Spring Break Close to Home

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spring break close to home roadtrip road trip memphis moms blog

By the time March rolls around, my family has a serious case of Spring Fever and Spring Break is the perfect cure! But you don’t have to spend a fortune taking the kids skiing in Colorado or risking too-cold temps at the beach. Memphis is an easy drive from several family-friendly destinations that are easy on the budget too!

My personal favorite is St. Louis, Missouri and there’s no shortage of reasons why.  About halfway through the 4-hour drive there, stopping at Lambert’s Café (Home of the “Throwed Rolls”) is a must, and your kids (and tummies) will thank you!  Once in St. Louis, my recommendation is staying downtown, as it’s within walking distance from lots of tourist sites and great restaurants.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites because let’s be honest, a separate bedroom for us and a free hot breakfast is hard to beat!  But if you don’t mind spending a little more (okay, a lot), the Four Seasons is the bee’s knees for kids featuring complimentary in-room movies and popcorn, sweet treats at bedtime, kid-sized slippers and robes, and more!  If the weather is nice, a trip to the St. Louis Zoo or Grant’s Farm (both of which are FREE!) is the perfect way to start your day.  The Magic House, the city’s children’s museum, is also a must-see and the Science Center, which is also free to the public, is another highlight with lots of hands-on activities for all ages.  Within walking distance from the downtown hotels are also the famous Gateway Arch, a 630 foot monument with a museum beneath it, and Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play. But the real reason everyone comes to St. Louis is the City Museum, which is a museum featuring a playground and funhouse made mostly of repurposed architectural and industrials objects. This place is a dream come true for kids and adults alike, but be sure to bring your knee pads and head lamps. Trust me on this one ;).  My dining recommendations include Fitz’s Bottling Company, Bailey’s Range, and Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard.

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Another great option is a day (or one-night) trip around West Tennessee.  If you head east on 1-40, about an hour and a half away is the Safari Park of Tennessee located in Alamo.  This drive-through zoo features over 80 species of animals from antelope to zebra, and also has a separate petting zoo.  Hint: Don’t take a newly-washed car and make sure you keep little ones in the lap of a passenger.  The emu and ostrich can be very aggressive, but you can always opt to drive through and skip the feeding part if you’re uncertain or if you are traveling without another adult or older child.

May - Safari Park (8)

Less than 20 miles away from Alamo is Casey Jones Village in Jackson, TN.  Take your train enthusiasts to the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum and make a pit stop at the world-famous Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store with a southern buffet and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  Hop back on the road towards Union City where the Discovery Park of America is located approximately 60 miles away.  The Discovery Park boasts more than 70,000 SF of exhibits focused on nature, science, technology, history, and art as well as 50 acres of gardens, grounds and outdoor historic exhibits.  Pack a lunch to enjoy outside or dine in their indoor café for a well-priced and delicious meal.  My kids loved the 60-foot replica of a human body with a 30-foot indoor slide as well as the water and energy exhibits!

July - Union City Discovery Park (16)

If you are lucky enough to have your Spring Break fall before mid-March, take my advice and check out my newest discovery: French Lick, Indiana.  About 6 hours away, nestled in the Indiana countryside, is a small town known as French Lick, and home of NBA legend, Larry Byrd. A 15-minute drive away is Paoli Peaks, an alpine ski resort offering skiing and snow tubing with the help of 110 stationary towers and snow machines.  If you’ve never taken the family skiing before, this is a great place to start, as lift tickets, rentals, and accommodations are much more reasonable than their western counterparts.  Check out the historic, upscale French Lick Resort & Casino featuring a luxurious spa, championship golf course, horseback riding, bowling alley, arcade, and eight dining options, and see for yourself why it was named Best Readers’ Choice Award for Best Historic Hotel by 2015 USA Today.

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Also about 6 hours away is Atlanta, Georgia--home of the Braves, Coca-cola, and the fictitious setting for Gone With the Wind. Although some people choose to stay downtown to be nearby some of the must-see sites, my vote is for Buckhead, which is a lot more family-friendly. We opted again for the Embassy Suites and took the complimentary shuttle to the Lego Discovery Center where the kids had a blast building with Legos, watching 4-D films, and riding indoor attractions.  The downtown area is a short drive away from Buckhead and your first stop has to be the World of Coke.  This museum, showcasing the history of the Coca-Cola Company, also has a can’t-miss taste testing area and an exciting 4-D film that my kids loved.

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Located conveniently next door is the Georgia Aquarium, one of the best aquariums we’ve visited to date, with a show-stopping musical that is a must-see and lots of hands-on activities for the kiddos.  Grab a quick bite at the CNN Center next door with loads of easy lunch options, and while you are there, tour the College Football Hall of Fame.  End your day at the Skyview Ferris Wheel for the best view of the city.  If you have time while you are there, try to squeeze in a visit to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History with a 3-story high dinosaur exhibit or the American Girl Store in Alpharetta.  The highlight of my daughter’s trip was getting her doll’s hair styled. Hint: Splurge on the hair style or ear piercing, but bring your own outfit purchased beforehand to avoid massive overspending. Trust me, it’s easy to do! My dining recommendations in Atlanta include Lizzy’s Tin Cantina, the Buckhead Diner, and of course, The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant.

We are always looking for new places to explore as a family, so if you have any to add to the list, let me hear them! In the meantime, enjoy my recommendations and have a great Spring Break 2016!

 

 

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Emily was born in Louisiana and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She met her husband in college and moved to Memphis in 2002 right after they got married. They first lived downtown and then in East Memphis, before settling further east in Germantown in 2011. They had their son, Gray, in October 2007 and their daughter, Hayes, only 20 months later in July 2009. Emily's kids are only one grade apart and are often mistaken for twins. Emily loves red wine, peanut butter, all things homemade and DIY, hot baths, and laughing so hard you cry.