Whether you agree or disagree with the quarantine to stop the spread of the coronavirus, one thing that most of us can agree on: We’re tired of it!
Our kids are sick of it, our kids are sick of us, you’re tired of finding ways to entertain your kids, and your spouse just grunts anymore.
Well, let’s look at the bright side. Summer is finally here, which means we can finally get out of the house for fresh air! And in spite of or because of everything, we all deserve some time off this summer. And because we know many of you won’t be getting on an airplane anytime soon, we made this list of vacation destinations within an 8-hour drive.
So now, we encourage you to turn that cabin fever into the excitement of planning your summer family road trip….
Lockdown or Limitations in Other Places
Because of COVID-19, please, please double check restrictions or limitations at your destination We tried to be careful about the places we included here, but conditions are constantly changing.
Vacation Destinations within 8 Hours
1. Kankakee River/State Park, Illinois
If all you can manage is a quick weekend or even a day trip, the Kankakee River is a great getaway. While most people think of this area as mainly a camping sight or a place for fishing, Kankakee State Park has tons of activities, including:
- Hiking Trails
- Horseback Riding
- Bicycle Trails
- Metal Detecting
There are even things to do in the winter, such as snowmobile trails and skiing. For those who want a bit of pampering or don’t enjoy camping, you can even stay a few nights at some of the local hotels or Bed and Breakfasts, such as the Riverview Guest House.
You might not believe it but there are a few shopping malls nearby and a railroad museum that the kids are sure to love.
The Kankakee river area might not have enough things to keep you occupied for a week unless you love to camp beneath the stars and go fishing most of the day, but for short trips, this is a sure hit.
2. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
If you can get more than a long weekend of vacation time, you can’t miss the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Although it’s a 6-hour drive from DeKalb, this is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest.
Affectionately called “The Porkies” by locals, this area is breathtaking. Whether you plan on hiking up to the Lake of the Clouds or you are more interested in the interpretive copper mine trail, the porkies have more to do than you can shake a stick at.
There are multiple waterfalls you can easily hike to, including the Presque Isle River waterfall and don’t forget to check out the easily walked wood-plank Summit Peak trail, with an overlook of The Porkies.
There are more than 90 miles worth of hiking trails, a golf course, and, of course, camping.
For those who aren’t really into camping, check out the Lake Shore Cabins or the Porcupine Lodge. We can’t forget to tell you about the Ontonagon Lighthouse, which offers a climb up into the lantern room. From that room, you can not only see how a lighthouse works, but you have an incredibly unique view of Lake Superior.
3. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
You’ve probably heard of Elkhart Lake, but have you spent some time there? This is just a short drive into Wisconsin, and we would recommend this trip to anyone with a family.
There is the beautiful, deep-blue Elkhart lake itself for fishing, watersport rentals such as Hydro-bikes, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. There are also two golf courses, as well as the Farmers and Artisans market that is there every Saturday morning. (Again, double check that the market is operating this year!)
The lake usually offers a host of activities, including basic blacksmithing workshops and live music, but be aware that not every event will be available, depending on when you plan your trip.
Close to Elkhart Lake, you might want to check out the Two Fish Art Gallery, spend a day at the Aspira Day Spa, or check out the wine and cheese shops on Rhine Street.
No matter what you like to do, you will be able to find it at Elkhart Lake or in a nearby town.
4. Galena, Illinois
This interesting little jewel is only a 2-hour drive from DeKalb. From enjoying Mother Nature at Grant Park to skiing at the Chestnut Mountain Resort, you are sure to find fun things to do in and around Galena.
Some “fan favorites” include:
- Walking through the Galena Historical Site and Museum
- Visiting Grant Park
- Checking out Thunderbay Falls
- Driving up/Hiking around Horseshoe Mound
- Visiting the Old Blacksmith Shop
- Taking a Guided Tour of the Dowling House
- Taking a Hot Air Balloon Ride
And so much more!
5. Amish Country, Elkhart, Indiana
If you’re into Old World charm, you can’t beat Amish Country. For some plush living, you can stay at one of the many Bed and Breakfasts, including the Historical Pepin Mansion, the Seldom Scene Meadow B and B, or the Ivy House.
After a good night’s rest, you can make your itinerary and get headed out. Some of the things you might want to see during your stay would include:
- A visit to the Camel Farm (your kids can pet and feed a camel)
- Take the Heritage Trail Audio Tour and Scenic Drive
- Take the Amish Country FAM guided tour (There are several scheduled for August 2020)
- Visit Wellfield Botanic Gardens
- Visit the Amish Shopping Mall
- Go shopping at the Dutch Country Market
- See the Old Bag Factory (Built in 1886 and now selling Amish-made goods)
- Visit the historic Bonneyville Mill and Bonneyville Mill County Park
There is so much to do in Amish Country, we couldn’t list them all here. Honorable mentions for those who love landscaping and interior decor include the Quilt Garden and Linton’s Enchanted Garden.
6. Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley and Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio is probably another one of those places that you always planned on seeing but just never got around to it. This year might be the best time to do some serious hiking and sightseeing.
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions is Brandywine Falls. This is a beautiful hike through the Gorge Trail onto the Stanford Trail, but please observe the warning signs and do not attempt to climb the falls.
You can also choose to take your bicycle on many of the bike trails, go canoeing or kayaking, go fishing and enjoy your catch for lunch, take a horseback ride, and the ever-popular Canalway Questing. If you love Geocaching, you and the entire family are going to love questing in the forest.
For those who love to do a little something different, see if the park is offering their life skills classes from the 1800s and an ax-throwing class.
No visit to this park would be complete without taking the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Unfortunately, all trips have been canceled until October 1st, but if you are planning your vacay during that time, you will be in for a real treat.
This train ride takes a trip through the park, which would be between Independence and Akron, Ohio. There are specialty excursions, such as Dinner Trips, Wine Tasting Trips, even Murder Mystery Rides!
7. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island is one of the places everyone wishes they could go see, but not many get the chance. Lucky for us, this beautiful island is within a 1-drive of us.
A couple of unique things about Mackinac Island: There are no vehicles allowed on the island, so you have to get around on foot, bike or by horse-drawn wagon. The island also has no chain hotels, which means that every hotel is family owned and operated.
Just a few of the charming things the island has to offer you include:
- Visit Benjamin’s Blacksmith shop where smithies are working there every day.
- The Astor Salon and Day Spa at the Grand Hotel (circa 1887).
- The full restored Biddle House, which shows a glimpse of life in the 1820s.
- Ride your bike around the entire island (you can rent a bicycle built for two).
- Take a horse and buggy ride.
- Hike to Arch Rock and hear Native American lore about life’s beginnings.
- Rent a kayak and see the island from a different point of view.
- Tour the Grand Hotel, where the movie Somewhere in Time was filmed.
- Go golfing.
- Tour the governor’s summer home.
- Take your kids to see the Butterfly House.
You can’t go wrong with a trip to Mackinac Island. Forget about big city life for a few days and enjoy the complete lack of cars, along with true peace and quiet.
8. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Michigan
Here is a noticeably quiet piece of the world: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which offers a great variety of activities year-round!
During the spring and summer months, you can enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer, including camping, hiking, nighttime guided tours, swimming, kayaking, boating, and riding your bike on some of the prettiest trails around.
This is a terrific trip to take with your family because the park offers beaches, waterfalls, forests, and boat tours. There are a great many waterfalls you can enjoy from inside the park that are accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
There are day programs for the kids so mom and dad can enjoy some time alone. You might want to take one of the many lighthouse tours or visit the maritime sites on Lake Superior and search for a few shipwrecks.
If camping really isn’t your thing, stay at one of the many nearby hotels or Bed and Breakfasts, such as Pictured Rocks B and B, or SnowShoe Inn, which is right on the lake!
This is a trip your family is sure to remember, so take your time exploring all the exciting or relaxing things there are to do here.
Honorable Mention: Sleeping Bear Dunes
We had a difficult time choosing some locale’s and while Sleeping Bear Dunes didn’t make the cut, we simply couldn’t leave it out.
This is only a 2-hour drive from Mackinac Island. If you have a week or more of vacation time, you might want to fit both of those locations into your schedule.
The park has more than 64 miles of curving, beautifully clean and sandy shorelines that have dunes on the edges before they meet the forest. You can hike along various trails, take a canoe ride around the rivers, ride your bike on the trails, and, of course, camping, if that’s your thing.
Nearby you can visit the historic village of Glen Haven and see the iconic Glen Haven Canning company. There are museums there, active blacksmith shops and more.
If you get the chance, catch the ferry at Manitou Island Transit in Leland and explore the South Manitou Island. There’s a lighthouse, shipwrecks, giant cedarwood trees, and isolated beaches where more than one tourist has been caught skinny-dipping. There are no stores on the island, so pack a lunch, water, and snacks.
We hope that travels to one of these great destinations helps break up the monotony of so much time at home and gives everyone a fresh perspective as we head into the second half of summer.
Before you head out, however, be sure your family vehicle is up for the trip head. Call us at 815-756-7413 or book online to schedule your pre-trip vehicle check—and we always recommend scheduling at least a week in advance. See why you should have your vehicle checked and just how much work this entails in this article.