Looking to add some last-minute travel to your calendar before the summer sun sets? A road trip is a perfect way to explore a new spot without too much-advanced planning needed. Whether you have only a day to explore or a long weekend, our road trip ideas are here to get you started making memories that will last a lifetime!

photo: Kate Loweth

Visit a National Park

Take the play outside at one of our nation’s great parks. Learn about the natural world, do car camping and hike the day away. Take your pick from our list of 19 faves or set your sights on an under-the-radar national park near you. We picked one in every state (even D.C.)! Got a 4th grader in your crew? Bring them along, and you'll get free admission with the Every Kid in a Park program!

ADVERTISEMENT

photo: iStock

Feed Your Inner Foodie

Sometimes the promise of a killer pulled pork sandwich is all the inspiration you need to hit the road. Plan your road trip to include one of the country's best BBQ spots, a new pizza joint or one of these themed restaurants that really take dining to another level. A food hall is a great option for families because they offer tons of eating options for every taste. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with a stop at your state's best donut spot or most epic ice cream joint

photo: Exploratorium

Make Your Way to the Museum

A brand-new museum is a perfect excuse to set out on a road trip. The country is full of totally epic kids' museums (that even adults will love) and over-the-top science centers that will get you staring into space. When the weather gets hot, it's a great idea to head to a totally-indoor museum to keep your cool (in more ways than one). Got a museum membership of your own? Check to see if it offers any reciprocal discounts with other museums and save a bunch!

Hit a Theme Park

Ride all the rides at a theme park! The costumed characters. The thrilling rides. You can say you go for the kids, but we’re pretty sure you love it just as much as they do. Check out the eight best amusement parks for families and even some that won't break the bank. Or better yet, pick a park that has a ride that's brand new in 2018 for some fresh fun!

Explore a Wacky Roadside Attraction

Pack up the kids and the snacks and hit the road! There are all sorts of wacky and unique roadside attractions all over the U.S. Pick one out to make it your destination or drive until you see that giant rooster and hit the brakes. Your kids and your Instagram feed will thank you. 

Pitch Your Tent

Camping can be a cheap way to see a new area of the country and a fun way for families to bond without the distraction of devices and deadlines. These totally unique campsites will take the fun to another level with beaches and water parks as the backdrop. Sleeping on the ground not your thing? Rent an RV for some upgraded relaxation. Before you go, check out our tips on how to ease yourself into camping to make the most of your time in nature. 

photo: iStock

Go Digging for Dinos

From sculptures to skeletons, you can find places across the country that pint-sized paleontologists will go crazy for. You can excavate in a national park, roam around forests with life-like statues or explore the halls of a museum for a history lesson that will take the kids waaay back. While there are hundreds of sites to choose from, we’ll get you started with 14 of our favorites

Find a Home on the Range

Maybe your little cowpokes are aching for a prairie ride this summer, or perhaps they just want to visit a western-themed amusement park. Get inspiration for your next great excursion from one of these 11 cowboy destinations.

photo: Kate Loweth

Play Tourist in Your Own City

As a local, you’ve got the inside scoop on all the neighborhood hot spots. But when was the last time you and the kidlets played tourist? This summer, see all the sights, do all the tours and yep, even buy the t-shirt in your home city. We’ve got the tips you need to do it right. Go for the day or splurge on a room downtown, complete with that spectacular skyline view you can’t quite see from your place. Oh, what a sight!

Make it a Beach Day

Whether your nearby water is the Atlantic, the Pacific or a local lake, the best road trip can be as easy as picking a new spot to spread out your beach towel and wade in the waves. For some beachy inspo, check out one of these off-the-radar beach towns or the country's 10 best beaches for families. Surf's up!

photo: Ventura County Fair

All’s Fair at the Faires

Maker. Bluegrass. Shakespeare. Renaissance. Whatever flavor fits your fam, engage everyone’s imagination at a nearby festival. You can always expect plenty of food, face painting, music and more to keep the minis entertained, as you wander from booth to booth or tent to tent to get your fill of whatever tickles your fancy. Check out these crazy summer festivals to get your planning started. 

Visit the Capitol of the Next State Over

Hit the road for the next state over and visit the capitol building. Many offer free tours, museums and tons of cool info about days gone by. Bonus: the kids will get a history lesson and they won't even realize it!

Hike a New Trail

A hike is a great way to get the kids out in the fresh air and explore a new spot. Check off one of these 25 hikes that every kid should do once or a hike that gets you to a waterfall. Bring some bribes and Band-Aids and hit the trail for some outdoor adventure!

 

Swim in a Grotto

Soak up summer’s last moments at a natural watering hole that will absolutely blow your mind. We’re not talking about epic water resorts (but you can read up on those here) we’re talking about cerulean pools inside caves; natural wells that spring forth sparkling waters and waterfalls you can splash in. Here’s our list of the 20 places not to miss.

Make it a Mystery!

Bump your road trip up to the next level by making your destination a total mystery to the kids. This mom explains how her family has planned mystery trips for years. Whether you give hints along the way or keep the kids totally in the dark until you get there, the excitement of the journey will make your road trip all the more fun for everyone. 

—Kate Loweth, Amber Guetebier & Allison Sutcliffe

 

RELATED STORIES: 

No-Mess Kids Snacks for Long Road Trips

10 Tips for Rocking Family Road Trips—from a Mom of 4

6 Things Every Parent Should Do Before Heading Out on a Family Road Trip

A Mom’s Guide to a Mother-Daughter Road Trips

Feature photo: Christin Hume on Unsplash