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Here's a sample itinerary to get you started on a vacation close to home:

Day One

Ease into vacation with a Saturday-morning drive to Molt. Check out the bluegrass music and breakfasts on Saturday mornings at the Prairie Winds Cafe. Nibble on something beforehand, in case the restaurant is jam-packed.

The music runs from 9 a.m. until noon, with breakfast served until 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays. A full, bacon-and-eggs breakfast will set you back about $5.75.

Drive out along Rimrock Road, then check out more canyon scenery by coming back from Molt by heading south at the turnoff to Laurel. Cross the Yellowstone at Laurel and then head back to Billings by turning east along Thiel Road to Duck Creek. Stop and hang out by the river at the Sundance Lodge Recreation Area.

The recreation area's parking lot is 1.3 miles from the turnoff at Thiel Road.

Get back home in time to get dressed up for dinner at a fancy restaurant you've never tried.

Day Two Get up early for a guided whitewater rafting trip on the Stillwater River. After a two-hour river trip, drive back to one of the fishing access points, such as White Bird or Swinging Bridge.

Pull a picnic lunch from your cooler and set your lawn chairs along the water's edge. Drive back through Roscoe along Highway 78 to Red Lodge. Stop to window shop and pick up treats at the Montana Candy Emporium or Magpie Toymakers.

Before sunset, swing toward Bearcreek along Highway 308 to Belfry, then circle back to Billings. Or roast marshmallows at a campsite south of Red Lodge.

Entertainment: Half-day rafting trip: Adults: $30 to $35; Children: $20 to $25.

Campsite fee: Up to $10 in the Custer National Forest.

Day Three Sleep in. Pop packaged cinnamon rolls from the freezer into the oven and enjoy.

Head for Big Splash water park. Pack a cooler with treats and burgers for the grill. Take your book and don't forget the sunscreen.

Play until supper time. Grab roasted chicken, potato salad and coleslaw from the supermarket take-out deli. Add sliced fresh veggies with dip. After supper, head out for soft ice cream and a round of miniature golf.

Entertainment: Big Splash water park, open 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Admission: $14.95 all day. Children under 42-inches, who use the kiddie area, are $5.95. Children under 36-inches are free. Prices reduced after 4 p.m.

Day Four Take the backroad through Lockwood to Hardin. Let the kids burn off energy in the elaborate wooden playground by Hardin's primary school along West Third.

Then drive to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument to check out the new Indian Memorial, which will be dedicated on June 25.

During the summer, interpretive talks run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the hour. A tepee and canvas military tent with replica artifacts provide the backdrop for talks about life in the 1870s.

Cruise back along Interstate 90. Eat ethnic food at one of Billings Asian restaurants. If the kids are familiar with Chinese food, try Japanese, Korean or Thai.

Entertainment: Battlefield admission: $10 per vehicle.

Day Five Take an easy day-hike to Night Lake in the Beartooth Mountains.

Since the hike starts about a mile from the Top of the World store, it doesn't involve much climbing. Bill Schneider's "Best Easy Day Hikes Beartooths," describes Night Lake as a two-mile beginner's hike made to order for people who don't like big hills.

If you're not the hiking type, consider renting an ATV. At Benbow ATV Rentals, near Dean, adults can rent two-person ATVs to cruise Forest Service roads and trails.

Transportation: Half-day rental for one Bombardier ATV, a two-seater, from Benbow ATV Rentals: $139.

Day Six Slip out early to go fishing at Riverfront Park. Let the kids dig for worms in the garden the night before.

In the afternoon, indulge in some culture with a visit to a Billings museum or the zoo. Be gracious about stopping at the gift shops. If your kids are regular visitors to the Billings museums, head for museums in Cody or Bozeman.

Where ever you are, take time to browse for books at a new or used bookstore.

If the budget's flush, consider a massage for mom, a resort-style hour of pure indulgence.

Entertainment: Yellowstone Art Museum admission: $3, adults; $1, students. ZooMontana admission: $6, adults; $3, children.

Montana fishing license: $13 for adults plus the $4 conservation stamp. Reduced fees for youths. No license needed for ages 11 and younger.

Day Seven Devote a day to your favorite hobby or sport, something you can do individually or as a family.

Do you rarely find time to tinker in the garage, string beads into necklaces, play disc golf? If you're ambitious, tackle a messy, kid-friendly project like tie-dying T-shirts. Add a swim or a trip to the StrikeZone Batting Cages at Stewart Park.

For dinner, try a progressive feast, starting with appetizers at one restaurant, the main course at a second and dessert at a third. To cut costs, do a fast-food version of the same battle plan. Cap the night with a late movie.

If you're feeling really flush, nix the movie, get dressed up and rent a limo to see the city.

Entertainment: Movie admission: $7, adults; $4.75, children. StrikeZone Batting Cages at Stewart Park: 90 pitches cost $5.

Limo ride: Prices start at about $45 to $55 an hour.

Day Eight Cycle down to the Yellowstone Valley Farmer's Market for breakfast once the market opens later in the season. Buy fresh corn to go with burgers or dogs on the grill.

After lunch, read a trashy novel while the kids amuse themselves on the water slides at Rose Park. Serve make-your-own sandwiches on paper plates and farmer's market vegetables for an evening picnic.

Take the kids to the stock car races at BMP Speedway, the former Magic City Speedway. It's now located at Billings Motorsports Park, 12 miles north of Billings Heights toward Roundup on Highway 87. Or check out the race dates, starting in July, for the Intermountain Motor Sports Park dragstrip near Acton.

Entertainment: Rose Park pool — slides $3, children, $4, adults; plus pool admission of $1.50, youths, $3, adults.

BMP Speedway: Admission $10; children 10 and under are free with an adult. Races start June 14th and run at 7 p.m. on Saturdays through the end of September.

Intermountain Motor Sports Park: Admission charge dependent on events. Dragstrip opens in July. Check the Web site: www.raceimsp.com.

Recovery day Admit it. No one likes to head back to work with mountains of dirty clothes piled by the washer.

Put on your swimsuits, hook up the sprinkler, hang out in the backyard and take turns shuffling the laundry from the wash to the dryer.

Pull some fruit Popsicles from the freezer. Play a rousing game of wiffle ball, Frisbee or croquet. Drop off your vacation photos, head for your favorite Italian restaurant, then pick up the film on your way home from dinner. Treat yourself to some welcome-home flowers. Do your boss a favor by getting to bed early.

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