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HomeUK Travel7-day Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters - Wisconsin & Illinois

7-day Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters – Wisconsin & Illinois

Over 300 miles lengthy and touching three US states, Lake Michigan is the world’s largest lake set in a single nation – so it’s not stunning we spent most of our Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters reminding ourselves that this huge physique of water wasn’t the ocean.

View over Lake Michigan to Milwaukee in Wisconsin - one of the stops on my 7-day road trip around Lake Michigan with kids

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For those who drove the entire 1,100-mile route, you may do it in round 15 hours with out stopping however the place can be the enjoyable in that? As a result of it’s definitely not exhausting to spend every week (or longer) exploring alongside the Nice Lake’s shores – dubbed the ‘faux-cean’ by a good friend’s daughter.

Whereas there’s loads to tempt on the Michigan facet, we determined to go up via Wisconsin, beginning in Chicago, passing Wisconsin’s two greatest cities, then heading to fairly Door County on the peninsula between Inexperienced Bay and Lake Michigan. So if you happen to fancy a extra uncommon US highway journey with youngsters, right here’s methods to plan a 7-day highway journey round Lake Michigan.

For those who’re planning to rent a automobile to your Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters, one in every of my favorite websites is Zest Automobile Rental whereas Uncover Vehicles is one other nice comparability website for automobile rental

Day 1 and a couple of – Chicago

For those who’re flying internationally (or throughout the US), you’re prone to be touchdown in Chicago – and even when not, you shouldn’t miss a go to to the Windy Metropolis whilst you’re visiting Lake Michigan.

It’s just about on the southern tip of the lake, so it really works effectively if you happen to’re heading up both the west facet into Wisconsin (as we did) or the east facet into Michigan, after which doubling again, or if you happen to deliberate to finish the entire circuit of Lake Michigan.

View of the fountain in Millennium Park Chicago on a sunny day - the Windy City is the start and end point of my 7-day road trip around Lake Michigan with kids

Alternatively it can save you your Chicago time for the tip of the journey, or cut up the times to bookend your one week Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters.

There are such a lot of issues to do in Chicago with youngsters that you may simply spend your complete week within the metropolis exploring, however if you happen to solely do a couple of issues, take into account these.

Boat tour

There are few locations higher than the Chicago Riverwalk to walk and benefit from the sunshine. The 1.25 mile path has some nice views of the skyline, in addition to actions and loads of locations to seize some meals alongside the best way – it’s additionally totally paved and lined with public artwork.

View of Chicago's skyscrapers on a cloudy evening from the river, during an architecture boat tour - one of the fun things to do with kids on a road trip around Lake Michigan

Or head out onto the water itself with a river tour or some kayaking. This 90-minute structure cruise is family-friendly and you’ll depart from the Riverwalk, whereas there’s additionally a 45-minute structure cruise if you would like a shorter choice with youthful youngsters – effectively price doing, even if you happen to discover it pouring with rain, as we did.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium might now not be the most important aquarium on this planet, nevertheless it held that title for years and continues to be probably the most spectacular with 32,000 animals inside the aquarium partitions.

You received’t simply see fish, there are displays with birds, snakes, amphibians, together with sharks. The Amazon Rising Exhibit has glass home windows proper all the way down to the ground, so it’s simple for youthful youngsters to see what’s occurring, from electrical eels and frogs to small monkeys.

Brightly coloured reef fish and corals at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago - one of the great things to do during a road trip around Lake Michigan for families

Or drop by the Abbott Oceanarium exhibit to witness dolphins and beluga whales play, earlier than heading to the Wild Reef Exhibit under for beautiful corals, sharks and stingrays.

The Polar Play Zone is the right place for little ones to let off steam whereas taking part in gown up and faux (as penguins, after all)! Don’t overlook to go to the contact pool to see what starfish and stingrays really feel like too, plus you’re proper by the lake shore too.

Subject Museum

Dwelling to world well-known 40ft T-Rex skeleton Sue, the expertly curated collections on the Subject Museum are unmissable for anybody visiting Chicago with youngsters.

The grand entrance and steps at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago - one of the great places to visit in the city during a Lake Michigan road trip with kids

When you’ve stated good day to the 67 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus, essentially the most full T-Rex exhibit on this planet, you can too see the most important dinosaur that ever lived, Maximo the Titanosaur.

Then take a stroll to see the mummies and hieroglyphics of the Inside Historical Egypt exhibit, earlier than travelling to the 1800s to go to the Pawnee Earth Lodge, or one of many non permanent exhibitions.

Purchase skip-the-line tickets to the Subject Museum with free cancellation, together with the possibility to go for a one-hour VIP tour and ticketed exhibitions

Benefit from the views

Wherever you might be in Chicago, you’ll be surrounded by the town’s well-known skyscrapers, which sprung up after the nice hearth within the nineteenth century, and gave it its iconic skyline.

However in addition to seeing them from floor stage (and by boat), you possibly can head as much as the highest of a number of to benefit from the views from on excessive.

At 1,450 ft tall, the enduring Willis Tower – previously referred to as the Sears Tower – has unmatched views out throughout 4 completely different states and as much as 50 miles from its glass Skydeck observatory.

Much more thrilling, head to The Ledge to expertise the exhilarating feeling of standing on high-strength laminated clear glass that juts out 4.3 ft from the 103rd flooring, so you possibly can look straight down from 1,353 ft up within the air!

Or try tickets to 360 Chicago, previously the John Hancock Constructing Observatory, 1,000ft above Michigan Avenue the place you can too get tickets for Tilt – leaning in opposition to the glass because it slowly tilts away from the constructing so there appears to be nothing between you and the bottom – as you possibly can see from my images, the views are nonetheless fairly spectacular even if you happen to don’t fancy that.

Spot The Bean

No journey to Chicago is full with out a cease at Millennium Park. You’ll discover exhibitions and particular programmes of occasions in addition to the stunning gardens, plus the mesmerising Cloud Gate, higher referred to as The Bean.

It’s price figuring out that there are sometimes occasions on throughout the summer season months, particularly, so the park is just open to ticket-holders – verify the town’s calendar if you happen to actually wish to stand up near the Bean as we had been fenced out and needed to be content material with a long-distance peek.

View of the Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the Bean, in Chicago, partly concealed behind roofing for an event in Millennium Park - the city is the start and end point of my week itinerary for a road trip around Lake Michigan with kids

Have some deep dish pizza

Pizza is often a winner with youngsters anyway, however you shouldn’t miss a slice of Chicago’s well-known deep pan pizza pie whilst you’re within the metropolis.

You received’t be in need of locations to strive it, though Lou Malnati’s payments itself as Chicago’s finest – it might have been not like every other pizza I’ve had (and I’ve had rather a lot) however I devoured mine. It’s effectively price reserving forward (or get takeaway)… and positively arrive hungry!

That’s solely a style of a few of our favourites with loads extra issues to do in Chicago with youngsters, in addition to close to the town

Day 3 – Chicago-Milwaukee

Wisonsin’s greatest metropolis is just round 90 minutes from Chicago and whereas it won’t spring to thoughts as essentially the most family-friendly place to spend a while, there are some nice issues to do with youngsters.

Catch a ball sport

Head to the American Household Subject (previously Miller Park) to see a baseball sport. The Milwaukee Brewers are the most effective groups round this yr, however whether or not you’re an avid fan or a complete novice, there’s nothing fairly just like the environment, even when (like me!) you’ve by no means seen a single baseball sport earlier than.

View of the American Family Field in Milwaukee during a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game - one of the fun things to do during a family road trip around Lake Michigan

If you wish to go all out, you possibly can e book parking to go tailgating earlier than the sport, though if you happen to aren’t packing tenting chairs and cooking tools, it’s additionally simple to seize some meals inside too. And if there isn’t a sport on throughout your go to, you can too have a look round on a tour.

Go to a brewery

Milwaukee has numerous breweries, which implies numerous brewery excursions and whilst you won’t instantly suppose it’s an important thought with youngsters, various are family-friendly.

We headed to Lakefront Brewery with loads of households consuming within the bar as effectively. Whereas I wouldn’t take a toddler onto the tour, tweens and youths may discover out extra about what goes into brewing – evidently, they’ll’t strive the samples included with the tour (adults do want ID) though there are non-alcoholic options.

And there’s loads for grown-ups to strive, each right here and utilizing tokens within the bar. The Bumblebear, made with actual honey, acquired the thumbs up from me, though there’s all the pieces from darkish beer to IPAs to lagers to extra beers than I may identify, in addition to check batches. Or go to for the Friday barbeque, full with polka music (reservations important).

Brewing vats inside Lakeside Brewery in Milwaukee during a brewery tour - one of several things to do during a Lake Michigan road trip with teens

Try a museum

There are many nice museums in Milwaukee as effectively, from the Betty Brinn Youngsters’s Museum, nice for youthful youngsters, to the Milwaukee Public Museum for a style of historical past, from prehistoric instances to Outdated Milwaukee and on.

Or Discovery World is correct on the shores of Lake Michigan, with loads of likelihood for youths to get fingers on among the many science and know-how displays.

And for one thing a bit completely different? How in regards to the Harley Davidson Museum, based in Milwaukee – youthful ones will benefit from the creativeness station, whereas teenagers can admire the historical past and designing their very own customized creation. For one thing critically quirky, you may even head to the Nationwide Bobblehead Corridor of Fame & Museum.

Take a tour

With solely sooner or later in Milwaukee, there are some enjoyable excursions to introduce you to the town. This two-hour tour of Milwaukee mixes a strolling tour and a bus tour, so you possibly can see a few of the highlights shut up in addition to overlaying a bit extra floor than you’d handle on foot alone.

Or strive a Milwaukee meals tour, wandering round Downtown Milwaukee as you strive a string of Wisconsin specialities, brats and cheese curds to barbeque, and custard.

Buildings in Downtown Milwaukee on a sunny day - a walking tour to explore the city is a great option during a Wisconsin road trip with kids

Go to a water park

In case your youngsters love water parks, save a while to go simply exterior Milwaukee to Springs Water Park with an enormous 45,000 sq. ft to get pleasure from, from a chilled-out lazy river to extra thrilling rides, whirlpools and extra.

There’s an important splash zone for youths, with water cannons, a 600 gallon dump bucket and extra water play areas, in addition to a lily pad rope stroll in one other space. Set within the Ingleside Resort, it’s round 20 miles from Milwaukee itself, so a simple drive to suit into your Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters.

Get extra concepts of family-friendly issues to do in Milkwaukee right here as effectively, together with the zoo and methods to discover the lakefront

Day 4 – Milwaukee to Madison

Round an hour or so additional north is Wisconsin’s state capital, Madison, a college city that’s a beautiful place to walk round and discover.

Begin by trying out the state capitol constructing – the dome is the largest within the US by quantity. It’s open to the general public and there are free excursions, or head as much as the sixth flooring statement deck if you happen to’re visiting throughout summer season. It’s price figuring out that if you happen to go to on a Saturday, there’s additionally a preferred farmer’s market within the sq. across the capitol.

View to the state capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin - one of the cities to visit during a 7-day road trip around Lake Michigan with kids

Then stroll down vibrant State Road, which is filled with quirky unbiased retailers, plus loads of locations to eat and drink. Hold an eye fixed out for the fudge shops, in addition to all of the statues of Bucky Badger, the mascot of the College of Wisconsin-Madison workforce.

There’s additionally a sculpture of a badger with its cub, which is relatively extra true to life, proper all the way down to the claws and mini snarl, relatively than the cheery black and white striped ones!

We stopped for lunch at Dotty Dumplings Dowry, which – regardless of the identify – has some nice burgers. Get the cheese curds as effectively, an addictively good Wisconsin speciality.

Then head all the way down to the waterfront and the college Union constructing – anybody is welcome to wander inside. Decide up a cone at Babcock Corridor ice cream, then head out to the brightly colored chairs on the again by the lakeside. There’s additionally a German beer corridor if the climate isn’t so good.

When the solar’s shining, hire a kayak, paddleboard or canoe and discover Mendota or Monona Lake (Madison is one in every of solely two main US cities to be constructed on an isthmus, set between the 2 lakes), loosen up at BB Clarke park with its sandy seashore, or discover the paths at UW-Madison Arboretum.

If exploring the world received’t hold your youngsters entertained, there are many different household sights in Madison too – spot polar bears on the Henry Vilas Zoo or try the interactive displays at Madison Youngsters’s Museum.

Or with older youngsters, head out on a spooky Madison: Haunts and Terrors strolling tour to find ghostly happenings and ghoulish tales from throughout the town’s historical past.

On the lookout for ideas to your Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters? Try my recommendation on planning a highway journey with youngsters, my highway journey packing listing, highway journey actions for youths and the finest highway journey snacks for youths

Day 5 – Madison to Door County

Persevering with additional north, Door County is among the prettiest components of not simply Wisonsin however all of America – lakefront communities the place it’s all about native companies relatively than chains, a chilled-out lifestyle, and having fun with the countryside.

You may velocity up the freeway however you’d be lacking out, so take the highway to Manitowoc and Two Rivers, earlier than following the coast previous Alaska and Algoma in direction of Sturgeon Bay – cease to stretch your legs right here, seize some lunch at Sonny’s Pizza, and stroll down third Avenue for extra souvenirs, espresso and window buying.

For those who’ve acquired time, you may look in on the free Door County Historic Museum, the place youngsters can lock one another within the jail cell, in addition to discovering a bit extra in regards to the space. Or hike a part of the Sturgeon Bay part of the Ice Age Path, which begins right here and stretches for 1,200 miles – look out for the mammoth statue by Sonny’s.

Then cross from the lake shore over to the bay shore heading in direction of Egg Harbor, and proceed north via Fish Creek. For those who fancy a break, try the family-friendly Door County trolley excursions – there’s a 30-minute choice in Egg Harbor.

In the direction of the northern tip, Ephraim and Sister Bay are simply two of the prettiest locations to remain, with some nice locations to eat in Sister Bay – attempt to go to exterior peak season although, when the crowds descend.

Brightly coloured sign showing ice cream cones and the words 'Life is sweeter in Sister Bay' during a visit to Door County, part of our 7-day Lake Michigan road trip with kids

We stayed throughout late Might after Memorial Day weekend when the climate was beautiful and in every single place had opened up after the winter however peak season hadn’t fairly begun. From mid June, when the US faculties break up, till round October when the final leaf peepers have headed house, you possibly can count on to must share these little communities with numerous others.

And if you happen to suppose your youngsters could be bored away from the cities, there’s loads to do – in truth, like my daughter, you’ll be wishing you’d stayed longer.

Nowhere is simply too distant, so it’s simple to start out exploring after arriving from Madison, plus you’ll have time over the following two days, together with a go to to Washington Island (see under), earlier than heading again to Chicago.

Cave Level

As soon as, way back, this space of Wisconsin was deep beneath water on the equator – pushed north over thousands and thousands of years, as we speak you’re getting a take a look at historic seabed by the shores of Lake Michigan.

Worn away by the crashing of the waves, Cave Level is a incredible place to discover with youngsters – simply one in every of my daughter’s favourites – with jutting rock ledges, some beautiful viewpoints and trails main via the woods. You may even spot fossils within the rocks as you go.

It goes with out saying to watch out if the climate’s unhealthy or if in case you have youthful youngsters. For those who’re visiting with older youngsters, you possibly can kayak round Cave Level (this tour is open to all ages, however because it lasts 2 1/2 hours, I wouldn’t strive it with little ones personally).

Cease in at Bailey’s Harbor on the best way there or again – there are some nice locations to eat and a few cute retailers to choose up souvenirs

Eagle Tower, Peninsula State Park

Towering 60 ft above the Peninsula State Park, Eagle Tower is an effective way to take in the views out over Inexperienced Bay and in direction of fairly Ephraim.

There are 96 steps up, or an 850 foot accessible ramp with data boards dotted alongside: we selected to stroll up the steps and stroll down the ramp to get the very best of each worlds.

Peninsula Park has some simple trails to comply with via the woodland, together with a two-mile loop from the car parking zone by Eagle Tower, plus shorter trails, in addition to extra viewpoints dotted round too. You’ll want a allow to go to, however you will get day passes to the state park (at the moment $13 for the day for automobiles with out of state license plates).

If you wish to see Peninsula State Park from one other angle, head out on a kayaking tour from Ephraim, operating alongside Eagle Path to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse – appropriate for all ages, though once more, I’d counsel it with older youngsters as you’d kayaking via Inexperienced Bay to get there

Play mini golf

I’m undecided the place I’ve seen so many mini golf programs in such a small area – Sister Bay has a number of, Fish Creek has its personal, as does Ephraim. My daughter is a large fan, so we performed a pair throughout our keep.

Pirates Cove in Sister Bay was simply the very best – actually enjoyable, simply difficult sufficient with out being too irritating and loads of pirate theming throughout the 18 holes.

Pirates Cove adventure golf course in Sister Bay, Door County, Wisconsin - one of several fun mini golf courses to try during a Lake Michigan road trip with kids

The 18-hole Evergreen course at Fish Creek is wheelchair accessible, which is a good contact, and has spinners with additional challenges and obstacles each few holes, in addition to the potential for knocking a couple of factors off your rating.

Take a ship tour

Together with the kayak excursions, there are some nice boat journeys to discover Door County from the water. This 90-minute boat tour round Peninsula State Park consists of some historical past of the world, in addition to a bit on the geology of the Niagara escarpment (because it’s identified) plus some nice views. For a shorter choice, this hour-long cruise from Fish Creek takes you to the Strawberry Islands.

Or head out on a two-hour cruise from Sister Bay in direction of Plum Island Lighthouse and the notorious ‘Dying’s Door’ crossing, which supplies the county its identify.

Eat some cherries

You’ll drive previous countless cherry orchards as you discover Door County – go to in early Might and you’ll see them in blossom, or journey later within the yr and you’ll choose your personal.

Cherry trees in bloom in Door County, Wisconsin aligned in rows with a trail between them - whether you see the blossom or the ripe fruit on the trees, kids will love the cherries on a Wisconsin road trip

Everytime you go to, there are farm retailers galore to choose up all the pieces from cherry pie to cherry salsa.

Spot the rooftop goats

Hold an eye fixed out for the goats grazing on the roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay – the sloping roofs are grassed over, and if you happen to go to throughout daytime whereas the restaurant is open, you’ve acquired an excellent likelihood of recognizing a couple of of the herd nonchalantly munching away.

We cherished the Swedish pancakes on the menu inside too, though if you happen to handle to go away with out shopping for a fluffy memento goat to your youngsters, you’re doing higher than I did!

Go to a vineyard

Door County is on an identical latitude as northern Portugal, an space well-known for its wines. And whereas wine rising is rather a lot newer right here, there are a complete string of wineries to cease off and luxuriate in a couple of tastings if you happen to fancy.

Not a fan of wine? There’s additionally cider, beer and whisky brewed and distilled round right here too.

Day 6 – Washington Island

Certainly one of my favorite days out in Door County throughout our Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters was heading to its northernmost level, Washington Island.

It’s solely a brief drive from Ephraim and Sister Bay to the ferry from North Level over to the island, with some pretty views throughout the 30-minute journey (they pack the automobiles in tight, so hop out quick if it’s busy!). Or you will get the passenger ferry from Gills Rock.

View of the small ferry which runs between Washington Island and the mainland of Door County - one of the lovely places to visit on a 7-day Lake Michigan road trip with kids

There are bikes and golf buggies to rent on the island, or it’s simple to drive round if you happen to’re taking your automobile. There’s additionally the Washington Island Cherry Prepare Excursions, which has at the least three stops and guided commentary, lasting as much as two hours.

Don’t miss Schoolhouse Seashore with its completely clean curved stones – nice for skimming, constructing cairns or simply lobbing into the extremely clear turquoise water! Or take a wander alongside the quick Heritage Mountain climbing Path within the woods, which may be very child-friendly.

You’ll additionally cross a lavender farm as you discover the island, and you’ll have a look contained in the outdated Submit Workplace too, earlier than grabbing one thing to eat or drink – burgers and ice cream at Albatross Drive In, espresso and baked items at Crimson Cup, whereas throughout the island Jackson Harbor Soup has nice views and (as its identify suggests) nice soup!

Permit at the least half a day, together with loads of time for the ferry crossings, however you may additionally be capable to slot in some extra of the issues to do round Door County when you head again to the mainland.

For extra concepts of issues to do throughout a day on Washington Island with youngsters, try this submit

Day 7 – Door County

You probably have time earlier than setting off, benefit from it by visiting a couple of extra Door County sights from the Day 5 listing above.

Received extra time? As an alternative of heading south from Door County straight again to Chicago, take the highway north from Inexperienced Bay to cross over to Michigan and its forests and state parks. Go to Mackinac Island and take the bridge throughout the Straits of Mackinac to the east facet of Lake Michigan, the place you’ll discover Traverse Metropolis (additionally well-known for its cherries) and Grand Rapids, amongst different stops.

The drive again to Chicago airport takes round 4 hours, relying on visitors, so if in case you have an in a single day flight house, you possibly can nonetheless match one thing in earlier than hitting the freeway south or alongside your route.

Alternatively, you may plan your Chicago days on the finish of this highway journey round Lake Michigan, while you’re over the jetlag, so that you’re again within the metropolis within the run-up to your flight.

For one more highway journey from Chicago with youngsters, try my itinerary for a Midwest highway journey

Disclosure: This submit comprises affiliate hyperlinks – any purchases you make are unaffected however I could obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own, primarily based on our personal Lake Michigan highway journey with youngsters

Most important picture/Downtown Milwaukee/cherry timber courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravels


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