Close quarters, car games, sing-a-longs, and miles of pavement on the horizon are a few classic themes of the quintessential family vacation. What else screams road trip? Being able to discover cool and unusual things along the way. Whether you’ve already got a bucket list of stuff to do and see, or if you want to start one with your crew ASAP, scroll down for the ultimate list of what you need to do and see with kids in each of these 50 states.
Explore Cathedral Caverns State Park. Spend time with one of the world’s largest stalagmites in the world while wandering through a cave that’s stroller accessible.
photo: Billy Pope for Alabama Outdoor via flickr
Watch bears fish for salmon at Park Creek in the Tongass National Forest. It’s just a short floatplane ride from Juneau to Park Creek, and worth the effort. Park Creek boasts one of the highest densities of brown bears in North America.
Stay the night at Wigwam Village in Holbrook. You’ll be nostalgic for days of yore, and your kids will be stoked to check out a place that looks an awful lot like where Lighting McQueen was holed up in Cars.
Check out the Merman and pet an alligator at the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo on your way to Hot Springs.
Hang with the giant, ancient trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Your kids will be in awe when they find out how old each one is.
Surf the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Cool off in Medano Creek in between runs.
photo: courtesy Great Sand Dunes National Park via flickr
Check out the Mystic Aquarium. It’s one of the best in the country, and is home to several animal conservation programs.
Stroll the boardwalk in Rehoboth. Even if it’s not summer, there’s plenty of off-season fun.
Get the ultimate family beach experience at one of Florida’s pristine beaches. Wondering which one is best? Check out one of our favorites here.
Head to Jekyll Island’s famous Driftwood Beach. Everyone will marvel at the twisted live oaks that wash up on the sand during storms. The twiggy parts are wind-worn away so the trunks make great climbing structures for kids.
Go snorkeling in the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. The colorful fish and coral are spectacular and because it was created by a collapsed volcano crater, the waves are mellow— perfect for the tiniest tykes.
photo: The.Rohit via flickr
Ride the Trail of the Coueur d’ Alenes through the beauty of Idaho. See the mountainside, the chain lakes region, and the Palouse prairie. There’s over 70 miles of paved pathways open year round and waiting for family adventures.
Visit Navy Pier. A tourist trap it may be, but for good reason. There’s the Chicago Children’s Museum, the newly revamped ferris wheel, and much more. See our insider’s guide here.
Walk through one of the 31 covered bridges in Parke County, Indiana, which is the Covered Bridge Capital of the World!
Stop by the Field of Dreams farm and see if you can spot Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Strap on your stirrups and head into the Wild West at Dodge City. From (staged) gunfights to checking out old wagon wheel tracks, this place is overflowing with history and fun.
photo: Kansas Tourism via flickr
Ride a horse at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Get the history of the derby, explore the kids barn, and more!
Organize a classic lobster bake on the beach. You bring the friends, House Island Maine will do the rest.
Go camping with the wild horses at Assateague. It’ll be a storybook-like adventure for the whole family. Get details about pitching a tent on the island here.
Admire the fall foliage at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
photo: Steve via flickr
Marvel depth and beauty of Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks National Park. There are over 40 miles of lakeshore, waterfalls, cliffs, and forests to explore.
Go canoeing/kayaking at the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness during the fall. There are miles and miles of gentle water to kayak in while the spectacular fall colors backlight your every move.
Spend a day at City Museum in St. Louis. From the slides and caves to the architectural wonders, there’s something for everyone. Be sure to make your way to the roof and The Keep for new attractions.
Let the kids dig for dinosaurs at the Plains Dinosaur Museum & Field station. There’s a tiny pit for your petite paleontologists and a Junior Dig for older kids. Find out more here.
Won’t be making a trip to Stonehenge anytime soon? Check out Carhenge in Alliance, instead. The replica installation was created with cars, in honor of the artist’s father.
Meet a giant prehistoric sea reptile, and roam the ghost town of Berlin at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park.
Visit Santa’s Village, even in the summertime! This holiday-themed attraction has year-round fun for everyone along for the ride.
Hike up to the high spot at High Point State Park and look out over three states: Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
Transport yourself into the realm of storytelling and solve a family-friendly mystery at the House of Eternal Return. Part art exhibition, part imaginary play land, this former bowling alley is funded by George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) and is the first permanent exhibition from art production group Meow Wolf.
photo: Stephen via flickr
See everything and anything when it comes to natural history at the American Museum of Natural History. Catch a planetarium show, see the largest dinosaur ever to be excavated, gaze up at the famous blue whale, and much more.
Attend the United Tribes International Powwow in Bismark. Over 70 tribes gather every year to celebrate the rich history and culture of Native Americans with music, food, dancing and more.
Let your little kidventors wander around the Columbus Center of Science and Industry for a day (or two!). Wondering where to start? Let us be your guide.
Getting your kicks on Route 66? Don’t miss the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Even though the slide is no longer operational, the picnic tables and picture ops are perfect for a roadside stop. Take a closer look here.
photo: Nicolas Henderson via flickr
Let science and mystery be your guide at the Oregon Vortex. Known as the House of Mystery, you and crew crew will experience phenomena of all kinds!
Check out the liberty bell. There’s no admission and it’s one of the most important pieces of American history. Get more info here.
Ride the carousel at Easton’s Beach in Newport before wandering through the the Edith Warton-era “cottages” built by tycoons in the late nineteenth century.
Admire the Reedy River Falls via suspension bridge in downtown Greenville.
Stretch little legs at Wall Drug. The world-famous roadside stop is filled with souvenirs and Instagram-worthy oddities.
photo: pangbun on Flickr
Head to the Great Smoky Mountains at the end of May to watch the Synchronous Fireflies. Every summer a few lucky folks (there’s a lottery to see who makes the cut) get to check out one of Mother Nature’s most awesome light shows.
Remember The Alamo and then stroll the riverwalk in downtown San Antonio.
Visit Dinosaur National Monument and marvel over the quarry, which is home to hundreds of dinosaurs still encased in rock.
Visit Billings Farm and Museum for a real glimpse of Vermont history and discover the other reason Vermont is named the green mountain state. Not only the home of a nationally-known dairy farm, the farm and surrounding area was also home to one of America’s founding leaders of modern sustainability and land conservation.
Go back in time for a day at colonial Williamsburg. Wondering what to do and see first? Here are a few helpful hints.
Explore Mt. Rainier on the new Naches Peak Loop Trail. There’s a little bit of everything for the whole family. Check out our insider’s guide here.
Museum hop. D.C. is the go-to place for free museum admission (all of the Smithsonian museums are free); with new additions like the African American Museum of History and Culture and the east wing of the National Art Gallery, you’ll have plenty of options. Here are 15 other free things to do in D.C.!
Take a ride on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad and see if you can spot a bald eagle!
Ride the Trojan horse rollercoaster at Mount Olympus Theme Park in Wisconsin Dells.
Take your kids ages six and up white water rafting on the Snake River. The canyons and wildlife are amazing.
photo: carfull…home in mongolia via flickr
Looking for more road trip fun? Check out these crazy and cool roadside attractions.
Thanks to Huffington Post for the inspiration!
What’s your favorite thing to do in each state? Share with us in a Comment below!
—Gabby Cullen with Shelley Massey, Kristina Moy, Leah Singer, Ayren Jackson-Kennedy, Maria Chambers, Mimi O’Connor and Amber Guetebier