Wisconsin ‘stay-cation’ ideas

It’s spring break season! Time to head for Florida! Mexico! Texas! Or … Eagle River??

While others are packing their swimsuits and sunscreen, my family is loading up the minivan for a week at our favorite resort in the Wisconsin northwoods. Don’t get me wrong – we had an absolute blast on last year’s vay-cay to Cape Coral. But this year, we’ve decided to stick a little closer to home for some much-needed R&R. (And maybe some winter sports and ice fishing the way this “spring” is going!)

If your family has decided not to book a flight this March, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a second-rate school break. The “stay-cation” is a hot travel trend for savvy families who appreciate all that our great state has to offer. Consider:

  1. Making a splash: We all know that Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world. But don’t forget the indoor waterparks closer to home, such as Tundra Lodge and Blue Harbor. Your family might enjoy venturing down to Timber Ridge in Lake Geneva, the Grand Lodge near Wausau or the Metropolis Resort in Eau Claire. Wet and wild fun just a few hours from home. And no sunscreen required!
  2. Getting into nature: Wisconsin is home to roughly 75 nature centers and dozens of incredible state parks. While it might be too cold for camping or canoeing, a sunny spring day is the perfect time to hike around High Cliff – even in the snow! If it warms up a bit, you might venture north to one of Marinette County’s 14 waterfalls, or explore the wonders of Cave of the Mounds near Blue Mound (about half an hour west of Madison). Want to mix in some kid-friendly crafts, story times or geocaching with your outdoor adventure? Look no further than the Wisconsin DNR calendar of nature programs and events ranging from the Kettle Moraine State Forest to Copper Culture State Park in Oconto, the Kohler-Andrae State Park near Sheboygan or Milwaukee’s Havenwoods State Forest. Should the weather stay winter-like, this would be a great opportunity to try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with the family.
  3. Walk with the animals: While the NEW Zoo will always be a family favorite, my kids get the same thrill from visiting Suamico’s Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve or the 1,000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna. Sign up for one of the spring events at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center, or learn something new at the Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve or Mosquito Hill Nature Center. (And when in doubt, the animals at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary are always happy to see you. The nature center is open daily!)
  4. Make sweet memories: Kids of all ages love candy, and Wisconsin has no shortage of sweet spots. Have you been to the Baraboo Candy Company? Or the Chocolate Experience Museum in Burlington? What about the Jelly Belly Center in Pleasant Prairie? Compare the kringle of Racine to our own local Uncle Mike’s. Fall in love all over again with the decadent chocolates of Seroogy’s, or seek out a specialty shop for a sip of Viroqua-made “Wisco Pop!” Got a taste for something more natural? Learn about the process of making maple syrup at Ledge View Nature Center in Chilton (where you can also help collect the sap) or one of the dozens of other sugarbush locations across Wisconsin.
  5. March to your own beat: Whether you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish parade, compete in a paper airplane challenge or get up close and personal with a dinosaur zoo, Wisconsin’s got you covered. Who says you need to get on an airplane when we have our own airplane museum? Everything from pet expos to family ski weekends is right here in the Badger state. Take a look at TravelWisconsin.com for ideas, then go exploring. A memorable and fun-filled spring break is right outside your door!

Where are you going on your family vacation or stay-cation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

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