Is there such a thing as a midwest US vacation?
August 12, 2006 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me with the impossible vacation. I am in southern Iowa and have four days to share a meaningful vacation with my husband and two of our children, ages 11 and 13.

Sadly enough the midwest doesn't have much to offer. Due to time constraints and finances, we're stuck here so I'm looking to make the most of what's within a 6 hour drive. Outside of the Ozarks, what are some cool places to see that aren't too far away?

I have crossed the Mississippi River on my way outta here for other vacation destinations but have never considered it a vacation spot. Are there any neat towns along either the Iowa or Illinois side that have kid friendly activities and motels?

I've daydreamed of a cabin on a lake or a trout stream but all of those I'm finding are too primitive. On Golden Pond was set in New England but there's surely something like that in the midwest too. The drawback to searching on fishing cabins is I have to have internet access.

Any ideas greatly appreciated.
posted by justlisa to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
Dubuque has reinvented itself as a family tourist destination, together with the old river towns in Northwest Illinois. Their main touristy web site is called America's River, which gives a good overview of what's available.
posted by bigmuffindaddy at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2006

Best answer: What about Omaha? It's a tremendously family-oriented city. The zoo is top-notch, with the largest aquarium between Chicago and San Francisco. You can walk through a tunnel while sharks swim above and around you. The zoo is also home to the world's largest indoor rainforest which is worth the price of admission itself. They also have a new desert dome and a creatures of the night exhibit which are both really amazing.

Also in Omaha - the Durham Western Heritage Museum is a neat look at the past in an old railroad station. The Old Market is a cool pedestrian area in an old warehouse district. If you are willing to drive a bit west of Omaha, Mahoney State Park is a wonderful family destination. You can rent a cabin and go hiking, fishing, paddleboating, etc. There's a dining lodge on site. Not far from Mahoney is the Strtegic Air Command museum with lots of old planes and spacecraft. There's also a drive-through wild animal park with bison nearby as well.

St. Louis might also fit the bill. Your kids would LOVE the City Museum ... it's really something to see. The arch is interesting (buy your tickets ahead of time if you can, otherwise there's often a wait of a couple of hours during the week and several hours on weekends). St. Louis is also home to the Museum of Transportation, The Missouri Botanical Gardens (currently featuring sculptures by Chihuly), a decent zoo, a wonderful art museum, etc.

You can't go wrong with either destination.
posted by Ostara at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2006

The Omaha zoo is pretty great. I also really like northeastern Iowa. Check out Decorah, Dubuque, Pike's Peak State Park and Effigy Mounds National Monument.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:57 PM on August 12, 2006

St. Louis is a great city if you're looking for urban vacation attractions. Wisconsin Dells is a bit more outdoorsy.
posted by scottreynen at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2006

Thousand Hills State Park in Kirksville Missouri might also fit the bill ... you can rent a cabin on the lake. They have boats available for fishing. There's a display of ancient petroglyphs and a network of hiking trails.
posted by Ostara at 1:14 PM on August 12, 2006

We happily trek from California to Wisconsin every year for our vacation, so I know there's such a thing.

You might enjoy heading to Mansfield, MO and visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. I haven't made it there yet, but it's supposed to be one of the nicest of the several Ingalls home sites/museums that are scattered throughout the Midwest, and there is plenty else to do in the general vicinity.

We took our kids to the Little House in the Big Woods site this year, so this came to mind right away, even though (and possibly because) you said "outside the Ozarks".
posted by padraigin at 1:26 PM on August 12, 2006

Springfield IL and the Lincoln stuff is surely of interest. We got to the Lincoln home late one day and were given a solo tour that was exceptional. The tomb is sombre and worth the visit as well.

I also think Hermann Missouri is worth a call-in.

Heath bars come from Robinson, Illinois.

I'll also sign on for Omaha - the Doorly zoo is a must-see, as everyone else has said.
posted by sagwalla at 2:15 PM on August 12, 2006

Trout streams you seek? Why not try beautiful South East Minnesota? The Root River system has some of the best trout fishing this side of the Rockies. Fun things for kids to do? How about Mystery Cave
or maybe The Spam Museum
Rochester is the major city in the area, but there is also Red Wing and Winona, and smaller towns like Lanesboro and Huston.
posted by fantastic at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2006

The Truman library in Independence, MO is pretty cool.
posted by equalpants at 5:55 PM on August 12, 2006

There are plenty of opportunities near Lake Okoboji, in NW Iowa.

Also, check out Door County, WI and the Dells in WI (which is closer to you).

Chicago is great; there are tons of museums there.

Springfield, IL has the Abe Lincoln museum, which is great for all ages.
posted by achmorrison at 5:09 AM on August 13, 2006

The Indiana Dunes, about an hour southeast of Chicago.
posted by xueexueg at 9:06 AM on August 13, 2006

Response by poster: We are in Omaha. Got here this afternoon and went to Bass Pro Shops. Gotta keep hubby happy right off the bat. Tomorrow will hit the zoo and go from there. Will post again when we're done tearing up the town. Thanks for the suggestions!
posted by justlisa at 6:59 PM on August 13, 2006

Cool, have fun! If you hit the Old Market (not far from the zoo) the Upstream Brewery is a good place to catch a bite to eat.
posted by Ostara at 8:31 PM on August 13, 2006

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