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Get out of town

Summer shines with a hassle-free, spur-of-the moment family getaway

Published: Monday, July 1, 2013 12:28 p.m. CDT

School’s out, and in these warm summer months, family time grabs the summer spotlight.

But if planning the two-week road trip sounds like more work than play, a weekend jaunt can be a great way to bring the family together and enjoy some great places that surround the suburbs.

Just a few hours west of the heart of DuPage County sits picturesque Galena. While known for its rolling hills and lush wines, Galena offers far more than simply a romantic getaway. Its surrounding area offers families tons of vacation fun in the great outdoors.

Local trails and waterways abound in Galena and across Jo Daviess County. And there’s no need to haul bikes or canoes all the way from the suburbs, as rentals are available at many local shops, as are trail tours, a perfect adventure for family members of all ages.

Taking the family out to dinner every night can get very pricey. Instead, families can pack some healthy sandwiches and a blanket in a basket for a picnic, suggests Salastino Ruffini of the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Take the pedestrian bridge to Grant Park and enjoy a family picnic overlooking Galena,” Ruffini said.

For families of “night owls,” Galena beckons you to stay out late. Stargazing is great option, telescope required. The visitor’s center has schedules for fun nighttime events.

Just because school is out doesn’t mean that the learning has to be done for the summer. Local historical sites and history museums are a great source of information and family fun.

“Most people forget or don’t realize the impact Galena had pre-Civil War and even afterwards,” Ruffini said.

But if your family’s idea of fun in the sun means squishing your toes in the sand, then pack your beach bag and head to St. Joseph, Michigan, where some of the best Lake Michigan coastline is just 100 miles from home.

Pack sunscreen and towels, but don’t bother bringing big, bulky swimming equipment,” said Jill Stone, Executive Director of the St. Joseph, Michigan Welcome Center. Kayaks, swimming tubes and all kinds of beachfront essentials can be rented from local shops near the water.

If the teen thinks she’s too cool for family vacations, families can try sporting activities like jet skiing, or just keeping it simple.

“Getting some ice cream is a great idea–everyone loves a special frozen treat,” Stone said.

Be sure and to make the welcome center an early stop on your trip, to pick up brochures and information about special events that are happening in their destination. Talking to locals is also a great way to find out the best events in town, particularly if the weather isn’t as warm and dry as planned.

“Always have a Plan B if it starts to rain,” Stone said.

If your idea of a getaway involves escaping the hustle and bustle of home life, a stay at a relaxing hotel may be just the way to spend time with the kids while someone else takes care of all the details. But if you still crave a nice home cooked meal and the ability to walk to the beach, home rentals may be a great way to get away.

Rental houses provide plenty of space for everyone and more opportunities for the family to bond. Even in such resort-laden locales as Wisconsin Dells, there are homes of every shape and size ready to meet the needs of families and friends.

Getting there is often half the fun, but children can get fussy even on a short jaunt in the car.

“Being in a car too long with no activities can cause tired, cranky kids and a poor start to the trip, so bring snacks and games.”

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