Summer 2011…time for another Vanderford vacation. Where to this year? Well, in a world filled with Wii games, iPads and frenzy-filled amusement parks, our family opted for a breath of fresh air, literally.
You could say we stepped back in time and visited simpler places filled with ping pong, a dusty field of dreams and cold lake water. We traveled roads where Amish buggies dotted the landscape and the smell of fresh lilacs permeated the air with sweetness. Our destination: the lovely peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin where cherry trees and yummy cheese are a way of life (yes, the curds really do squeak!).
I think family vacations are important…whether you go once a year or take a few small trips. It’s a chance to shut out the world and open up an adventure that’s only for your family. When you shut those car doors, it’s about your family and an open road…no running to activities, no kids chasing neighbor kids, just your family, together.
We wanted the kids to be entertained and educated as we traveled through the Midwestern states. When you road trip with a 6 and 8 year old, you have to sprinkle the trip with fun along the way. So, we spent two nights in Dubuque, Iowa. It may not have been the eye-popping water rides of the Wisconsin Dells, but it was plenty of fun for my two. While in Dubuque, we took an old-fashioned elevator up a hill to the top of the city. We toured the National Mississippi River Museum and saw the biggest catfish ever!
Across the river, we were delighted by the many historic buildings in charming Galena, Illinois. Ladies, this former home of President Grant is a shopper’s paradise!
And you don’t get any more old-fashioned than the all-American game of baseball. Jacob got the chance to pitch and hit on the “Field of Dreams.” We visited the 1988 movie site…amazing how it hasn’t changed much. The corn wasn’t up and Kevin Costner wasn’t there, but it was picture perfect just the same.
Just northeast of Dubuque is Madison, Wisconsin. The kids saw the capitol building and sampled ice cream at the university dairy store. The “Berry Therapy” won Jon over. We also made another stadium stop for Jacob. (We hit the University of Iowa, too.) Big Ten schools, get ready for Husker fans this fall!
And yet, a few hours later, another stadium stop…this time in Green Bay at Lambeau Field…the sacred home of cheese heads everywhere.
When we arrived in Door County, we simply exhaled as we entered the relaxed little communities of Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Fish Creek and Sister Bay. Our inn, right on Green Bay, reminded me of a 1950s lodge in upstate New York. We arrived before the summer rush, so we practically had the hotel to ourselves! We walked to the beach, played ping pong and watched movies.
You can easily drive around Door County to see fun sites: the Cana Island Lighthouse surrounded by lilacs, waves crashing on Lake Michigan, a working dairy and a restaurant where your food at the bar is delivered on a model train. We stopped by cute little Sister Bay Bowl to eat and play on the old lanes, and tried our lucky at the Red Putter with mini golf. For souvenirs, Jacob created a sports spin art canvas and Olivia painted a metal pig at a hands-on art studio. Both projects are now proudly displayed in their rooms.
And finally, after a brief stop at The American Girl outlet (we’re just starting to get into this craze!), we spent our last night of the trip at the Amana Colonies in Iowa. This is one of America’s longest-lived communal societies that began in Germany in 1714. We also traveled near Kalona to get a taste of the Amish way of life with black buggies, picturesque farms and small country stores.
A week of fun wrapped up as we crossed the Missouri River, back home in Nebraska’s good life. As I reflect on the trip, I’m amazed at the adventures and beauty that lie in our “backyard.” You don’t have to travel far to experience the fun of family vacations. You can pick up research books to help you plan. We relied on “The Best of the Midwest” a publication by “Midwest Living” magazine and the “Off the Beaten Path” travel guides. I’m including links to some of our vacation stops and pictures (click on photos).
If you’re interested in an old-fashioned family vacation, I highly recommend Door County, Wisconsin. You’re just a screen door, a back porch and a cherry pie away from a taste of Americana!