Where can we go on vacation that fits all or most of this criteria?
August 8, 2019 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Are we looking for a unicorn vacation destination? Hoping to find a place within 8 hours driving distance of Louisville, KY, near an airport, on a body of water/ocean where we can swim, with some AirBnBs that would let us stay 4-5 days instead of the requisite week or more. Michigan? Virginia? Where?

A group of friends (9 adults, 3 toddlers/preschoolers, 1 newborn) from all over the country want to spend 4-5 days together around the July 4, 2020 weekend at a vacation house. Most of us are flying from different coasts but one family will need to drive, so we've set our radius to an 8 hours max from their hometown of Louisville, KY.

The rest of us will be flying in and we'd rather not need to rent a car to drive to the house, especially since we'd be arriving at different times, so proximity to an airport is important. Ideally we would like a body of water to swim in that could also offset the July heat. If the lake/ocean element is too much to ask, we'd like to at least find a location that isn't insanely muggy or buggy, which probably nixes most places south of northern KY.

None of us are terribly familiar with the area radiating outwards from Louisville, so any advice from people with experience vacationing in these place would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Viola to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Grand Haven, Michigan is about 6 hours from Louisville and has a great beach and neat little downtown. The downside is that everyone will have to fly into Grand Rapids and rent a car. I don't know much about the AirBnB market, but it does get crazy in summer, so you should start looking now.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:34 PM on August 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

So I don’t know Louisville, but I know the Atlantic coast. The closest beaches in Virginia are 12 hours away, before July 4 traffic (which adds hours, especially if your route takes you north of the Virginia/NC state line). The Carolinas are actually much closer, but even the Charleston, SC area is over nine hours without traffic.

My best suggestion would be a lake near Asheville, NC. The elevation should help a little with the heat and bugs, although I’ve neither been there in July nor stayed on a lake, so take the suggestion with a grain of salt. Still, it’s a beautiful area less than six hours from Louisville with an airport, and I think you’ll find a variety of rentals there.
posted by musicinmybrain at 12:41 PM on August 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should be able to find something along Lake Michigan, especially if you're flexible with either the price or the number of bedrooms (a lot of lake places have a couple rooms that are just full of bunk beds). The not wanting to rent a car will be the tricky part (and the fact that it's a holiday weekend -- you should book something like, tomorrow).

A couple years ago we rented a place (for 3 nights, with a similarly sized group) on Coldwater Lake in Michigan, which was about 45 minutes from the Battle Creek Amtrak station, where we picked up some of our car-less friends.

IMO the best Lake Michigan beaches are between Benton Harbor and Saugatuck, about an hour from Grand Rapids. The towns are super charming and the beaches are lovely.

It's closer to 9 hours from Louisville but we've also found really nice places in Sturgeon Bay, which isn't too far from the Green Bay airport.

The area around Oconomowoc is not too far from the Milwaukee airport.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:42 PM on August 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

check out traverse city, michigan, and related areas. long drive tho.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:59 PM on August 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Michigan is great for this, except for the no-drive requirement. Maybe Marquette, but that's outside your eight-hour driving radius, I'm pretty sure.
posted by praemunire at 1:13 PM on August 8, 2019

Google Maps says it is 8.5 hours from Louisville to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

You're going to struggle to get anywhere waterside that's only a Lyft from a first- or second-tier airport. I mean, Eureka Springs does have an airport and it's likely feasible to connect from OKC, Nashville, Louisville, maybe Dallas. But timing could be a real pain and it could add a good bit of cost per person.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:44 PM on August 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

What about staying right in Kentucky?
posted by jquinby at 1:44 PM on August 8, 2019

Manistee, Michigan has a small airport you could fly into, and it looks like there are some Airbnbs in town. You'd need a car to get from one to the other, but you should be able to find an Uber or something. The town itself is small and walkable, right on the lake. Nice beaches, some cute stores, great ice cream. Google says it's a 7:50 drive from Louisville.

The airport is only serviced by a small airline that flies back and forth a couple of times a week to MDW, but it's an easy connection if you're flying Southwest.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2019

I think your best bet is going to be to pick a major airport city within an 8 hour radius of Louisville and find the closest lake resort community. I do not think there are any major airports in that radius that have beach vacation communities that are closer than ~1 hour, and once you start considering tacking on $100+ to every single ticket to fly into a regional or smaller airport (and still needing Ubers to get around thereafter) then you may just as well have rented a couple cars and consolidated your flight schedules to begin with. It also seems infeasible to plan a midwestern waterfront vacation for a group of 13 with only one vehicle.

My #1 suggestion would be to look at Fox Lake in Illinois and flying/driving into Chicago. It's about an hour from O'hare, and has a good base of vacation rentals. You can even conceivably access it by public transportation but that's partially on commuter rail lines and you have to keep in mind that commuter lines run into the city in the morning and out of the city at night and have limited service on the weekends. It's closer to Chicago than anyplace you're going to find significant numbers of large vacation rentals along Lake Michigan. Lake Geneva is in that same vein but a little bit further out (but worth considering).

Alternatively, look at either Toledo or Cleveland and finding the closest spot with the right kind of beach rentals. Again, you're looking at about an hour or more from the airport to get a real vacation community that's going to have rentals to accommodate 13 people.

Finally, you may find some places that only rent by the week during high season but the price may be in the same ballpark as a 5-day rental. So don't necessarily cross those off the list when you drill down to the specifics.
posted by drlith at 2:53 PM on August 8, 2019

Lake Geneva, WI
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:18 PM on August 8, 2019

Seconding Lake Geneva, WI, but also would mention Lake Cumberland in KY. You could rent a houseboat or two, or a lakeside cottage. The bug/mug quotient isn't appreciably lower in southern WI than KY and the 2 hour drive from Louisville would be (mostly) a pleasure.
posted by bullatony at 3:39 PM on August 8, 2019

Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia is about 7 hours driving, and others could fly in to nearby Roanoke.
posted by headnsouth at 4:36 PM on August 8, 2019

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland or Erie, PA. More specifically, Presque Isle PA which juts out from Erie. We spent weekends there every summer. Great lake (ha), great amusement park for the kids, feels super nostalgic summer vacation-y. Memail me if you want and I'll look up the places we stayed in Erie before.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2019

We just spent a week in Lake Ann, MI about 30 minutes west of Traverse City. we are from Lexington, KY and it was about a 10 hour drive. I highly recommend the area. I think you will find that a vehicle will be necessary. Maybe you all chip in and rent a 15 passenger van.
posted by tman99 at 5:20 PM on August 8, 2019

Sandusky, OH on Lake Erie is 5.5 hours away from Louisville. Cedar Point beach is lovely and Sandusky is a cute little town. Lots of kid-friendly activities.

Edit: Shoot, I forgot about your airport requirement, sorry. But maybe fly into Cleveland, OH and look for lakeside accommodations nearby?
posted by MiraK at 8:36 AM on August 9, 2019

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