Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

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Alex Frakt
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Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Alex Frakt » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:22 am

I'm in Boynton Beach, FL (30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale) with my family for the holidays. All five of us - my wife, MIL, 7-year-old son, 2.5-year-old daughter and I - drove down here from Chicago in 2 days with as few stops as possible. The ladies are flying back, my son and I are making the return alone. We can take 3 or 4 days giving us a chance to do a little bit of exploring. We'll be leaving on Thursday, the 31st, and have to be back Sunday at the latest, Saturday would probably be better. The quickest route is basically to get over to I-75 north through Georgia to Tennessee, then I-24 west to the I-65 north through Kentucky and Indiana, but I could be persuaded otherwise.

Any suggestions about what we should see? I'm looking for things that would be entertaining to my son (and preferably me), reasonably priced, and no theme parks. I assume Mammoth Caves is worth a stop? Cape Canaveral?

edit - I'd also appreciate recs for any really cool playgrounds near the Interstates. We travel all over the Chicago metro area visiting playgrounds, it would be fun to see what other states have to offer.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by denovo » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:40 am

Its a bit out of your way, but I think the Great Smoky National Park and Asheville are interesting.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Miriam2 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 1:45 am

He might like the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta, it's fun 8-)
For playgrounds close to I-75, how about the University of Florida campus in Gainesville? It's beautiful, fun to walk, fun student restaurants nearby including The Swamp, and of course, THE stadium.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by gatorman » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:53 am

Glass bottom boats at Silver Springs State Park near Ocala, FL
Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville- don't miss the butterfly enclosure

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by tigermilk » Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:39 am

No doubt a 7 year old would want to stop in Orlando. There's this little place called Disney there...

At 7 he may not fully appreciate going to the Cape and seeing an actual Space Shuttle, though he'd probably think it's cool to see the size as well as all the other rockets. I can't remember how close the Saturn V is to the visitor's center, but there's also a good rocket park next to it. They actually have a pretty good visitor's center with some things oriented to kids. There are play areas and also an IMAX theater.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by JWooden10 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:20 am

Tellus Science Museum in White, GA is less than a mile off I-75. Don't recall pricing but my kids less than 10 enjoy it each time we visit.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by an_asker » Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:37 am

You are from Chicago, but still, you need to share more about you guys cold tolerance, especially if you are planning visiting the Smokeys. If you do decide to go through those, they are awesome (though I have not been there in December).

Also, you might enjoy visiting St.Augustine up the Atlantic coast. The main fort there is nice, you could also visit a smaller (and, I believe, less visited) fort - Fort Matanzas. There is a five-minute free boatride to get to the fort. And there is a nice beach (no swimming, per signs, when we visited last weekend). Your son might like to climb up the lighthouse there as well (small fee required).

If you do visit St. Augustine, you could cut across to I-75 via I-10. Or you could drive a bit further north to the Folkston Funnel (if you guys are into trains, though YMMV), then cut across to I-75 on local (much slower) roads.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by researcher » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:06 am

I would not deviate much from your proposed route just to catch some of the sights being recommended here.
There is more than enough to keep you entertained on the direct route to Chicago without adding more driving to the trip.
Here is what I would do:

Kennedy Space Center
- Highly recommended. I think both you and your son would have a blast here. Very entertaining and informative for all ages.

Nashville
- I’d get a good chunk of driving out of the way and head to Nashville.
- There is plenty to do and see here. Check out TripAdvisor and pick something you’d enjoy. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions- ... essee.html

Corvette Assembly Plant & National Corvette Museum
- The factory tour is a must-see if you or your son have never been to an assembly plant. (though they may not be building cars at this time)
- The museum is also worth seeing even if you’re not a huge Corvette fan. They still have cars on display that were pulled from the sink hole that developed inside the museum.

Mammoth Cave National Park
- Highly recommended. You will both have fun here.
- Make sure you take a least a few tours and book them in advance.

Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site
- This is a few miles off the interstate, but would be a nice stop if you have time.

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
- This would be a good filler stop, especially if you have an interest in baseball.

Indianapolis
- Your son would enjoy the Children’s Museum, Zoo and Conner Prairie. (though Conner Prairie may not be open in the winter)

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by mxs » Mon Dec 28, 2015 11:22 am

National Air Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH. It would add about an hour of driving and change your route a little bit, plus the time you spend there.
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Crow Hunter » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:07 pm

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta!

http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/

I really enjoyed it and I am not 7. :)

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Call CAF Dixie Wing and see if someone is going to be there when you are going through and stop by in Peachtree and see the P-51, Corsair and the SBD Dauntless. I am sure they will be happy to let a 7 year old get up close and personal with some beautiful Warbirds. (And you should fly in one if you ever get the chance, it will take days to wipe the grin off your face after stepping out of a P-51. Especially if you can get Major Ray Fowler to fly you. )

http://www.dixiewing.org/aircraft.htm

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My wife and I really enjoyed the Fernbank museum in Atlanta. Lots of cool dinosaurs. (My wife really likes life size dinosaurs)

http://www.fernbankmuseum.org/

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Adventure Science Center in Nashville.

http://www.adventuresci.org/

I haven't been, but I have heard it is really cool.

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Chickamauga Battlefield and Lookout Mountain

http://www.nps.gov/chch/index.htm

Specifically there is a tower on the battlefield driving tour that is really cool (looks like a medieval tower, my wife calls it The Rook) and you can climb up in it and look out over the battlefield.

http://roadsidegeorgia.com/site/wildertower.html

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Of course Mammoth Caves. Go on a lantern tour if you get the chance and can only pick one to go on. It really rocks.

http://www.recreation.gov/tourDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&tourId=206114

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For yourself, stop by Outpost Armory in Christiana TN. It is owned by Ronnie Barrett (manufacturer of the US M82A1). Probably can't take anything with you but you can still stop and drool. :)

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You could also drive by Fort Knox just to say you have seen it if you're on I-65 anyway. They used to have an AWESOME tank display that kids could climb on and see but they have since moved most of them to Ft. Benning for a yet unopened armor park. There is still a museum there (Patton Museum) that has some cool stuff and a few armor pieces here and there but most of them are now gone.

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That is about the extent of what I could think of that I would want to do (or actually did do) as a 7 year old.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by wageoghe » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:15 pm

RE the Corvette plant in Bowling Green... I think you need an advance reservation for the plant tour. There could be open slots if you just drop in, but, then again, there might not.

If you stop in the Mammoth Cave area, consider driving by Wigwam Village for a photo op.

http://www.wigwamvillage.com/

What boy doesn't like dinosaurs?

http://dinosaurworld.com/kentucky/

If you like Civil War stuff, there are some excellent sites in Franklin, TN. Like Carnton plantation (major battle fought there. I think 5 generals killed) and Carter House.

Also in Franklin is a ropes course attraction,

https://soaradventure.com/

I've never been, but it looks cool from the interstate.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by niceguy7376 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:27 pm

Some new mentions:

Atlanta area, Coke Museum and Tellus Museum. If you are a BOFA customer, tellus is free on sat and sun Jan 2 and 3 (a bit too late based on your scheduled drive).

Chattanooga: Ruby falls, incline railway, zipline at ruby falls, rock city, train station turned hotel.

Nashville: Opryland, Vanderbilt Univ

Louisville area: santa claus, IN and caves

In between places but on the road: Corvette Museum

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Watty » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:48 pm

JWooden10 wrote:Tellus Science Museum in White, GA is less than a mile off I-75. Don't recall pricing but my kids less than 10 enjoy it each time we visit.


+1

The Museum just opened it a large new building a few years ago. That would be a great break that would be enjoyable for you too. Three hours would likely be enough time for it but you could spend longer there if you wanted.

Avoid hitting the Atlanta rush hours which would be anytime before 9:30 AM and from about 3:30 PM to 7:30 PM on weekdays. Even on weekends check the traffic on the internet before you hit Atlanta to see if there is a problem with an accident or construction that would make taking I-285 around the city a better choice than staying on I-75.

The Coke Museum in Atlanta is way overrated so you can skip it unless you have a strong desire to see it. You are basically going through a commercial for Coke and a huge gift shop.

There are aquariums in downtown Atlanta and Chattanooga that are both decent but the one in Atlanta is downtown with traffic and parking problems so Chattanooga might work better but neither is really inexpensive. Chattanooga has a large riverfront park that likely has playgrounds so you might look into that.

It would be a bit out of your way but if he gets excited about Space at Cape Canaveral then you might keep in mind that you could also swing by the Huntsville Alabama space center. It has been a while but as I recall a lot of it was geared for younger kids like your son. (A lot of NASA is in Huntsville.)

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_R ... abama.html

denovo wrote:Its a bit out of your way, but I think the Great Smoky National Park and Asheville are interesting.


That would probably not work well in the winter time since the roads could be bad if they hit any snow.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Alex Frakt » Mon Dec 28, 2015 1:42 pm

Thanks for the suggestions so far. It doesn't look like Tellus will work out since they are closed on New Years Day (and at 5pm on the 31st). My brother lives in Orlando so no need for Disney or any other theme parks on this trip. Probably will stop at the Lil 500 go-kart track though which was his favorite thing from our last visit there :-)

Sounds like Chattanooga will be a stop and I'll definitely check on the Corvette plant.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Blue » Mon Dec 28, 2015 1:54 pm

In addition to the other great options, Kentucky Down Under with the kangaroos is fairly unique and probably worth the stop.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by an_asker » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:01 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:Thanks for the suggestions so far. It doesn't look like Tellus will work out since they are closed on New Years Day (and at 5pm on the 31st). My brother lives in Orlando so no need for Disney or any other theme parks on this trip. Probably will stop at the Lil 500 go-kart track though which was his favorite thing from our last visit there :-)

Sounds like Chattanooga will be a stop and I'll definitely check on the Corvette plant.

Are you talking of the one in Maitland? My kids love it as well. If kid likes that, you might then also want to check out Fun Spot.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by an_asker » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:04 pm

mxs wrote:National Air Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH. It would add about an hour of driving and change your route a little bit, plus the time you spend there.
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

I went there with my now teenager a couple of years back, who liked it; I don't know if a seven year old would appreciate it that much.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by TnGuy » Mon Dec 28, 2015 5:01 pm

While in Chattanooga, take him to see the Tennessee Aquarium. You both will enjoy it.

And, as suggested earlier, the Tellus Science Museum in northern Georgia is another one you each will like.


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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by mlebuf » Mon Dec 28, 2015 5:36 pm

Something I enjoyed seeing as a young child was the Cherokee Indian Reservation in NC. It's in the Smokey Mountains so you can see both.
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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by The Wizard » Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:49 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:Thanks for the suggestions so far. It doesn't look like Tellus will work out since they are closed on New Years Day (and at 5pm on the 31st). My brother lives in Orlando so no need for Disney or any other theme parks on this trip. Probably will stop at the Lil 500 go-kart track though which was his favorite thing from our last visit there :-)

Sounds like Chattanooga will be a stop and I'll definitely check on the Corvette plant.

There are two different facilities close by to each other in Bowling Green: the Corvette Plant (factory) and the Corvette Museum.
I've been to both and they are excellent, but to avoid overkill, do one this time and one the next time...
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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by bdpb » Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:09 pm

Gatorland south of Orlando.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Alex Frakt » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:18 pm

an_asker wrote:
mxs wrote:National Air Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH. It would add about an hour of driving and change your route a little bit, plus the time you spend there.
http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

I went there with my now teenager a couple of years back, who liked it; I don't know if a seven year old would appreciate it that much.

It's on my list to visit someday, but based on his response to lesser aviation museums, I think I need to wait a couple of years.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Alex Frakt » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:36 pm

The Wizard wrote:
Alex Frakt wrote:...I'll definitely check on the Corvette plant.

There are two different facilities close by to each other in Bowling Green: the Corvette Plant (factory) and the Corvette Museum.
I've been to both and they are excellent, but to avoid overkill, do one this time and one the next time...

The plant isn't doing public tours this week. The museum is a possibility, but I'd have to leave on the 30th, since it is closed Jan 1.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by Alex Frakt » Tue Dec 29, 2015 2:15 pm

So far we are set on either glass-bottom boats or canoeing at Silver Spring State Park and the go-kart track in Maitland on the 31st. At 2pm on the 1st we have a reservation for the "Domes and Dripstones" tour at Mammoth Caves. What we do in between will depend on timing and what's open.

BTW, someone offline suggested the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, GA - https://www.museumofaviation.org/. It will be closed when we run by, but for anyone else doing that drive it seems well worth a visit, they have everything from an Aeronca L-16 "Grasshopper" to an SR-71 "Blackbird."

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by centrifuge41 » Tue Dec 29, 2015 2:27 pm

Agree with many others. Looks like the main draws you are hitting on the route are Orlando, Atlanta, and Nashville.

Orlando: theme parks, of course.

Atlanta: Georgia Aquarium (I actually prefer Shedd, but the "big tank" here is one of a kind).
Fernbank probably has less to offer than Field Museum, so it may not be your priority. I've never been, but my understanding is that even Raleigh's NC Natural Sciences museum has more to offer.
Stone Mountain. This is an easy one to forget since it's not directly in Atlanta. But it's nice, and you can climb to the top.

Nashville: Country Music hall of fame, Broadway, Vanderbilt, Hermitage and/or Belle Meade, replica of Parthenon etc. There's quite a lot going on here. Kids might get bored at some/most of these attractions, so just keep that in mind.

Mammoth Cave: not super pretty (as with most dry caves), but there's good history here.

You may give more priority to things farther away from Chicago. After all, you could go to Mammoth and Nashville by car in the future too. But it'd be harder to go to Orlando/Atlanta by car in the future.

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by JWooden10 » Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:14 pm

Comments on several of the above mentioned locales based on my travels w/ kids up and down I-75:

* Definitely want to keep Wright Patterson AFB on your list when the time is right for your kids. Absolutely fantastic.
* We enjoyed Fernbank with our kids. Note there is also a smaller building as part of Fernbank that has some smaller exhibits and planetarium. I believe admission to the smaller building is free.
* Indianapolis Children's Museum is good, but could be accessible from Chicago as part of a long weekend.
* Knoxville has some OK places, but we've found the above to be better for our family.
* The Louisville Slugger museum is interesting, but I'd guess more of a brief diversion unless your son is really into baseball. I think we found an hour or 90 minutes was more than enough time.
* If were willing to stay on I-75 half-way up Ohio and then cut over west, the Neil Armstrong museum is pretty interesting.

Have a great road trip!

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by trueblueky » Tue Dec 29, 2015 10:40 pm

Driving on the 31st gets you south of Atlanta. Gas up around before Macon at rates you won't see in Chicago.

Atlanta on the 1st should be as good as it ever gets. I'd go thru downtown unless your GPS says there's a pileup. Stop at The Varsity for lunch; it's beside I-85 across from Georgia Tech. It's a two-story burger joint -- one of the busiest restaurants in the country and billed as the world's largest drive-in.

+1 to Mammoth Cave. It's 55 degrees or so year-round (in case it's cold).

Our children loved the children's museum in Indy when they were young.

Is 65 thru Louisville and Indy better than 24 to 57, which is much more rural?

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Re: Road trip from Florida to Chicago with 7-year-old, what should we see?

Post by hudson » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:14 pm

Alex Frakt wrote:I'm in Boynton Beach, FL (30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale) with my family for the holidays. All five of us - my wife, MIL, 7-year-old son, 2.5-year-old daughter and I - drove down here from Chicago in 2 days with as few stops as possible. The ladies are flying back, my son and I are making the return alone. We can take 3 or 4 days giving us a chance to do a little bit of exploring. We'll be leaving on Thursday, the 31st, and have to be back Sunday at the latest, Saturday would probably be better. The quickest route is basically to get over to I-75 north through Georgia to Tennessee, then I-24 west to the I-65 north through Kentucky and Indiana, but I could be persuaded otherwise.

Any suggestions about what we should see? I'm looking for things that would be entertaining to my son (and preferably me), reasonably priced, and no theme parks. I assume Mammoth Caves is worth a stop? Cape Canaveral?

edit - I'd also appreciate recs for any really cool playgrounds near the Interstates. We travel all over the Chicago metro area visiting playgrounds, it would be fun to see what other states have to offer.


How did it work out? Did you find anything good?

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