Time for One More ‘Summer Day Trip’ Adventure


This summer has flown by. I say that every summer, but wow, it’s almost August and our kids are all ready to go back in school. In between camps, sports, work and other obligations, the week-long getaway just never did happen this summer. We have managed to squeeze in a summer day trip adventure or two though.

We love this “forced family fun” because we get the kids all to ourselves. With all the baseball, volleyball and band, it was hard to even find time to eat together. Taking off for the day meant we had time to check in and catch up with each other. Our summer goal was to hit some old favorites and find some new fun summer day trip adventures that even the teens would enjoy. I think we were successful. If you are looking for one more summer getaway, try one of these! 

Adventureland, Altoona, IA (164 miles)
We’ve all heard the commercials , but if you haven’t taken the kids, you really should think about it. Just outside of Des Moines, it’s an easy 2.5 hour drive from the Quad Cities. There is literally something for all ages for your next daytrip adventure. We have taken the kids since they were toddlers, and they still love it in their teens. I’ve enjoyed seeing their confidence grow, pushing their boundaries and trying new rides. I’ve even been known to get talked into a roller coaster and secretly loved it. The tickets, parking and food are cheaper than Six Flags, and the kids love it just as much. There’s even a water park included in your admission, so you can cool off on those hot days before getting back on that roller coaster.  “You’re gonna love it at Adventureland!” The park is open weekends through the end of September. 

Teens having fun at Adventureland

Whoa Zone at Whihala Beach, Whiting, IN   (178 miles) 
This was a new one for us this year. Whoa Zone is a huge inflatable obstacle course set up right ON Lake Michigan, only 3 hours away for an amazing day trip adventure. The kids have been determined to go ever since they saw this video. Since you only have the option of 1 or 2 hours on the obstacle course, it’s easily doable in a day. We even had some time to relax on the sandy beach afterwards, and hit Giardano’s Pizza on the way home (who’s with me, Chicago style pizza really is the best).  They offer a discounted rate if you get there by 11am so good motivation to get your day going! 

The kids LOVED it. The 12 and 14 year old said it was a little tricky to stay on the inflatables, but they were glad we had gotten the 2 hour package. The obstacle course is extensive, and time goes FAST when you are a kid jumping on a trampoline in the water. They loved the rope climb and giant slide the best. The minimum age to go is 7 (I read, but there really seemed to be no one who cared about ages when we checked in).  Our 7 year old is a strong swimmer, but I’m glad I didn’t send her alone – her siblings had to help her over some obstacles, and hang on to her when the waves got a little choppy. Most of the kids out there seemed to be in the 10-17 range, with a couple of brave parents in the mix. 

It was well worth the drive there, and we are definitely putting this one back on the list for next year. Beware though that they do close for riptides and windy conditions, so check their facebook before you make the trip. Open through August 19 weather permitting.  

Whoa Zone on Lake Michigan

Wildcat Den State Park, Muscatine, IA (24 miles)
This one is much closer to home, and a great option when time is tight but you’re still craving a family adventure. Wildcat Den offers numerous hiking trails, and it’s the only hike my teens don’t moan and groan about going on (usually). Because of all the cool rock formations, they think it’s a pretty awesome place to go for a summer day trip adventure, and I would have to agree. You can try your luck fitting through Fat Man’s Squeeze, or find your way to Steamboat Rock and the Devil’s Punch Bowl. The beautiful bluffs and outcroppings provide some great views.  There is also an old Grist Mill and school to explore.  

summer day trip adventure
Wildcat Den State Park is great for exploring


Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark, Blue Mounds, WI (144 miles)
Mom friend Heather suggested this one and it will be our next adventure for sure.  “Visiting Cave of the Mounds was phenomenal for our whole family. My husband and I had just as much fun as our kids exploring the cave, digging for treasure, and hiking the beautiful grounds. It’s a perfect day-trip destination! Membership was only $6 more a person than the cave tour so we went for the membership.

They have a lot of seasonal events that sound really neat. We’re excited for Halloween at the caves, and Christmas caroling, too. The grounds themselves are beautiful; there’s nice, short hiking trails. They have concessions, but I’d recommend bringing a picnic. We ate at a nice shady picnic area with lots of tables and grills available. Bring sweatshirts. It’s 50 degrees in the cave year round making it the perfect summer day trip adventure. At the gift shop you can buy different sized bags of material to take to their outdoor sluice (where you can sift for geologic treasure). I think the boys liked that the most.” We can’t wait to check it out.  

summer daytrip adventure
The Muirs explore Cave of the Mounds sluicing area

It may seem like summer is quickly coming to a close, but there is definitely still time to fit in some more fun so head on out for one last summer day trip adventure!  What is your favorite day trip destination? 

Here are 100 more ideas!

Road Trips near the Quad Cities Part 1

Road trips within an hour of the Quad City area Part 2

Road Trips within 100 miles of the Quad Cities Part 3



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Augustana College brought Rachel to the Quad Cities as a student, and she has stayed here ever since making Rock Island her home. Rachel works full-time as the Associate Director of Admissions at Augustana, and is raising three kids, Grace (17), Luke (15) and Claire (10). Her husband Bill teaches art at Rock Island High School and is a freelance artist doing murals, caricatures and architectural renderings. Rachel enjoys being involved with her kids' sports activities, and also is an advocate for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) in support of her daughter with Type 1 Diabetes. She also loves to plan awesome vacations and adventures with her family, and leaves the beach most of all.


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