Family Bucket List: Travel Midwest

Jan 29, 2019

While cold, snowy weather is not unusual for the upper Midwest, this week’s weather might be testing the patience of even the most devout fans of winter. At the very least, it might have you thinking about at least a brief getaway.

Whether traveling was a New Year’s resolution for you, or you have a longtime bucket list in your mind, contributor Andrea Khan, chief travel officer for The Family Backpack, has some suggestions for travel in our figurative backyard:

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - Bayfield, Wisconsin

Madeliene Island, Apostle Islands, WI
Credit Door County Mom / The Family Backpack

Why we Love it? Called the Jewels of Lake Superior, this landmark is made up of 21 islands, has lots of activities for families who enjoy the outdoors and water. The pristine beaches and crystal clear waters make this a great family getaway.

Best time of year to go? There are some interesting features that can only be seen in the winter, such as the ice caves, however, to really enjoy the park, it is best to visit when it’s warm enough to enjoy the water and beaches on the islands. Be sure to pack some bug spray, as the mosquitos can be fierce.

Best thing to do with kids: The National Park Service runs fully narrated tour boats that travel around the islands, stopping at specific islands so visitors can explore. The tour also takes visitors to the historic lighthouse.

Door County - Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Door County Sunset
Credit Door County Mom / The Family Backpack

Why we Love it? This scenic area is often referred to as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The islands that surround the peninsula of Lake Michigan are quite possibly some of the most beautiful parts of Door County. Visitors can take a ferry to some of these Islands, such as Rock Island. Be warned, no vehicles are allowed on this particular island, which accounts for its wild and untamed beauty.

Best time of year to go? Although summer is the prime season due to the warm weather, spring and fall are also quite lovely in Door County. Fall is a great time to check out the change in the autumn leaves which is very impressive. Cold weather doesn’t stop the fun in this part of the world: enjoy a free ice fishing weekend in January and the annual Fish Creek Winter Festival in early February. Wintertime offers families a lot of seasonal activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, as well.

Best thing to do with kids: The Farm is a living history museum in the heart of scenic Door County that the whole family will love. It offers families an opportunity to see what farming and rural life was like in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s. The farm is both educational and fun. Kids love baby animals and this farm has them in abundance. Children can bottle feed some of the baby animals and hand feed older animals as well. End your days in Door County by indulging in local ice cream at Door County Ice-cream Factory and catching a stunning sunset in Ellison Bay.

The City Museum - St. Louis, Missouri

The City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.
Credit Door County Mom / The Family Backpack

Why We Love it? St. Louis is a fabulous family destination and the City Museum – built entirely from St. Louis’s architectural and industrial castoffs, from the slide made out of assembly-line rollers to the rooftop 1940s-era Ferris wheel – should be on every imaginative and adventurous family’s bucket list! Children can climb, play and explore the structures by crawling through underground tunnels and climbing up to pathways in the ceiling.

Best time of year to go? Open year-round, although to really appreciate the outdoor exhibits, such as the Outdoor Play Garden and Nature Play, you want to visit during the warmer months (Late April – Early October).

Best thing to do with kids: Everything! The giant treehouse gives kids plenty of opportunities to immerse themselves in fiberglass leaves, old tree trunks, and tubes; there are aquarium tanks throughout the area, slides and climbing structures around every turn. Outside is a 7-story jungle gym called MonstroCity — all safely engineered for children’s exploration – though we’d stay close to young kids as some of the climbing and exploration can be scary.

Badlands National Park - Interior, South Dakota

Credit The Family Backpack

Why we Love it? To many visitors, the rough terrain with its landscape of rock spires and canyons looks like something from another planet, both beautiful and alien. The rustic beauty is truly something out of this world.

Best time of year to go? This park experiences severe weather in both the winter with extremely cold temperatures and heavy snowfall in the summer where the temperature can reach into the high 90’s and low 100’s. Spring and fall seem to have the most temperate weather.

Best thing to do with kids: Stop in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and head to the Fossil Preparation Lab where kids can see the fossil that a 10-year-old girl discovered in 2010 near the Visitor Center. From the second week in June through the third week in September watch paleontologists at work in the lab.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial - Keystone, South Dakota

Be sure to watch the short video about the constructing and history of Mt. Rushmore. It talks about why each of these presidents was chosen. A great history lesson for the whole family.
Credit The Family Backpack

Why we Love it? Mount Rushmore is without a doubt one of the most recognizable national monuments. The sheer size and artful beauty of the monument make it a wonder to behold.

Best time of year to go? Although the park gets quite crowded in the summertime, due to the severity of the winter weather, spring through fall is the best time to visit.

Best thing to do with kids: Viewing such a vast sculpture carved into the mountainside is sure to impress anyone, especially children who are learning American history. When night falls, the imposing sculpture is lit up for the Mount Rushmore Illumination, at which time guests are asked to stand for the singing of the national anthem.

You can find Andrea Khan's complete Family Bucket List for the Midwest here.