Spring Break Ideas that Won't Break the Budget

Written by: Elisa Drake

For some spring break means sandy beaches, fruity drinks, and flip-flops.  But for many parents, it’s often a matter of “School’s out; what can we do to prevent meltdowns, breakdowns and general chaos?” If your budget is like mine (i.e. on the verge of extinction), a pricey flight is out of the question. A short car ride to a change of scenery is perfectly doable!  And that’s what I have planned.

When I mentioned to my daughters that I was thinking of taking them to a hotel with an indoor pool, my 6-year-old started crying because she was so excited and said, “I love you, Mommy.” So…”thinking of” became, “I better do this or I will be dead mommy meat.” I considered a downtown Chicago hotel, but we’ve done that a few times. I thought about Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, which could be a whole lot of fun, except it’ll probably just be me with the girls and that would just have nerve-wracking craziness written all over it. Schaumburg has Legoland and is close to a few other attractions, but I wanted something even more low key.

The winner? Glenview! Yes, Glenview. I picked the Staybridge at the Glen for its indoor pool and complimentary buffet breakfast and for its proximity to Wagner Farm.  I’ve never been to Wagner Farm, but heard good things and you can’t beat farm animals for good, wholesome entertainment. If all else fails, I’m pretty sure the girls will be quite happy to hit some old faves: Kohl Children’s Museum and Make a Messterpiece. We’ll see how it goes!

If you’re looking for other fun nearby ideas, here are 3 more of the more than 25 that I included in my book, “Day Trips from Chicago”:

Holland, Michigan 

While a quick trip to Holland might cost you a thousand dollars and eight hours, Holland, Mich., is barely a gas tank-full away and a wholelot cheaper. Plus, they speak English, which makes everything a little easier. The first white settlers came in 1847, immigrants from the Netherlands hoping to trade economic depression and religious oppression for the wealth of the New World. Despite a blow in October 1871 when most of the city burned down (yup, same month and year as the Great Chicago Fire—it was particularly dry that year), like Chicago, Holland fought back and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1872. By the 1920s, beautiful Lake Macatawa and Ottawa Beach were summer resort destinations, and in 1988, the city became more comfortable in winter too as it completed an impressive 120-mile underground snowmelt system (Chicago, are you listening?). But springtime is where it’s at in Holland, when the 6 million tulips turn the city into a kaleidoscope of color. As you stroll the streets, look for the collection of bronze statues too. Welkom!

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Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Ben Folds Five both sang about Kalamazoo. It’s just kind of fun to say, but hard to pinpoint how the name evolved exactly. All stories, however, do suggest the Native American-originated name, bestowed in 1836, has something to do with the sound or look of the Kalamazoo River that intersects and enlivens the city. Hiking trails, classic cars, beer and airplanes round out the offerings here.

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Elkhart, Indiana

Elkhart is the largest of the Amish Country cities, so it gets a shout-out on its own. Sometimes called the “City with a Heart,” laid-back Elkhart welcomes visitors with Hoosier hospitality. And, though the economy has led to a slow-down in its recreational vehicle production, the area is still famous for its nearly 1,000 RV manufacturers, along with suppliers. Fun fact: Nearly 50 percent of the RVs you see today were born in Elkhart County. There’s even a museum dedicated to the rolling homes. Most records say Elkhart derives its name from the shape of Island Park, which lies at the junction of the Elkhart and St. Joseph rivers. But stories also point to the arrival in 1800 of Shawnee Indian tribe Chief Elkhart, cousin of renowned Chief Tecumseh. Just as famous is the name Dr. Havilah Beardsley, the noted first white settler to survey the land. The Ruthmere House Museum peeks at the life and style of Beardsley and history of the area.

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Happy travels to our Chicago families!  Let us know all about your day trip adventures.

Photo credit Sara Simmons

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 9:10 PM