Road Trips That Get You There Just in Time

Family-Friendly Michigan Destinations

indiana dunes road trip!

Meltdowns are par for the course on family road trips. The solution: Stop before chaos erupts in the car seat.

Here are some Michigan Lakeside spots to visit, depending on how far you think you’ll make it.

One Hour from Downtown
Play chase on the rolling sand mounds at Indiana Dunes State Park (1600 North 25 East, Chesterton, Indiana; 219-926-1952). When little legs tire, retreat to the picnic area, beach, or nature center, which has a huge wildlife observation window.

Two Hours from Downtown
In the bustling vacay city of New Buffalo, Michigan, little engineers can get their Thomas fix at I Love Toy Trains (16 South Smith Street; 269-469-6811) and grab picnic fixings at Skip’s European Farmers Market (16710 Lakeshore Road; 269-469-3330), about four miles north of downtown. The Harbor Grand (111 West Water Street; 888-605-6800) is a kid-friendly retreat near the public boat slip and beach.

Two and a Half Hours from Downtown
St. Joseph, Michigan, has gotten flashier in the last few years, mostly because of the ginormous new splash pad and indoor merry-go-round at its biggest attraction, Silver Beach. After play, save room for eats at Roxy’s Hamburgs (2629 Cleveland Avenue; 269-983-1172) and Silver Beach Pizza (410 Vine Street; 269-983-4743).

Four Hours from Downtown
Attractions at Muskegon’s amusement park Michigan’s Adventure (4750 Whitehall Road; 231-766-3377) thrill both the pint-size (mini golf, kiddie cars) and grown-ups (looping Thunderhawk roller coaster). New this summer is Beach Party, an all-ages aquatic play zone with slides, net bridges, and a geyser that blasts water 90 feet in the air.

Crisis averted.

travel accessories for kids!Getting there is half the battle. We’ve found games and gear to get little ones from point A to point B — as well as more ideas on where point B should be.

this week in chicago!

Junior Drama Camp
Future thespians ages 4-6 explore the book Thump, Quack, Moo: a Whacky Adventure and adapt it for the stage with the help of an actress teacher.
Why: It culminates in a live performance.
When: July 11-15.
Where: Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., at Farwell Ave. Register at 773-761-4477 or online at ovationtix.com. Cost is $175.

Whales: Giants of the Deep
Dive into the interactive new exhibit that demystifies the sea creature.
Why: Your little Jonah will climb inside a faux life-size whale heart and listen to the mammal’s “voice” to understand how it uses sound to navigate.
When: Thru Jan. 16, 2012.
Where: The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., at McFetridge Dr. (312-922-9410). Museum admission is $15-$29 for adults and $10-$20 for children.

Hamill Family Play Zoo Tenth Birthday Party
Celebrate a decade of animal encounters with crafts and live music from Jeanie B, Jim Gill, Justin Roberts, and more at the free event.
Why: Everyone loves a party.
When: Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st St., Brookfield (708-688-8000). Zoo admission is $13.50 for adults and $9.50 for kids.

Photo: Sekranitz / Flickr

Skip's European Farmers Market
16710 Lakeshore Rd
New Buffalo, MI 49117
Michigan's Adventure
4750 Whitehall Rd
@ Riley Thompson Rd
Muskegon, MI 49445
I Love Toy Trains
16 S Smith St
New Buffalo, MI 49117
Roxy's Hamburgs
2629 Cleveland Ave
@ Vail Ct
St Joseph, MI 49085
Silver Beach Pizza
410 Vine St
St Joseph, MI 49085
The Harbor Grand
111 W Water St
New Buffalo, MI 49117
Indiana Dunes State Park
1600 N 25 E
Chesterton, IN 46304
8400 31st St
Brookfield, IL 60513
6912 N Glenwood Ave
@ Farwell Ave
Chicago, IL 60626
1400 S Lake Shore Dr
@ McFetridge Dr
Chicago, IL 60605