Mama Madison: The spring break staycation

Fun to be had locally even with all this snow on the ground

It hasn't really felt much like spring lately, which is probably the reason I've been in complete denial that next week is spring break. And religious observances aside, my family has absolutely no plans to fill the no-school-for-six-days-in-a-row void. I'm cutting myself some slack on this one. It is pretty hard, after all, to find the time (not to mention money) to book airline tickets and hotel rooms in warm and exotic locales when all you've done for the month of March is alternate shoveling snow off sidewalks with bailing water out of a flooded basement.

Yes, Spring Break 2013 will definitely be a staycation for the Judge family. But this, my children, doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a painful week filled only with household chores and the opportunity to watch your parents do taxes.

Instead, I assure you, that while not quite Panama City Beach, Florida, the self-proclaimed "Spring Break Capital of the World," there are some definite good times to be had just a hop, skip and a jump away from our near-west Madison home.

First stop on our "It Doesn't Really Feel Like Spring"-Break tour will most likely be a trans-isthmus adventure to the east side. We haven't been to Olbrich Gardens for quite some time. If still cold, there is the inside dome. And if this cold snap lets up even a little, it should be a terrific time of year to check out Olbrich's 16 acres of outdoor display gardens including the gorgeous Thai Pavilion -- the only one in the continental United States.

I'm sure the kids will understand that if we can't actually be on the beaches of Phuket, this is a pretty close facsimile. Especially if I promise we'll go out for Pad Lad Nar at Bahn Thai afterwards.

And on another one of our days off we can give the north side a whirl, and grab a bite at Pat O'Malley's Jet Room, the family-friendly restaurant located in the Wisconsin Aviation building at the Dane County Regional Airport. Because even if my kids and I aren't leaving on a jet plane, we can attempt to live vicariously through the sight of the fortunate travelers milling about us, proudly flaunting their carry-on bags filled with sunscreen.

Maybe at the end of the week we can head south on Park Street and pop in to Family Fun Night: Juegos, Adivinanzas y Trabalenguas (Games, Riddle and Wordplay) on March 29 at the Madison Public Library's Goodman South Madison Branch. Because both my older kids are taking Spanish in school this year, and this bilingual event might help me to find out if their vocabularies have expanded beyond the ability to count to "diez" and order effectively at a Tex-Mex restaurant.

It likely won't measure up to an actual trip to Cancun, I am sure. But at least we won't have to worry about the hassle of passports.

And if we are feeling really adventurous, maybe I'll muster up the courage for a road trip. But given that I don't love driving and my oldest hasn't been behind the wheel since the week he got his learner's permit, we'll probably be better off picking somewhere close. Fortunately, the excellent site Road Trips for Families has many great travel ideas within a reasonable drive from Dane County. And if we really want to get our Lewis and Clark on, we can dare to cross the border into Iowa -- I've heard some pretty awesome things about the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.

Because in the end, it's not just the destination, but also the journey, that makes family vacations so special, right?

Even when the journey is very, very short.

And taking place with snow tires still on the car.

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