Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Five Ideas For Close-To-Home Summer Vacations

I love to travel. If I don't get out of town every once in awhile, I start to get ants in my pants. Being a one income family and lacking a money tree in the backyard, most of the traveling we've done since becoming parents has been limited to the close to home variety. Luckily Michigan has quite a bit to offer, and so do Canada and Ohio. We've had some fantastic trips, all within a few hours drive from our home in southeast Michigan. The travel season is upon us, so here are five summer getaways I think every kid should experience.
  1. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada Niagara Falls is one of the largest and most well-known waterfalls in the world. It is a site to behold, especially when there are a few rainbows in view. I sort of have a thing for waterfalls, so this is just the kind of attraction I love. Besides the natural wonder of the falls, there are tons of touristy attractions and activities in the area. So if the kids tire of gazing at the thundering water and getting sprayed by its mist, you can choose from things like wax museums, Build-A-Bear, the Sky Wheel (giant heated ferris wheel overlooking the falls), and haunted houses. Yes it's kind of kitschy, but it's fun and you can walk just about everywhere. There are hotels and restaurants in all price ranges too. Travel time from metro Detroit: approximately 4-5 hours.
  2. Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio I've written about this place before because I love it. If you think Ohio is boring, think again! My kids would rather go here than Disney World, that's how much fun they had when we visited last year. There are several natural attractions in the region, such as waterfalls, gorges, and caves. The awesome thing about Hocking Hills is that it has been left so natural. You just park and start following a trail, and pretty soon, like within seconds, you won't believe the beauty before you. It's like walking into another world. This also means there are no restrooms (you will find them located near the parking - make sure everyone tries before you get started!), pop machines, or food vendors of any kind. Also no souveneir stands, safety guard rails or pretty much restrictions of any kind. And did I mention FREE? This place is absolutely incredible. There are cottages galore in the area; the ones for rent right on State Park property are nothing fancy but perfectly serviceable and very reasonably priced. Approximate drive time from Metro Detroit: 4-5 hours.
  3. Mackinac Island, Michigan This island located in northern Michigan is famous the world over. People come from all over to leave their cars behind and ride a ferry boat from Mackinaw City (or St. Ignace in Michigan's Upper Peninsula) to Mackinac Island. That's right, there are absolutely no cars allowed on the island, with the exception of a few emergency vehicles. Bicycle, horse and carriage, or your own two feet are the preferred methods of transportation. The main street is bustling with restaurants, fudge shops, and gift stores galore. You can explore the island on your own, most of which is state park property, or take a guided tour. Your can check out Fort Mackinac or the many natural attractions on the island. Don't forget to snap a few pictures of the Mackinac Bridge on your way to or from the mainland. At five miles long, (and the3rd largest suspension bridge in the world), the bridge connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Travel time from Metro Detroit area: approximately 4-5 hours.
  4. Michigan's Upper Peninsula Crossing over the Mackinac Bridge, high above the Straits of Mackinac (where two of the Great Lakes - Lake Huron and Lake Michigan - meet), into the Upper Peninsula is like entering a completely different world world, one with lots of forests and lakes and hills and waterfalls. There are touristy places to be sure, but the U.P. definitely has the feeling of undeveloped, quiet remoteness. The air is fresher. Life slows down. I have great childhood memories of Upper Peninsula vacations, and my hope is to provide my children with the same kinds of experiences I enjoyed. Things like going fishing,visiting the Soo Locks, walking along the shores of Lake Superior, exploring the water front college town of Marquette, pulling a raft across Big Springs, and seeing Tahquamenon Falls. Travel time from Metro Detroit to St. Ignace, the first city on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge: approximately 4-5 hours. 
  5. The Shores of Lake Michigan The best beaches in Michigan can be found along the shores of Lake Michigan, on the Western side of the state. The sand is soft and the water is good for swimming or boogie boarding. Huge sand dunes can be found here and there along the coast, just waiting to be climbed. There are beach towns, like Saugatuck, an artsy community with unique sculptures decorating its quaint streets, and Harbor Springs with its upper crust shops and antique vendors. Or you can just drive along the shoreline and stop off at any beach you happen to pass...just literally park on the side of the road and walk on down to the beach. Travel time from Metro Detroit area: approximately 3 hours to Saugatuck, in southwest Michigan, approximately 5 hours to Harbor Springs in northwest Michigan, or anything in between.
Niagara Falls
Hocking Hills State Park
Mackinac Island carriage ride
Mackinac Bridge at dusk
Random Lake Michigan beach

I'd love to hear what your favorite close-to-home travel destinations are, and what you love about them!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a chance at receiving a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
(I took a little too long to write this, and SocalMoms has already received the maximum number of blog posts. However, they are still reviewing them and anyone is still welcome to submit a post.)


Unknown said...

Hi! your kids are sure cute. I had some friends that lived in Michigan for a while until they moved back to Nebraska. They loved it. I love the picture of Hocking Park - it's beautiful.

Come visit Nebraska through my post at: http://familyliteracyandyou.blogspot.com/2011/05/5-summer-getaways-every-kid-should.html if you'd like to read it =D

BTW - I'm following you too. Tina "The Book Lady"

alyaia75 said...

Thanks for stopping by Tina! I'll be sure to check out your post!