Champaign, IL (WCIA) Whether it’s a day trip or a full weekend, there’s no shortage of destinations near Central Illinois filled with family fun. Here are some ideas that you may not know about yet.

Summer at Shedd

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium should always be on your radar for a family outing, but this summer they have more to offer than ever.

Kayak for Conservation is a program that was first introduced last year and is now reaching its peak. The idea is to teach about and improve the Chicago River by building a new habitat with the nonprofit Urban Rivers.

In conjunction with Kayak Chicago, the program allows guests to kayak along the river, collecting data that will help to bolster biodiversity. Along the way you’ll learn about the wildlife, birds, and plants that can grow in what will become a mile-long eco-park, “The Wild Mile.”

Also, this summer at the Shedd are yoga classes, free days for Illinois residents, Penguin, Sea Otter and Beluga Whale Encounters, and Jazzin’ at the Shedd every Wednesday evening during the summer.

For more about the Kayak for Conservation program, as well as the other opportunities at Shedd Aquarium, visit their website.

While in Chicago, the Fairmont at Millennium Park has Chicago Family Hotel Packages. Amenities offered include activities, connecting rooms, cribs, and babysitting arrangements. Their Pure Rooms are especially well-appointed for families with hypoallergenic bedding and sanitizing technologies that improve the air quality. They are also a comfortable size for a family of four or five.

During your stay at Fairmont Chicago, all kids five and under eat free from the children’s menu and kids from six to 11 eat half price from the regular menu.  The hotel has two restaurant options, Columbus Tap and The Bar. See all the latest offers at the Fairmont Chicago here.

For another dining option, take a walk down Michigan Avenue to Jake Melnick’s Tap. The Today Show voted this family-friendly restaurant the “Top Chicken Wing Spot in the U.S.” One trip there and you will have to agree.

The wing selection alone has nine options. Don’t skip the Firecracker, with sweet Thai chili and siracha, Nashville, with a mix of heat and sweet, PB & J, with a Thai peanut sauce and raspberry chipotle jelly.

In addition to the wings, the BBQ Nachos are a meal for two, but if you want to feed the whole family, try all of their slow roasted barbecue with Jake’s Ultimate Feast. You’ll get baby back ribs, brisket, hot links, and pulled pork, with coleslaw, baked beans, and mac & cheese. It’s enough for six.

If you have room, the Fried Oreos are done in a soft and sweet funnel cake batter and served with ice cream and chocolate sauce. There are also milkshakes for the kids, and a huge beer selection for the adults, though I strongly recommend the peach sangria. Visit Jake’s Melnick Tap’s website for more information. w

The New Gateway Arch National Park

It’s impossible to miss the Gateway Arch from anywhere in St. Louis. This iconic landmark is always within sight. Getting close the last two years has not been so easy with all the construction.

The wait is over and Gateway Arch National Park is now open. The experience is better than ever, with a modernized museum and video system that sets you up for the spectacular ride to the top, where you can see St. Louis like never before.

The expansion also includes a much larger park area, with a fountain in the center. It will be the site of many continual events, especially during the summer season.  

Learn all about the experiences available at this nearby national landmark at the official page of the Gateway Arch.

Looking for more quick trips to do with the kids this summer? Check out these five previous travel segments for ideas…

Springfield, Illinois
The Illinois capital is filled with history from Lincoln to present day. It’s also home to Knight’s Action Park. This is a nearby, all ages fun park, with a waterpark, go kart racing, rides, and a miniature golf course. For more information, click here.

Arcola, Illinois

If you haven’t yet been to Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola, it should be at the top of your summer fun list. This park is about animal enjoyment for all ages and a refuge for animals who need homes. The walk-through is a lot of fun, but the behind-the-scenes tour will make you feel like you just landed in Africa. See photos and details here.

Lafayette, Indiana
Wolf Park has 75 acres open to the public with dozen wolves, coyotes, foxes and bison. It’s fun and educational. Finish the day with some comfort food at the Triple XXX Restaurant, the oldest drive-in restaurant in Indiana.

See the wolves in action on this video.

Indianapolis, Indiana
The Indiana State Museum is filled with exhibits the whole family will enjoy. It’s also directly across the street from White River State Park. You’ll never run out of things to do, from Segway Tours, do gondola rides in the canal. It’s also home to other attractions, including the Indianapolis Zoo and the NCAA Museum.

Watch the full segment here, and look for an upcoming CI Living segment on the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Eureka, Missouri
Just a few hours away, in Eureka, is Six Flags St. Louis.  This is an all ages park which has the largest Ferris Wheel in any theme park in North America. Before heading home, stop at Super Smokers, for some of the best barbecue you’ve ever had.

Learn more about Six Flags, as well as a few other area amusement parks from this CI Living video. p>

Be sure to Like Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost on Facebook for more information on her trips, and read her stories on her Wine And Spirits Travel blog. You can also follow Marcia @Spiritstraveler on Twitter and Instagram. height: