Midwest Spring Break Daycation Ideas for Families

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio: Midwest daycation ideas

For my family, spring break is the perfect time to relax and take a break from the yearly school madness. Heck, Mr. Locke works for a public school so it goes for him as well. And, most spring breaks entail us simply hanging out around the house or taking day trips so we can get back home at the end of the day. So, I hit up my travel-writing friends for the scoop on their fave Midwestern day trips spots and got some amazing places to venture to. Whether you’re on a super tight budget this year or are saving for a larger vacation to come, here’s fun Midwest Spring Break Daycation ideas in no particular order to make the most of your holiday.

Columbus, Ohio: daycation ideas in the Midwest
Downtown Columbus, Ohio.
  1. Columbus, OH
  2. Wooster, OH
  3. Cleveland, OH
  4. Indianapolis, IN
  5. Danville, IN
  6. Ann Arbor, MI
  7. Frankenmuth, MI
  8. Rockford, IL
  9. Fort Wayne, IN
  10. Marietta, OH
  11. Sandusky, OH
  12. Columbus, IN
  13. Detroit, MI
  14. Kansas City, MO
  15. Canton, OH
  16. Chicago, IL
  17. Dubuque, IA
  18. Omaha, NE
  19. Cincinnati, OH
Indoor Columbus, Ohio activities Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art. Photo Credit: Steven Locke

1. Columbus, OH

As a gal that lives in Ohio, a day trip to Columbus, OH, is a no-brainer for my family. Situated in the heart of the state, Columbus is filled with plenty of family-friendly activities. Having written that, depending on the week you’ll encounter moderate temperatures or snow! So, my best tip is to stick to indoor hot spots just in case. If your family loves science centers, COSI is a must. Love art museums? The Columbus Museum of Art is so fun and has an entire wing dedicated to teaching children about art and encouraging them to make their own. On Sundays, admission is free!

If your kiddo wants to become a firefighter when they grow up, a visit to the Central Ohio Fire Museum will only encourage it more. And if the weather is on the chilly side, head to the lush, tropical gardens of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. There’s outdoor gardens and play spaces for the kiddos to get some exercise, too.

Want the scoop on spending a weekend in Columbus with kids? Karen from Family Travels on a Budget has budget-friendly options.

Downtown Wooster, Ohio: Midwest daycation ideas.
Downtown Wooster, Ohio. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

2. Wooster, OH

If Wooster, OH, isn’t on your radar, it should be. I had the pleasure of visiting last year and found the quaint city filled with fun history, amazing restaurants, and mom and pop shops worthy of browsing – and buying.

Ohio Light Opera brings in traveling shows June-August (I know, that’s not spring break dates but, if you’re in the area…) and the plays and musicals offer an intimate setting. If it’s outdoorsy fun you want, Seacrest Arboretum is the place to visit for leisurely walks and beautiful spots for photos.

And then there’s the food. Take the kids to Tulipán Hungarian Pastry & Coffee Shop for authentic Hungarian deliciousness. The Faithful Little Cupcake not only has creative flavors to entice your sweet tooth, it donates birthday cakes to children that may not receive one. For fun takes on Asian cuisine, head to Basil Asian Bistro for some of the best Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten.

Downtown Cleveland, Ohio: Midwest daycation ideas
Downtown Cleveland, Ohio

3. Cleveland, OH

One of my favorite cities in Ohio, its location on Lake Erie makes for an ideal day trip no matter what your visiting style. Cleveland is filled with plenty of family-friendly things to do including museums, restaurants, and of course, the love of rock and roll.

There’s no way to write a post about Cleveland, OH, without including what’s along the lake. If you’re into all things science, make a beeline for the Great Lakes Science Center. Love aquariums? Then it’s the Greater Cleveland Aquarium you’ll need to visit.

If you’re all about adding in art and history to your daycation, Cleveland Museum of Art is a must do – and it’s free! The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is also a family hot spot where kids can stargaze and learn about the earth.

And if you happen to visit the city on a chilly day, two indoor glasshouses at Cleveland Botanical Garden will stave off the cold.

As for foodie finds, there’s plenty including Noodle Cat for its famous steamed buns, Forage Public House where you won’t see a chicken finger in sight – but will see Scottish Salmon and Amish Chicken Breast.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: Midwest daycation ideas.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

4. Indianapolis, IN

Indiana’s capital city is overflowing with family fun. And, while we’re happy to visit any time of year, a visit in spring will let you take in its fresh air with outdoor hot spots and indoor learning fun.

When it comes to museums, Indy’s got plenty! There’s no way to even make a list without mentioning The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In addition to traveling exhibits and hands-on activities, mid-March will bring a massive addition, Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience. Head to White River State Park for the Eiteljorg Museum where kids can learn all about American Indians and Western Art. If it’s the history of Indiana you want, it’s the history of Indiana you’ll get at the Indiana State Museum. And, the NCAA Hall of Champions gives kids insight into what makes sports legends while its hand-on activities will keep them entertained.

Love zoos? One of our faves is the Indianapolis Zoo. Open daily, its Dolphin Show is always at the top of our list.

Let’s talk food for a second. Truly, I’ve never met an Indy restaurant that I didn’t like. If you’ve ever visited Pittsburgh, PA, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Primanti Bros.  – there’s one right in the heart of Indianapolis, too. Want a blast from the past? Rocket Fizz in Monument Circle has plenty of old-school candy and soda. The Old Spaghetti Factory is fun for an Italian option – and kid’s can eat inside a railroad car!

Lindsay from Let Me Give You Some Advice has more ways to enjoy Downtown Indianapolis with Kids

Midwest Daycation ideas in Danville, Indiana
A classic car show at Danville Court House. Photo Credit: Steven Locke

5. Danville, IN

Ok, Danville, IN, in Hendricks County is intentionally next as its practically Indianapolis’s next door neighbor.

I’m putting foodie options at the top of the list as they’re a definite highlight. Mayberry Cafe includes a replica police car from “The Andy Griffith Show” sits outside, but inside it’s all about homemade meals and friendly service. While we waited for our orders of Chicken Fried Steak and Fried Chicken and pie, we watched old episodes of the show on several televisions throughout the restaurant.

We ditched our car for a couple of hours and headed through the woods in Hendricks County on horseback compliments of Natural Valley Ranch. The ranch/farm will happily guide you on easy paths through and around White Lick Creek no matter what your riding skill is (we were definite newbies!) and we learned a ton about the property and the well-loved animals that make it up.

Want to spend the day crafting? You’ll find several DIY crafting places including uPaint Pottery Studio in Plainfield, and Bisque Barn. You and the kids can get your retro 70’s vibe on at The Tie Dye Lab in Avon, too.

6. Ann Arbor, MI

From fairy doors to a museum dedicated to cars, and plenty of outdoorsy activities, Ann Arbor is definitely worth checking out.

Visit Ann Arbor on a Sunday and you’ll be able to check out its Artisan Market with over 60 artists, gourmet grocers, and afternoon jazz. Love the outdoors? Mill Creek Park, North Bay Park, and Bluffs Nature Area are sure to delight.

An homage to one of America’s car creators, The Henry Ford Museum gives kids a lesson in Ford Motor history by taking them on a trip through the past.

If it’s one-of-a-kid shops you like browsing, head to Kerrytown District for its children’s museum, restaurants, and a culture-filled time.

Just in case you ever wanted to visit in autumn, Aaron from Awesome Mitten has the scoop on what do and see in Ann Arbor in Autumn

Frankenmuth, Michigan
The famous fountain on Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Main Street.

7. Frankenmuth, MI

Want to feel like you’ve traveled to a European town without having to pull out your passport? Frankenmuth, MI, embraces its German heritage in the best possible way.

For families making Frankenmuth a day trip, you’ll be all about its Main Street and the fun one-off shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a little bit of quiet time, visit Charlin’s Book Nook for both used and rare books.

Winner, winner! Chicken Dinner! is not only a rhyming phrase, it’s one of the things Frankenmuth is famous for. There’s two choices, Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn – and they’re practically across the street from each other. Both offer a traditional German chicken dinner with noodles, veggies, potatoes, and stuffing. Both have lovely atmospheres. The only problem is deciding which one to visit! I’ve taste-tested both and there’s no way to narrow down my favorite.

Want an all-year round love of Christmas? Bronner’s  CHRISTmas Wonderland is 1 1/2 football fields in size, filled with every Christmas decoration you can imagine, and the merriment is infectious. At night, drive the kids through its year-round outdoor Christmas light display and head into the Silent Night Chapel.

Looking for fun and affordable daycation ideas in the Midwest? Here's our top picks for Midwest day trips for families!

8. Rockford, IL

Melissa from A Little Time and a Keyboard recommends Rockford, IL, for its indoor fun – perfect for chillier daycations! Here’s the scoop on where to visit when you’re in town.

There’s no child that doesn’t love to dig in and learn, so the Discovery Center Museum at the top of your list for its memorable way of discovering science fun. If its dinosaurs your kids love, Burpee Museum of Natural History will delight them with its explanation of the Ice Age and dino relics.

I’m lucky; I have a daughter that loves American history. If you’d like a lesson in Rockford history, Midway Village Museum is the way to go. Included is a Victorian Village and hands-on activities.

Older kids? No problem. A visit to Tinker Swiss Cottage will give insight into what a Swiss Cottage looks like and the story behind the Tinker Family is fascinating.

Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana in spring.
Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

9. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, IN, is a city in Northern Indiana that I’d happily visit over and over, no matter what my daughter’s age is. It has plenty to offer visitors looking for day trip destinations in the Midwest and I’ve fallen in love with it.

Science Central is a multi-floor science mecca! Filled with learning opportunities, there’s even a place for younger kiddos to explore. If you’re heading into the city at the beginning of the week, Science Central is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so keep that in mind. Beginning in early April, you can get your fill of baseball with super affordable tickets. The city’s in-house baseball team, the Tincaps, makes sure that everyone can see a baseball game.

Spring is an especially fun time to visit because the city is blooming fun! Okay, I had to use that pun but it’s true. The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in the heart of Downtown Fort Wayne is a nice respite. A leisurely spot to visit anytime of year, my fave is in spring for its “Perspective” Butterfly Display. Each day, new butterflies emerge from their cocoons and  are carefully placed into a massive exhibit tent to check out up close. The fun is watching the flutter about and trying to snap photos of their colorful wings.

My teen daughter wants to turn her love of art into a career in a few years. It’s that love of art that makes us happily seek out museums in every city we visit. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art is one of those hidden gems that I could visit over and over again compliments of its featured exhibits.

Midwest Daycation ideas: Marietta, Ohio

10. Marietta, OH

When I visited Marietta, OH, last year, I was absolutely shocked at what the city has to offer guests and residents.

Have you ever thought about where historical markers come from? I didn’t until a visit to Sewah Studios opened my eyes to the fascinating process behind the creation of each of its markers. Using the same process of casting melted aluminum, each of its markers are placed by hand.

Affectionately called the castle, Marietta Castle was built in 1855 by Melvin Clarke. While not all of The Castle’s contents are original, when it became a museum, many of the local residents that had purchased the furniture and decorations donated their purchases back.

If you’re looking for Marietta, Ohio, history through the ages, you’ll definitely want to stop at Campus Martius Museum. The museum was built OVER the Rufus Putman House, the original blockhouse at Campus Martius – a civilian fortification from 1788. It wasn’t until 1931 that the museum was erected over the house, but it also includes the Ohio Company Land Office, which is named the oldest building in Ohio.

Looking for live entertainment? The Historic Peoples Bank Theater offers plenty including sing-alongs, animal shows, and concerts. For arcade/roller skating fun, check out Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. There’s nothing like lacing up some roller skates and pretending like it’s 1975!

Midwest staycation and day trip ideas: Sandusky, Ohio

11. Sandusky, OH

Sandusky, OH, even when Cedar Point isn’t open, is a fun day trip destination. Located about an hour west of Cleveland, Downtown Sandusky has a quaint feel and laid back vibe. Venture out a few miles and you can walk on the beach and on well-preserved nature paths.

I know I’m a sucker for an ornate carousel horses and I never pass up an opportunity to take a ride on one. The Merry Go Round Museum is an awesome spot to learn the history of carousel horses, their styles, and what goes into making one. Each visitor even gets a chance to take a spin on the indoor carousel. if it’s indoor water fun you want, head to Castaway Bay and purchase a day pass.

Then there’s Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve. It offers plenty of wooden and paved pathways to simply take in nature. You’ll spy water features and there’s even a beach area to look for beach glass. Want the scoop on the shores of Lake Erie from a native? Marla from Just Marla shares her love.

Head down to the water in Downtown Sandusky and bring your change for gorgeous views of Cedar Point through pay binoculars. Then, fuel up at one of its popular restaurants. Zinc Brasserie is a French-inspired, upscale restaurant with delicious Steak Frites, Small City Taphouse has fresh, made-to-order handrolled sushi, and Volstead Bar is a throwback to early 20th Century speakeasies with old-school classic mixed drinks, dark lighting, and great service. Its history is amazing and its ambiance even more. Volstead is definitely for adults-only – but who says you can’t have an adult daycation, right?

Kidscommons Childrens Museum in Columbus Indiana: a fun spot for a Midwest staycation!
Kidscommons Childrens Museum in Columbus, Indiana. Photo Credit: Steven Locke

12. Columbus, IN

Here’s a fun fact about Columbus, IN: famous architects have made it a virtual museum. Head into the city and you’ll soon learn why. Modern melded with historical is the norm. Walking and driving architecture tours are the way to go for a good way to learn about who created what and when.

When we visited a couple of summers ago, The Kid fell in love with the Bartholomew County Public Library. Head to it and you can sit in quiet nooks, browse for books to read while you visit, and take in the scent of what a library should small like. Ahh, the scent of old books!

Try a “Green River” fountain soda or enjoy an ice cream sundae that comes with your own gravy boat for your topping at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor. it’s her you’ll find early 20th Century architecture and old-fashioned frozen treats. For more reasons to visit Columbus, IN, check out Adventure Mom, Nedra, and her day trip fun.

Midwest daycation ideas: Detroit, Michigan

13. Detroit, MI

We all know Detroit has cleaned up its act. From sports to culture, Detroit makes a great daycation.

The DNR Outdoor Adventure Center opened to bring outdoor experiences from the upper part of Michigan to Detroit. There’s plenty of hands-on exhibits to learn about the many ecosystems Michigan provides. Another fun way to learn about science, the Michigan Science Center has well over 250 learning experiences and an IMAX Theater and planetarium.

Giving some of the well-know U.S. art galleries a run for their money, Detroit Institute of Arts has more than 100 galleries to encourage a love of art in the kids. I know Detroit weather can be iffy sometimes, so make sure to visit Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory for a temperate climate year round.

And if those aren’t enough to fill your day, there’s the Detroit historical Museum, Belle Isle Aquarium, and Campus Martius Park, too.

A huge thank you to Wagon Pilot Adventures for the scoop on the amazing family attractions in Downtown Detroit

14. Kansas City, MO

Bill Clevlen from Bill on the Road took the wheel for this one. Thanks for the daycation insight!

Directly across the state from my hometown of St. Louis is Kansas City, or “KC” as the cool kids call it.  As much as I love my hometown, I’m jealous of how our neighbors across I-70 have revived their downtown and are making the mid-west a hip place to live and visit.

Some of my favorite things to do in Kansas City, which is just about 3 and a half hours away from STL include the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, shopping and dining in the Country Club Plaza, and don’t forget a tour of the Hallmark Visitors Center.  My absolute favorite quirky Kansas City attraction though, is the Museum of Toys and Miniatures.  It’s amazing!

Don’t forget to try and count as many fountains as you can while you’re visiting, too!  (KC has the most fountains in the U.S. and second only to Rome in number of fountains worldwide. They’re everywhere!!)

For more quirky and unique fun, check out Bill’s post on five quirky things to do in Kansas City

Midwest daycation ideas: Canton, Ohio
Downtown Canton, Ohio. Photo Credit: Steven Locke

15. Canton, OH

Just an hour and change from where my mailing address is, Canton, OH is a hidden gem in Ohio. It has so many things to offer families and its quaint feel and friendly atmosphere make it a no-brainer to visit. Yes, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is there, but there’s so much more.

Did you know Ohio has had more Presidents than any other state? True fact. One of the homages to our leaders is at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. Part science, part history, the kiddos will have fun learning about them. Keeping with the presidential theme, the National First Ladies Library gives insight to the lives of our First Ladies.

If you’re looking for a manageable way to learn about art, there’s the Canton Museum of Art, Intimate in size, its large amount of collective works makes up for it.

And lastly, if you want a place to relax and let the kids play while enjoying a great meal and some live entertainment, head to Gervasi Vineyards.

If you’re looking for a spot to relax and unwind in Central Ohio with an Italian flair, Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, Ohio, is it. It gives the feeling of being in a small Tuscan village. With wine. not only can you play Bocci Ball, you’ll have gorgeous sunset photos with family.

midwest staycation ideas: Chicago, Illinois.
Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, in Chicago, IL.

16. Chicago, IL

Seriously, can I make a Midwest list and not put Chi Town on it? Nope. Here’s the scoop on day trip ideas.

Have a sweet tooth in your family? Dylan’s Candy Bar will quell the need for sugar. While we’re talking food,  you’ll have to take an Instagram-worthy photo in front of the famous Cloud Gate in Millenium Park, aka The Bean.

Then there’s Shedd Aquarium for all-things aquatic, Skydeck Chicago for gorgeous views of the city, and The Field Museum for the world’s largest (and most complete!) T. Rex.

Still have time left in your day? There’s always Museum of Science and Industry,  360 CHICAGO, Adler Planetarium,  and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Need more than one day in Chicago? Check out how to plan a Chicago getaway with your teen and City Pass from Maureen at Wisconsin Mommy. 

17. Dubuque, IA

Think Dubuque, IA, is a drive-through city to get to your next destination? Wrong! Here’s the hot spots to check out.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium  is a great draw for families to check out all-things aqua and the history of the Mississippi River.  looking for hands-on experiences? Head to the stingray touch tank.

Add some additional history into your day with a trip on the Fenelon Place Elevator. Made in the late 19th Century, it’s a cable car that has endured more than the bluff – it’s survived three fires. While you’re up for taking photos, learn about Dubuque’s street art and murals with a self-guided walking tour.

And we can’t write about Dubuque without mentioning the various ways to roll on a river: there’s yacht cruises, riverboat cruses, and even a S.W.A.T. style cruise.

Thanks to Katy from katyflint.com for the great Dubuque Day Trip suggestions!

18. Omaha, NE

Omaha is a city I still need to visit, so I let Dana from Moms Good Eats (check out her post on how to visit like an Omaha local) and Julie from Family Fun in Omaha (her top 10 things to do in Omaha with kids post is full of resources!) take the wheel on it.

Must-do’s: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (rated #1 in the world!) and Platte River State Park Waterfall Trail. The Omaha Children’s Museum has definite bang for your buck with special age-appropriate areas to learn.

If you’re looking for free, make a trip to Joslyn Art Museum to get some art smarts. Don’t forget to grab an ART Pack, a backpack filled with tools and information to kelp the kiddos and their families explore the space.

Midwest dacation ideas: Cincinnati, Ohio
Owl petting at Cincinnati Zoo.

19. Cincinnati, OH

Last, but so far from the least, is another Midwestern city I fell in love with: Cincinnati, OH. Always ready for visitors, there’s plenty to see, do – and eat!

I have to mention this activity first as I’m obsessed with Fiona, its baby hippo. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the coolest zoos around and its petting zoo area is a major draw for this animal-loving family. And did I mention Fiona, the baby hippo Youtube sensation? I did, but she’s worth mentioning again.

Looking for a museum-hotel hybrid? Yep, that’s a thing in Cincy! The 21C loves city visitors to check out its free contemporary art gallery. If you’ve seen the famous neon sign graveyard in Las Vegas and its piqued your curiosity, you can check out a giant collection of them at American Sign Museum. And, of course, there’s the three-in-one museum, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Part Cincy history, part American history, part children’s museum, a visit is a day trip in itself.

Rounding out foodie must-dos for Cincinnati, there’s two major ones to mention. Skyline Chili (think spaghetti with chili on top) and Graeter’s Ice Cream.

More Spring Break Ideas

Want more spring break ideas? Check out Taking the Kids’ Spring Break Ideas for Every Family’s Wish List!

Family Travel Forum has the Very Best Spring Break Vacation Ideas – including Theme Park daycations!

A very special thank you to Travel Media Showcase for sponsoring this post! #SpringBreakIdeas

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