Though for most of us the weather holds no resemblance to spring, the calendar tells us that school spring breaks are just around the corner. With that in mind, I thought I would share with you all a few of the family- and finances-friendly spots my family has visited over the years.
I start by saying that my husband and I did not grow up traveling. Our parents, like many of that era, did not value travel the way people do today. They viewed trips across the country as purely luxury, and, indeed, they would have been. Neither the money nor the priority was there.
However, when Tim and I married, we agreed that we wanted to see and experience new things. We consider travel an opportunity to learn, for us and our children. While we will often pass up the latest gadgets and brand-name clothes, we rarely surrender our annual family vacations.
Our goals have typically been to see new areas of the United States each year, and to do a variety of activities during a vacation. Everyone is familiar with the fabulous amusement parks on both coasts, as well as the wondrous national parks scattered about. But, we’ve stumbled upon a few “backdoor spots” along the way that you may not be familiar with.
Seven travel treasures in the Midwest (or thereabouts):
1) The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin (http://mustardmuseum.com/the-mustard-museum/). The store’s owner has an interesting story, good humor abounds in the museum and store. Outside of your purchases (and, I’m sure there will be some), the museum is free. Educational, whimsical and tasty!
2) Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa (http://www.fodmoviesite.com/). This stop has movie trivia, a free guided tour, and an opportunity to play pitch-and-catch with the kids. Beautiful and utterly refreshing.
3) Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri (http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/). If you have a child who is a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a fascinating stop. Laura wrote her books from Rocky Ridge Farm. There is a small fee for children over 6 ($6) and adults ($10), but younger kids are free.
4) Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site in Petersburg, Illinois (http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com/tour.cfm). If you find yourself in Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln’s Presidential Library and Museum, make an additional stop at New Salem. It provides a great walk and a wonderful look back into Lincoln’s time and life. Donations are suggested.
5) Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas (http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/default.aspx). Though I am not a big science person, your kids will love the possibilities this park presents! There is a nominal fee, but lots to do!
6) Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens (previously Christus Gardens) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (http://www.christinthesmokies.com/). You’ll find inspirational art and a break in the commercialism during an ordinary trip. Tickets range from free to $12, depending on age.
7) Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky (http://kyhorsepark.com/). If you’re not a horse lover, you may not have heard of this travel destination, but, even if you aren’t, there is much to enjoy at KHP. Tickets for a family of four will cost about $50, but this includes the next day’s admission. It is the essence of Kentucky and worth the price.
I hope this sparks a bit of excitement as you look beyond our frozen “states” and toward a fun, sunny summer. I will have more in the coming weeks, and please let me know in the comments if I can offer any advice on any of the spots mentioned. I love giving advice!
Enjoy the weekend!