43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

Route: Wisconsin to Florida (Tampa or Orlando area)

There's an art to planning stretch breaks along your road trip with kids. You want clean bathrooms, energy busters,  kid-friendly eateries, and affordability.  Not to mention the weather, business hours, and how far off the freeway it is located.   

I’m a mom of two sons, (ages 1 and 3 at the time of this post) and I’ve invested A LOT of time choosing ideal stops between our home in Wisconsin and their grandparents’ in Florida. Direct, it is a 21 hour drive to my in-laws’ which we break up between 3 days so we can enjoy the journey rather than dread two straight days cooped up in a car.

After completing this route four times now with my kids, I rounded up our favorite stops into this post and included a few that are on the docket for next time. There are too many fun places to stop on the way to Florida from Wisconsin!

Here are 43 attractions, eateries, and lodging worth checking out. They’ll break up your journey, show you something new and interesting about America, and likely teach you something about your travel companions.

Tip: As you venture this route, you will alternate between Eastern and Central time zones a few times.  Take note of this when planning to visit a place with limited business hours.
43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

Illinois Roadside Attractions for Families

Take advantage of the Oasis options if a bathroom break is needed, otherwise once you’re close to downtown Chicago, it becomes a hassle to find an easy-on-off exit.

If you are taking the most efficient route, that’s the only stop we take in Illinois as we try or best to b-line through the little bit of the state we need to cross.

If you want to change up your route, add Metropolis and Garden of the Gods to your waypoints.

Metropolis

Metropolis, IL is coined as the “Home of Superman.” Comic book fans will love exploring the town and maybe you’ll happen upon one of their many super hero themed events.

Park near the Superman Statue and walk around the town’s center. Louis Lane’s statue is just two blocks north on Market Street.

Be sure to pick up a rock and let the kids decide whether it is Kryptonite or take them to see the Giant Kryptonite Rock at the corner of 3rd and Ferry Street.

Cost: FREE (+ Souvenirs)

Superman Statue Address: 517 Market St, Metropolis, IL 62960

Metropolis Illinois with Kids
Metropolis, Illinois

Garden of the Gods National Forest

Dramatic views are easily accessible on the Observation Trail which makes a 1/4 mile loop from the parking lot. Our toddler liked climbing the (non cliff-side) rocks as we marveled over the sandstone formations. We traveled in January and I can only imagine how stunning the panoramic view would be with fierce autumn colors.

Plan ahead as you will likely lose phone service in and around this park. It was a dead-zone for our Verizon and AT&T phones.

Cost: FREE

Duration: 30 minutes

Location of Trailhead: 37°36’16.6″N 88°23’03.6″W

Indiana Roadtrip Stops

3 Floyds Brewing

We are beer-loving parents, so if we are passing a noteworthy brewery we try to check it out in person. 3 Floyds is a must if you haven’t had their beer. At the time of writing this post, they are only open for carry out. We love enjoying a beer as we get settled in our hotel after a long day on the road.

Cost: $11+ for a 6-pack

Address: 9750 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, IN 46321 (10 minutes from I-90)

Open Daily 12-7pm

Fair Oaks Farms

This education (and working) farm and museum was a fantastic indoor space to let the kids learn through play while burning off some pent up energy. The four main buildings had numerous kid play spaces, a Peppa Pig clubhouse, a ropes course, a birthing barn, and tons of interactive exhibits.

There’s also a Farmhouse Restaurant, Cowfé, and Dairycatessen if you want to grab a bite before hitting the road.

There’s an extra cost to visit the working swine and dairy farms, so depending on how long you have, you may opt to skip that.

Cost: $22 per person, 2 years and up (Or $80 gets you an annual membership for the whole family.)

Duration: 2-3 hours

Address: 856 N 600 East, Fair Oaks, IN 47943

Open Daily until 5pm

Zaharakos Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor

A short detour from I-65 will earn you quite an experience as you step back in time at Zaharakos, a 1900 Soda Shop/Ice Cream Parlor. Have a seat in the dining room and soak in the atmosphere and friendly service. While you wait for your order to be ready, explore the original soda fountains, wood work, and the collection of self playing instruments.

Cost: $3+

Duration: 30-45 minutes

Address: 329 Washington St, Columbus, IN 47201 (6 minutes off I-65)

Open Wednesday-Sunday 11am-6pm

Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark

There are 4 cave experiences on this post so you can choose the best that fits your kids’ ages, target budget, and schedule on the road. First up as you head south, is Marengo Cave. Note that this stop would be 45 minutes from the highway, potentially adding 1.5 hours to your day’s drive time, so unless you’ve already visited the others mentioned below, I suggest opting for one of those.

Cost: Tour prices range from $10.95-28.95. 3 and under are FREE.

Duration: 1-2 hours

Address: 400 East State Rd 64, Marengo, IN 47140

Open 9am-5pm Daily

Indiana Dunes

If you’re not in a rush, take a short detour (10 min each way) and spend a few hours at the Indiana Dunes. Decide ahead of time whether you want to visit the National Park or the adjacent State Park as each have their own entrances and independent fees.

Wear light jackets as it can get especially windy and prepare for sore calves the next day.

In my opinion, this park is best explored outside of the winter months when the famous dunes are hidden under snow and ice.

Cost: State Park $12 per vehicle, National Park $25 per vehicle (Also accepts annual passes)

Duration: 2-6 hours

Visitor Center Address: 1215 IN-49, Porter, IN 46304

Kentucky Family Friendly Stops

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

Tour the factory where the iconic bats are made, explore the museum, or have a bat personalized for your little all-star.

Cost: Ages 13+ $18, Ages 6-12 $11, 5 and under FREE

Duration: 1.5-3 hours

Address: 800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Open Monday – Saturday 9am-5pm and 10am-4pm Sunday ET

Kentucky Science Center

Looking for a great indoor space for young kids? Let them get hands-on at the Kentucky Science Center.

Cost: $13+ (Or free through reciprocal children’s’ museum or public museum membership)

Duration: 1.5-2 hours

Address: 727 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Open Daily 9:30am-5pm

Louisville Mega Cavern

The Louisville Mega Cavern was formerly a limestone mine. From historic walking or tram tours, to laser tag, to zip lines, there is something for any age/ability.

Cost: Varies by attraction

Duration 1.5-2 hours

Address: 1841 Taylor Ave, Louisville, KY 40213 (5 minutes off I-65)

Open Thursday-Monday 9:30am-8pm

Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoological Gardens are cares for more than 1,100 animals and offers unique experiences like camel rides and the  BOMA African Petting Zoo.

Duration: 1-3 hours

Cost: $6.50 + (Or free through reciprocal zoo membership program)

Address: 1100 Trevilian Way, Louisville, KY 40213 (7 minutes off I-65)

Open Daily 10am-4pm

Enjoy an Adult Beverage

I’m not a bourbon drinker, but others have shared that Jim Beam’s Distillery is kid-friendly.

If you prefer beer like we do, Holsopple or 3rd Turn Brewing are worthwhile stops for food and drink with kid-accepting atmosphere.

National Corvette Museum

My kids are car crazy, are yours? The National Corvette Museum has a Corvette KidZone especially tailored to kids 8 and under to get hyped over Chevrolets.

Cost: Ages 13+ $15, 5-12 $10, 4 and under FREE

Duration: 1-3 hours

Address: 350 Corvette Dr. Bowling Green, KY 42101

Open most days from 10-5pm but these vary throughout the year so check in advance.

Dinosaur World

There is a Dinosaur World in Kentucky and one outside Tampa that may fit your road trip needs. The one in Kentucky has a playground, fossil dig, boneyard, and 150 life size dinos.

Cost: $12-$22, 2 and under FREE

Duration: 1-2 hours

Address: 711 Mammoth Cave Road Cave City, KY 42127

Open daily 8:30am to 4:30pm (CT)

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave is the ultimate place for jaw dropping spelunking. It is the world’s longest known cave system with 400 miles of it already explored, but the end remains undiscovered! About 10 miles of the cave can be visited via various tours.

Young children can be carried, but backpacks are not allowed.

Cost: Tickets $4-66 depending on the tour. Ages 5 and under are FREE. If you have an America The Beautiful National Park Pass you will get a discount on your tour tickets.

Duration: 1-3 hours

Address: 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Hours: Tour times vary, but typically start between 9am and 3pm.

Lost River Cave

This is the only cave tour in Kentucky offered by boat, which I feel is the easiest type of tour to enjoy with little ones.

Cost: Tickets range from $5.95-$21.95. Outside of the cave, there are t miles of FREE walking trails as well.

Duration: 45 minute tour.

Address: 2818 Nashville Rd, Bowling Green, KY 42101

Open daily 9:30am-5:30pm. Be sure to call ahead as Lost River Cave may close depending on water-level or repairs.

Tennessee Road Trip Things to Do with Kids

Kid-Friendly Nashville

BBQ at Edley’s or Martin’s

Each of these have numerous locations around the city so no matter which route your map takes you through/around the city, a stop won’t put you too far off track (other than on calories).

The Aquarium Restaurant

A partner restaurant to Rainforest Café, the immersive Aquarium Restaurant is a real treat for kids. Ours boys were completely entranced while they waited for our meals to arrive. In addition to hundreds of colorful fish, there were massive sting rays in the tank, several sharks, and to our amusement, two scuba divers came swimming through to clean. The boys’ faces were priceless.

The food quality is comparable to Rainforest Café, and you are paying a bit extra for the atmosphere.

Cost: Kids Meals $7.99+, Adult Mains $15.99+

Duration: 1-1.5 hours

Address: 516 Opry Mills Dr, Nashville, TN 37214 (Located just behind the Grand Ole Opry)

Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm

The Nashville Zoo

The Nashville Zoo announced they’re opening a large Komodo dragon habitat! I can’t wait to check it out.

Cost: $12-$26, Children under 2 FREE

Duration: 2-3 hours

Address: 3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211

Open 9am-4pm Daily

43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

Opryland Resort

Splurge on a stay at Opryland Resort, a destination in and of itself any time of year, but especially during the holiday season.  Their atriums are stunning and they have a ton of programming and things for the kids to do.

Cost: One night will cost upwards of $240 during non peak times.

Address: 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214

Discovery Center at Murfree Spring

Murfreesboro makes for an excellent stopping point and hotel stay if you are completing your Wisconsin to Florida road trip in just two days.

In addition to the indoor Discovery Center, explore the Murfree Spring Wetlands where there’s a stroller friendly boardwalk trail and a playground. (FREE)

Cost: Ages 2+ $8 (Or free with reciprocal children’s museum membership)

Duration: 1.5 – 3 hours

Address: 502 SE Broad St, Murfreesboro, TN 37130

Open Wed-Sat 9am-4pm and Sunday 11am-4pm

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, Rock City Gardens, Ruby Falls

From Rock City Gardens you can see 7 states! The Incline Railway is an awesome experience for the family and Ruby Falls is a hidden waterfall accessible via a cave tour. Info on all three can be found here.

Cost: Incline $7-$15, Rock City $14.95+, Ruby Falls $13.95+

Duration: 1.5-2 hours

Address: 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Open 8:30am-5pm

Explore Downtown Chattanooga

Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel & Entertainment Complex

There’s lots to see around this former Terminal Station. A retired steam train has been converted to restaurants, bars, and several hotel rooms in converted train cars.

In the winter, they set up an ice rink in the courtyard.

Cost: $180+ per night

Address: 1400 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402

43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

Clumpies Ice Cream Company

Four locations are sprinkled around Chattanooga and all of their Ice Cream is made by hand. They have 3 dozen or so flavors from which to choose. A kid favorite is the Firecracker with pop rocks mixed in.

Cost: $3+

Duration: 30 minutes

Address: Four locations

Open 12pm-9pm Daily

Clumpies Chattanooga with Kids

Eat Southern Fare

Countless highly rated eateries fill downtown Chattanooga, it is nearly impossible to go wrong.

Waterfront Views at Rembrandt’s Coffee House

Website

Address: 204 High St, Chattanooga, TN 37403
Open 8am-9pm Daily

Moonpie General Store

Website

Address: 429 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Open 10am-5pm

OddStory Brewing Company

Website

Address: 336 E M L King Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37403
Open Tues-Thurs 4pm-10pm, Fri 3pm-11pm, and Sat 12pm-11pm

Five Wits Brewing Company

Website

Address: 1501 Long St, Chattanooga, TN 37408
Open Daily 11am-10pm

Georgia

Lula Lake Land Trust

You’ll have to plan ahead if you want to explore this natural area and waterfall. They are only open to the public on the first and last weekends of each month and require advanced reservations.

Cost: $16 per car

Duration: 1-3 hours

Address: 5000 Lula Lake Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Open two weekends per month from 9am-5pm with reservations.

43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

Add a fascinating dose of American history to your road trip with a stop at the Military park.

Duration: 2-3 hours
Cost: Varies based on which part of the park you visit
Address: 3370 Lafayette Rd, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742
Open Daily 8:30am-5pm

Coca Cola World

Such a fun place, especially for soda lovers, to learn about how their brand became the icon it is today.

Duration: 2-3 hours
Cost: Ages 13+ $18, Ages 3-12 $14, 2 and under FREE
Address: 121 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
Open Daily 10am-7pm or later

Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium‘s COVID19 updates make visiting the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere more enjoyable than ever! It features the biggest tank in the world, at 6.3 million gallons is home to whale sharks! Sharks, beluga whales, rays, penguins, jelly fish, and sea turtles are just a few of the thousands of species you’ll find here. The Japanese Spider Crabs, which are jaw droppingly massive creatures, were our son’s favorite to watch.

When you arrive, ask when Dolphin shows are offered and register if required.

Cost: $39.95, 2 and under FREE
Duration: 2-3 hours
Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
Open Fri-Sun 8am-9pm and Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm

Satterfield’s Barbecue

Satterfield’s is only open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11am-2pm so you have to time it right to hit up this renowned restaurant in Macon, Georgia.

Address: 120 New St, Macon, GA 31201

Shop a Farm Market – Pecans and Produce

Lane Southern Orchards

Address: 50 Lane Rd, Fort Valley, GA 31030
Open 9am-5pm

Ellis Brothers Pecans

Samples are back!

Address: 1315 Tippettville Rd, Vienna, GA 31092
Open 8am-7pm Daily

The Market at Rutland Farms

Check out their seasonal activities at the farm too.

Address: 5641 Union Rd, Tifton, GA 31794
Open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm

Chattahoochee Nature Center

This was a tad out of the way (20 minutes from I-75), but wow, what a local treasure. If I lived in the area I’d take my kids weekly to further explore the Nature Center as well as the trails. They have fish tanks, snakes, an opossum and the biggest delight was the enchanted trail, dotted with 40+ fairy houses.

Duration: 1-3 hours
Cost: Adults $10, Children $6, 2 and under FREE (all are free with reciprocal Nature Center Membership)
Address: 9135 Willeo Rd, Roswell, GA 30075
Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm

Florida

You made it! If you need one more stretch break, here are some wonderful (lesser known) gems in the northern part of Florida.

Ichetucknee Springs

Retirement Home for Horses

The price of admission to this beautiful farm is simply a bag of carrots from the grocery store. (Get at least 5 pounds, they go quick and the kids will be thrilled by feeding the horses!)

You have to time it just right to catch this local gem during their opening hours from 11am-3pm on Saturdays. It was wonderful to watch my little boys interact with these gentle creatures. They liked learning about each one’s story too as I read from the signs.

Cost: A bag of carrots

Duration: 30-60 minutes

Address: 20307 N, Co Rd 235A, Alachua, FL 32615

Open 11am-3pm on Saturdays only!

Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History

For a free museum, we were impressed with the exhibits hosted inside. The Discovery Zone is a perfect place to start for young kids and they were also transfixed by the butterfly displays and the shark jaws; from Megalodon to Great White.

Cost: General Admission to the museum is free, however the Butterfly Rainforest is $7 for ages 3-12 and $14 for adults.

Duration: 45 minutes – 2 hours

Address: 3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611

Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm and Sun 1-5pm

Pearl Country Store & Barbecue

One of those unassuming, yet drool-worthy BBQ joints you just have to check out. The BBQ Counter is in the back of the gas station and also offers a drive through option.

Be prepared to wait in line, but they move quickly and it is worth it. Get their brisket and plan to split one, as the portions are huge and you’ll want to save room to try a few of their sides. There wasn’t much seating, so we took ours to go and had a picnic at a nearby playground.

Duration: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Address: 106 NE US Hwy 441 A, Micanopy, FL 32667

Open 6am-7pm

Blue Spring State Park

About an hour north of Orlando, there is a gorgeous state park where you can spot manatees during the colder months. The boardwalk is stroller friendly and a great place to let the kids run free or better yet, rent a kayak!

Duration: .5 – 3 hours

Cost: Vehicle Admission $6

Address: 2100 W French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763

Open daily 8am-Sundown

Looking for family friendly fun along the Gulf Coast of Florida? Check out 10 Perfect Family Activities on Florida’s West Coast.

Before I go, we have to talk about bladders…

Someone once told me, as a rule of thumb, add 30 minutes to each day’s estimated drive time per bladder in the car. So as a family of four, if you are planning to split your 20 hour road trip between 2 days, you’ll end up taking 24 hours on the road minimum, just for potty breaks.

43 Affordable Kid-Friendly Stops: Wisconsin to Florida Road Trip

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