Should we tote them along or ditch the little miscreants for a few days to help regain our sanity? Either way, anxiety ensues so be sure there are plenty of attention-grabbing activities and diversions for either adults or the kids so you’re left with only warm memories instead of a prescription. Peruse these nearby leisure pursuits, familial or for just the two of you, and take a breather from the daily struggle.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(414) 273-3950
Visit Milwaukee

If you still harbor the antiquated notion that Milwaukee is merely a Chicago wannabe, you are, quite frankly, a fool who will transform into a brilliant cheerleader for the other city on the lake after a scant few days. Couples will want to check into The Iron Horse Hotel, a sexy stack of bricks located on the edge of Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood (the building is over a century old). The biker-and dog-friendly hotel is just down the road from the Harley Museum and if the weather cooperates, be sure to have an adult beverage in the “Yard” (mega outdoor patio) especially for Thursday night Bike Nights and live music on Sundays. The neighborhood has become Milwaukee’s foodie hub with fantastic eateries like Braise, c1880, Chez Jacques and Smyth at the Iron Horse and home to a chocolate maker, cheese maker, an ice cream maker and a coffee roaster called Anodyne. All of these authentic destinations are within walking distance from the Iron Horse and have a great mix of old and new to explore.

Madison, Wisconsin
(608) 255-2537 
Visit Madison


It’s the state capital and home of the University of Wisconsin so there’s always a heady mix of culture and activism in Madison. Boasting more bikes than cars (with more than 100 miles of biking and hiking trails), you can work off the greet beer and cheese you’re sure to ingest. Take a brewery bus or bike tour through Hop Head and sample microbrews while drinking in the scenery. You can visit Madison on a budget or consider staying at the The Edgewater, just opened in August, 2014 after a multimillion dollar expansion and renovation. The new decor enhances the original Art Deco style of the iconic lakefront hotel and modern technology touches such as an interactive media wall, four exciting food and beverage concepts, a fitness and wellness center and an outdoor public plaza to take it into the 21st century. There are 202 guest rooms, two presidential suites with panoramic views of Lake Mendota and, if you must bring the offspring, choose one of the 10 studios with kitchenettes.

Springfield, IL
(217) 789-2360
Visit Springfield


It’s history galore in our state capital that offers the very fine Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library which documents the life of Honest Abe and the American Civil War with exhibits that appeal to both kids and adults. Architecture fans will want to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House boasting the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. Have a bite at the oldest restaurant in Springfield, Maldaner’s Restaurant, within walking distance of the major downtown historic sites such as the Lincoln Home, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Old State Capitol. It features a locally sourced menu of both old school and contemporary items like chopped chicken liver and beef Wellington to pork belly romaine wraps and delicious vegetarian dishes. Stay overnight at the The Inn at 835, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored as a landmark by the City of Springfield.

Related: Best Hotel Gift Shops In Chicago

Alton, IL
(618) 465-6676
Visit Alton

Alton and Grafton are scenic Mississippi River towns with river town mojo. For example, Alton is the most haunted little town in the country, so consider one of the many haunted tours that take you to the city cemetery, Confederate prison, the perfectly dilapidated McPike Mansion or the First Unitarian Church. A drive along the bluffs to Grafton can make you think you’re on the Pacific Coast Highway for just a second, and Pere Marquette State Park, the largest state park in Illinois, offers a ton of outdoor activity. Snooze at the historic and ornate Beall Mansion with its absurdly huge and comfy beds and a 24-hour-chocolate bar. While in downtown Alton, don’t miss My Just Desserts for a truly memorable chicken salad sandwich and an even better slice of homemade pie.

Indianapolis, IN
(800) 323-4649
Visit Indy

The Indianapolis Museum of Art just debuted the newest addition to the Museum’s celebrated outdoor sculpture program – Roy Lichtenstein’s monumental “Five Brushstrokes”  five separate elements, the largest reaching 40 feet high, that have never been assembled. Adults will want to stop by a downtown brewery or tap room and see the glass half-full, kids will be astounded by the The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and everyone will adore the new International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo. Ride Segways to tour White River State Park and tour the NCAA Hall of Champions. Think Chicago’s all that? Downtown Indy has more than 73,000 convenient, affordable parking spaces.

Related: Best Hotels With Free Breakfast In Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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