Best Lakes in the Midwest for Families

A grandpa and two kids play in the sand at Lake Mill Lacs, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families.
Photo Courtesy: Chelsey Knealing

There’s a lake for every season when you pick from this list featuring the best lakes in the Midwest for families. Of course, a summer lake vacation is a perfect way to relax together as a family, but don’t forget about visiting during other seasons too! You might find an adorable Christmas town nearby, beautiful fall colors, or the perfect spot to watch for signs of spring. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip or a longer family vacation, we’ve found the best lakes in the Midwest for the perfect backdrop for long-lasting family memories. The Midwest has access to the well-known Great Lakes, but there are other beautiful, and perhaps closer-to-home, lakes that you may not have heard about. From boating, fishing, and swimming to hiking around lakes and cute lake towns, keep on reading and discover which lake you’ll add first to your upcoming travel plans!

Best Great Lakes in the Midwest for Families

The Great Lakes provide endless opportunities for fun and relaxation, whether you’re swimming, boating, fishing, or just soaking up some sun on one of its sandy beaches. Take a dip in Lake Michigan’s crystal-clear waters, explore the rugged beauty of Lake Superior’s shoreline, or marvel at the stunning sunsets over Lake Huron. Keep reading for more suggestions! 

RELATED: Weekend Getaways Near Chicago Families Will Love.

Lake Superior: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan

Family with a baby and two toddler posing on a pebble beach at Lake Superior
Photo Courtesy: Chelsey Knealing

Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface! Flanked by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this massive lake is home to generations of legends, shipwrecks, and adventures for all ages. Indeed, you’ll find endless fishing, sightseeing, boating, and water sports activities on Lake Superior. Luckily, there are also many wonderful places to explore this incredible lake as a family!

Minnesota

A young girl and her mom sit on a rocky beach along Lake Superior.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Running from Duluth to Grand Portage, Lake Superior is a popular place for Minnesota family vacations. Start at Park Point in Duluth. Then, the pink rock beach of Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area is a great roadside stop, as is Minnesota’s Black Beach. Finally, families love the rocky harbor of Grand Marais. Kids can stick their toes in the water at these beaches, throw rocks, and soak up the sun. Though, you may find the water too cold to swim (even in the summer!).

Take a sightseeing boat cruise with Vista Fleet in Duluth to get on the water. Or, you can sail along the waves in the Hjørdis, a traditional schooner in Grand Marais.

RELATED: 31+ Amazing Places To Visit In Northern Minnesota With Kids

Where to Stay on Lake Superior in Minnesota for Families

Along Lake Superior, families can stay in all types of accommodation options, including campgrounds, beachside bungalows, rustic cabins, modern hotels, and more.

In Duluth, families love options on Lake Superior, like Canal Park Lodge, Beacon Pointe on Lake Superior, and The Inn on Lake Superior. Each one offers a lakefront location, pool, and more. Families with young kids also appreciate Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark’s on-site waterpark, on-site dining, and more kid-friendly amenities. 

Further up the shore in Minnesota, one of the most highly-rated resorts on Lake Superior is Lutsen Resort, combining country chic and rustic elegance to create an unforgettable family vacation. Then, Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior offers traditional rooms or condo options for larger families.

Find more fun lakeside resorts in Minnesota by reading about the 13 Best Summer Resorts in Minnesota for Families.

Michigan

A view of the iconic Miners Castle rock formation in Michigan on the shores of Lake Superior, one of the best Upper Peninsula Michigan hikes for families.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

If you’re on the Michigan side, families should definitely stop in Munising, a low-key town that offers outdoor adventures for all ages, from hiking to biking, swimming, and kayaking. When staying here, you’ll also be within a short distance of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, featuring one of the UP’s iconic landmarks. To beat the heat, you can visit one of the many watering holes in town, like Memorial Falls, or head to Sand Point Beach. Kids will also love taking a Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour to see several shipwrecks up close! 

Then, located at the very tip of the UP, Copper Harbor is another popular destination on Lake Superior. This picturesque town is home to stunning natural scenery, including rugged cliffs, forests, and waterfalls! 

RELATED: 16 Fantastic Places To Visit In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula With Kids

Wisconsin

A series of colorful kayak rest on a beach on Madeline Island.
Photo Courtesy: Madeline Island Chamber

Families can visit Bayfield, a small city in Wisconsin located on Lake Superior. As an entry point to the Apostle Islands, this coastal destination has a mix of city and island vibes. Stay on the mainland or head to Madeline Island by ferry to hike, bike, kayak, swim, and canoe. For an indoor activity, visit the Madeline Island Museum to enjoy interactive exhibits highlighting the island’s history. Kids can also watch the weavers work in the loom at Woods Hall and maybe even try it for themselves! 

In downtown Bayfield, stroll the quaint streets to see some of the largest collections of Victorian homes in the Midwest. Kids can explore the Bayfield Maritime Museum to learn more about the shipping industry and Lake Superior. Depending on which time of year you visit, head to Blue Vista Farm to go fruit picking and see what farm life is like. Of course, for dinner, don’t miss the freshest fish Bayfield has to offer at The Copper Trout

RELATED: 13 Fun Places To Rent Lake Houses & Cabins in Wisconsin For A Family Getaway

Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Michigan

The nose of a red kayak maneuvers across Lake Michigan.
Photo Courtesy: Pure Michigan

When it comes to the best lakes in the Midwest for families, Lake Michigan stands out as a true gem. This stunning body of water straddles two states – Wisconsin and Michigan – and boasts over 1,600 miles of coastline. Plus, with crystal-clear waters that sparkle under the sun and sandy beaches stretching for miles, Lake Michigan provides endless opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, and more.

Michigan

A young girl and her mom swim in Lake Michigan.
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Giguere

Families can settle in among the many cozy destinations along Lake Michigan, including Traverse City. Known for its natural beauty and recreational activities, it’s a popular place to go hiking, biking, or for a stay at the Bay Watch Resort. It’s also nearby Sleeping Bear Point Beach, which is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Then, Glen Arbor is also a great option for families who want to experience Sleeping Dunes. Plus, visit the Glen Arbor Arts Center. The Leelanau Peninsula, which is on the western side of Lake Michigan, is also a good place to hike or explore by kayak or canoe. Families can also soak up the sun and try water sports at Grand Haven State Park, spot one of Lake Michigan’s many lighthouses, or visit the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Where to Stay near Lake Michigan in Michigan with Kids

Wondering where to stay near Lake Michigan with your kids? We suggest the Bay Watch Resort or Pinestead Reef Resort, both of which are in Traverse City. Families who want to camp can also check out the campgrounds at Ludington State Park Beach. Or, rent a lake house or cabin on Airbnb or Vrbo.

Wisconsin

A young girl walks along a sandy beach with turquoise waters beyond her on Washington Island in Wisconsin.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

There are lots of quaint towns spanning the Lake Michigan coastline in Wisconsin, but we recommend checking out the Door County area. From five state parks to 11 lighthouses and 300 miles of beautiful shoreline, there’s lots of fun to discover in Door County with kids! Towns such as Egg Harbor, Sister Bay, and Gibraltar are great places to make your home base since they boast marinas or easy access to the lake and lots of other activities for families.

Families can also take the ferry to Washington Island, home to lavender fields, and spend an afternoon at Schoolhouse Beach Park. Or, check out the lighthouses. Pottawatomie Lighthouse, the oldest on the peninsula, is in Rock Island State Park. 

Lake Huron, Michigan

Three kids sit together looking out onto a sunset over Lake Huron.
Photo Courtesy: Pure Michigan

Lake Huron is undoubtedly one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families looking to make unforgettable memories on their summer vacation! With its crystal clear waters and stunning natural beauty, this Michigan lake offers endless opportunities for family fun and adventure.

Mackinac Island is a must-visit for anyone spending time at Lake Huron. Accessible by ferry from Mackinaw City, this picturesque island is home to lots of family-friendly attractions, including Fort Mackinac, the Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, and the enchanting Mackinac Island Butterfly House. And don’t forget to sample some of the delicious fudge while you’re there!

Cheboygan is another excellent option on Lake Huron for those wanting to explore Michigan’s great outdoors, showcasing various hiking trails, waterfalls, and fishing spots. Plus, families can visit Cheboygan State Park. Or, head to Drummond Island for a spot of camping or kayaking. 

Where to Stay near Lake Huron with Kids

If you need somewhere to stay near Lake Huron with kids and want to rent a cozy cabin, we suggest Lake View Resort Drummond Island. Families can also check out home rentals on Airbnb or Vrbo. 

Lake Erie, Michigan

A picnic area at Sterling State Park along Lake Erie.
Photo Courtesy: Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia

When it comes to the best lakes in the Midwest for families, Lake Erie in Michigan undoubtedly tops the list! Though smaller than other Great Lakes, it’s one of the most accessible from Detroit, located around 3 hours outside of the city. Plus, it offers a perfect mix of activities for both kids and adults, from swimming and sunbathing to fishing and boating. 

One of the best Michigan summer vacation spots along Lake Erie is Sterling State Park. Here, families will find one mile of beachfront for swimming and boating, as well as opportunities to fish, hike, camp, and more. Just a few miles away, families can also visit Luna Pier. It features a boardwalk lined with restaurants, a lighthouse, and a sandy beach. A little north of Luna Pier on Lake Erie’s western shore is the port city of Monroe, which offers historical attractions and affordable vacation rentals. Nearby, families can visit River Raisin National Battlefield Park, which commemorates the War of 1812. Or, head to Lake Erie Metropark for three miles of shoreline, a children’s play area, a nature center, a museum, and more attractions. 

Best Lakes in Wisconsin for Families

Looking for an adventure-packed getaway with your family? Look no further than the best lakes in Wisconsin for families! There is nothing quite like the feeling of packing up the car and hitting the open road, ready to explore all that this beautiful state has to offer. This includes picturesque bodies of water offering everything from swimming and boating to fishing and picnicking. Keep reading to learn more!

RELATED: 13 Fun Places To Rent Lake Houses & Cabins in Wisconsin For A Family Getaway

Lake Geneva

Three kids sit on a pontoon on Lake Geneva, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, at sunset.
Photo Courtesy: Melissa Scottberg

Lake Geneva, located in southern Wisconsin, is a Midwest lake getaway that has it all! From an adorable downtown with shops and award-winning restaurants to outdoor adventures and luxurious places to stay, like Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, everyone will be satisfied here.

Since there are four beaches and options for boating (check out Lake Geneva Cruise Line), your time at this lake in the Midwest will center around time on the water. Another way to see the lake’s beauty is the Geneva Lake Shore Path. Although this historic path is 26 miles long, try a segment by starting at Library Park. Of course, you’ll want to look for animals around the lake. But for guaranteed animal sightings, visit Safari Lake Geneva, a conservation park, or see beautiful horses at the Dancing Horses Theatre.

Finally, there are also special events held at Lake Geneva throughout the year, like the popular Winterfest!

Make it an extra fun weekend when you book one of the Top 50 Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, home rentals using Vrbo!

Devils Lake and State Park

A mom carries her infant on her back with Devils Lake, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, in the background.
Photo Courtesy: Kelly Studer

Devil’s Lake State Park is undeniably one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families. Located in central Wisconsin, parents love the numerous activities here.

Start at the Nature Center, where children can engage with hands-on exhibits. Once you’re ready to venture onto the lake, find boat rentals at the park’s two concession stands (located at the north and south ends of the lake). Also, there are two swimming beaches, again on the north and south shores. If you’re ready for dry land activities, take a guided hike, rent equipment, or even participate in a scavenger hunt! A gentle trail along Devil Lake’s western shore is best for kid-friendly hikes. For more summer family adventures, borrow fishing poles and see what you can reel in. Alternatively, winter visitors can rent snowshoes! Regardless of when you visit, lodging options abound in the area.

Pro tip: If you’re planning to camp near Devil’s Lake, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. They can fill quickly!

Looking for a local experience for your family vacation near Devils Lake State Park? Book a home rental using Vrbo today.

Best Lakes in Minnesota for Families

Picture yourself floating on the peaceful waters of Lake Mille Lacs while enjoying a cool breeze and gazing out at stunningly picturesque surroundings. Or perhaps your clan loves fishing and wants to spend lazy afternoons casting lines into Leech Lake’s sparkling emerald-blue depths? The possibilities are endless with these magnificent lakes as your playground, so keep reading to find out the best Midwest lakes in Minnesota for families! 

RELATED: 17 Minnesota Lakes for a Fun and Relaxing Family Vacation this Summer

Lake Pepin: Minnesota, Wisconsin

One of the state’s most intriguing lakes, Lake Pepin, is a naturally occurring lake on the Mississippi River (about 75 minutes southeast of Minneapolis). It also serves as part of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Teeming with sailboats in the summer, Lake Pepin is a fantastic option for families looking to explore two states on their summer trip!

Minnesota

Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River, looking out from the pier at Lake City, Minnesota.
Photo Courtesy: Jonathunder via Wikimedia

As one of the best lakes in Minnesota, there is plenty of family fun at Lake Pepin! Families interested in swimming can check out Ohuta Beach in Lake City. Here, you’ll find a lovely beach, a playground for little kids, and a Riverwalk trail. Those interested in sailing can get on the water with Sail Pepin or Lake City Sailing. Then, Lake Pepin Paddle Boat, Inc offers sightseeing and sunset tours. Boaters will be impressed too! Given the lake’s shape, there is ample opportunity to cruise and enjoy the beautiful waters.

Families exploring Lake Pepin can also take in all the attractions, restaurants, and amenities offered in Lake City, Red Wing, Reads Landing, and Wabasha. Firstly, families love hiking in Frontenac State Park. In Wabasha, Broken Paddle Guiding Co. provides family-friendly on-the-water tours, including a Raptor Tour and Stand-Up Paddle Board Tour. End your trip with a sweet treat from The Chocolate Escape (in Wabasha, MN).

Wisconsin

A couple sits on a bench looking out onto Lake Pepin.
Photo Courtesy: Travel Wisconsin

On the Wisconsin side, there are plenty of activities to keep everyone happy too. ​​You can rent a pontoon boat and explore the lake at your leisure, or sign up for a guided fishing tour and try your hand at catching some of the local fish. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are even parasailing, hang gliding, and jet skiing options available. There are also several sandy beaches where you can relax and soak up the sun. Kids will love splashing around in the water, playing games, and more!

When you want to have fun off the water, check out one of the many hiking trails over the border in Minnesota at Frontenac State Park or visit the hiking trails at Barn Bluff. Families can also visit one of the many wineries in the area, like Falconer Vineyards

Where to Stay on Lake Pepin for Families

There are plenty of places to stay to enjoy Lake Pepin with kids. In Lake City, consider Willows on the River. Here, you’ll have your own condo and access to an indoor pool, gym, and docks. Plenty of lakeside and other rental homes are available for a weekend getaway on Lake Pepin through Vrbo.

Lake Mille Lacs

Photo Courtesy: Chelsey Knealing

When you live up north, you know lakes aren’t just for summer fun! They also offer year-round activities. With the numerous winter things to do, your family will love Lake Mille Lacs. This Minnesota lake is an amazing destination for winter outdoor activities like ice fishing and spearing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing from December through March.

Then, in the summer, come back to this family-friendly lake in the Midwest to spend time exploring the beaches. Firstly, head to the king-sized beach located at Father Hennepin State Park. Along with many water-focused activities, plan time to hike or bike the Mille Lacs Soo Line Hiking and Biking trail, which has 11 miles of wide, family-friendly trails. For even more hiking excursions, check out Kathio State Park. Here, you can climb the observation tower, hike, camp, or slide down the sledding hill (when there’s snow!).  

Where to Stay on Mille Lacs Lake for Families

Looking for a place to stay near Mille Lacs Lake with kids? Nestled along Mille Lacs Lake, Izatys Resort offers a variety of accommodation options, including a golf course, on-site dining, and a marina. Then, Appeldoorn’s Sunset Bay Resort – Lake Mille Lacs Lodging, offers cabins and lake-view rooms, as well as golfing, pontoon rentals, kayaks, immediate lake access, and more. Nearby, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Resort is a family tradition! Just north of Mille Lacs Lake, families love this option for its private beach, golf course, variety of accommodation options, and summer activities schedule.

Search for a home rental at Lake Mille Lacs now using Vrbo.

Leech Lake

A sail boat moves across Leech Lake on a sunny day.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Experience one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families when you visit Minnesota’s Leech Lake. Leech Lake has an impressive reputation throughout the Midwest for catching Walleye and Muskie! Be sure to include time for fishing when you visit.

Along with fishing, watersports of all kinds are popular on Leech Lake. If you need boat rentals, head to the nearby town of Walker. Here, you can rent boats of all kinds, including jet skis, pontoons, and ski boats. Another thing to consider is the many lodging options located directly on Leech Lake, like Trappers Landing Lodge and Bluewater Lodge. In fact, several of these places to stay include boat rentals, fishing packages, and access to sports activities and private beaches. In addition to these family-friendly things to do, there are several beautiful places to hike nearby, including Chippewa National Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, and Itasca State Park

Rainy Lake

A family enjoys a tour around Rainy Lake on a houseboat.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Nestled along the Canadian border, Rainy Lake is one of Minnesota’s northernmost lakes. Kids will love learning that the lake’s area is divided between the two countries, and most of the lake resides in Canada. Rainy Lake also resides within Minnesota’s only national park – Voyageurs National Park

Rainy Lake has 930 miles of shoreline and about 1,600 islands. Fishing enthusiasts can start their week with a guided fishing experience with knowledgeable local guides. Most people flock to Rainy Lake for boating, fishing, or exploring the water by houseboat. However, there are plenty of other things to do here too. Kayakers and canoers will also find plenty of waterways to explore and enjoy. Then, Voyageurs National Park has a visitors center, waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and other family-friendly options. Families also love Rainy Lake for its unparalleled sunsets and starry skies. 

Where to Stay on Rainy Lake for Families

Rainy Lake is home to some of Minnesota’s best lakeside cabins and lake resorts. Not to mention, unique houseboats and camping opportunities. Families interested in a houseboat experience can find great options with Rainy Lake Houseboats, Northernaire Houseboats On Rainy Lake, and Voyagaire Lodge & Houseboats. For a more traditional resort stay, consider Sandy Point Lodge & Resort or Thunderbird Lodge.

Lake of the Woods

A young girl runs along the shores of Lake of the Woods.
Photo Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

When it comes to the best lakes in Minnesota for families, one simply cannot ignore the stunning Lake of the Woods. Widely regarded as the Walleye Capital of the World, Lake of the Woods is a popular place to reel big fish. This lake is also located in the US, as well as Canada, and is loved by both countries for a good reason! 

While fishing and outdoorsy living prevail on Lake of the Woods, the lake is also beloved by water skiers, jet skiers, wakeboarders, canoers, and kayakers. There are also many beaches around the lake, ideal for swimming and summer days in the sun. Head to Zippel Bay State Park for white sand beaches and great lake views. Alternatively, families can also check out Northwest Angle (locally known as “The Angle”). While wholly cut off from the rest of the state, The Angle is actually the northernmost part of the contiguous United States.

In Baudette, make sure you meet Willie Walleye at Willie Walleye Park. This behemoth walleye will surely be a hit with young kids, plus the green area is a perfect place to run around. For a bit of hiking, check out Franz Jevne State Park or Big Bog State Recreation Area is another fun option to explore.

Where to Stay on Lake of the Woods for Families

In addition to fishing and unique outdoor adventures, there are also more than 50 resorts and hotels on and around Lake of the Woods. When looking for one of the best lake resorts in Minnesota near Lake of the Woods for families, consider Bayview Lodge, Zippel Bay Resort, or Adrian’s Resort. Alternatively, many families search for cabins or home rentals near Lake of the Woods on Vrbo.

Best Lakes in Michigan for Families 

Michigan is the place to be if you’re on the hunt for the ultimate family lake vacation! The state boasts thousands of inland lakes consistently rated as some of the top picks for water activities such as boating and swimming. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites here, so keep reading to learn more! Then, you can also find a few more when you read about the 13 Fantastic Lake Destinations In Michigan To Visit With Kids This Summer.

Torch Lake

An aerial view of Torch Lake, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, featuring it's green-blue waters and several boats.
Photo Courtesy: Marada

For a kid-friendly Midwest lake vacation that feels a bit like the Caribbean, head to Torch Lake, Michigan (near Traverse City). The water feels a bit colder than the warm Caribbean waters, but it’s a gorgeous blue-green color and very clear, reminiscent of the Caribbean.

The lake is very large, giving your family ample space to explore. If your family enjoys water sports, like water skiing, jet skiing, and tubing, you’ll love being able to cruise for miles. Torch Lake is a whopping 19 miles long! Visitors also love hanging out at the sandbar, offering a party vibe at the southern end. Because the lake is such a popular destination, families staying overnight should consider booking lodging months in advance.

Where to Stay near Torch Lake with Kids

Need somewhere to stay near Torch Lake with kids? Because the lake is such a popular destination, families staying overnight should consider booking lodging months in advance. Traditional lodging options can be found at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire. Then, Airbnb or Vrbo both offer lovely options for families wanting to stay nearby.

Silver Lake

An aerial view of the long stretch of sandy beach along Silver Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Pure Michigan

If you’re looking for a vacation with sand, then Silver Lake and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are the perfect lakes in the Midwest for you. Not only will your family get to explore Silver Lake, but Lake Michigan too! The two lakes are separated only by the 2,000-acre sand mountain.

Whether you bring your own ATV or rent one, your kids will love riding over the sand dunes. Silver Lake State Park includes both Silver Lake, with a campground directly on the water, and Lake Michigan. Not only is the sand piled high for hiking and buggy rides, but the area also boasts a variety of beaches to explore. Since there are so many adorable lakeside towns on Lake Michigan’s western shoreline, your family is guaranteed to find the perfect charming town to return to year after year. 

Lake Muskegon

South-west view from the shoreline of Muskegon State Park. The Muskegon Channel leading into Muskegon Lake is visible in the distance.
Photo Courtesy: Darwin Smith Jr. via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to finding the best lakes in Michigan for families, Lake Muskegon is an absolute gem that never disappoints! Located in the lower peninsula at the mouth of the Muskegon River, this Michigan lake is a popular destination for swimming, boating, fishing, and more. 

At Muskegon State Park, families can enjoy three miles of picturesque shorelines (two miles are along Lake Michigan, and another mile is on Muskegon Lake.) Alongside water sports such as kayaking and paddle boarding, the park is also popular for its lookout tower. Kids will love climbing up it for views of the lake and the surrounding sand dunes! There are also multiple campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails in the area.

Nearby, families can also visit the year-round Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. Ideal for a day of family fun, it features zip lining, an archery range, a summer luge track, and more. Be sure to book your tickets in advance!

Best Lakes in Illinois for Families

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a full-fledged family fun escape, your summer family vacation just got even better with the stunning lakes in Illinois for families that are waiting to be explored! From swimming to fishing, water sports, and more, these beautiful bodies of water are sure to keep everyone entertained. Keep reading to learn more! 

READ NEXT: 14 Best Places to Visit in Southern Illinois for Families

Kinkaid Lake

A waterfall spills over a small rock formation at Kinkaid Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Curtis Abert

Get ready for your next family lake adventure to Illinois! Because Kinkaid Lake, in southern Illinois, is located near Shawnee National Forest, it’s a fantastic addition to a nature-focused family day trip. In fact, Kinkaid Lake doesn’t have any towns or houses around the lake, making it ideal for camping (no light pollution!).

Check out Johnson Creek Recreation Area, located on a finger of the lake, providing a great launching spot for outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking, fishing, and biking. Be sure to bring water shoes to climb and splash in the Kinkaid Lake Spillway. Located at the end of Kinkaid Lake, this is a three-level waterfall and pool, perfect to cool down on a warm day. If your family enjoys watersports, Kinkaid Lake is a great lake in the Midwest for families, especially for those looking to go tubing and waterskiing. Don’t forget to enjoy the natural beauty, as you’ll be surrounded by sandstone cliffs!

Evergreen Lake

A red kayak rests along the shore of Lake Evergreen.
Photo Courtesy: Rita Zimmerman

Central Illinois is lucky to have the local gem, Evergreen Lake, which is located within COMLARA Park. When your family visits this kid-friendly lake in the Midwest, you’ll be away from the busyness of towns and crowds. Evergreen Lake is small, making it ideal for families with young children looking for a low-key way to explore nature.

From camping to hiking to swimming in the partitioned beach area, your family will enjoy exploring this park. Evergreen Lake is also perfect for passive-type boats, including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and rowboats. Plus, they are also available for rent at the bait shop. Another thing Evergreen Lake gets right is hosting events for families, including summer fishing tournaments for kids and festivals scheduled throughout the year. On rainy days, visit the Children’s Discovery Museum in the nearby towns of Bloomington/Normal. 

Best Lakes in Missouri for Families

With its stunning natural beauty, clear waters, and an endless list of activities to enjoy, Missouri’s lakes are perfect for a memorable family getaway. Whether you’re into fishing or boating, swimming or tubing, hiking or camping – there’s something here for everyone. Keep reading to learn more! 

Lake of the Ozarks

Photo Courtesy (L-R): Lori Goldman, Jessica Kania Buhse

Put Lake of the Ozarks, in central Missouri, on your family’s bucket list. As one of the best lakes to visit in the Midwest, it offers everything families want from a lake vacation! No matter what your family enjoys doing, you’ll find it at Lake of the Ozarks.

Starting with the outdoor activities, like boating, hiking, and fishing, as well as multiple show caves to be explored. Next, make family memories when visiting the additional local attractions, including water and theme parks. While visiting this best lake in the Midwest for kids, make time to explore nature at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. On warm days, kids will love cooling down at one of the two swimming beaches.

Because Lake of the Ozarks is such a popular lake destination, you’ll find lodging of all kinds, from rustic cabins and yurts to the luxurious Lodge of Four Seasons.

Find the top 50 Lake of the Ozarks house rentals on VRBO.

Table Rock Lake

Photo Courtesy (L-R): Alyssa Kastelein, Rita Zimmerman

Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri, is a favorite family lake destination year-round. Many activities in Branson center around families and clean entertainment. Of course, everyone enjoys the boating opportunities at Table Rock Lake. Whether you bring your own boat or rent one there, you’ll find 14 different marinas on the lake. One option that includes lodging and boat rentals is the Port of Kimberling Marina & Resort.

Then, there are many more family-friendly attractions, including Silver Dollar City. Here, delight your family by visiting the theme park, the water park, or by embarking on a dinner cruise! You can also choose to camp on-site.

While in Branson, be sure to catch a show. With so many live shows to pick from, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one. But if you need to, our families recommend Dolly Parton’s Stampede and the Sights & Sound Theater.

Find Hotels near Table Rock Lake State Park using Expedia.

Best Lakes in Indiana for Families 

Indiana is the perfect spot for a family lake vacation, with countless options available to cater to any budget or preference. These beautiful bodies of water offer endless opportunities for fun in the sun, with activities ranging from fishing to swimming to boating. Here are some suggestions!

RELATED: 15 Best US Lakes For Families To Visit This Summer

Lake Wawasee

Photo Courtesy: Julie Garmon

Relax in northern Indiana at Lake Wawasee, the largest natural lake in Indiana and one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families. When you stay at the lake, whether at Oakwood Resort, a vacation rental, or another nearby lodging, you’ll find plenty to fill your week.

All of the best lake activities, including boating, swimming, and fishing, are guaranteed to make everyone smile and build memories for your family. One unique boat opportunity to check out is a ride on The Dixie, which is a 75-minute boat tour around nearby Lake Webster aboard an old-style sternwheel boat. In addition to the many things you can do at Lake Wawasee, nearby Elkhart County is a fantastic place to learn about the Amish culture and lifestyle. Keep on driving the Heritage Trail, and you’ll experience what has been voted to be one of “America’s Most Scenic Drives.”

Find the top 50 Lake Wawasee Vacation Rentals on Vrbo.com

Patoka Lake

Lake Patoka on a sunny day, with a forested rock formation in the background.
Photo Courtesy: LouisvilleUSACE

Located in southern Indiana, Patoka Lake is a large reservoir perfect for fishing, swimming, hiking, and all kinds of memory-making outdoor fun. A highlight at the lake for families is a visit to the Nature Center. Here, kids will be captivated by the raptors, including eagles, owls, and hawks. Other outdoor highlights include an archery range, a disc golf course, a bike trail, and, of course, swimming, and boating.

Nearby French Lick, located in the Hoosier National Forest, also offers plenty of things to do near Patoka Lake. One option in the area, which is perfect for a winter getaway, is Big Splash Adventure, an indoor waterpark, and resort.

If you’ve ever wanted to stay on a houseboat or even a floating cabin, Patoka Lake is the perfect place to try! Of course, there are many other places to stay if you’d rather sleep on dry land.

Find Patoka Lake, US Vacation Rentals: cabin rentals & more on VRBO.

Other Lakes in the Midwest for Families to Consider

When it comes to the best lakes in the Midwest for families, other states from Ohio to South Dakota still have plenty to offer! These hidden gems may not be as well-known as some of their neighboring lakes, but they provide just as much fun for families. Keep reading to find out more!

Lake Okoboji, Iowa

A young girl and her dog sit at the back of a boat on Lake Okoboji, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, at sunset.
Photo Courtesy: Andrea Grabow

The Lake Okoboji area is known as “Iowa’s Great Lakes”! Your family will love this family-friendly lake in the Midwest. In fact, the Lake Okoboji area offers opportunities for families to enjoy the water without owning a boat.

In addition to several public beaches, find the historic Queen II, which offers guided lake tours. Since you’re at the lake, your kids will definitely want to go fishing. You can reserve an expedition through Campbell Fishing Expeditions or JTG Fishing. Also, look into Boat Okoboji Rentals fleet. Then, check out Barefoot Bar, which offers the perfect place for parents to relax, while kids are entertained. Finally, a visit to Lake Okoboji isn’t complete without a visit to Arnolds Park amusement park

If you’re looking to stay at the lake, there are a variety of charming options, including Fillenwarth Beach Resort, Bridges Bay Resort, and Triggs Bay Resort.

Top 50 West Okoboji Lake house rentals | Vrbo.com

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

A white picket fence stands in front of tall grasses with Geneva On the Lake, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, in the background.
Photo Courtesy: Dave R Chasteen

Geneva-on-the-Lake is located along the Lake Erie shoreline in northeastern Ohio. It’s also a perfect family lake getaway! For families who want to swim, boat, and hike, plan a stay at Geneva State Park. Along with the lake activities and local beaches, many families who visit the area, which is just an hour’s drive from Cleveland, love to explore the “Geneva-on-the-Lake Strip.” This one-mile stretch of Lake Road will remind you of an old-style boardwalk with all the foodie highlights you’d hope to find, from restaurants like Eddie’s Grill to Madsen Donuts to the Whip-N-Dip ice-cream shop. While you’re there, be sure to play around at the oldest miniature golf course in America, Allison’s miniature golf.

For camping, reserve a site or cabin at Geneva State Park Campground. And if you’d rather not rough it, stay next door to the park at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake.

Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

Sylvan Lake, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families, on a sunny day with the inconic rock formations in the background.
Photo Courtesy: Erin Martin

Located within the Black Hills of South Dakota and Custer State Park, is beautiful Sylvan Lake. Because this lake has almost every lake amenity imaginable, it’s a must-include on our list of best lakes in the Midwest for families.

Although there are four other lakes at Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake is the most recognizable and perhaps the prettiest, with its ponderosa pines. Given that the Sylvan Lake Shore Trail loop is relatively flat and just one mile long, it’s an ideal hike for families. Bring your swimming suits, because this is the perfect swimming hole, as well as an amazing place to kayak! Additionally, visitors can also enjoy the many historic places nearby, including Crazy Horse Memorial

Since Sylvan Lake offers so much to do, there are many lodging options. One historic and convenient choice is Sylvan Lake Lodge, located directly in Custer State Park.

Lake McConaughy, Nebraska

A tent rests on the shores of Lake McConaughy, one of the best lakes in the Midwest for families.
Photo Courtesy: BirdsEyePix

Nebraskans have fondly nicknamed Lake McConaughy “Lake Mac” due to its large size. As the largest reservoir in Nebraska, it’s also known for being a source of large, trophy-size fish.

Whether you’re coming for the day to swim or are planning a longer vacation, you can get your white sand beach fix here. Of course, your kids will have so much fun building sandcastles here. Then, for families wanting to boat, check out the pontoon boat rentals.

Off the water, explore the historic Ash Hollow State Historical Park. This area was a stopover for the Oregon and California trails. Back at the park, challenge your kids to find ruts from wagons heading west and the beautiful prairie views.

If your plans allow you to stay longer, or perhaps camp, Lake McConaughy is a fantastic lake in the Midwest for kids due to its proximity to nearby attractions.

Happy Travels!

A dad sits with his three kids on a boat on Lake Geneva on a sunny day.
Photo Courtesy: Melissa Scottberg

We hope you liked this list of the Best Lakes in the Midwest for Families! From the Great Lakes to smaller regions of the Midwest, there are so many fantastic lakes to choose form for a summer family vacation! Regardless of which one you choose, we know you’ll make amazing memories with your kids. Enjoy the Midwest with kids!

*This post featuring the best lakes in the Midwest for families may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community. 

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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.