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Five Last-Minute, One-Tank Spring Break Trips

You won’t have to drive more than three hours—if at all—to reach your destination.

Hot air ballooning over Lake Galena.   Photos: Courtesy of Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

Suddenly, Spring Break is here—beginning for some this very weekend—and your family’s playbook is still wide open. Not to worry with these five great hotels, each with fun options for families and availability at time of posting. The best part: you won’t have to drive more than three hours—if at all—to reach your destination.

1. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, Galena, Illinois

WHY GO: No matter the weather, there is a lot to do in Galena.
WHAT TO DO: In less than three hours, the rolling, wooded hills for which Galena is known offer a swift change in scenery. Check in at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, set on a lake and the 680-acre Galena Territory (80 rooms from $89 a night, 230 homes from $199 a night). Assuming sunshine, braggable activities await on property, such as horseback riding at the Shenandoah Riding Center (from $45) and hot air balloon rides at Galena on the Fly ($195 a person); lazy days might include time at the resort spa or indoor pool. A 15-minute drive away, the historic downtown is the place for boutiques and art galleries, an old-fashioned candy shop, tasting rooms like Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery and Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., and even magic shows at P.T. Murphy. A 15-minute walk away, take a tour of Ulysses S. Grant’s home, with views over the town.
TIP: From March 27 to 28, taste some 300 varietals during Wine Lovers’ Weekend. Teachers, ask about the special guaranteed $89-a-night rate through April 30.

2. Destination Kohler, Wisconsin

WHY GO: Families get sporty together; tired parents catch a break, too.
WHAT TO DO: Most think spa when they think Kohler, but the five-star resort is also a hidden gem for families, especially active families. Home to championship golf courses like Whistling Straits, practice sessions and personalized lessons for all ages are available at Kohler Golf Academy’s indoor studio, which has two hitting bays, a large putting green, and high-tech training equipment. There’s also open tennis and swimming at the SportsCore complex, and the 500-acre River Wildlife preserve offers extensive trails and birding along the Sheboygan River. Need some adult downtime? Sign the littles up for “Kidz Dinner and a Movie” ($15 a child), while you feast on a fireside dinner at Blackwolf Run. Call it a day at the 121-room Inn at Woodlake (from $112).
TIP: Spring Break can roll into Easter Sunday at Kohler with a great brunch in the historic Grand Hall, an egg hunt, and festivities at the bright Kohler Design Center.

3. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago

WHY GO: It’s one of the only hotels in the city with dedicated, complimentary Spring Break programming for kids.
WHAT TO DO: A stay at the 435-room Ritz-Carlton Chicago will run you $292 a night and up, but it comes with a bevy of daily, free kid’s activities created specifically for the Spring Break holiday. These include basketball shootouts on the new indoor half basketball court, pizza and cookie making in the kitchen, spa manicures, dive-in movies, a magic show, Karaoke, ice cream float parties, Easter egg decorating, and—when all else fails—a kid’s game room with video games.
TIP: Splurge on the Ritz’s new Extraordinary Experience, which includes an hour on the basketball court with former Chicago Bull Toni Kukoc.

4. Virgin Hotels Chicago

WHY GO: Because hip tweens and teens can be hard to please.
WHAT TO DO: Chicago’s hotel of the moment is the new, slick 250-room Virgin Hotels Chicago (from $165), and will no doubt impress the youngest of hipsters: your tweens and teens. They’ll dig the high-tech rooms controlled by mobile phone app, the daily social hour in the Commons Club with its Funny Library for complimentary beverages (adults get free cocktails; 6 to 7 p.m. daily), and the cool design throughout. At the newly opened Miss Ricky’s diner, milkshakes—which can be boozy for grownups—are a score all around.
TIP: Forget the cab: book the red Tesla house car to take you anywhere with a two-mile radius, complimentary.

5. Hotel Lincoln, Chicago

WHY GO: It’s the perfect launching pad for classic family excursions.
WHAT TO DO: Book a room at the playful, 184-room Hotel Lincoln, heading to the J. Parker rooftop with its new retractable roof to kick off your holiday with mocktails and Lake Michigan views (under 21 allowed until 8 p.m.). From the hotel, some of the city’s best—and often free—attractions are in sight, including the Lincoln Park Zoo, Jeanne Gang’s beautiful Nature Boardwalk with its honeycombed pavilion, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum ($9 for adults, $6 for ages 3 to 12). A few minutes further, there’s also the Chicago History Museum ($14 for adults, $12 and under free), or hop on Hotel Lincoln’s complimentary—and adorable—bikes to cruise the lakefront. On weekends, start the day at Perennial Virant, so younger foodies can sample Paul Virant’s new children’s brunch menu.
TIP: Nab one of only three family suites, which are basically a standard room attached to a smaller, clubhouse-style room with bunk beds (from $299).


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