Summertime calls for a great family road adventure. With countless places to go and sights to see, where do you begin? Pack those bags, because we’ve rounded up 25 amazing road trip itineraries that will take you to the classic, the quirky and the absolutely breathtaking. Scroll down to find your route.
1. Amusement Park Trifecta - Hershey Park, PA & Sesame Place to Six Flags Great Adventure, NJ - 150 miles
What to See
The family can’t get enough of amusement parks? Visit three whoppers with in-between stops in rural Amish Country and historic Philadelphia. Start at Hershey Park for rides for all ages, a water park, a zoo and chocolate galore—you can even design a candy bar! Our insider's guide will get you going, and don't forget to download the official park app to get tickets and maps.
Next, take 322 to 117 through the woods and farmland, and opt to stop at Mt. Gretna Lake for a dip. GPS is your friend from Pinch Rd. down to 283 and on to The Amish Experience. Follow the scenic Exton Bypass from Route 30 to 202 S, where you'll find the kid-pleasing American Helicopter Museum nearby. Take 202 N to I-76 and into Philadelphia, where you can take a historical tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, check out the Please Touch Museum for kids 8 & under, and visit the famous Franklin Institute for major family science fun.
Back on the road, I-95 N will take you to Sesame Place for amusement and water rides, parades and shows. From there, take I-195 E towards Trenton, with an optional stop in the amazing and restful sculpture garden Grounds for Sculpture. One half-hour more on the highway gets you to Great Adventure, a monster of a park (the 2nd largest in the world!) with rides, a water park, shows and an animal safari.
Good to Know: Planning ahead for theme parks is key. We suggest looking for online coupons, buying passes in advance, and going early on weekdays—if you can—to avoid long lines. Make sure to bring extra clothes for the water parks, too.
2. Surprises in the Southwest: Amarillo to Albuquerque to Santa Fe- 351 miles
Take a cruise down Interstate 40 from Amarillo to Santa Fe with a handful of must-see attractions that the whole family will love.
Roadside Art: First, in Amarillo, stop by Cadillac Ranch, a decades-old art installation turned quirky roadside attraction that is unlike anything you’ve seen. Continue on to Albuquerque and grab a dinner at The Range Café. Adults can try the Relleno Burger or the Hot Turkey Plate, and the menu has plenty of kid options like the Kiddie Enchiladas, Lil Burrito or Little Mac pasta. Next, grab a cozy room and hit the pool before you hit the sheets at the clean and modern Home2 Suites by Hilton.
Amazing Albuquerque: In the morning, explore all that Albuquerque has to offer. Those who don’t mind heights will love the Sandia Peak Tramway, a can’t-miss tram ride with amazing mountain views. You also won’t want to miss the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science or the Albuquerque BioPark.
All Day in Santa Fe: It’s just over an hour to Santa Fe, where kids and adults will love the Santa Fe Children’s Museum and Meow Wolf, an immersive art installation experience with secret passages and tons of fun. You can’t go wrong with the carne asada or a quinoa burger at Café Pasqual’s or try the coconut chicken or tofu curry at Jambo Café. Definitely check out the Plaza, Santa Fe’s historic downtown gathering spot, where you might find local artist markets, music gatherings or community events.
3. Somewhere in Time: Saugatuck to Mackinac Island, MI - 277 miles
A Grand Ol’ Time
Start your adventure in the charming town of Saugatuck, MI. Located right on the shores of Lake Michigan, you can’t miss Oval Beach—consistently rated as one of the best beaches in the U.S. If you want to extend your time in here, check out the BaySide Inn, a historic boathouse converted into a B&B. Once you’ve soaked in the sunshine and lake breeze, head to Grand Rapids (about 40 miles) and bring the kids to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Here they’ll find building areas stocked with nuts, bolts, Lincoln Logs, LEGO bricks and more. There's also a Kidstruction Zone, a music exhibit and much more. Don’t miss the gorgeous Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which includes an entire greenhouse dedicated to carnivorous plants as well as the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, designed for kids to engage in garden and nature sensory play.
Speaking of Rapids
About an hour north on 131 you’ll find the small town of Big Rapids. Named after the largest set of rapids on the Muskegon River, it’s well worth a stop. If you’re up for an adventure, try arranging a tubing trip with Sawmill Canoe Livery. Stretch your legs along the peaceful Riverwalk, which is great for little kids and strollers, too. Grab lunch at Schuberg’s Bar & Grill before walking around the shops and then hitting the road north again.
One of the jewels of the Great Lakes area is the quaint Mackinac Island, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet. Take I-75 to Mackinac City and board the ferry, or cross the famous Mackinac Bridge (not for the faint of heart) to St. Ignace and take the ferry from there. The island itself does not allow any cars, but you can rent bikes on the island, including tandems!
4. City to Sea - Seattle to Mt. Rainier to Portland to Seaside OR - 294 Miles
The Starting Line
Make sure to check out the Space Needle and all of the attractions at Seattle Center before you begin your road trip. Your little adventurers will love running through the musical fountain's spray and catching one or two rides on the carousel.
Ashford gives visitor's access to Mt. Rainier National Park via the Nisqually Entrance. There are trails that will take you around lakes, past waterfalls, and through meadows. Stop at the visitor center and talk to a friendly ranger to find out which trails are best for your crew. After you are done exploring by foot, get a bird's eye view of the mountain on the Mt. Rainier Gondola—a ride that is especially thrilling for the littlest travelers.
Outside of the park area, there's plenty to do. Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad offers thrilling rides for train enthusiasts of all ages, and there are themed excursions throughout the year, so check ahead to see the offerings and to reserve your seats. Also, NW Trek and Wildlife Park offers visitors close encounters with the local wildlife.
The city of roses has an abundance of fun activities for the family. OMSI is a must and will please the scientists in your family (big and small). If you are looking for active fun, head to Washington Park. It's home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children's Museum, World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden. If you road trip mid-summer, make sure to check out the Rose Festival for rides, concerts, parades and more.
Seaside offers visitors more than just a long stretch of beautiful beach to relax on. The town has a fun boardwalk with tons of spots offering fun activities for kids of all ages. The Funland Arcade is the North Oregon Coast's largest arcade and has hundreds of games for your kids to play. Located two blocks from the ocean, Seaside Carousel Mall is waiting to take your kids for a spin. The carousel is a perfect replica of a classic edition and great for snapping those pics, you'll want to show off to family and friends later.
If you are in the area for an extended stay, the Seaside Aquarium is well worth a visit. It's the oldest aquarium on the West Coast and full of marine life and educational opportunities your kids will enjoy.
5. Old Florida: Pensacola to Crystal Springs (FL Panhandle) - 452 miles
From the retro beach sign welcoming you to Pensacola Beach all the way to the icy waters of Crystal River where the manatees meander, you'll find plenty to explore along the Panhandle's powder-white shores.
What to See: Home to the Blue Angels, Pensacola is no wonder the home of the National Naval Aviation Museum, an outstanding (and free) collection of airplanes, simulators, and history on the Pensacola Naval Base. Then beach hop, exploring each town with its own unique character. Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key (don't miss live music and Bushwhackers for the grown-ups at the FloraBama) are nearest to Pensacola, followed by a string of towns along 30-A. Scenic Seaside, WaterColor, and Rosemary Beaches are not to miss, and a visit to Apalachicola (followed by a spur to St. George Island to check out the lighthouse) will keep you busy en route to swim with the manatees in Crystal River.
Good to Know: This beach trip is made even more perfect when you can align it with scalloping season and the best months for fresh oysters!
6. Down the Cape - Old King’s Highway, Cape Cod, MA - 66 miles
What to See
Route 6A, the Old King’s Highway, started as a Native American trail and will give you more water views and authentic Cape flavor than the main Route 6. Start at the Heritage Museum & Gardens, with American art, a standout antique car collection, a carousel and outdoor family activities. On to Barnstable, where naturalists at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary can give your family eco-tours on water or land (say hi to the goat herd that keeps the vegetation trim). On the north side, you can visit the Coast Guard Museum, and the Edward Gorey House in scenic Yarmouth Port is a must for fans of the genteelly macabre author/artist.
Cross the cape to get to the JFK Museum in Hyannis and the Whydah Museum in West Yarmouth, which will delight little mariners with artifacts from a real pirate ship. Mayflower Beach is a great stop at low tide when little ones can wade far out in shallow water, and you’ll want to stay for spectacular sunsets. Stop to stretch at Scargo Tower, which looks like a small kid’s castle, and climb up for the view.
Next, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is especially good for young children. 6a meets Route 6 at art-gallery-filled Orleans, where your family can enjoy the Nauset Model Railroad Club or get your geek on learning about early transatlantic communication at French Cable Station Museum. Just above the elbow of the cape at Eastham, the Salt Pond Visitor Center Museum and 1869 Schoolhouse Museum are good educational stops for children. After that, beaches, boat trips and lighthouses abound all the way up to lively Provincetown, which is a great launch for a fishing or whale watching trip.
Good to Know: Many small attractions and historical sites open sporadically, so check ahead. Though it’s fun to visit, Wellfleet, Truro and North Truro tend to have more space and lodgings for families than crowded Provincetown. Take 6 for a faster trip back and stop at sites on the tip of the elbow and southwestern cape.
7. Magical History Tour: Springfield, IL to St. Louis, MO - 98 miles
The Presidential Path
Springfield, Illinois—once home to Abraham Lincoln in the years before he became President—is now home to more Lincoln sites and history than anywhere else in the world. You’ll find the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library as well as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Depot and the Lincoln Tomb, his final resting place, to name a few. This city also offers a ton of family fun: kids will beg for just a little more time at the Knights Action Park, a 60-acre waterpark and activity center. There’s the Henson Robinson Zoo, the Air Combat Museum and the Illinois State Museum which houses the Play Museum—an interactive pretend play area for kids ages 3-10 to experience what it’s like to work at a museum.
See Something Silly
Hit the highway south toward St. Louis: amble along for part of this drive along the historic Route 66 or pick up speed on Hwy 55. Head toward Staunton, IL for a pit stop at the quirky Henry’s Rabbit Ranch. This Route 66 roadside stop is both an homage to the VW Rabbit and to the bunny-kind. It’s a vintage emporium of trucker memorabilia and a spot to pet a bun-bun and pick up a souvenir or two before you head out.
Gateway to the West
There’s no shortage of action in the city made most famous by the Gateway Arch: other highlights include the Laumeier Sculpture Park; the 129-acre Museum of Transportation (which includes one of the two first man-made tunnels west of the Mississippi); the City Museum with a rooftop Ferris wheel the St. Louis Walk of Fame, along The Loop, which takes you past plaques honoring famous St. Louisans as well as plenty of restaurants and shopping; and—our favorite—The Magic House, the Missouri Children’s Museum. Whimsy, interactive exhibits and Victorian-style architecture are all features of this sweet museum. Don’t miss the Challenger Learning Center for a chance to go on a simulated space mission.
Dinosaurs & Caverns!
Just outside of St. Louis you’ll find Mastodon State Historic Site, land of the Kimmswick Bone Bed. It is here that scientist first discovered evidence that humans and mastodons existing at the same time. There’s a museum, trails, picnic sites and more. Also just out of St. Louis proper in Stanton, MO you’ll find the Meramec Caverns. Take a guided tour through an underground garden of ancient limestone and natural wonder, including Jesse James’ infamous hideout. You also zipline, canoe and riverboat through the park, and they offer accommodations including a motel and campgrounds.
8. Virginia Proper: Shenandoah to Colonial Williamsburg, VA - 156 miles
From the breathtaking scenery of the Shenandoah Valley to the history-rich exhibits through the cradle of the Revolutionary War, this trek through Old Virginia is a bucket-list for every family looking to sip from the ladle of Americana.
What to See: If it's nature you want, then it's nature you'll have. Take the legendary (and remote) Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park for sweeping vistas that haven't changed since Benjamin Franklin's last visit. Find colonial life reenacted and Revolutionary War exhibits at Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg. Check under the hood (of the earth, that is) at the Grand Caverns Park near Staunton for a little deep-dive into the region.
Good to Know: The National Park Service offers educational tours suited for all age levels at many of their historic sites and battlefields. Check your itinerary against their events calendar before you go to make sure you don't miss out on any fun.
9. Northward Ho! - Anchorage to Denali State Park—161.1 Miles
Hop on a bus and take the kids on a tour that will give them the opportunity to get up close and personal with a real grizzly bear. Denali Park Village offers wilderness tours that will take you 62 miles into the national park where you are likely to see a variety of animals including moose, caribou, wolves and sheep while you get the full Alaskan tundra wilderness experience.
For a truly unforgettable time, take to the sky on a flightseeing tour with Denali Summit Flight. This tour will take your clan almost 21,000 feet up for an incredible view of the Denali summit and the surrounding areas.
10. Far Out Wonders: White Sands to Roswell to Carlsbad- 243 miles
The Ultimate Sandbox: Amazing wonders of nature and a dose of alien encounters are the themes on this trip from White Sands to Carlsbad Caverns. In Alamogordo, check out White Sands National Monument, where it truly feels like running through a dream. White sand dunes cover 275 square miles of desert, and the kids will have a blast, running, tumbling and sliding down. Don’t forget the Visitor Center, which has interactive exhibits, a Junior Ranger program and a gift shop. If you’re looking to camp afterwards, set up your site at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, the closest public campground, or choose lodging in nearby Alamogordo.
UFOs and the Coolest Caves: The next day, make the trek to Roswell, where outer space aficionados can visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center before grabbing a burger at Chef Todzilla’s Gourmet Burgers and making a relaxing detour to Bottomless Lakes State Park. Two hours away, the Carlsbad KOA has comfortable cabins, RV and tent sites, a playground, bike rentals and a pool. Make it your stop for the night while you gaze at the incredible New Mexico sunset. The next day, take a stroll around the nearby Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, before heading to Carlsbad Caverns, where you can choose from an assortment of stunning cave tours, watch thousands of bats in flight, take in a ranger program, eat at an underground snack bar or experience one of the stargazing events.
11. The Great American Road Trip: Rapid City to Sioux Falls, SD - 348 Miles
Bad to the Bone
Rapid City is best known for being nestled in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota and as the gateway for Mount Rushmore. The town of Rapid City itself is packed with charm, from art galleries to restaurants and shopping. At the center of it all is Main St. Square, a public space that hosts live concerts, outdoor movies and more throughout the year. Learn about the Native American heritage of the area through history exhibits and art; take an interactive history walk in downtown’s City of Presidents (a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents) and hit Rapid City’s Art Alley. Don’t forget to check out the Crazy Horse Memorial, a monument of the great Lakota leader. Custer State Park is more than 70,000 acres and teeming with wildlife including bighorn sheep, antelope, deer, elk and one of the nation’s largest free-roaming buffalo herds.
For something special, stay overnight at Custer State Park Resort in one of their lodges or specialty cabins and book a Buffalo Safari Ride Jeep Tour of the park. Make a quick pit stop at the quirky Wall Drug—a huge emporium where you can anything from cowboy boots to fudge to a 5-cent cup of coffee before heading into Badlands National Park. Kids will be in awe of the otherworldly landscape of the Badlands is one of the richest fossil beds in the world. Take the Badlands Loop State Scenic Highway, a 30-mile loop with tons of scenic overlooks and photo-ops. For interactive and ranger programs, hit the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Grab some Indian Fry Bread or Sioux Indian Tacos at Cedar Pass Lodge Restaurant before heading out.
Don’t Miss: Dinosaur Park in the Badlands.
Americana at Its Finest
Stretch your legs half-way between Badlands and Sioux Falls in the little town of Murdo where you’ll find the Pioneer Auto Show, a collection of over 275 classic cars, motorcycles and tractors. Murdo is also home to 1880 Town, modeled after you an original town from the late 1800s. A little farther down Hwy 90 you’ll want to stop in Mitchell to experience the world’s only Corn Palace—an incredible feat of architecture decorated with 13 different (natural) shades of corn and native grasses.
Fall in Love
Head to Sioux Falls, where you’ll find the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History and Butterfly House & Aquarium. Sioux Falls is also home to the SculptureWalk—the largest annual exhibit of public sculptures in the world. Head to Falls Park at sunset and grab an ice cream at the Falls Overlook Cafe. There’s no shortage of hotels, B&Bs and camping in Sioux Falls, but we recommend the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel because of the children's indoor water playland and large heated outdoor pool.
Want to learn more about South Dakota? Check out our editor’s epic road trip and recommendations here.
12. The Blues Highway to NOLA: Memphis to New Orleans, by way of Hwy. 61
Wind your way through the Delta and you'll get enough barbecue and blues to last a lifetime. Along the way, you'll have unforgettable pitstops in Civil War battlefields, walk in the footsteps of Elvis, and see the creek that inspired Henson to create Kermit.
What to See: Kicking off your trip in Memphis, thrill the kiddos with a riverboat cruise on the Mighty Mississippi, see the Beale Street flippers do their thing, compare notes between Elvis's playroom (called the Jungle Room, no less) and yours at Graceland, and set the BBQ bar with ribs at Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous. Then, set out on Hwy. 61 south through the Delta, stopping for the Railroad Heritage Museum and Lower Mississippi River Museum in Cleveland, the Jim Henson Museum in Leland, McCarty's Pottery place in Merigold, the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Vicksburg National Military Park. Be sure to stop at as many honky tonks as you can along the way, and let the locals be your guide. Feeling frisky? Keep trucking right on to NOLA.
Good to Know: While cotton gets all the glory in Mississippi, those in the know will tell you that it's actually the sweltering heat and mosquitos that are the hallmarks of a Mississippi summer. Be sure to pack a cooler, and bring your bug repellant!
13. Green Mountain National Park Loop - Green Burlington, VT - 170 miles
What to See
There’s a lot to do in Burlington. Start by heading down Route 7 to Shelburne for three great family attractions. Shelburne Museum has exhibitions like circus models and vintage toys spread through a campus including a lighthouse, a steamboat, a carousel and a locomotive. Shelburne Farms is bucolic, with a children’s farmyard, and tours of grounds and cheesemaking. Kids will enjoy a quick tour of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory (only on weekdays.).
Further down 7, Vergennes offers a small, scenic waterfall park and Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Continue south, keeping an eye out for outlooks and covered bridges. Fall foliage, maple syrup and apple picking are a big draw, and in summer stop by Charlotte Berry Farm for pick-your-own, creemees and pies. Turn onto 53 to hike, swim or camp at Branbury State Park or head on to picturesque Brandon to stop for food or an overnight, then visit the herd nearby at Maple View Farm Alpacas.
Head west to the Mt. Horrid Observation Site, a short but steep hike to a gorgeous view. At Rutland, take the Route 4 Scenic Byway to Killington for skiing in winter or outdoor fun like zip lines and a land coaster in warmer months. Head north on the Route 100 Scenic Byway for kid-friendly waterfall hikes like Thundering Brook Falls and Texas Falls Recreation Area, and then north of Green Mountain you can continue up 100, hike Camel’s Hump State Park and take the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour before heading back to Burlington.
Good to Know: Known as “Vermont’s Main Street,” Route 100 is considered one of the most beautiful drives for fall foliage, and is the curvier, more rustic side, while Route 7 is smoother and has more towns and roadside attractions. Remember to book far in advance for foliage season lodgings and pay attention to local road reports in winter.
14. Flowers, Ferry Rides & Outdoor Fun—Victoria to Whistler BC— 152 Miles
The Starting Point
You can't leave Victoria without visiting the famous Butchart Gardens. The floral display gardens will give your tribe plenty to look at and explore and the Rose Carousel will put a smile on everyone's face.
Part of the fun of visiting Whistler is getting there. Your kids will love riding the Tsawwassen-Swarts Ferry. While on board you will have the opportunity to dine on yummy buffet food, shop for souvenirs and the larger vessels have play areas and entertainment, including arcades, for kids!
When you get to Whistler, head to the slopes where you can go on a peak to peak gondola ride and see the landscape and wildlife from above. Hop aboard a glass-bottom gondola for an extra special ride.
If your family is made up of adrenaline junkies, then sign up for a Ziptrek Zip Line tour and whiz through the old-growth rainforest. Once you are done exploring from above, hit the trails and discover the beauty of Whistler by foot. When the snow is melted, there are tons of kid-friendly hikes to be enjoyed.
15. Red Rocks to Rainbow Forest: Sedona to Petrifed Forest National Park- 143 miles
Sights in Sedona: Take an easy road trip to see some of the natural wonders of the Southwest. Start out in Sedona and grab breakfast at Red Rock Café, where you can nosh on banana blueberry walnut french toast, eggs benedict, chicken fried steak or an omelet any way you like. Then, head out and enjoy the beauty of Sedona’s iconic red rocks with a daytime trip to Slide Rock State Park. Kids can swim in Oak Creek and will love trying out the park’s 80-foot namesake sandstone chute.
Meteor Crater: From Sedona, it’s only about 70 miles to Winslow, where you can check out Meteor Crater. At almost a mile across and more than 550 feet deep, this tourist attraction is a preserved meteorite impact that is guaranteed to wow. The site also has a theater, gift shop, indoor crater viewing area and self-guided observation paths. It’s only another hour to the Holbrook KOA, where you can get a tent site or cabin. The campground has a pool, dog park, snack bar, and makes a great stop for the night.
Perfectly Petrified: In the morning, it’s a quick drive (about 30 min) to Petrified Forest National Park, where you’ll find an incredible landscape, great hiking trails and the well-known petrified logs. The park has a Junior Ranger program and Junior Paleontologist program, as well as the Rainbow Forest Museum with prehistoric skeletons on display, and a Visitor’s Center with hands-on exhibits, a bookstore, a restaurant and a walking trail.
16. Cowboys & Culture: Fargo to Medora, ND - 328 miles
Your Neighbors to the North
In North Dakota, you’ll find rich landscape and heritage along plenty of kid-approved roadside attractions, minus some of the big crowds. Start your trip in Fargo at the Fargo Air Museum, home to historic aircraft across the ages and interactive exhibits for children. Kids will also enjoy the Red River Zoo—where cold-climate loving animals are bred and cared for, including the Red Panda, the Gray Wolf and the Pallas cat. Little sluggers will want to make a stop at the Roger Maris Museum, a free museum located at West Acres Shopping Center dedicated to the legendary Fargo baseball player, Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961.
Make Your Bismarck
As you head west out of Fargo toward Medora, make a pit stop at Bonanzaville. 15 acres of historic buildings, antique cars, planes, farm equipment and more harkens back to the 1800s settlers days. About halfway between Fargo and Medora, you’ll find the charming town of Bismarck. Located on the Missouri River, you can indulge your inner explorer with a riverboat cruise on a 100-foot paddle-wheeler with Lewis and Clark Riverboat company. In Bismarck, you’ll also find the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum. Head west over the river to Mandan and grab a bite along the water at the Rock Point before you hop on the Fort Lincoln Trolley to Fort Abraham Lincoln. Visit the park’s reconstructed earthlodges in On-a-Slant Indian Village, a recreation of the way the Mandan traditionally lived along the Missouri River.
Home on the Range
Hit the highway and make your way to the charming village of Medora, home to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Medora has endless wild-west themed lodging—from camping to cabins to upscale ranches. If a pool is your main priority, try the Badlands Motel for an outdoor pool or the AmericInn, which has an indoor pool. Medora—and the entire town is nestled on the edge of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
Insider tip: Check the KP index before you go to see if Northern Lights will be active during your visit!
17. The Shag Trail: Charleston to St. Simon’s Island (SC and GA)
Different shag, y'all. We're talking about the fancy footwork that's required knowledge of every respectable southerner, and especially along the coastal Carolinas and Georgia. Cruise this route for Spanish moss-draped live oaks and a taste of happiness (aka shrimp and grits).
What to See: In Charleston, take a stroll along the mansions of The Battery, then change your perspective and see the fair city by boat from the Charleston Harbor. Boone Hall Plantation, with its colonnade of live oaks and perfectly preserved farm, won't disappoint, and a tour of Fort Sumter, where the Civil War erupted, will satisfy your history requirement. Head south towards Georgia and Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island (don't pass up a trip to The Georgia Sea Turtle Center while you're there), Fort Pulaski (go on a Saturday to watch them fire the cannons), and the gracious Forsyth Park (complete with a knockout children's playground) in Savannah. In St. Simon's, make a trip to the Village Pier. You'll be glad you did.
Good to Know: This stretch of land is ripe with year-round festivals and events (like the Cooper River Bridge Run). Plan your trip to hit (or miss) whichever strikes your fancy.
18. The Garden & Ocean State - Lambertville to Cape May, NJ - 145 miles
What to See
Ready to go to TripAdvisor’s number 1 and 2 U.S. Summer Destinations? Start in Lambertville, Nj on the Delaware River to check out cute shops, galleries, and restaurants, and walk the bridge over the water to New Hope, Pa if you want to ride the vintage New Hope & Ivyland Railroad.
Take Route 29 as it winds along the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park to Titusville and Washington Crossing State Park—the site of THAT famous painting. Check out the visitor’s center and trails, then go to I-95 N, which turns into I-295 S (we don’t make the rules). Take exit 63 to Grounds for Sculpture, a breathtaking 42-acre sculpture garden with performances and tours (buy discounted timed tickets online!). Return to 295 S for about nine miles, then get on 206 S for a leisurely drive through small towns and farmland.
In summer, consider stopping at farm stands and U-pick-it stops for delicious berries, tomatoes and corn, the White Dotte Dairy Bar (since 1952) and a gas station/grill with a giant gorilla statue and a paintball field next door. Enter the Pine Barrens, home of the “Jersey Devil,” and find plenty of hiking, camping and water fun in Wharton State Forest.
Take Middle Road in Hammonton to Batsto Village, a site dating to 1766 complete with a mansion, sawmill, and blacksmith. Proceed east to the Garden State Parkway S, then Exit 30 to Ocean City. Take the Ocean Drive by spotting the signs that say “Follow the Gull.” This 26-mile coastal road has panoramic views at drawbridges, inlets, and beaches. Wildwood and Wildwood Crest (that #1 destination) have wide, gentle beaches, an amusement park/boardwalk and fun “Doo Wop” architecture. Finally, drive down to Cape May, famous for gorgeous Victorian houses, fine beaches, a lighthouse, and local attractions like nature preserves and a zoo.
Good to Know: Be prepared for traffic in summer, or go in the offseason for savings. Many areas of the state are known for mosquitos, so bring repellent. Kids love the bright sights and sounds of the Wildwoods, but Cape May is quieter.
19. The Cascade Cruise - Portland to Bend, OR to Crater Lake National Park - 252.6 Miles
The Starting Point
Have your kids shut down their devices and keep their eyes peeled because they won't want to miss the sites as you launch into the Oregon Cascades through the beautiful Mt. Hood National Forest via US-26.
Families flock to Bend from all over the country for its unmatched outdoor recreations adventures. Get wet and wild on the Deschutes River with Sun Country Tours—their guides can take you on a whitewater rafting excursion or a relaxing tour down the river by stand up paddle board or inner tube.
Just a little further south on 97, you'll find the world-renowned Smith Rock; climbers come to the area for an opportunity to scale the sheer walls of Monkey Face. Your little monkeys may not be ready to climb like a pro, but book a day with the guides at Chockstone Climbing Guides and they will be well on their way. All of the required gear is provided and you will feel safe in the hands of these climbing experts.
Crater Lake itself is the main attraction on this stop. Did you know it is the deepest lake in the United States? The water-filled caldera is a stunning blue and the scenic Rim Drive is a "must do" activity for all visiting families. This 33-mile tour winds around Crater Lake and has plenty of pullouts along the way for photo ops and restless legs.
Another popular way to get a view of the lake is by boat. Crater Lake National Park Lodges offers excursions that either cruise around the lake or take patrons to Wizard Island. While on the water, your family will learn all about the history, geology and cultural significance of the lake.
20. Southwest Sights: Flagstaff, AZ to Zion National Park to Moab, UT- 593 miles
Fun in Flagstaff: Kick off your trip in Flagstaff, and get to know this historic town in the mountains of Northern Arizona. Be sure to check out the butterfly house and garden tours at The Arboretum at Flagstaff before catching a tour and a peek at the night sky at the Lowell Observatory. Simply Delicious Café Daily Fare is off of Route 66 and serves yummy sandwiches, salads, fish tacos, housemade lemonade and a great selection of kids menu items. After you’ve satisfied your hunger, get some rest at Embassy Suites by Hilton Flagstaff, where you’ll find cozy rooms, a pool and an evening reception. The hotel also includes a free hot breakfast, so fuel up before hitting the road on scenic Hwy 89 to Zion National Park.
All About Zion: Once you arrive, set up your base camp. Zion’s Watchman Campground takes reservations, or you can book a room or cabin at Zion Lodge. Other options include the Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort, conveniently located half a mile from the park’s visitor center. If you’re looking for something less rustic, a splurge at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, where you’ll find everything from tent sites to glamping set ups and luxury cabin suites. In the morning, give yourselves at least one full day to explore and experience Zion’s striking sandstone cliffs, hiking trails, ranger-led programs and more.
Moab Magic: Head on to Moab, and settle in before another day of exploring. Moab Valley RV Resort and Campground is a clean and quiet spot with a pool, playground and life-size chess. Rent one of their cabins or vintage airstream trailers while you watch the stunning sunsets. Swing into town to grab burgers and smoothies at the sweet Peace Tree Café. In the morning, head off for more adventures. Moab is the perfect home base for your day trips to nearby Arches National Park, as well as Canyonlands National Park. Of course, no trip to Moab is complete without a stop at Moab Giants Dino Museum, where little paleontologists in training can dig for fossils, check out dino tracks, climb on a dinosaur-themed playground and walk a half-mile trail with over 100 full-size dino replicas.
21. The Scenic Smokies: Nashville to Asheville (TN and NC) - 295 miles
Take a ride through the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee and the cradle of country music, through the heart of Rocky Top, and right on into the soulful city of the Smokies.
What to See: Kicking off your trip in Nashville, don't miss a visit to the Grand Old Opry, where backstage tours can be arranged in advance, or a stop in one of Broadway's famous honky tonks (go early with kids; lunchtime at Robert's Western World is just the right speed). Heading east towards Knoxville, check out the Sunsphere at downtown's World's Fair Park, and pull over for a laid-back festival at Market Square. Continuing towards the mountains, don't miss the Cades Cove Loop in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and get an eyeful of opulence at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Also excellent options in the Asheville area are a visit to the Sierra Nevada Brewery, located in a parklike setting, or a day trip to Grandfather Mountain, with it's mile-high swinging bridge.
Good to Know: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the nation's most visited National Park, so be sure to hit Cades Cove early in the day, or on weekends, when it's pedestrian-only in the earliest hours.
22. Hug the Shore: Duluth to Grand Marais, MN - 110 miles
Start your trip in Duluth, Minnesota (about two hours north of Minneapolis/St. Paul). Before you get your motors running, take time to explore this port town, especially Downtown and Canal Park. Canal Park’s crown jewel is the famous Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, and it’s also where large ships come through to load at the docks. It’s home to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum and the mission!. Just across the grass from the museum you’ll find an archway indicating the Duluth Lakewalk, an 7.5 mile long walking, biking and strolling path that you can stomp along any time of the day.
Before you leave Duluth don’t miss the Duluth Depot, the former center for train travel in the area that is now a major hub for arts including the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which features massive engines (many of which kids can climb in); train tables; a hobo-sign scavenger hunt; replica turn-of-the-century buildings and even a replica movie theater.
About 27 miles north of Duluth, you’ll find Two Harbors. Snag a photo with the giant rooster and grab a souvenir at Weldon’s Gifts before heading up the road toward Gooseberry Falls State Park (one of the state’s best waterfalls) and the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center. A little farther up 61, you’ll also find Split Rock Lighthouse, an iconic lighthouse and history museum, and one of the most photographed on Lake Superior. Hop back on scenic 61 and keep climbing north. Consider an overnight stay at Lutsen Resort.
Just miles shy of Grand Marais, the 1885 built Scandinavian log lodge is big on charm and great for families of all sizes. While you’re there, head across the road and up Lutsen Mountains for a sightseeing excursion in the enclosed gondola. Between Lutsen and Grand Marais, you’ll find several state parks and hiking trails to explore, many with rushing waterfalls and breathtaking views.
23. The Idaho You Didn’t Know - Boise to Sun Valley to Coeur d’Alene, ID - 595 Miles
When the summer months hit, Sun Valley can get pretty hot. Stay cool at the Rain Maker Splash Park. This family-friendly splash park is home to water features that spray—your kiddos can play for hours without overheating. It's situated among the trees, so you can relax in the shade and stay cool too.
Explore the area on horseback starting at Sun Valley Stables where you will feed and pet your transportation before going on a 1 or 1.5 hour guided tour.
Coeur d'Alene is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. If your family likes to bike, hike, ski or swim, then you won't have a problem filling your time in this Idaho town. Silver Mountain Resort is open year-round with slopes for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and a bike and water park for swimming and biking during the summer. If you still have time to fill, check out the golf range or take a gondola ride.
If your clan wants a taste of the old west, head to Rider Ranch where you can explore Idaho by horseback, go on wagon and hay rides, or enjoy a family barn night.
24. All-American Downeast—Bar Harbor & the Acadia National Byway, ME - 40 miles
What to See
You could cruise the Acadia National Byway in three hours, but there’s so much to do and see! Bar Harbor is your base with lots of shops, a shore path, and lobster, lobster everywhere, At low tide a sand bar connects downtown Bar Harbor to Bar Island, so grab buckets and shovels and explore all the sea life. Walk the Bar Island nature trail to the summit for amazing views—just leave time before the tide rolls in! Stop at the Abbe Museum to learn about Native American culture and history, then head to Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater, a combination boat tour and silly educational show that’s fun kids and grownups alike.
Now it's time to get your National Park on! Hit the Acadia Byway loop, and five miles past the Hulls Cove Visitor Center turn off for Sieur De Monts to visit the Nature Center. One mile on is the Champlain Mountain Overlook, then four miles farther is Sand Beach. Stop a half-mile on at Thunder Hole for crashing waves, then one mile on, near Otter Cliff, explore the tidal pools an hour or two before low tide at Otter Point. You can take a wagon ride, hike, bike or ride horseback at Wildwood Stables. Next, stop at Jordan Pond House for a meal or the century-old tradition of tea on the lawn. Another four miles on, turn right off the main road to ascend to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern seaboard north of Brazil. To return to the visitor center, follow the signs.
Good to Know: Acadia can get crowded, so plan ahead and show up early. Avoid lines by getting your Acadia pass online, and check on planned road work to avoid traffic. The National Park Service has things to do for kids, and if your family likes hiking, Gorham Mountain trail offers beautiful ocean views and wild blueberries in July and August.
25. Colorado’s Coolest: Great Sand Dunes to Colorado Springs to Denver - 230 miles
The Biggest Dunes: Explore Colorado with a fun road trip that’s heavy on spectacular attractions. In Mosca, check out Great Sand Dunes National Park, home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. Kids will have a blast sand sledding and playing in nearby Medano Creek. The Visitor Center features a movie about the park, interactive exhibits and rangers who are happy to chat. Camp at Pinon Flats Campground, just one mile from the Visitor Center, with incredible views of the dunes at night.
Caves, Animals and Airplanes: In the morning, head to Colorado Springs, and stop at Garden of the Gods, where you can take in the beauty of the massive 300-foot sandstone formations. Along with plenty of trails and hiking, the park has interactive exhibits, and, coming soon, a café serving organic and sustainable foods. From there, get up close and personal with the animals at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, or head just west on Hwy 24 and take an exciting cave tour at Cave of the Winds. Kids will love The Airplane Restaurant, where you can dine inside of (you guessed it) an actual plane.
Do it Up in Denver: Continue on I-25 N to Denver for even more kid-pleasing sites. The Children’s Museum of Denver, Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo are all possibilities for an afternoon of fun. Make sure to swing by the Colorado Convention Center downtown, where you’ll definitely want to snap a selfie with the big blue bear!
The Best in California Road Trips
Planning a trip through the golden state this summer? We've rounded up the very best places to eat, stay and play. You can find them by clicking here.
What’s your favorite road trip route? Ready to try any of our suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!
—Anna Doogan, Annette Benedetti, Amber Guetebier, Shelley Massey, Gretchen