Four Affordable Family Getaways in Wisconsin

Lisa Rose Headshot

Lisa Rose is the CFO of Discover Mediaworks.

Mission: Plan a family vacation that the whole family will love…without breaking the bank. As a mom, I can attest to the fact that this can be one excruciatingly daunting undertaking. But I’m here to tell you it can be done. Here are a few tried and true destinations for the entire family. Let’s start in the Waterpark Capital of the World:

Wisconsin Dells

Why kids will love it: One word: waterparks.

Why parents will love it: The giant indoor and outdoor waterparks make for an unforgettable vacation-there’s no doubt about it. But consider taking a break from the water slides and lazy rivers to explore Wisconsin Dells’ true beauty. With huge glacially formed gorges and the stunning Wisconsin River as its backdrop, Wisconsin Dells’ landscape is chockfull of rich history and is pretty easy to explore on a budget. There’s also a great historical, hidden gem called H.H. Bennett Studio. And for you nature buffs, you’ll want to add the International Crane Foundation in nearby Baraboo to your itinerary.

Wisconsin Historic Sites

Why kids will love it: This is unexpected fun. Add 12 historic sites to your summer bucket list and your kids will have a hay day crossing off and enjoying each site throughout the summer. No two historic sites are alike either. Kids will love that you can only reach Black Point Estate in Lake Geneva by boat. They’ll take delight in the role-playing aspect of Old World Wisconsin, where you receive an “identity” and discover Wisconsin as it was in the 1800s.

Why parents will love it:  As a mother of three, I feel extra good about planning “edutaining” trips—vacations that both entertain my family but also school them on some interesting Wisconsin history. It’s the best of both worlds! (Tip: Consider purchasing a family membership for extra cost savings!)

Great Lakes Beaches

Why kids will love it: Perhaps one of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets is the fact that you don’t have to travel far for a gorgeous beachside vacation. There’s Big Bay Beach at Big Bay Town Park on Madeline Island, Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan and North Beach in Racine, just to name a few. Help your kids pack some treats for a lunchtime picnic. Explore nearby harbor towns like Bayfield, Sheboygan, Racine and Manitowoc. Don’t forget the Frisbee!

Why parents will love it: If you can plan a vacation the kids love that also results in a little R&R for Mom and Dad, well…that my friends, is a grand slam. (100 brownie points for Mom!)


Why kids will love it: I’ve included this idea for all of you with a house full of finicky teenagers. The quickest way to keep my 12, 14 and 17-year-old happy on vacation is to be out on the trails. ATVing is like the unofficial sport of kids everywhere.

Why parents will love it: I have to admit, my husband and I have just as much fun on those ATVs as our kids do. But I also love it because it offers our kids another important, hard-to-teach lesson, which is learning how to read maps. We’ll make frequent stops along our ATV expedition to whip out the trail guides and map out our ride as a family. If you’re concerned about not owning any ATVs, no need to worry. There are tons of places across the state that rent out their machines. Not sure where to head? The trails in Barron, Burnett, Clark, Iron, Jackson, Price, Washburn or Douglas counties are in tiptop shape.

For even more great Wisconsin family vacation ideas, click here. Have some ideas yourself? Post them as a comment below!

Lisa Rose is the CFO of Discover Mediaworks, the parent company of the longest-running travel TV show in the U.S., Discover Wisconsin. Lisa began her career working for her father-in-law, Dick Rose - the original founder of Discover Wisconsin. Lisa loves spending time outdoors in the St. Germain area with her husband, Mark, and their three children, Dylan, Hunter and Hailey.