Kid Stuff

4 Pint-Sized Vacations

a list of nearby weekend and day trips, perfect for any family looking for fun

Mike Paulus |

Since all that gas money you saved up for a week-long family road trip to Mount Rushmore will probably only get you enough fuel to reach Fall Creek, we thought it’d be nice to offer you some cheaper alternatives. A handful of local parents tipped us off about some of their favorite “short drive” style trips, and we’ve assembled the information here. It’s a short list of Volume One-approved mini-vacations, perfect for any family looking for something fun to do with a free day or two.

Locale: Kellogg Minn. (56 mi from EC)
Tipster: Bill Hamilton

    Kellogg Minnesota’s famed LARK Toys toy store ain’t your average Toys “R” Us. One of the largest independent specialty stores in the country, LARK houses over 20,000(!) square feet of mind-blowing kid spectacular-ness. They’ve got a hand-carved carousel; wooden toys (made on-site); a children’s bookstore; nostalgic replicas, collectibles, and novelties; costumes; cafe snacks and sandwiches; mini-golf; ice cream; and behind-the-scenes glimpses at their ongoing projects. Seriously, you’ll have just as much fun as your kids. Local dad Bill Hamilton says, “It’s right next to Wabasha on the Mississippi River, so all that river stuff and maybe even lunch on the river makes for a great day.” Check out

Laura Ingalls Wilder/Caddie Woodlawn
Locale: Menomonie and Pepin (26+ and 51 mi from EC)
Tipster: Nikki Jackson

    Hey, if your kids enjoy stories about young, spunky gals living in America’s pioneer days, then you’re in luck! First, head over to The Caddie Woodlawn Historical Park (and, um, wayside) located nine miles south of Menomonie on Highway 25. That’s where the writer and the book’s inspiration used to live (back in 1857), and the house is now a museum. Then, it’s about 38 miles from Caddie’s place to the next stop – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s place. Yep, everyone’s favorite frontierskid was apparently born right in Pepin, Wis. before going on to write her books, including Little House on the Prairie. So Pepin has a museum and a whole festival in September in her honor.

Willow River State Park
Locale: Hudson (64 mi from EC)
Tipster: Jen Schultz

    Yeah, sure, Coon Fork Lake County Park is most families’ top choice for a quick camping trip, but if you’re looking for a something different, check out Willow River State Park over by Hudson. It features an official 2,891 acres of prairie, forests, and panoramic river scenery. In addition to the campground, there’s a 400-foot swimming beach, a big waterfall with walkable rapids, disk golf, 13 miles of hiking trails, a boat launch, and a nature center. Local mom Jen Schultz says, “We have gone there for a day trip almost every year since our first son was born.” Normal Wisconsin state park fees apply.

National Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum
Locale: Hayward (107 mi from EC)
Tipster: Rob Mattison

    Remember passing through that little town that one time with that giant muskie fish that you can climb up inside of? That was Hayward! Hayward’s National Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum is your one-stop shop for fish-based fun. The highlight of the museum is its Shrine to Anglers – a structure one-half city block long and four and one-half stories tall, made of concrete, steel and fiberglass, hand-sculpted into the likeness of a leaping fish. Its innards house the museum and its gaping jaw accommodates about 20 persons or more as an observation platform. The landmark is surrounded by a quarter-acre nature pond. Local parent Rob Mattison says, “We love Hayward and the giant fish museum. Did you know there’s a stuffed Bigfoot there?” It’s tons of kitschy, quirky fun, unless your family is really into fishing, in which case it’s just ... awesome.