Sometimes, all a family needs is a little change of scenery to renew their spirits during the dreary Chicago winter. While we all don’t have the time, funds or energy to hop on a plane to somewhere tropical, many families do have the means {and desire} to pack up the kiddos and head out of town for the weekend. Luckily, Chicago is driving distance away from family-friendly destinations that are brimming with winter fun to help rid us of those cold-weather blahs.

Lake Geneva, WI

Timber Ridge Lodge at Grand Geneva
7020 Grand Geneva Way / Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(866) 636-4502

While Lake Geneva is known for its many quaint bed and breakfasts, families with younger kids should drive just east of downtown and enjoy the many features of Timber Ridge Lodge at Grand Geneva.

The lodge is home to a 35,000 square foot indoor water park that houses a giant slide as well as a Tiny Timbers area that is perfect for younger children. It features a lazy river as well as an activity pool in which older kids can play games and romp.

But don’t just stay inside the resort! Lake Geneva is a wonderful getaway for Chicagoans who love cozy, but vibrant small-town main street shopping and dining districts. Put on the gloves, hats and scarves and stroll the downtown area, visiting the many unique stores. Take a hot chocolate break at one of the three coffee shops and head over a block south for a lakeside walk. {But don’t venture all the way around the lake with little walkers – it’s more than 20 miles!}

Holiday Bonus:

Just a short drive down the road, the town of Sharon, hosts the annual Victorian Christmas Evening in its restored, historic downtown on Dec. 3 from 5 – 9PM. It features carolers singing, chestnuts roasting, decorated store fronts, apple cider tasting and carriage parade. The local business owners are dressed in Victorian garb, and the town crier even makes his appearance along with a host of other theatric characters authentic to the time period.

Utica, IL

Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort
RT 178 / Utica, 61373
(866) 399-3866

Located just 88 minutes from downtown Chicago, Utica is a nearby getaway that’s home to two north central Illinois gems: Starved Rock State Park and Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort.
Aside from the 24,000 square foot interactive water park inside of Grand Bear Resort, which features slides, a lazy river, kiddie pool and wave pool, the resort also boasts an indoor amusement park. The Enchanted Forest has full-sized amusement rides, video games and music – enough to keep even the busiest of kids {and parents!} entertained for hours.
Need to get outside and enjoy a breath of brisk air? Head over to Starved Rock, just minutes away from the resort and hike a few trails during the daylight hours. And don’t fear – there are trails intended for the gutsiest of hikers and well as the most casual of outdoorsmen.

Gurnee, IL

Key Lime Cove Waterpark
1700 Nations Drive / Gurnee, 60031
(847) 360-0403

Inspired by the laid-back, vintage feel of the Florida Keys, Key Lime Cove Waterpark has a tropical vibe with its bright colors, south Florida décor and Caribbean-inspired restaurants.
The actual water park covers 65,000 square feet and features multiple slides that even twist and wind outside of the actual resort building. {Don’t worry, mom and dad, even though the slides are outside of the building the slides are fully enclosed and still maintain a balmy 82 degree temperature like the rest of the indoor park.} The lazy river and kiddie pool offer places of rest and relaxation for members of the family who prefer a tamer time.

In addition to the water park, Key Lime Cove also houses six restaurants, the Paradise Mist Spa, the Riptide Reef Arcade and the Leapin’ Lizards arts and crafts center.

Bonus: Gurnee Mills, an outlet mall with a large array of name-brand stores and restaurants, is just three minutes down the road from Key Lime Cove. My little guys love visiting the Rainforest Café located inside of the mall. But from experience – avoid peak shopping hours during December and aim for a late lunch/early dinner if you’re dining with tiny tummies and running on little patience.

Hyacynth Worth writes life out loud at Undercover Mother. She tackles the various facets of motherhood, faith, natural parenting and healthy living in between chasing after two young boys.