Ahhh, the summer family vacation – one of my most favorite types of trips to plan! State parks to hike, lakes and/or pools to swim, new experiences and adventures to be had! Where shall we go this year? Blue Mound, WI! Let’s hit the road!
First, I like to decide where we’re going to stop mid-drive on the way to our destination. The stop helps to break up the long drive and it helps us mark things off our summer bucket list. Last year, we stopped at the Milwaukee Zoo on our way down to Fort Atkinson (future post on that trip!).
This year, the Milwaukee Zoo was too out of the way for our end destination of Blue Mound so we opted for Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo. This was our family’s first visit to Henry Vilas and we were so impressed by this FREE zoo (donations suggested at entry). The Zoo was clean, the animals were great, and I would absolutely say this zoo meets expectations of a wonderful day spent. We picnicked in the zoo (allowed to bring in your own food – great!), the playground for the kids was so neat, and we will absolutely visit again in the future. After the Zoo, we drove to our Airbnb where we would spend the next three nights.
The following day, we visited Blue Mound State Park. I have always wanted to visit this park so I was excited to finally get to check out the area. After entering the park, we drove to the East Tower and climbed to the top. This was the girls’ first time climbing an observation tower and for their ages (4 & 6), they handled the climb just fine. I will say, though, I think the climb made their legs a tad tired so the one and only hike we completed wasn’t complaint-free!
The trail we chose was the Pleasure Valley and Weeping Rock loop. This trail section was hilly in some sections, but the terrain was still child-friendly. My daughters’ favorite part of Weeping Rock was the several sections of crossing wooden planks over shallow ditches.
After hiking, we were all ready to cool off. Blue Mound State Park has a great swimming pool & splash pad area (minimal entry fee). The pool and splash pad were clean, there was plenty of provided shade, and the locker room was handy for changing out of sweaty hiking gear. I had packed us a picnic lunch and after we cooled off in the pool, we all got a stamp on our hand from the friendly park staff and we ate our lunch at a picnic table outside the pool area (no eating within the pool area).
Our last full day on vacation was spent exploring Cave of the Mounds and Mount Horeb. If you’ve never been to Cave of the Mounds, it’s a must-do. While the trip into the cave isn’t inexpensive, it’s well worth the money. The cave is bigger than I had anticipated and the girls LOVED wandering around (so much so, we looped the cave twice). All the staff was friendly and knowledgeable and it’s an experience we won’t forget. Cave of the Mounds is located about 10 minutes outside of Mount Horeb and we enjoyed walking around the town, having lunch at the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub, and treats at the Sugar Troll & the Icki Sticki.
Much like our mid-drive stop on the way to our destination, I like to try and do a mid-drive stop on the way home. The last two summers, we’ve stopped at Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac. It’s a great mid-way point to stop for a picnic and the girls thoroughly enjoy all the rides, playground equipment, and splash pad.
Every year, I plan a family summer vacation. I love sharing my trips with others in case our experiences inspire someone else to appreciate what Wisconsin has to offer. My intention is to share more of our family adventures so – stay tuned!
Have any questions about planning a family vacation? Let us know in the comments!