Take A Road Trip: Affordable Family Getaways
A getaway wouldn't be a getaway if it didn't transport you to a different environment, if it didn't get you away -- at least for a little bit -- from the life you know in Chicago (and from those awful traffic snarls on the Kennedy). Chicagoans can shoot themselves over to these five fabulous family destinations that include a farm, natural sandstone sculptures and a 1,300-year-old city.
Get Down On The FarmIf you're looking for the optimal agrarian getaway for your urban family, check out The Angelics Organics Learning Center and farm in Caledonia. Pitch a tent with your family on the 22-acre grounds and spend the night -- or five nights during the Angelic's Family Farm Camp -- seeing how every aspect of a farm works. Kids will get a chance to milk cows, gather food grown on the property for meals, care for livestock and make ice cream out of goat's milk.
Farm days, overnights and camps range from $20 to $350
1547 Rockton Road in Caledonia, IL
Approximate Drive time from downtown Chicago: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Climb Ancient MoundsFor history-loving families, the ancient city of Cahokia awaits. Your family can climb some of the Cahokia Mounds State Historic site's , including Monks Mound, the largest man-made earthen mound in North America. An interpretive center displays ceramics and tools once used by Cahokia's inhabitants, who occupied the city from 700 A.D. - 1400 A.D. and numbered as many as 20,000 people. Why they abandoned the site remains a mystery, but a visit to Cahokia, which has been designated a World Heritage Site, will illuminate a little bit more of America's story for your family.
Free (suggested donation of $2 for kids, $4 for adults and $10 for families).
30 Ramey Street in Collinsville, IL
Drive time: 5 hours
See The Shores Of SaugatuckSee what the other side of Lake Michigan looks like from Saugatuck. This quaint Michigan resort town rests on the shores of Kalamazoo Lake, which flows into Lake Michigan and invites your family to kayak or canoe in its waters. The area, with its dozens of art galleries and summer Chamber Music Festival, has turned into the Carmel-by-the-Sea of the Midwest. Culture for families includes the Village Puppeteers and the Red Barn Playhouse, which shows classic films and plays like Little Red Riding Hood: The Opera. And because Lake Michigan is just a five-minute drive west of Saugatuck, you'll catch sunset over the water, too.
Drive time: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Hike Among Sandstone FormationsSee natural sandstone sculptures formed 12,000 years ago at Giant City State Park in Downstate Illinois. Hike along the park's nature trail and hide in its natural shelter bluffs. Tucked in the Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park offers about 100 sites for overnight campers, as well as a lodge for families who prefer to stay in cabins. Families can also fish, rock climb, rappel, ride horses and of course, make s'mores together over a campfire.
Drive time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
Wander Down Main Street GalenaStroll down Galena's Main Street, whose stately brick buildings and sharp steeple rising in the background may make your family wonder if you accidentally drove to New England. Several stone buildings on Main Street date from the 1800s, including a blacksmith shop built in 1897. Meander onto Bouthillier Street to visit the federal-style brick home (complete with green shutters) of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th U.S. president and Civil War general. And don't miss the half-mile walk down the Pathway on the Levee to take in expansive views of the Galena River.
Drive time: 3 hours
What great Chicago-based road trips did we miss? Tell us about it in the comments section below.