We just got home from our official “2016 Family Vacation”. To fill you in, I’ll start with the answer to the most frequently asked question I’ve had so far: “Why Wisconsin?” (insert quizzical, mildly disgusted facial expression)
My wonderful friend and college roommate has lived there for 5 years with her family, including two equally wonderful kids (7 and 9), and we’ve never been. If your question is like mine, “Why would one LIVE in Wisconsin?” (insert same expression), then consider the idea of never locking your door (she doesn’t even have a key) and neighborhood kids literally showing up at the back door the moment you get home.
Now some might not LIKE that scenario, but some do.
Another reason Wisconsin made sense was that I had a work event in Chicago (which is about 2 hours from Milwaukee), so Bart bravely volunteered to fly across the country with 2 little girls and meet me in Chicago to take the train up to Wisconsin. For weeks before we left, Ella kept saying “WE’RE GOING TO RIDE A TRAIN!!!”
Turns out the train ride was not the adventure she imagined:
But she was still quite excited (right up to the oops I fell asleep part). My brilliant husband had the great idea to ship a suitcase to our friend’s house, which meant he could travel with diaper bag, backpack and umbrella stroller, an idea I totally recommend.
In the great state of WI, we did a lot of exciting (read: kid friendly and some terrifying for me) things, many of which I captured in photo form. After a full night’s sleep, we headed out to the Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World. See what I mean by terrifying?
Yes, my daughter went down that red slide, in addition to MANY others in the many many hours we spent at the Chula Vista Waterpark. We had adjoining rooms and a kitchen – and a jacuzzi IN the main room, which the kids loved – and we wore the heck out of those children. They also wore the heck out of me. But that’s not the point – I had a piña colada to ease my pain.
On the evening of the third (and last) day, we went to “Downtown Dells”, a tourist trap filled with fudge shops, souvenir shops, and literally side-by-side “Olde Timey Portrait” studios, which (as you noticed above), we enjoyed. We even ALMOST got a fancy headband on Ella, and the kids loved it so much, they wanted to do another one (we did not).
Oh, and we had Cheese Curds, which honestly taste like fried mozzarella sticks (in bite-size format with cheddar instead):
After more sleep back at home, we headed out to Old World Wisconsin, an “outdoor history museum” where you can walk through Wisconsin as it used to be, in a town setup for exploration. There was a blacksmith shop, a soda fountain and general store where you could use your “gold coins” to buy a slate tablet, a one-room schoolhouse with an actual “teacher”, a farm where you can collect eggs from chicken coops, and thankfully a tram to get you from one area to the next (it’s huge).
On our last full day, we went to Discovery World in Milwaukee, one of the coolest science museums I’ve been to so far. There were lots of hands-on exhibits for the kids, with a technology wing and an aquarium with touch pools (which always gross me out and make me feel bad for the animals…)
(yes, that’s a turtle falling in love with his own reflection)
Finally, we headed back to Chicago’s fine O’Hare airport to head back home. More car time, which meant more sleep time for a few folks:
Our flight home was the last Ella will ever have “sharing a seat” (which I do NOT recommend). Sure, it saves money BUT try almost 5 hours on a plane with a wriggling toddler in your lap and you’ll be on my side on this one.
I will stamp this trip as a success, partially because I love my friend and her family and partially because Zoe cried on the way to the airport because she “missed Charlie and Addie already”. Oh, and she wanted to stay in Wisconsin because their house had stairs and cool kids rooms and was “underground” (they had a basement).
Best news of all? When we were in the airport bus back to our car, Bart asked Zoe where she wanted to go next (there was a huge video screen on the bus with pictures of exotic and beautiful places). You might guess what her response was: WISCONSIN.