Once, every six-weeks, my kids have a day-off of school, so that teachers can have an in-service day. More often than not, we use this time to catch-up on Dr appointments, prep for a busy weekend of hockey or catch-up on cleaning around the house. But, at certain times of year, it’s too special of a day to spend on chores.
This past Friday, we spent the day on a local adventure, exploring unfamiliar areas within reach. When we plan these days, we commit to a time to leave a direction to head, and at least one check-point that we must hit. For this adventure, we took our time getting going in the morning, we wanted to head north towards the Wade House in Greenbush, WI, and ultimately stop and say hi to family in Two Rivers, WI. Since this was an all-day adventure, we made sure we allowed enough time to get out to play, too.
As we set out, we quickly hit 10:00am. One of our kids exclaimed, “if we were in school, I would be going to recess right now!” Well, why change routine? We found Fireman’s Park, in Campbellsport, WI and got some energy out. Taking a quick break like this pays off for later activities, particularly if you have anything calm and indoors, such as a museum. We played tag and rode the teeter-totter as a whole family. Fifteen minutes is about all it takes, and everyone was ready to get back in the car on the way to our first destination.
After about a 30 min drive, we arrived at the Wade House. This is a Wisconsin Historical Society site, and is free if your are a member. I highly suggest looking into these types of organizations, as they are usually tax-deductible and you have access to a lot of interesting local attractions. With a family our size, a membership pays off immediately. Without the membership, this visit would have cost $26 for the whole family. During peak-season, it would be $41. On this visit, only the visitor center and the carriage museum were open, so we are already planning our return visit, sometime between mid-May and late-October when the main house is open.
One key benefit to taking these local adventures on a weekday-off, is that we usually have the whole place to ourselves. Sometimes we run into field trips, but more often, we are lucky and don’t have crowds to contend with. The key attraction of this visit was seeing all of the carriages up-close. Going into this museum, none of us had any specific interest in this topic, but we all really enjoyed seeing the variety of designs, how they were made, and learning about how the plank-road system worked.
After an informative movie and a quick trip to the gift shop, we were back on the road again. At this point of the trip, it was important to snack. We are usually pretty good about planning out meals for an all-day adventure, but for this trip we focused on bringing a good variety of fruit, cheeses and chips to snack on, and would likely grab something more to eat later in the day. We have a great soft-side cooler/duffle that is really easy to throw together and store in the van. This makes it convenient for the kids to grab snacks as they get hungry and keep moving to maximize the destinations on our adventure.
As we headed about an hour north, we began exploring the back roads through Elkhart Lake ultimately reaching our second destination: Lincoln Park Zoo in Manitowoc. The small zoo is great for a quick stop. You can see everything they have to offer in 30 mins, and still feel like it was enough of an experience to be worthwhile. Most of the animals were out, enjoying the spring day, but we were starting to notice the temperature dropping as we continued to head north. The highlight was definitely getting chased back-n-forth by the Tom turkey, who was staking his territory. Again, we only saw one other family, as we explored the zoo alone.
For as much as we travel, we don’t always get to see family. Since we were winging this trip, it was our goal to drop in on a couple of the “aunties” and visit for a couple hours. Coincidentally, a couple of them get together to go to the Friday fish-fry, a staple in Wisconsin culture. Although we didn’t join them, the kids played for a while, and we finished the visit with a trip to Dairy Queen for ice-cream with cousins.
From this point, kids were pretty worn-out, sugar high and ready to call it a night. Unfortunately, we made a rookie parenting error; we promised the kids earlier in the day that we would hit one more playground on the way home. We were racing to head towards home and find a good place to get one more burst of energy out. Right after dusk, we found a place that was fairly well lit and the kids could be contained to a single area. Although we were a bit apprehensive, it turned out to be a really fun time.
I couldn’t resist pulling over one last time on the way home, to try and get a “perfect shot” of the nearly full moon. The day was a success with very little planning involved. In total, the cash out-of-pocket totaled $58 including gas and the DQ stop, but not including the food we brought or our Wisconsin Historical Society membership, which we already had.