Travel with Kids

  • Snow asylum

    In the wilds of northeast Wisconsin, winter always looks like winter. It's the kind with snow — snow that comes early, stays late and blankets the forest in heaps, supplying reliable skiing and snowshoeing to people from less-blessed locales. But one year, the heaps of snow didn't come there or virtually anywhere, and skiers were desperate. So was Pete Moline, who runs Afterglow Lake Resort near the Michigan border.

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  • 15 great places for kids in Minnesota

    To children, the breakwall of Grand Marais’ harbor is one big amusement park. I watched in fascination as a barefoot 3-year-old in diapers zoomed from one jagged outcropping to another, scrambling up a chest-high cleft in the rock to follow her 6-year-old sister along a lichen-covered ridge. “They climb anything and everything,’’ their mother said, smiling.

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  • The first American Girl

    She came of age during the Civil War and loved the outdoors, gathering hazelnuts in the woods, dodging rattlesnakes on the bluff and poling a log raft on the lake.

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  • 10 great places to take teens

    By the time children turn 10, the day already is looming when they no longer want to spend time with you, their loving parent. Jeremy Southworth of La Crosse, Wis., saw that day coming. So when his son Gavin got older, he took him jet-boating in the Dells and zip-lining in Door County.

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  • Chicago with kids

    For parents, it's hard to predict what kids will like best about Chicago. Pitting high culture against popular culture, we knew what the biggest hits would be: the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo, the elevated train, deep-dish pizza, perhaps the Museum of Science and Industry.

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  • Cheap fun with kids

    When it comes to travel, it costs a lot less to make kids happy than parents think. Oh, kids are happy to let adults spend money on big-ticket trips — Disney World, Six Flags, the Wisconsin Dells. But what do they prefer? It's elemental, my dear parents: rocks, water and sand.

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  • Baraboo's gilt complex

    In the circus, nothing succeeds like excess. And no one succeeded at that more than the Ringling brothers. On the Mississippi, showboats brought entertainment to river towns. In 1869, two circuses — one was Dan Rice's Own Circus, whose proprietor's clown character was the inspiration for Uncle Sam — put on performances in the Iowa river town of McGregor.

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  • Making waves

    First, we loved the water slides, geysers and whimsical fiberglass figures at the Polynesian’s Water Factory. Then, we loved the bigger slides, chutes, lily-pad walk and tubing river at Great Wolf’s Spirit Mountain. When the Wilderness opened Klondike Kavern, its second park, we loved its indoor-outdoor hot tub and long tube slides.

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  • For football fans, a preview

    If you're wondering how the Vikings, Packers or Bears will do this year, you can get a preview by watching the players gear up for the season at training camps. Make a day of it, because all of the camps offer festivities, games of skill, giveaways, autograph sessions for kids and even fireworks.

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  • Going abroad in Bemidji

    One winter, I went to summer camp. It was the German-language immersion village in Bemidji, Minn., to which my daughter went for eight years. She always returned starry-eyed and eager to go back: "I wish I could go there year-round,'' she'd say, sighing.

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  • Duluth rocks!

    In Duluth, you can lead a child to water — but just try leading her away. “Mom, it’d be worth moving to Duluth just so we could go to this beach a lot,’’ said my daughter Madeleine, jumping from rock to rock at Brighton Beach. Duluth is one of the best places in Minnesota to take children. On Canal Park, the lineup of tourist attractions can keep a family entertained for days.

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  • Farmers for a weekend

    To a city kid on vacation, amusement parks are nice — but nothing is more appealing than a friendly wet nose. Mewling barn kittens, curious cows, a trusty mutt — for a weekend one May, they were part of the family when my children and nieces and I stayed in the guest house of a Wisconsin dairy farm. “Awesome,’’ my son Peter said after a Holstein nuzzled his hand. “I’m going to be a farmer when I grow up, after I’m in the NBA.’’

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  • Madison for all ages

    If it wasn't for the climate, Peter Pan would feel right at home in Madison, Wis. Inhabited largely by college students whose political zealotry is matched only by their zeal for a party, downtown Madison is a place where it's easy to get in touch with your inner child.

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  • 15 great places for kids in Wisconsin

    Over the years, my children logged many crossings of the St. Croix River. Like all who are young at heart, we love traveling in Wisconsin. Not only is it beautiful, but it also tends to produce people who remember how much fun it was to be a kid.

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  • Water, water, everywhere

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Wisconsin Dells must be very, very flattered. Indoor water parks are everywhere now. Since many people don't have money or time for a spring-break trip to Florida or Mexico, they're very popular. Water-park hotels are busiest in spring, when people are tired of cold weather, and room rates reflect that. Look for specials on-line and travel midweek if you can; weekday rates stay low until late March, when school breaks start.

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  • Playtime in Milwaukee

    There’s one city in the Midwest that never will get too big for its lederhosen. Milwaukee, sometimes called the biggest small town in America, doesn’t brag — though it should. It has a swell baseball stadium, a beloved art museum and a beautiful lakefront. Gemütlichkeit, the German term for congeniality and good life.

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  • Packer country

    The man with the big, Dentyne smile and Marlboro voice slammed his fist into his palm. "Okay, here's the game plan,'' he bellowed. "No. 1! You WILL see Lambeau Field. You WILL see the press box. You WILL see the executive skyboxes. You WILL sit in the club seats and see a video. "So where are you all from? How many of you are not Packer fans? Ma'am, you have my condolences. The rest of this group, we know the Packers are the best team in the NFL this year.

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  • Fast times in Nisswa

    As soon as we turned off the highway into Nisswa, my children’s heads began to swivel. "Souvenirs . . . Gift Shop . . . Moccasins,’’ read my daughter Madeleine. "And look — Candy Store.’’ "This is a cute town,’’ said my son Peter, noticing the covered sidewalks. "It’s like a cowboy town.’’

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  • Traveling with a pet

    Planning a vacation with a dog can be frustrating. And yet, pets have gone up in the world. Many craft breweries offer dog-friendly patios. And more lake resorts are setting aside cabins for families with pets, perhaps inspired by Martha, the talking dog in the popular children's book series, and her pointed reproach: "We're your best friends — or have you forgotten?'' Some towns have started festivals just for dogs (and their owners).

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  • Nights at the museum

    Sleep with sharks. Howl with wolves. Get chummy with a mummy . . . in the dark. At top museums, that results in sweet dreams, not nightmares.

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  • Critter races

    In June, racing season moves into full throttle in resort towns around Minnesota. Speeding turtles begin their weekly sprints in Nisswa and Longville.

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  • A zeal for zip lines

    It's a big rush, zipping over treetops.

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  • In Caddie and Laura's back yard

    When I was a child, I had a wild imagination. Anything would fire it up, especially tales of exploration: in dank, twisting caves; along rushing creeks shadowed by stone bluffs; on sun-kissed hilltops, with the world stretching out all around. And I loved the tales told by two real-life children’s-book heroines: the resourceful tomboy Caddie Woodlawn, who roamed the wilderness of western Wisconsin during the Civil War, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who relished life in the Big Woods above Lake Pepin before they became farmland. Western Wisconsin, it seems, has fired many young imaginations. One September, I took my own two children there, on a 185-mile tour with six spots that appeal particularly to kids.

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