Fun Dream Trips
These three fun dream trips make a great getaway from Kansas City. From waterparks to dolphins, grizzly bears to tv shows, discover some of our favorite family vacations.
Wisconsin Dells: The Waterpark Capital of America
The Wilderness Resort (511 E. Adams St., Wisconsin Dells, WI) is the perfect getaway destination for the entire family. With four indoor waterparks, the resort area truly has something for everyone. The park offers slides for single riders, two riders or even five. My favorite was the Dueling Mammoths, a family raft ride for up to five riders. However, the girls especially loved the Hurricane, the tallest indoor four-person raft ride in the Dells. Riders are shot through a tunnel ride at a 45-degree angle into a 58-foot drop where they enter a funnel at 20 mph and splash into the water below. In addition to thrilling slides and tube rides, the girls loved playing in the nation’s largest indoor wave pool, riding the lazy river and enjoying kid features throughout the park. In addition to the waterpark, the resort offers other fun family attractions to be enjoyed with a fun card, including indoor go-karts, laser tag, laser maze, 3D mini golf and an indoor sky ropes course that is the best indoor ropes course we’ve tried. The resort offers numerous restaurants and gift shops, and rooms come equipped with fridges and microwaves, making this a one-stop vacation getaway.
The Dells also offer a variety of family attractions. Our family loves the fun of escape rooms and puzzle solving, so Wizard Quest (105 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells, WI) was an especially fun experience. Teams work together to solve a mystery pertaining to wizards or dragons (they offer different challenges for various ages or group sizes). You have an hour to explore the wizards’ realm, where the castle ambiance and décor set the stage for a magical adventure using technology, puzzles and physical elements. Ripley’s Believe It or Not (115 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells, WI) is a museum for tweens, teens and up featuring exhibits showcasing bizarre and unbelievable attractions, including a duct tape room and more than 200 unusual artifacts, including our favorite, an Egyptian temple where you make discoveries in an interactive exhibit. In town, you’ll find a variety of family-friendly dining options, including Buffalo Phil’s, where trains deliver food to your table, Moosejaw Pizza, where you may dine in or have pizza delivered via a car decorated with a moose on top, or other great restaurants. Be sure to stop at one of the many cheese shops en route and try some of Wisconsin’s famous cheese curds. And, on your way to the Dells, you might drive through Mount Horeb, WI, the Troll Capital of America, where local businesses embrace their Scandinavian heritage and you can spot trolls throughout the town. Or, stop in Pleasant Prairie, WI, to take a free Jelly Belly tour. Click here for more ideas and inspiration on your Wisconsin getaway.
Chicago: The Windy City
Chicago offers so much to see and do that one could easily spend an entire week. We chose to focus on the most unique attractions, starting with Navy Pier. With a view of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier is home to numerous restaurants, shops and attractions, including the 200-foot Navy Pier Centennial Ferris Wheel. Each gondola accommodates up to eight passengers for an amazing view of the city skyline and the Great Lake. Nearby, Crystal Gardens is a beautiful indoor garden with fountains, ideal for photos. Chicago is also home to world-class museums and attractions. Our favorite was Shedd Aquarium, an amazing indoor aquarium with thousands of animals. From sharks to sea horses, beluga whales to dolphins, we encountered so much. Admission includes the dolphin show and live animal talks, but you do need to secure your free ticket early to see the show. The aquarium is set up like a wheel, and you can choose each spoke as you go. Our family chose to mapped out exploration based on the talks and presentations, and that worked perfectly.
The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Highlights include a U-505 submarine, the only German U-boat captured during World War II and one of only five U-boats left in the world; the Pioneer Zephyr, America’s first diesel electric, streamlined, stainless steel passenger train; a mirror maze; exhibits on storms, the human body, energy, earth and coal mining; an interactive transportation gallery; future inventions; space exploration; trains; and genetics. Kids love ToyMaker 3000, where they learn about automated manufacturing and robotics and watch as 12 robots assemble 300 colorful “gravitron” toy tops in an hour. A visit to Chicago would be incomplete without a visit to Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) From that vantage point, you can snap photos in clear observation boxes and, on a clear day, see an incredible view of Chicago, Lake Michigan and up to four states.
For a truly memorable experience, we enjoyed the one-of-a-kind dinner theater that is Medieval Times. The experience begins before the show when you enter the castle and take photos with cast members or seated on royal thrones. See the horses and the falconer, or pay an extra fee to visit a small on-site museum. Then, guests are seated around the arena and assigned a knight to cheer for during the competition. You’ll feast—with fingers only—on “dragon blood,” “baby dragons” and other Medieval delicacies (resembling chicken, soup, bread and corn), while knights compete right before your eyes. The cast is in character the entire time with many surprises throughout the show, including knights throwing flowers to the audience, much fanfare and cheering, and many surprises. This was a highlight of our trip. We also tried some of Chicago’s signature dishes, including Giordano’s pizza, where their signature deep-dish takes 45 minutes to prepare. The location near the Skydeck was perfect on our itinerary. Then, we took advantage of a Groupon to try Superdawg, a local drive-in serving Chicago-style hot dogs. Click here for more tips for your Chicago getaway.
Oklahoma: Face to Face with Bears … and Food Network Adventures
Our third daughter LOVES bears. We were thrilled to discover that the Oklahoma City Zoo (2101 NE 50th St., Oklahoma City, OK) offers Wild Encounters programs. Some of our dearest friends live in Oklahoma, and two of their daughters have special needs and use wheelchairs. The zookeepers were completely accommodating to our entire group (all ages and abilities) and took us behind the scenes to teach us about the majestic animals. Then, each child was given the opportunity to personally feed a grizzly bear! Read this post for the full scoop and see videos of the experience in action. The zoo is beautiful and accessible. We enjoyed feeding giraffes, riding the train and carousel, and making our own souvenirs in the Mold-O-Matic.
In Oklahoma City, be sure to visit Bricktown, the thriving downtown district with a variety of restaurants and entertainment options. The centerpiece of the district is a canal, reminiscent of San Antonio, where you can enjoy water taxi rides. The rides include a tour of the area with a bit of history and humor.
For the adventurous, Riversport Adventures in the Oklahoma Boathouse District (800 Riversport Dr., Oklahoma City, 405.552.4040) is one of the coolest attractions we’ve ever experienced. Oklahoma, a neighboring land-locked state, has created a new attraction in their Boathouse District that is a state-of-the-art outdoor adventure. The adventure park is home to amazing whitewater rafting and kayaking courses. They also offer adventure courses, zip lines, slides and playgrounds. The SandRidge Sky Trail is our family’s favorite and is the tallest adventure course of its kind in the world. The structure is 80 feet tall and offers six levels of challenges. Adventurers are harnessed into a seat and climb from one level to the next, daring to try various rope and balance beam challenges. Once you reach the top, you may exit via zip line, a 72-foot Sky Slide or the 80-foot Rumble Drop free-fall jump experience! The park also features children’s attractions, gigantic slides and climbing walls. Tip: For prices and height/size requirements for attractions before planning your trip, visit RiverSportOKC.org/adventures.
Some of our other Oklahoma City favorites include the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, celebrating Oklahoma’s cowboy heritage, the Oklahoma Railway Museum, offering train rides for passengers of all abilities, the Science Museum of Oklahoma, an incredible interactive science museum, and the Museum of Osteology, the only museum of osteology (the study of bones and skeletons) in the world.
We are also fans of Food Network shows and especially enjoy Pioneer Woman. We took a detour through Pawhuska, OK, where we ate lunch at the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile, visited the store and even took a tour of the Lodge, where the show is filmed. Lodge tours are offered free on select dates; simply check the site for information (TheMercantile.com/pages/lodge-tours). Click here for more tips to plan your Oklahoma adventures! These are just a few of our favorite family getaways. If you’re looking for more inspiration for your spring break travel, visit KCParent.com. Kristina Light enjoys making memories with her family not only in Kansas City, but on the road as well.
More Great Getaways from KC:
- Minneapolis, MN: Mall of America, Ice Castles, Museums and more.
- Omaha, Nebraska: Zoo, Trains, Botanical Gardens, and Planes.
- Echo Bluff State Park: Get back to nature in Missouri.
- Smoky Mountains Tennessee: National Park, Bears, and country themed fun.
- Arkansas: Diamond Hunting, Submarines and Science museums.
- Hutchinson, KS: Cosmosphere & Salt Mines.
- Hannibal, MO: Home of Mark Twain.
- Overnights at Kansas City Zoo: Penguins, polar bear, Africa & more.
- Branson, MO: Silver Dollar City and shows.
- Wichita, KS: Museums and the zoo.
- Amana Colonies, IA: A simpler way of life.
- Midwestern Zoos: A tour of zoos in the midwest.
- Dogwood Canyon, MO: A natural paradise.
Five Money-Saving Travel Tips for Families
- Memberships to Kansas City’s attractions, like the Kansas City Zoo, Science City and Powell Gardens, are often reciprocal with other attractions when you travel. Visitors may enjoy free or discounted admission when traveling.
- Groupon is a great resource to save when dining out or visiting attractions on trips.
- Mix free attractions (like factory tours) with paid attractions on your itinerary to stretch the budget.
- Limit kids to one souvenir per trip and set a spending limit.
- Many zoos and museums permit outside food, and their websites will specify the rules. Pack picnics to save on food costs.