Shore. This friend recommends renting a private home ideally on Lake Superior with access to the shore. There are multiple opportunities for wildlife encounters – everything from deer to raccoons, skunks, fox and bears. Burn some energy by looking for and skipping rocks or hike at one of the various state parks in the area – Temperance River, Gooseberry Falls or Tettegouche. Put your thinking caps on and visit North Shore Commercial Museum or the Schroder Area Historical Society.
– Other local ideas include: Grandview Lodge in Brainerd, Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria and renting a cabin in Crosslake.
– What about a road trip to lovely Door County in Wisconsin? Just over 325 miles east, expansive shorelines, quaint shops and outdoors aplenty are ready to greet your family. One mom recommends staying at the Bridgeport Waterfront Resort and another suggests White Gull Inn. You could also try finding a house to rent. Plan to put Peninsula State Park on your itinerary for excellent sunset views, and make a stop at Sister Bay for live music. And who wants ice cream? Be sure to try Not Licked Yet and Wilson’s Ice Cream. Try dining at PC Junction restaurant where your food is delivered via train. Finally, this mom said that taking a ferry to Washington Island was definitely a highlight with a super cool rock beach.
-In my mind, there is nothing like the quintessential trip out west to the Black Hills in South Dakota, as they are amazingly kid and family-friendly. Plan bathroom breaks at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug. The Badlands are a definite must, and Custer State Park is worth the trip alone with lots of wildlife viewing, including persistent donkeys who stick their heads in your car to beg for treats. Word on the street is that Circle View Ranch is the place to stay. Check out Deadwood for a taste of the Old West.
– Other road trip destinations include: Chicago, The Wisconsin Dells, The Upper Penisula, Apostle Islands and Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Travel by Plane:
– A few moms recommend Cancun, Mexico as the warm destination of choice for it’s direct flight and reasonable prices. Consider checking out the Crown Paradise Club. Your hotel is complete with an awesome waterpark activity center that the kids can’t leave unless parent releases them. There is a mini movie theater and game room for the family. Plus the resort is all-inclusive with good food and fantastic entertainment shows every night! Another mom recommends The Westin in Cancun because of its location to the calm end of the strip and proximity to the airport. They have a kid’s club and lots of pools and amenities. You can take the bus anywhere very reasonably and have the option to sign up for a daily all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and happy hour for a small fee.
– Two mom friends recommend Sanibel in Florida for the beach and weather. The Marriott Resort at Sanibel is well-loved for its offerings of a little something for everyone with golf, spa and a kid-friendly pool. It’s best to rent a car so you can drive down the island to the end where the white sand beach is beautiful, especially at sunset. And depending on the time of year, you may even spot a dolphin.
– Other vacations by plane included: Pawley’s Island off the coast of South Carolina, Hilton Head, South Carolina for biking, beaches and swimming, and the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for hiking and fishing.
So, where is your next family vacation headed? Or what are your favorite tried and true destinations?