WCL: Great Summertime Family Vacations

Fodor Travel's Executive Editorial Director, Arabella Bowen, stopped by the studio today to share some great finds for summertime family vacations from Chicago.

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario near Niagara Falls:
Chicagoans can either fly to Buffalo and drive over the border or head there via Toronto; it's also a 9 hour drive from Chicago. There, the Shaw Festival takes place through summer, which has a $30 under 30 program for affordable tickets: http://www.shawfest.com/. The town itself is a charming Olde English village where afternoon tea takes place at the historic Prince of Wales hotel. Value: Weekday rates from $260 at boutique Harbour House (which is $100 off the weekend rate) and includes breakfast: http://www.niagarasfinest.com/properties/harbourhouse/. A great way to stay affordably at a high-end destination.

2. Houseboating in Voyageurs National Park:
in northern Minnesota along the Canadian border. You can rent a houseboat and sail around to various islands, go fishing and swimming, and then dock at small islands and have campfires and camp (or you can sleep in your houseboat). The nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area is great for more hardcore canoers/campers/fishers. Motor vehicles/boats are only allowed in a few spots here, so it's very natural and unspoiled. You can rent a houseboat from Ebel's: http://www.ebels.com/index.htm for $1,230/week (or $310 per day). This is a great deal because you can often sleep 5 people in a boat. Hiking and boat access in the park is FREE.

3. Louisville, Kentucky is a 5hr15 drive away from Chicago; has great food and the bourbon trail (including the gorgeous Makers Mark distillery) to explore:
Touring the Makers Mark distillery is FREE. The kids will love the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum where they can make their very own baseball bat: http://www.sluggermuseum.org/. The 21C Museum Hotel (another Fodor's 100 winner) has room rates from $244 and many great package options: http://www.21cmuseumhotels.com/louisville/stay/. And no trip to Louisville would be complete without a trip to the famed Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby: http://www.churchilldowns.com/

4. Madeline Island, Wisconsin (in the Apostle Islands): Islands in Lake Superior. A nice summer getaway for lake/outdoor enthusiasts. The island is reached by ferry from Bayfield, about an 8 hour drive from Chicago. It's great for kayaking, fishing, biking, etc. and there's a little village with shops and some dining. Small inns and B&Bs predominate here, as do rental houses, which are typically very affordable options: http://www.madelineisland.com/.The Inn at Madeline Island is a great option, with both rooms and cottages available. Rates for a 2 bedroom cottage (which comfortably sleeps 4 people) are as low as $210/night:

5. CHICAGO DAY TRIP: The Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio in Oak Park, IL is and easy 15 minute drive from downtown Chicago. On Saturdays, they feature "Design Detective Family Tours" and Budding architects can also attend Saturday morning architecture classes (for kids in 7th thru 12th grade.)

You can always find great trip advice from Fodor Travel online too! Be sure to check them out here: http://www.fodors.com/