Kids dig staying in hotels because they can sprint down the long hallways and jump like monkeys on the bed without getting scolded. Of course vacations are also great because you get the chance to bond with your squad, replace the same ole out for a new scene, stock up on tiny shampoo bottles and make some pretty great memories while you’re at it. We have the scoop on three nearby destinations that have everything from water slides to cooking classes to kite shows.
THE AMERICAN CLUB – Kohler, Wisconsin
Buckle the kids in for a drive 145 miles north of Chicago to the city best known as home to the Kohler company, recognized for its high-quality faucets and bathroom products. But you don’t need to come for potty talk, folks. Sit back and enjoy all this town has to offer.
For a romantic couples getaway or girlfriends retreat to the spa, The American Club is your go-to spot. But, be sure to note they are undergoing extensive renovations that will effect the availability of rooms and onsite restaurants until well into 2018. Don’t let that bum you out, though. As that’s happening, new multi-room suites are opening in January at the Inn on Woodlake that feature common living spaces for you and your travel mates to congregate before and after the days hoopla.
Kids stay happily entertained with oodles of family activities that include indoor tennis lessons, sledding, ice skating, hiking, snowshoeing, sledding and in-room electronic games. If you’re feeling the need for time in the kid-free zone, register for the Saturday evening Kidz Dinner and Movie from 6-9 p.m. Kids ages 4-12 will enjoy a night of food, movies and games, while you dine, explore the onsite spa or just catch some much-needed zzz’s. As a bonus, when receiving services at the spa, you can utilize the childcare for ages 6 weeks and up at Kids Core at the Sports Core Health & Racquet Club just minutes away.
Consider booking your trip to coincide with Destination Kohler’s In Celebration of Chocolate event, Feb. 16-18, where you’ll find everything from savory to sweet and everything in between. Celebrity and guest chefs, food pairings, demonstrations, evening dinners and events will guarantee a delicious family holiday. The cherry on top — you’ll have an opportunity to taste the signature and newest creations from KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates. If you can’t make the chocolate event, there are plenty of other Winter Adventures to be had, so be sure to check their website.
Add a little culture to your itinerary and visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center located just five minutes away in Sheboygan. Its free The ARTery drop-in, art-making studio is a very cool collaborative space where visitors young and old contribute their vision of art to an ever-evolving community masterpiece. They have regular make-and-take workshops for ages 5 and over that have kids experimenting with everything from mug glazing to silk dying. Bonus: You won’t even mind if Junior needs to go potty several times while you’re exploring this art museum because every washroom is a work of commissioned art.
444 Highland Dr.
GRIZZLY JACK’S GRAND BEAR RESORT – Utica, Illinois
If you’d like more water and less snow in your future, journey 90 miles southwest to Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort in Utica, Illinois. While you won’t be traveling far enough south to escape the cold, you can pretend it’s balmy outside while you float on the lazy river, zoom down a water slide or splash in the wave pool at this indoor water park and hotel. Come up for air long enough to cheer on your favorite rubber ducky in the Grand Ducky Derby every Saturday and Sunday at 8:50 a.m.
Once you dry off, trade in your quarters for tokens and head to the Cave Arcade at Grizzly’s where the biggest decision you’ll have to make is which of the 60 arcade games you’ll play first. Kids can give their skin a chance to de-prune while they school you in an intense round of mini golf.
For a little fresh air, saunter over to Bear Island’s four-tiered observation deck that overlooks a natural 80-foot-tall waterfall named Curtis Canyon. While you’re enjoying nature’s artwork, let the kids slide their sillies away at the Castle in the Woods playground next door. If that’s not enough to feed your need for adventures in the great outdoors, you’re conveniently located next to Starved Rock State Park, one of the most scenic spots in Illinois no matter what time of year you visit. You’ll find ample hiking opportunities for all ability levels.
Back in the warmth of the resort, families can join resort mascots Grizzly Jack and Grand Bear as they tell their story of friendship every night at 7:40 p.m. in the main lobby. Settle in for the evening with a made-to-order pizza from Jack’s Place restaurant or family movie time scheduled every Thursday-Sunday night.
2643 IL Route 178
LAKE LAWN RESORT – Delavan, Wisconsin
This getaway spot has a history 130 years rich and is situated in a tranquil woods 90 miles northwest of Chicago in Delavan, Wisconsin. Evidence of the land’s Native American beginnings can be seen in the property’s 40 remaining effigy mounds, the largest collection in southern Wisconsin. It was also once the longtime headquarters of the largest traveling circus of its day, Mabie Brothers US Olympic Circus.
Plan your Lake Lawn adventure February 17-18 and marvel at the Sky Circus on Ice, which brings teams from across the U.S. and Canada to showcase their airborne performances. Kites as large as 80 feet wide will be anchored to Delavan Lake and each family member staying at the resort will be given a kite to test their wind harnessing skills. Bundle up to walk the grounds and see intricate snow and ice sculptures on display.
No matter when you make your way north, there are plenty of activities to keep this vacation from heading south. With four restaurants (ranging from fine dining to classic bar and grill), an arcade to display your Dance Dance Revolution prowess, and a spa to massage any twerking injuries, you never need to leave. Go for a swim in the heated indoor pool, make a craft in the Kids Zone, or go cross-country skiing, ice skating or snowshoeing. Even in winter, there are bonfires by the lake.
You could easily hole the family up in the resort and never leave, but The Dancing Horses Theatre located nearby is worth venturing away from the cozy fire. Trainers treat guests to a parade of equestrian showmanship in a 300-seat theater, followed by the mischievous antics of an exotic bird show that will leave the kids in a fit of giggles.
Nearby Lake Geneva hosts the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition during the village’s annual Winterfest from January 27-February 4. Festival-goers are treated to the intrigue of snow sculpting as well as music, helicopter rides, laser tag, s’mores, bonfires and dog sled races.
2400 E. Geneva St.
Do you have a winter family getaway planned? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.
— Maria Chambers