Planning a family trip on a budget can be so challenging! As spring and summer breaks are quickly approaching, here are five destinations with family-friendly attractions that won’t break the bank. All but one destination are within driving distance of Wichita! Of course, each of these destinations has many more attractions, but I’ve picked out a handful to share with you:
1. Kansas City. We are so fortunate to live within driving distance of this great city! Just hop on the turnpike from Wichita and you can be there in about 3 hours. Check out all of these fun family attractions:
- Kauffman Stadium (home of the Royals!) – If you visit during baseball season, catch a game! During the months of May through August, there is a firework show after Friday night games, and Sundays are “family fun days” with special attractions for young ones. Visit during the off-season with your sports-loving kiddos to visit the Royals Hall of Fame or go on a stadium tour.
- Schlitterbahn Water Park – For the warm months!
- Crown Center – From the LegoLand to Kaleidoscope (an interactive part of Hallmark where kids can make their own creations!) to Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant (located inside a train car), the Crayola Cafe, and the Sea Life Aquarium, Crown Center is sure to fill an entire trip with family fun anytime of the year.
- Great Wolf Lodge Hotel & Water Park – Stay at the Lodge, let your kids frolic in the water park, and then head over to the Legends Outlet Shopping Center for even more sights, including the T-Rex Cafe! While you’re there, you can also visit the Kansas City Sporting Stadium and the Kansas Speedway!
- Worlds of Fun – Enough said.
- Snow Creek – Who says you need real snow to ski and tube?
- Kansas City Zoo – Always a crowd-pleaser.
- CoCo Key Water Resort – Another great indoor water park option!
2. Oklahoma City. This is another place you can get to in three hours or less–that’s just two Disney movies in the trusty van DVD player!
- Oklahoma Aquarium
- Myriad Botanical Gardens – This has a great family-friendly area, including an interactive water feature and restaurant!
- Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum – Perfect for those firefighter-obsessed little boys in your home.
- National Cowboy Museum – Take your little cowpokes and hit this one up for a great learning experience!
- Boathouse District – You can fill a whole day wandering the Boathouse District! Be sure to check out the world’s tallest metal slide and take a river cruise.
- Oklahoma City Zoo – This zoo features Stingray Bay, an interactive feature the kids are sure to love.
- Science Museum Oklahoma – Interactive and educational! They even offer a spring break science camp.
- Wondertorium Children’s Museum – A hands-on museum that will keep your kids enthralled for hours.
- Museum of Osteology (that means skeletons!). This is one the science-loving kiddo is sure to enjoy.
- Pole Position Raceway – One of the largest indoor race kart tracks in the world!
- White Water Bay Water Park
- Frontier City – This is a western-themed amusement park the whole family will enjoy.
3. St. Louis. This is a little longer drive than the first two, but you can get there in about seven hours–still very drive-able!
- World Aquarium
- St. Louis Zoo – This zoo has a sea lion show and an animal show geared specifically towards children!
- Endangered Wolf Center – Because how cool is that?
- St. Louis Gateway Arch – No trip to St. Louis would be complete without visiting the famous arch!
- St. Louis Science Center – This attraction features new exhibits regularly, so check out what they’ll have when you visit!
- Six Flags Over St. Louis
- The Magic House – St. Louis Children’s Museum – A fun-filled, interactive museum geared specifically towards kids.
- Butterfly House – Check out over 1,000 live butterflies! I want to go just reading about it.
- Laumeier Sculpture Park – Let your kids burn off energy from the car ride while checking out outdoor sculptures. And it’s FREE!
- St. Louis Art Museum – This one is probably better for older kids, but SO GOOD.
4. Colorado. Colorado has tons of possibilities, but I’ve grouped them into three categories below to highlight some favorites. See if you can take the Amtrak train out of Newton to your destination for added fun!
- Family-Friendly Ski Resorts
- Crested Butte – It has a kids’ night out. Folks, this means you can take your kids on vacation AND get some alone time with your spouse! It also has many kids’ attractions, including special kids’ trails and rock-climbing.
- Snowmass – This resort has tons of family-themed events, including the Treehouse Adventure Center and on-site daycare geared towards different ages!
- Beaver Creek – Again, tons of kid-friendly activities–including a glowstick processional on the slopes!
- Keystone – If you stay two or more nights, Keystone offers a kids-ski-free program that could be totally worth it!
- Colorado Springs
- Pikes Peak – Your kids will be in awe at the view! And, if you’re afraid of driving up that mountain, there’s even a train you can take.
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
- Garden of the Gods – This outdoor park features amazing rock formations that your kids can admire while shaking off excess energy. For free!
- Manitou Cliff Dwellings – These ancient dwellings are sure to fascinate your kiddos, and they might even learn something!
- Royal Gorge Whitewater Rafting
- Royal Gorge Bridge and Park – Just looking at these pictures makes me nervous, but the daredevils in your family will love it.
- Denver Children’s Museum
- Elitch Gardens Amusement Park – This was one of my childhood favorites!
- Aquarium Restaurants – Take them to dine in an underwater environment and your kids will think you are the COOLEST.
- Denver Trolley and Denver Museum of Nature & Science – Great for the transportation-loving kids!
- Denver Art Museum – This art museum will not bore your kids! They have an entire program geared towards families, including a special family backpack to guide and occupy your kids through the exhibits.
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science
- Dino Ridge – Your kids can touch dinosaur fossils!
- Butterfly Pavilion – Walk with 1,600 butterflies.
- Denver Zoo
5. Branson. This one doesn’t need much explanation–Branson is the ultimate family destination! Beyond all of the shows and rides, here are some of the major attractions you have to see:
- Silver Dollar City – My personal favorite theme park, and it has a cave!
- Table Rock Lake – Take a show boat cruise, Ride the Ducks, or just rent a cabin and relax on the lake!
- Check out one of the many other awesome caves! Fantastic Caverns (with a ride-on train!) and Talking Rocks Caverns are my top two.
BONUS: Vegas. That’s not a typo–I do mean Las Vegas! We’ve actually taken our kids here, and it’s very affordable to fly there through Allegiant Air. Double Bonus: it’s a direct flight, which makes traveling with kids so. much. easier. If you’re really brave like us, you can even rent a car and drive to Anaheim to check out Disneyland . . . or you can just hang out in Sin City and check out the 7 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Las Vegas.