Exploring our own backyard: 4 of my family's favorite day-trip destinations

Clara braves a peep at a dinosaur "habitat" at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

With five kids, flying is not exactly a cost-effective method of family travel, but that’s okay – I’m a big fan of getting to know my own region, and some of my very favorite destinations are the gems we’ve discovered within easy driving distance.

Since I know I have some Great Lakes-area readers – or those who might visit our lovely region soon – I thought it would be fun to share four of my family’s favorite go-to day trip destinations:

  1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
    First of all, it’s the biggest children’s museum in the WORLD; second, their dinosaur exhibit, Dinosphere, is amazing – it features real dinosaur fossils (including a T-Rex) staged in their own little world complete with so-realistic-they’re-a-little-scary multimedia “thunderstorms,” a dino dig area and more.  I was there as a guest of the Children’s Museum last month, when I got to see a sneak peek of the impressive new National Geographic Treasures Of The Earth exhibit. I can’t wait to take the kids back there – hopefully soon.
  2. Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI

    Giant bronze horse (including kids for scale) at Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI

    The Meijer Gardens are one of Michigan’s treasures – beautiful botanical gardens including an innovative hands-on children’s garden with water play area and little hidey-holes kids can explore. Plus the park features dozens of sculptures, including an enormous bronze horse that’s a hit with the kids.

  3. Field Museum, Chicago, IL
    Other Chicago museums might be flashier, but the Field Museum of Natural History is my favorite. My favorite exhibit is Nature Walk, consisting of hundreds of “stuffed” animals in realistic scenes. In fact, we have gone before and never made it out of that exhibit. The kids love Sue, the world’s largest complete T-Rex.
  4. Michigan History Museum, Lansing, MI
    I’m a sucker for Michigan history,  and this museum is a great, free resource. My kids love the recreation of an 1800s schoolroom and historic main street, complete with ice cream shop. I love the exhibit featuring what Michigan homes might have looked like through the ages. The park is close to downtown and the Capitol, so make a day of it.

What are your family’s favorite day-trip destinations? If you can, include links so we can discover new-to-us gems in your backyard.

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