Short Range Spring Break Destinations

Forget the stress of flying with kids or the exhaustion of driving through the night. A brief stint on the road is all that stands between you and an unexpected spring break destination your family won’t soon forget. Sure, these close-to-home cities don’t feature white sandy beaches or tropical temperatures (outside at least), but the engaging museums, imaginative play spaces and world-class cultural experiences will provide something for everyone.

For families with kids of multiple ages

Indianapolis, IN – 2 hour drive from Cincinnati

Indiana may not scream “spring break destination,” but don’t let that keep you from exploring Indianapolis first-class family attractions perfect for those traveling with kids of different ages.

What to do 

Priority No. 1 should be exploring The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis where you’ll see why it’s consistently ranked among the best in the country. From walking alongside a T-rex in the Dinosphere, to digging for buried artifacts and running your own construction site, there’s plenty to fill a day or two. Most of the exhibits feature something for kids of all ages, while the Playscape is designed specifically with babies to preschoolers in mind. Downtown, park in the White River State Park underground garage and explore three great museums from there. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art  gives kids of all ages an idea of what life in the 1800s was like in its large children’s play area on the lower level. Next door, the interactive exhibits at the Indiana State Museum go well beyond local history, from the Ice Age to modern day, and the museum’s IMAX Theater features blockbusters and beautiful educational films. And finally, young athletes will excel at the hands-on displays at the NCAA Hall of Champions. If the weather’s nice, a 15-minute walk will take you through White River State Park, across the White River and past outdoor art displays, to the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, where indoor and outdoor attractions abound.

Where to stay 

Looking for something out of the ordinary? Sleep in a train car-turned-hotel room at the Crowne Plaza at Indianapolis’ Union Station. Retrofitted with modern amenities inside, the “cars” sit in a row all atop a track like they’re ready to leave the station. Guests also have access to the hotel’s sizable pool.

For the thrill seekers

Louisville , KY –1 ½ hour drive from Cincinnati

Where can you zip through a massive underground cavern, traverse an obstacle course high above huge foam pits and stay overnight in a tent in the middle of the city? Surprisingly, the answer is Louisville, Kentucky. 

What to do in Louisville 

Perhaps best known as home to the Kentucky Derby, Louisville also boasts a walkable downtown packed with museums for all ages and a number of attractions perfect for young adventurers. Spanning 100 acres deep underneath the city, the Louisville Mega Cavern is home to the world’s only fully underground zip line course, aerial ropes challenge course and bike park. The former man-made mine has an average temperature of 60 degrees year-round and plenty of physical challenges to keep even the most adventurous kids moving. For some bouncing fun, visit House of Boom Extreme Air Sports, which takes the indoor trampoline park to the next level with an obstacle course, trapezes and a slackline. Check the calendar for daily KidsJump (6 and under) and weekly Family Night. Finally, this is horse country, so don’t miss out on riding lessons. The Louisville Equestrian Center offers instruction for all ages, from ponies perfect for children as young as 3, to show-quality horses for experienced riders. Tired yet? Slow down with a tour of the downtown museums, including the family-friendly Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the interactive Kentucky Science Center.

Where to stay

Look for the giant red penguins to find the unique 21c Museum Hotel, which is part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum. The Kid’s Exploration Package includes Kentucky Science Center tickets, a tent for an in-room camping adventure and milk and cookies for your worn-out kiddos. Looking for an indoor pool? Stay at the nearby Marriott Louisville Downtown instead.

For the artsy family

Nashville, TN – 4-hour drive from Cincinnati

From country music to gospel, contemporary Christian and jazz, Nashville, truly lives up to its nickname of Music City USA, and it’s a great spot for a spring break trip with aspiring musicians in tow.

What to do in Nashville

Listen your way through the history of country music and its influences on nearly every other popular music genre at the County Music Hall of Fame, where kids can explore instruments in the musical petting zoo and take part in programs for all ages at the Taylor Swift Education Center. Take in a show at the Grand Ole Opry and tour Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the opry, where aspiring singers can record their version of one of the classics for $20. Beyond music, get creative with 30 hands-on art stations in the Martin ArtQuest Gallery at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and explore a replica of the Parthenon straight out of ancient Greece, complete with a re-creation of the 42-foot statue of Athena. Have time for another show? Consider the Nashville Children’s Theatre with plenty of daytime performances for all ages.

Where to stay

When in Music Valley, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is an entertaining, beautiful option with an indoor pool. The sprawling complex features shopping, dining, indoor gardens, waterfalls and even its own Delta flatboat sure to keep the whole family entertained.

For the curious explorer

St. Louis, MO – 5 ½  drive from Cincinnati

Explore beyond the arch and you might be surprised to find that St. Louis is packed with innovative museums and play spaces created just for kids (and adults) who learn best by doing.

What to do in St. Louis

Is it a museum? Is it a playground? Is it art? There’s simply no one way to describe the City Museum, which spans 600,000 square feet of a former factory building and features a 10-story slide, giant ball pit, roof-top play area, subterranean caves and, just to make things more fun, no map. Kids and adults should wear comfortable clothes and bring their adventurous spirit to explore this modern funhouse made mostly of found objects. A 15-minute drive away, the principles of science come alive at the Saint Louis Science Center through more than 700 hands-on exhibits. New this year, the Above and Beyond exhibit is focused on flight and space travel, allowing kids to design and test-fly a supersonic jet and experience flight as a bird. Head a bit outside the city to explore two smaller museums with lots of open-ended play – the Myseum, complete with a dino dig, magnetic sandbox and a slide that tracks your speed and the Magic House with a giant climbable “beanstalk,” kids construction zone and bubble room. Still have time to spare? The view from the top of 630 foot tall Gateway Arch is still pretty cool.

Where to stay

The DoubleTree at St. Louis Union Station is a worthy attraction in its own right, featuring beautiful restored architecture, a 3D show projected on the Grand Hall’s 65-foot-tall ceilings multiple times a night and a full model train display to captivate the kids. If an indoor pool is a must-have for your family, try the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch, with breakfast, early dinner and nighttime popcorn included and within just a five-minute walk from the arch.

So forgo the airport drama or overnight drive, and resolve to explore some unique, close-to-home spring break options this year. One important thing to remember: Before you decide on a destination, it’s a good idea to search online to find out when local schools in the city will be on break, so you don’t arrive to overcrowded attractions. Have fun!

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