Families looking for a reasonably priced getaway close to home won’t have to look further than Wisconsin. According to Quirk’s Marketing Research Review’s January report, “a family trip with the kids” ranks second in the type of trip travelers expect to take in the next six months. In addition, consumers are seeking value for their dollar and looking for ways to stretch their budget.
Wisconsin favorite kidfriendly destinations and attractions are ready to welcome families with plenty of affordable options that are low on cost but big on family value. Here are a few of our top picks for kid-friendly and affordable fun in 2010.
EXPLORE WISCONSIN’S GREAT OUTDOORS
It’s a familiar family scene: pitching the tent, building a fire, hiking and swimming, roasting marshmallows and telling stories around the campfire. Camping is a tradition and a rite of passage for many families. In Wisconsin, visitors find a diverse variety of campgrounds that cover the spectrum; from the rustic natural beauty of state parks to private campgrounds filled with modern, family-oriented amenities. All offer plenty of wallet-friendly value.
Happy Acres Kampground in Bristol is a playground for the whole family. Besides tent camping, cabin rentals and trailer spots, Happy Acres offers hiking, biking, swimming in a heated pool, mini golf, fishing, volleyball, basketball, a mini animal zoo and themed weekends throughout the season. July 16-18, kids can meet Captain Jack Sparrow of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and then participate in a pirate ship race, treasure hunt and sand castle building. During “Star Wars” weekend (July 30-Aug. 1), kids dress up as their favorite Star Wars character, participate in Star Warsthemed games and enjoy a Star Wars movie marathon. If you have a large family, look no further; all campground rates include two adults and up to four children. And speaking of deals, families that have camped 14 days or more during the season camp for free Sept. 10-12. (262-857- 7373; www.happyacres.com)
Grab your rod and reel, bait and tackle box, and take advantage of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources “Free Fishing Weekend.” The first weekend of June, fishing on all state waters is permitted without a license. This year, the event will be June 5-6 and is open to residents and nonresidents. Fishing clinics and special activities are planned at VikingCountyPark on the YaharaRiver in Stoughton, Winnequah Park Lagoon in Monona and ADA Fishing Pier at CityPark in Oconomowoc. (608-266-2272; http://www.dnr.wi.gov/fish/kidsparents/freefishingweekend.html)
SPORTING EVENTS FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Appleton is the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. These future big-leaguers start their season on April 8 and wrap up on Sept. 3, so there’s plenty of time to squeeze in a game with busy summer schedules. The best part? You won’t pay big-league prices to do it. New this year is the “Timber Rattlers Kids Crew,” a new fan club for those 12 and under. An individual membership in the fan club costs $20 and includes: an official kids crew backpack, 15 percent discount in the Snake Pit team store, 10 reserved seat vouchers good for free admission to all Wednesday home games and much more. Plan your family visit for a Friday Family Night. Kids 12 and under are allowed to run the bases after the game and receive a free hot dog and soda to boot. Starting June 11, a fireworks show will also be included in the post-game activities. (920- 733-4152; www.timberrattlers.com)
Junior golfers have the opportunity to see for free the world’s top golfers, including Wisconsin’s very own Steve Stricker, during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Aug. 9-15. Juniors 17 and under will be allowed free access to the event with an accompanying ticketed adult. Each ticketed adult will be allowed four junior admissions at no additional charge. Tickets are currently on sale for this major championship featuring the world’s greatest golfers and fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets early as demand for the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits was unprecedented. (800-618-5535; www.pga.com/pgachampionship/2010)
WISCONSIN FUN TAKES TO THE WATER AND SKY
For kids that are into pirates, exotic ships and adventure, Green Bay is one of only six ports in North America, and the only port in Wisconsin, to be honored as a host for the 2010 Tall Ship Festival. Twelve vintage rigged vessels will sail into the Port of Green Bay and dock on the shores of the Fox RiverAug. 13-15. Visitors can experience the history and romance of maritime life during ship tours and sails on these sailing vessels, including Wisconsin’s own flagship schooner the S/V Denis Sullivan. Fans of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” might be interested to know that the ship featured in the movie – the famous H.M.S. Bounty – will be among the vessels. Kids under 4 years of age enter free, children ages 5 to 12 are $8, 13 and up are $10. (920-497-5664; www.tallshipgreenbay.com)
The EAA Airventure in Oshkosh is an international gathering place for plane enthusiasts. Held annually, visitors can view the latest aircrafts and innovations, watch fantastic air shows, shop or participate in a number of activities, workshops and forums. This year’s show runs July 26-Aug. 1. A favorite among kids is the KidVenture’s campus where kids get the chance to build their own model rockets and balsa planes, fly in a high-tech flight simulator and try their hand at flying a control-line model. Want to see the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” from the sky? There are three distinctively different aircraft to experience the excitement of flight: a B-17 Aluminum Overcast; a Bell 47 helicopter; and EAA’s 1929 Ford Tri-Motor. (920-426-4800; www.airventure.org)
SPLASH AND SLIDE THROUGH THE WATERPARKS THAT MADE WISCONSIN FAMOUS
Indoor waterparks are one of the nation’s hottest trends in family vacations, and Wisconsin entrepreneurs have created some of the largest and most elaborate in North America. With so many elaborate and fun waterparks in one place, it’s no wonder why the Wisconsin Dells has been dubbed the “Waterpark Capital of the World.”
Always a leader in waterpark innovation, Noah’s Ark is unveiling “The Scorpion’s Tail,” America’s first looping tube water slide, the tallest and largest of its kind in the world. Debuting on May 29, “The Scorpion’s Tail” drops riders through a trap door below their feet and then speeds them through a 45- degree loop in an enclosed, gravity-defying slide. Looking for deals? Check the Noah’s Ark website for discounts for grandparents and military families. (608-254-6351; www.noahsarkwaterpark.com)
Is bigger better? If so, visit another well-known waterpark innovator, Kalahari Resort in the Dells. This year the resort is celebrating 10 years of providing family entertainment. The largest indoor waterpark in the world will keep the kids entertained for hours. And it also recently opened a new Indoor Theme Park featuring a six-story Ferris wheel, go-cart track, bowling alley, ropes course and much more. Customized packages let you pick the amenities and activities that are right for your family. (877-525-2427; www.kalahariresorts.com)
Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells features another wild attraction known as the Howlin’ Tornado. The six-story red and yellow funnel you can’t miss from the interstate is an extreme 65-foot funnel ride that drops thrillseekers a heart-pounding 30 feet every second. Families climb aboard a two-or fourperson tube for the ride of a lifetime as the tube safely drops six stories, swirling riders back and forth before dropping into the mouth of the funnel and splashing into the pool below. Make your 2010 summer reservations early and save 20 percent off two or more nights now through May 7. (866-833-1622; www.greatwolf.com)
With so many attractions available in the Wisconsin Dells, there’s a “must-do” for any family heading there this year and that is to purchase a 2010 Passport to Savings ticket. With the Passport to Savings ticket, the more attractions you see in the Wisconsin Dells, the more you save. Purchase tickets to two participating attractions and save 15 percent; three attractions saves you 20 percent; and so on, up to six attractions, which will save you 35 percent. To see which attractions participate and to order your tickets online, visit www.passporttosavings.com.
Travelers looking for year-round Wisconsin getaway ideas, travel planning, events and free guides can discover their own fun at TravelWisconsin.com or call 1-800-432-TRIP. Or become a fan on Facebook at Facebook.com/TravelWisconsin and follow along on Twitter at twitter.com/travelwi.