Every year I say that I am fine with not going on vacation during spring break, and every year I end up feeling guilty and making a little staycation for us close to home. I like to do low maintenance planning that produces a big bang of fun without depleting my wallet. I learned my first year of “staycationing” that it isn’t the amount of money you spend, but the type of activities you do. Switching things up is key! We love to pretend to be tourists in our own city, so we explore as many local places that we can. We always try to stay within an hour of home (this mama is a stressful out-of-town driver). Here is a list of our favorite staycation ideas.
1. Local town museum and brunch
The first year of staycationing I had planned themed days for every weekday that spring break week. I ended up spending a small fortune. At the end of it all, I asked my son what his favorite part was and he said it was the museum and brunch day. This museum is small and free! It’s every mother’s dream come true! It only takes about an hour to get through, and has lots of interactive things to do. We have traveled to other towns nearby and they each seem to have a free or cheap local museum. They are totally worthwhile. Did I mention free??? After we walked through this cute little gem, we decided to go to brunch at one of our favorite local diners, Toast n Jams.
It has a 1950’s atmosphere, is super delicious, and they have a toy bin that the kids can pick a toy to bring to their table. I may have had a certain son reenacting a battle scene with army men on a nativity set, but that is neither here nor there. I think the thing he loved most was the fact that we were at brunch. He thought I was making this name up. He would not stop giggling, and telling everyone we were eating brunch after I explained that it was a mix of breakfast and lunch. After our bellies were filled, we left for home and had a relaxing rest of our day.
Who doesn’t love a good zoo day? We have a couple of favorite zoos within an hour of us. We normally will go to John Ball Zoo at some point in the spring, and every year we go to Boulder Ridge animal park in the summer. Seeing as this is spring, we will focus on John Ball Zoo. We really like to pack snacks and head on over to Old Chicago for some pizza after the zoo. We have packed picnic lunches as well, and this is just as fun; and honestly less stressful. One of the last times we went to old Chicago my younger son was peeling off old pizza sauce from the booth, and eating it. The baby was screaming and my oldest was talking nonstop…I think we have all been there…right? While at the zoo, I am not someone who will bring an entire stroller full of everything I could possibly need. I just don’t have it in me anymore! I pack the bare essentials in a small purse, and bring either an umbrella stroller or just wrap the baby up in a carrier. This makes things so much easier than lugging around a huge stroller and diaper bag. The diaper bag stays in the car. Period. I am too lazy to carry it the entire time and the hubs sure isn’t going to do it. If you go into the zoo knowing that the kids will either not move from an exhibit, or will run past all of them, I think you will be golden. If they walk at a good pace the entire time, then your expectations have been far surpassed and congratulations to you!!!
This is the rare occasion that little miss stood still and actually observed and animal. Mom win!
3. Frederick Meijer Gardens
We are so lucky to have this beauty here is western Michigan. They have a heated indoor butterfly exhibit that will make you dream of summertime. It is absolutely beautiful watching all of the butterflies fly around you. Every year the kids pick their favorites and then try to stand still so that they will land on them. This is one of my favorite parts of the day because it is hilarious to watch MY children try to stand still. This normally lasts for under a minute, so don’t worry! I think each year a butterfly does end up landing on someone and they always end up crying…oh to be kid.
Notice the tired, sweaty faces as we exited the butterfly exhibit. Worth it! (And yes my daughter is eating a chicken nugget she had been working on for about 40 minutes so far)
After walking through the butterfly rainforest, you can grab your coat and head outside. At this time of the year the water portion is not up and running, but I have been there during the summer and that is very fun! We like to head to the playground first to burn off some steam. Just like at the zoo, I pack minimally here. Honestly, the kids are so fast and sporadic, I don’t have the time to be pushing a bulky stroller or holding a large bag. Most of the time on the playground I end up panicking for a second because the kids always seem to run in opposite directions. Do they do this on purpose? I think it’s a kid conspiracy! There is a big birds nest in the middle of the playground that I like to catch my breath at and the entire playground is decorated in a woodland theme and is very cute. After we are done running around there, we head over to the log cabin and then the sand pit. I used to not let my oldest sit in the sand because the spring sand is always mucky, but now I just let the kids go for it. We welcome stains in this house! The last place we end up is the senses garden. This garden includes sculptures of eyes, ears, mouths, and hands. Yes we always pick the nose sculptures “boogers” and yes we always high five the hand. We just can’t help ourselves.There is so much more to this awesome place, but this is as far as the kids will go before meltdowns start happening. The kids always enjoy this destination, and look forward to it every year. Lots of smile and cute pictures accompany us home.
4. A picnic and a walk
We have so many beautiful parks to hike through here in Muskegon. During the warmer months we go hiking multiple times a week. One of my favorite things to do as a parent is to watch my kids explore and discover nature. This is a place that they can climb, run, yell and even throw things and it is OK! There is no judging while walking through the woods! One of our favorite places to hike is Lake Harbor park. You climb up a dune and then you come to a valley with fallen trees, and plenty of walking sticks. The kids love balancing on logs, climbing through the thicket, and running up the dunes. Once you get through the valley you climb one more hill, and all of the sudden all of Lake Michigan is on your horizon. The dune grass blowing in the breeze while the kids run towards the lake is breath-taking.
There are many paths to walk from there. There is a wooden stair case with picnic tables that makes for a great stop for a picnic. Being the low-key mom that I am, we pack some good old PB&J sandwiches, some veggie straws, juice boxes and some form of fruit. It makes for the perfect casual picnic as you watch the waves crash. If you dress in warm clothes, this can be a nice little staycation day even though it’s April in Michigan.
5. Bike ride to the park
By day five of our staycation adventure the kids are still going strong, but this lady is tired and not feeling the most creative. My last idea is a simple one, but classic nonetheless. When spring first arrives my kids are always begging to get their bikes out. Spring break staycation week is the perfect excuse to break out those bikes and go for a ride to the park. I let the kids each pick out a drink and a snack, and away we go! If we are planning on staying for a bit, we will bring some hot wheels to send down the slides and some balls to play catch with. The snacks and extra toys fit perfectly in a small backpack. I can either carry that or put it in the pull behind bike trailer for the youngsters. I love the simplicity of this day. The kids are happy because the bikes and park haven’t been visited by us in months. I am happy because I literally put no planning into this adventure and it was just as fun!
I hope this inspires you to make a vacation wherever you are! If planned correctly, a staycation can be just as memorable as a real vacation and the kids will have just as much fun. What are some of your staycation ideas?