5 Socially-Distant Midwest Getaways


If getting away as a family is part of your 2021 plan (and seriously, who doesn’t need to getaway?), our friends at Chicago Parent are sharing some great socially-distant destinations that are just a car ride away.  Here are five that we are putting on our list (be sure to check out the Chicago Parent website for details on where to stay and where to eat while visiting these places below):


Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
What to see:

  • At Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, go on a zip lining adventure. Challenge yourself on the high ropes course with 16 suspended obstacles. Masks required for zip lining.
  • Take a hike at Big Foot State Beach Park or the pet-friendly Four Seasons Nature Preserve.
  • Believe in magic? Even if you don’t, the tricks performed by illusionist Tristan Crist Magic Theatre will make you a believer. Masks are required, limited capacity and empty seats are placed between groups.
  • Watch horses perform at The Dancing Horses Theatre. If time allows, see a bird show that features Echo the Singing Parrot from America’s Got Talent or go on a behind-the-scenes tour. Seats are spaced away from others.
  • Did you know you can go on a safari in Lake Geneva? Instead of a guided one tour aboard a wagon, Safari Lake Geneva now offers a drive-through experience with plenty of feeding opportunities. Opens May 1 with online reservations required.
  • During the winter, get your skiing and snowboarding on safely at The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva or check out the winter wonderland Ice Castles (masks required) with its breathtaking icicle displays.


Galena, IL
What to see:

  • Hike or bike the scenic trails at Casper Bluff that offers amazing views of the Mississippi River on over 85 acres atop Mississippi River bluffs. While here, spot Native American archaeology. For panoramic views of town, head to Horseshoe Mound Preserve. Kids will love the Children’s Adventure, five riddles that follow two twins and their adventures.
  • Enjoy the scenic beauty of Apple River Canyon State Park. Encompassing over 300 acres, the park offers hiking, fishing, kayaking and even waterfalls.
  • Go on a unique hike … with goats. For an experience like no other (with an incentive to get your steps in) trek it to Hoof It – Galena where you can hike with these fun little fellows for an hour. Goats are leashed at first, then once out on the trail, they are free to wander among us. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the goats and treats can be fed to the goats along the trail. Reservations and masks are required.
  • Take a stroll through charming Galena’s downtown with boutiques and eateries.
  • Skiers and boarders will want to hit up Chestnut Mountain with more than 25 rails and 19 runs perfect for all skill levels. During the warmer months, the Alpine Slide is open for fun. Masks and hand coverings are required.
  • Enjoy nature while exploring Galena Country by horse. Shenandoah Riding Center offers trail rides for all levels. They are reduced group sizes and staggered start times to reduce/eliminate waiting times for groups.


Saugatuck, MI
What to see:

  • Horseback riding is offered year-round at Wild West Ranch. In the winter, get on a sleigh ride.
  • Climb the 300 steps up Mount Baldhead and relish the views provided by Mother Nature.
  • Year round fun for the family is always available at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Choose from cross country skiing, hiking and dune riding. Check out Landshark’s for all your rental needs.
  • For fun in the sun you can’t beat Oval Beach. In the winter, there are ice volcanoes and ice balls that form.
  • Take an exhilarating ride on the dunes with Dune Rides. Small groups are permitted at a time. Timed entry via reservations.
  • Relax and cruise down the Kalamazoo River on the paddlewheel boat, Star of Saugatuck Cruise. Timed reservations and capacity limits.
  • For the coolest thing you’ll do on water, rent a donut boat with Retro Boat Rental.  Bring your favorite people, some tunes (they provide a Bluetooth speaker) and your swimsuits. You’ll want to stop by one of the beach areas and take a dip.


Hamilton County, IN
What to see:

  • Conner Prairie, a Smithsonian-affiliated outdoor history museum, lets you imagine life as it was back in the day. Plus, you can take a tethered hot balloon ride.
  • Get on the water and take a relaxing ride down the scenic White River with White River Canoe Company.
  • Explore Hamilton County via bike on the Monon Trail, a former train route turned into a paved pedestrian. It spans north to Westfield, Indiana and connects south to Indianapolis. An added plus? Plenty of coffee and ice cream shops along the way!
  • Choo choo! Get on the Nickel Plate Express and chug through the forest. Visit during the fall to see the beautiful changing colors of leaves.
  • Little ones will love visiting Noblesville for a stop at the 175-acre Strawtown Koteewi Park, home to trails for horseback riding, hiking, archery and more.
  • Take a stroll down Main Street in Carmel and search for the 17 life-life statues that dot the area. Love art? There are plenty of murals to find in Hamilton County.


St. Louis, MO
What to see:

  • With more than 13,000 creatures and six innovative galleries, the St. Louis Aquarium pays homage to the local region by focusing on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Masks are required for ages 9 and up. Advance tickets also required.
  • Hang out at the St. Louis Union Station. Instead of steaming locomotives, you’ll now find The St. Louis Wheel, a 200-foot high observation wheel. You’ll also find a carousel, mini golf, maze and ropes course. All rides are sanitized in between uses.
  • The City Museum is a must stop for families. Consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, the museum has no shortage of Instagram-worthy opps. Attendance is limited and masks are required for ages 9 and up.
  • Visit the iconic Gateway Arch with its new museum. To truly experience the Arch, head up to the top in a tram and take in the beautiful views. Explore the rest of the grounds including the historic Old Courthouse. Masks are required at Gateway Arch with limited attendance.
  • During the warmer months, stop at Kiener Plaza, the square in front of the Old Courthouse, featuring a fountain garden with a splash pad, a children’s play garden, and picnic tables.
  • The Saint Louis Zoo is not one to be missed … plus, it’s totally free! Watch sea lions frolic around as you walk, or take a walk on the wild side and spot some elephants. Face coverings are required for ages 9 and up. Reservations also required.
  • Surround yourself with the flowers at Missouri Botanical Garden. Take a stroll through the various gardens including a Chinese Garden, Woodland Garden, rose garden, and more. Stop and reflect at one of the largest Japanese gardens in North America. Advance tickets recommended.
  • With over 70 outdoor sculptures located on 105 acres, it’s easy to social distance at Laumeier Sculpture Park.
  • Enjoy a fusion of sculpture and landscape architecture at Citygarden.
  • Adventure seekers will be happy to learn there more than 1.5 miles of zip lines Adventure Valley. Their attractions include an 1,100-foot “super-zip” that travels 50 mph and rides in a six-seater dune buggies.
  • Take a guided tour with Big Moody Adventures down the Mississippi River. Choose from canoes (including their signature Quapaw Canoe company-designed and hand-built voyageur canoes), kayaks and paddle boards. COVID-19 guidelines include reduced group sizes, temperature checks and masks encouraged.


Want even more great ideas?  Visit Chicago Parent here.

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