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Looking for a list of our favorite Midwest family vacations that offer plenty of fun for the whole family?
Having been born and raised, and now currently raising our 3 kids in the Midwest USA, our family has had the chance to experience all of the best Midwest family vacations!
A region that often goes unnoticed, the Midwest is home to a variety of amazing things to do including fun metropolitan cities, unique outdoor adventures, the nation’s largest shopping mall, and the waterpark capital of the world!
In this post, I cover the 15 best midwest family vacations including destination information, popular attractions, outdoor activities, and must-see landmarks.
It’s time to plan the ultimate midwest family vacation of your dreams!
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15 Best Midwest Family Vacations
Explore these 15 incredible midwest cities and their various draws including incredible theme parks, interactive museums, and bucket-list-worthy natural wonders.
1. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is one of the best places to visit in the midwest for its awesome family-friendly theme parks, fun dining opportunities, and odes to music and culture.
Family-friendly activities in Kansas City:
- Ride the slides, enjoy a hot tub, or swim in the many indoor pools at Great Wolf Lodge.
- Visit a museum like the American Jazz Museum, the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, or the Museum at Prairiefire.
- Enjoy interactive fun at LEGOLAND.
- Get up close and personal with marine life at SEA LIFE.
- Tour the exhibits at Union Station.
- Shop, dine, ice skate, or see a movie at Crown Center.
- Travel back to the 1860s at Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm
2. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is a tourist’s dream as it has a magnificent, walkable downtown area filled with gorgeous parks and sculptures, impressive museums, famous Chicago foods, and beautiful lakeside views.
Perfectly blending the hustle and bustle of city life with a degree of friendliness that you’d expect from a small town, the Windy City is a must-visit metropolitan wonder.
Family-friendly activities in Chicago:
- Splash in the Crown Fountain and photograph The Bean at Millenium Park.
- Enjoy the many attractions at the world-famous Navy Pier.
- Visit an interactive museum like the Art Institute of Chicago, Bronzeville Children’s Museum, or Chicago Sports Museum.
- Explore underwater exhibits at Shedd Aquarium.
- Kayak through Chicago’s waterways.
- Experience its gigantic urban green space and play in Maggie Daley Park.
We’ve been to Chicago so many times with our kids that we’ve developed, what we think, is the perfect 3-day Chicago itinerary for families.
3. Rapid City, South Dakota
Often referred to as “The Black Hills”, Rapid City, South Dakota makes one of the best midwest family vacations for its classic historical sites and stunning natural beauty.
Family-friendly activities in Rapid City:
- Admire the Grizzlies at Bear Country USA.
- Explore Badlands National Park.
- Go hiking in Custer State Park and drive the thrilling Needles Highway.
- Visit an outdoor adventure park like Rushmore Tramway Adventures.
- Travel to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
- Take an old-fashioned train ride with Black Hills Central Railroad.
4. St Louis, Missouri
No matter the time of year you visit St Louis, you’re guaranteed to have a great time!
With plenty of museums, botanical gardens, and zoos, there are dozens of opportunities for a whole lot of family fun.
Family-friendly activities in St Louis:
- Have a photo-op (or ride to the top!) of the Gateway Arch.
- Get active at the interactive City Museum.
- Tour the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
- Enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour at the Saint Louis Zoo.
- Unwind at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
- Feed the baby goats at Grant’s Farm.
- See the world-class collections at the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Additional planning tip: For a budget-friendly attraction, visit Forest Park for free entry to an art museum and zoo!
They also have golfing holes and hiking trails on site.
5. Branson, Missouri
Plan a trip to Branson for plenty of outdoor activities, including sailing, fishing, hiking, and sightseeing.
In Branson, there’s also tons of amusement park fun for all ages!
Family-friendly activities in Branson:
- Enjoy thrill rides, musical shows, and more at the Silver Dollar City amusement park.
- Go-kart at The Track Family Fun Park.
- Experience outdoor activities, including biking, hiking, swimming, and more, at Table Rock State Park.
- Learn fascinating and wacky facts at Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
- See incredible artifacts at the Titanic Museum.
- Watch a free light show at the Branson Landing Fountain Show.
- Go ziplining at Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park.
6. Duluth, Minnesota
Situated in Northern Minnesota, Duluth sits on the north shore of Lake Superior, which is the largest of the 4 Great Lakes of North America.
This active port city provides loads of activities including beautiful views, boating, fishing, and strolls along the boardwalk.
Also, along with having a nautical and vibrant atmosphere, there are many free things to do in Duluth, MN which makes vacationing here very affordable.
For this reason and so many more, Duluth is an ideal destination for families and when traveling on a budget.
We love visiting Duluth so much that we’ve written several other articles to help you plan your visit!
- Our Complete 3-Day Duluth, MN Itinerary
- 27 Awesome Duluth Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss!
- 9 Best Restaurants in Canal Park, Duluth, MN
- 15 Best Breweries in Duluth, MN
- Glensheen Mansion Tours: 5 Tips for A Fantastic Visit!
Finally, Duluth, MN is the starting point for the breathtaking North Shore Scenic Drive, which is the most epic and scenic drive in the entire Midwest USA.
This alone is a fantastic reason to explore planning a Midwest family vacation to Duluth, MN!
7. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Nicknamed the “Waterpark Capital of the World”, 4+ million visitors from around the world flock to the city of Wisconsin Dells to experience its famous indoor and outdoor water parks.
For many of us from the Midwest, Wisconsin Dells tops the list of our U.S. bucket list as it is perfect for visiting with kids of all ages!
Along with massive waterpark resorts, this popular family vacation destination in Southern Wisconsin is saturated with amusement parks, restaurants, and other epic entertainment venues that offer guaranteed year-round fun.
Family-friendly activities in Wisconsin Dells:
- Stay and play at one of the many GIGANTIC waterpark hotels located in the Dells.
- Play with science in the interactive exhibits at Tommy Bartlett Exploratory.
- Visit the largest waterpark in the country – Noah’s Ark!
- Go horseback riding through a western ghost town with Canyon Creek Riding Stables.
- Enjoy thrill rides, bowling, movies, arcade games, trampolines, and more at Knuckleheads.
- Tour the Witches Gulch with Dells Boat Tours.
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Lost Canyon.
Thinking of planning a trip to Wisconsin Dells?
Check out my article on the most exciting Wisconsin Dells indoor activities for families.
All of these indoor attractions are perfect for enjoying on a rainy day, during cold weather, and when you need a break from the outdoor fun and sun that the Dells are most commonly known for.
8. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Known as the “City of Lakes,” Minneapolis is a huge metropolitan city in Minnesota that is home to 13 freshwater lakes!
Minneapolis also has an exciting professional sports and music scene, a huge natural waterfall, and easy access to the world-famous shopping mall, Mall of America!
Family-friendly activities in Minneapolis:
- Bike across the Mississippi River on Stone Arch Bridge.
- Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art (free admission!).
- Wonder at the waterfalls in Minnehaha Park.
- Experience local art at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
- Enjoy hands-on exhibits at the Mill City Museum.
- Canoe, Kayak, Sail, or swim in the Chain of Lakes.
As one of the best Midwest family vacations, you absolutely have to explore nearby Bloomington, MN when visiting Minneapolis.
A short 10 miles from Minneapolis, there are so many fun things to do in Bloomington including the dozens of attractions at Mall of America, and Nickelodeon Universe (the largest indoor theme park in the United States!).
This is a Midwest family vacation destination like no other!
9. Fargo, North Dakota
As one of our favorite Midwest family vacations, consider visiting Fargo – the largest city in North Dakota!
Fargo is a great place to attend a sporting event or concert, as well as explore for a few days before heading 5 hours West to Theodore Roosevelt National park.
Family-friendly activities in Fargo:
- Feed the animals at Red River Zoo.
- Enjoy live music and local charm at the Red River Market.
- See a baseball game at Newman Outdoor Field.
- Watch a movie in the vintage Fargo Theatre.
- Rent some bikes at Lindenwood Park.
- Visit marvelous aircraft at the Fargo Air Museum.
- Road trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
10. Indianapolis, Indiana
The title of the largest city in the midwest goes to none other than Indianapolis, Indiana.
At this stop, you’ll find museums, zoos, plenty of bike paths, and amazing sports facilities.
Family-friendly activities in Indianapolis:
- Visit the Children’s Museum for educational play.
- View incredible animals at the Indianapolis Zoo.
- Grab an ice cream sundae at the Dairy Bar in Traders Point Creamery.
- Experience 19th-century life at Conner Prairie.
- Watch a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Walk the trails at Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab.
- Have bouncy fun at Sky Zone Trampoline Park.
11. Traverse City, Michigan
Known as the “cherry capital of the world,” Traverse City is known for more than its fresh fruit!
It also holds incredible natural beauty with freshwater beaches, hiking trails, and scenic lookouts.
Family-friendly activities in Traverse City:
- Visit the Mission Point Lighthouse.
- Go shopping on Front Street.
- Take advantage of the many biking and hiking trails.
- Relax on the beach at Clinch Park.
- Drive down the Lake Michigan shoreline.
- Go boating on Spider Lake.
- Eat cherries from Gallagher’s Farm Market.
12. Mackinac Island, Michigan
For a rich history and a whole lot of Victorian charm, visit Mackinac Island.
Here, you can experience its historic fort, stunning nature trails, and views of Lake Michigan’s coast.
Family-friendly activities in Mackinac Island:
- Watch historical reenactments at Fort Mackinac.
- Take photos by Arch Rock.
- Enjoy a hike through Mackinac Island State Park.
- Visit the Butterfly House & Insect World.
- Enjoy a tour of the island – by horse-drawn carriages!
- Rent bikes from Island House Bike Shop.
- Forge a souvenir at Forge a Memory.
Additional planning tip: Mackinac Island is 100% car-free meaning that there are no cars on the island. It’s famous for horse-drawn carriage rides and bicycle riding, as well as for fudge, caramel corn, and saltwater taffy.
Lastly, it’s famous for the Grand Hotel.
13. Door County, Wisconsin
With 5 state parks and nearly 300 miles of shoreline, family-friendly outdoor activities in Door County are in no short supply!
Door County is also home to inspiring galleries and performance art shows.
Family-friendly activities in Door County:
- Enjoy mini-golf and go-karting at Egg Harbor Fun Park.
- Make clay pottery at Hands On Studio.
- Go gem mining with Gravity Trails.
- Sample fresh produce at Orchard Country Market.
- Explore underwater caves at Cave Point County Park.
- Camp in Peninsula State Park.
- Go parasailing with Wisconsin Water Wings.
14. Des Moines, Iowa
If you visit Des Moines, you’ll be greeted by picturesque botanical gardens, fascinating sculpture parks, and plenty of family-friendly attractions.
Des Moines is also home to a striking state capitol building, more than 800 miles of biking trails, nearly 20 breweries, and one of the country’s best farmers’ markets.
Family-friendly activities in Des Moines:
- Spend a fun-filled day at Adventureland.
- Ride down the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad.
- Pick up local fares at the Downtown Farmers’ Market.
- Visit incredible animals at the Blank Park Zoo.
- Take silly photos at Selfie WRLD.
- Learn about the history of Iowa with interactive exhibits at Living History Farms.
- Enjoy seasonal attractions at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park.
15. Omaha, Nebraska
As the largest city in Nebraska, there are dozens of family-friendly things to do in Omaha that make it one of the best Midwest family vacation spots!
Located on the Missouri River, tourist attractions in Omaha include history, sports, outdoors, and cultural experiences.
Family-friendly activities in Omaha:
- Visit the amazing Omaha Zoo.
- Walk the cobblestone streets of Old Market.
- Head to Durham Museum, Omaha’s old Union Station home.
- Explore the Omaha Children’s Museum.
- Attend the College World Series held every year in June.
- Visit the free Joslyn Art Museum
Conclusion: Best Midwest Family Vacations
That covers the best midwest family vacations for you to add to your travel list!
Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or touring the Midwest, you won’t want to miss these stops.
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to help with your travel planning. Find exclusive travel discounts, and book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*