Do you know where to find the largest dinosaur collection in the world? Or a quirky garden filled with toys and oddities? How ’bout a place where you can drive a car through a tree? Scroll down for a quick virtual road trip across America, and find out what we think will thrill your family.
ALABAMA — Huntsville — U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Being able to explore Mars without leaving the planet is just the beginning of the fun at this space center. Often touted as “Earth’s largest space museum,” U.S. Space and Rocket Center is one for the any astronaut’s bucket list.
photo: Sir Mildred Pierce via flickr
ALASKA — Juneau — Glacier Waters
Hike, sail or buckle up on a helicopter ride up to the glaciers of Alaska for a sweet sip. That crisp water on the tongue will tingle all the senses and stick with your lil’ one as the freshest water they ever tasted.
ARIZONA — Peach Springs — Grand Canyon Skywalk
The glass skywalk over the Grand Canyon is not for the faint of heart, but fearless young trotters will have no problem stomping amongst the clouds.
ARKANSAS — Bentonville — Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
On top of housing five decades of great art works, the Crystal Bridges Museum is like an oasis of nature and art. Jump from paintings to stunning greenery. Bonus: free admission!
CALIFORNIA — Humboldt Redwoods State Park — Avenue of the Giants
Where else would you be able to drive a car through a tree? Put this on your to-do list because redwoods are unfortunately on the verge of extinction.
photo: Derek Wolfgram via flickr
COLORADO — Pitkin County — Aspen Snowmass
Bonfires, tubing down snow hills, snow biking … it’s all just the tip of the mountain for this chill Colorado spot. Tiny trekkers have their own special program that makes a vacation here snow-rific.
CONNECTICUT — New Haven — Yale University
Yale University is going to be name dropped left and right as our scholars grow up. Whether they aspire to go there or not, it’s great to put a picture to the one of the country’s most prestigious and beautiful institutions.
DELAWARE — Hockessin — Mount Cuba Center
This horticultural hub is all about native plants, but for all mom purposes the gardens, pond and meadows will fulfill your photography dreams. Note: The conservatory only blooms from April through November.
FLORIDA — Orlando — Walt Disney World
Because there’s no other place like it. No matter how young your Mouseketeer is, he or she will remember the first day they stepped into this magical theme park.
GEORGIA — Folkston — Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge
Okefenokee translates to “land of the trembling earth.” Paddle through the swaps in a canoe, and catch a glimpse of alligators as they glide through the water.
photo: Clinton Steeds via flickr
HAWAII — Active Volcanoes
Whichever volcano your spitfire picks is going to be a record-winning sight. Both the world’s most active volcano (Kīlauea) and the world’s largest subaerial one (Mauna Loa) are located in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
IDAHO — Swan Valley — Rainey Creek Country Store
If locals placed Rainey Creek Country Store’s square ice cream as #5 on their bucket list, then it has to be something special. So, when in Idaho …
ILLINOIS — Springfield — Lincoln’s Nose
Stroke the nose of the Lincoln statue in Springfield for good luck (and to keep it shiny). But don’t rub too hard because with over 200,000 visitors going at it daily, the statue’s nose is actually getting smaller.
photo: Eden, Janine and Jim via flickr
INDIANA — Nappanee — Amish Acres
It’s the place to get truly old school. Enthusiastic prairie visitors can participate in a spelling bee, enjoy a feast cooked in wood-fired ovens and smoke houses, and interact with barn animals on the Amish Acres.
IOWA — Pella — A Touch of Holland
With Dutch origins, stepping into Pella is like traveling back in time. There’s even a working windmill that still grinds wheat into flour.
KANSAS — Liberal — Dorothy’s House and Land of Oz
Lead by Dorothy, this interactive experience takes Munchkins through the entire story of the Wizard of Oz without ever leaving Kansas.
KENTUCKY — Calvert City — Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland
With silly signs, half-buried lawnmowers, over 3,000 toys and six working train models, this quirky roadside attraction will captivate your inner child (and the one on your hip). This destination puts it best with a welcoming sign that says, “Sorry, We’re Open.”
photo: Ayleen Gaspar via flickr
LOUISIANA — New Orleans — French Quarter
The oldest neighborhood in New Orleans is an eclectic mix of Spanish buildings, live bands and treats for wide eyes. Get your fill of beignets, gumbo and po-boys, but remember to save space for a little Japanese fair from Yuki Izakaya on Frenchmen Street. Their ramen is wow-so-impressive.
MAINE — Cape Elizabeth — Portland Head Light
Catch the sun — coming or going, both sights are jaw-dropping — by the lighthouse. Portland Head Light is marked as one of the most stunning sights to the eye … and the camera.
MARYLAND — Baltimore — Crab Cakes at G&M Lounge
We hemmed and hawed over what to do in Maryland, but how could you leave the state without ever trying a crab cake? Unless you’re allergic, there is no excuse to not order a plate from G&M Lounge.
MASSACHUSETTS — Foxboro — 5-Wits Adventure
Available only in Syracuse, New York, and Foxboro, 5-Wits Adventure is the latest addiction for adventurers and puzzle solvers. These immersive shows are made up of multiple rooms that require physical interaction of various levels, from climbing cargo nets to turning wheels, in order for groups to advance to the finish line.
MICHIGAN — Empire — Sleeping Bear Dunes
With dunes to climb, picturesque beaches to visit and floral trails to hike, consider spending a long vacation at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
photo: Ken Bosma via flickr
MINNESOTA — Duluth — North Shore Drive – Duluth
Get real American with a road trip along North Shore Drive, aka: an “All-American Road” of local restaurants, shops, art galleries and undeniably fantastic views of Lake Superior.
MISSISSIPPI — Vicksburg –Vicksburg National Military Park – Vicksburg
Walk through American history in Vicksburg. This southern city is chock-full of interesting artifacts like gunboats, canons and more.
MISSOURI — St. Louis — City Museum
One look at MonstroCity and your inner adventurer is a shoe-in for a visit. The interactive sculpture and playground of chaos is only the beginning to an unforgettable adventure at City Museum.
MONTANA — Bozeman — Museum of the Rockies
Okay, visit the Rocky Mountains. But afterward, get up-close with the largest dinosaur collection in the world at the Museum of the Rockies. Most exhibits have only one of T.rex … this place has 13!
NEBRASKA — Platte River — Crane Viewing
Here along the creek of Platte River, bird watchers will never see more cranes in their lives. Come in late February or early March to see them settle, or catch the flock fill the skies in April as they migrate away.
NEVADA — Las Vegas — Neon Sign Museum
A Mecca for tireless visitors, Las Vegas is also home to retired neon signs. These rusting marquees reveal a lot more about trends, design and technology than you think.
photo: Gilda via flickr
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Sugar Hill — Quaint New England Town
Overlooking the White Mountain Forest, the resort community of Sugar Hill is like stepping into an episode of Cheers. Homemade pancakes with New Hampshire maple syrup from Polly’s Pancake Parlor sounds like a good order to make “the usual” during your stay.
NEW JERSEY — Midland Park — Martinka & Co.
What’s a trip without witnessing traditional sleight-of-hand magic? Harry Houdini once owned this magic shop, which now also houses a museum.
NEW MEXICO — Carlsbad Caverns National Park — Carlsbad Caverns
With names like the Bat Cave, Chocolate High, Lake of Clouds and the Mystery Room, we’re sure tiny explorers would enjoy seeing the mystic Carlsbad Caverns . If you’re scheduled for a visit in October, don’t forget to save a date for the bat flight.
photo: daveynin via flickr
NEW YORK — Manhattan — City Hall Loop
Goodbye, Grand Central Terminal: There’s a secret abandoned station (that’s beautiful, to boot) to explore. Unfortunately it’s only for members of the MTA Transit Museum, but check out the photos from Untapped Cities.
NORTH CAROLINA — Manteo — Outerbanks
For beaches, light houses, Wright Brothers and some strange history, Outerbanks is an all-encompassing experience. This is where everything from the first flight to the missing colony of Roanoke happened.
NORTH DAKOTA — Regent — Enchanted Highway
With seven larger-than-life sculptures for your whimsical viewing pleasure (with another currently in progress), the Enchanted Highway is the perfect place to have a picnic. You can sit under a tin family, metallic deers, way-oversized pheasants and more.
photo: J24L via flickr
OHIO — Sandusky — Cedar Point Amusement Park
With a world record of 72 rides, the roller coaster capital Cedar Point Amusement Park was consistently named “World’s Best Amusement Park” for 16 years straight. Now that’s a historical memory to add to your thrill seeker’s childhood.
OKLAHOMA — Vinita — McDonald’s Bridge
At this McDonald’s, the golden arches aren’t the only claim to fame. Noted as possibly the largest McDonald’s structure in the world, the McDonald’s Bridge is an oddity every foodie will remember visiting.
OREGON — Idelyld Park — Umpqua Hot Springs
Also known as Toketee Hot Springs, Umpqua Hot Springs is a visual gem that’ll take big and little breaths away. Dip into warm waters for ultimate relaxation.
PENNSYLVANIA — Philadelphia — Reading Terminal Market
Our list isn’t complete without a farmers market, and the best of the best is Reading Terminal Market in Philly. Need just one day of excitement? The hustle and bustle of this cultural food market will hit the spot.
photo: Geoff Livingston via flickr
RHODE ISLAND — East Province — Crescent Park Looff Carousel
Located in a now-defunct amusement park, Crescent Park Carousel is where tots will be able to hop aboard a historic ride (on the cheap!). Psst … if you’re in for the ride, there’s a dispenser that shoots out rings. Discard if iron; cash in for a free ride if gold!
SOUTH CAROLINA — Charleston Food Truck Federation
Believe it or not, Charleston food trucks would give Los Angeles, San Francisco and even NYC trucks a mouthwatering run for their money. Seriously. Our editorial assistant still dreams about Roti Rolls.
SOUTH DAKOTA — Keystone — Mt. Rushmore
Seeing history drawn in stone is certainly one way to embed four presidents in our memory. Take a selfie at Mt. Rushmore with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
TENNESSEE — Nashville — Country Music Hall of Fame
Every wiggling dancer is going to appreciate seeing the heart of music right at this museum. Tune hummers will have a blast shaking their limbs out at Country Music Hall of Fame.
TEXAS — Dripping Springs — Hamilton Pool Preserve
Feel like a mermaid in the historical Hamilton Pool Preserve of Texas. With picture-perfect cliffs, stalactites and limestone surrounding this gorgeous grotto, it’s hard to believe the views are 100% natural.
photo: SandraHintzman via flickr
UTAH — Kanab — Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
One step into this vast wilderness explains why the Grand Staircase Escalante was the last unmapped area of America. Plus, as the largest land area of all national monuments, it could be considered the hikes of all hikes.
VERMONT — Waterbury — Ben and Jerry’s Factory Tour
Any sweet tooth needs to stop by the original Ben and Jerry’s for a factory tour. And, yes, one 30-minute tour comes with a side of flavor sampling.
VIRGINIA — Rockbridge County — Natural Bridge
The story goes: A cavern collapsed and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World was formed. If you visit the Natural Bridge see if you can find George Washington’s initials — legend has it that they’re there!
photo: Greg Schechter via flickr
WASHINGTON — Seattle — Discovery Park
Many visitors know to visit Discovery Park, but the real secret is to visit during a low tide. It’s only then you’ll be able to see purple starfish clinging to rocks and crabs scurrying out from under flipped rocks.
WASHINGTON D.C. — Ben’s Chili Bowl
Museums are a given landmark when it comes to D.C., so round off the trip with a visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Hungry museum hoppers are going to need the refuel.
photo: mamojo via flickr
WEST VIRGINIA — Wheeling — Suspension Bridge
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a neat piece of history. And if you’re a lover of heights, the views are undeniably stunning.
WISCONSIN — Spring Green — House on the Rock
A complex combination of unique rooms, streets and Japanese-style gardens, House on the Rock is a stunning architectural build. Its collections are of epic proportions: There’s a ginormous indoor carousel, a room with over 3,000 windows, all sorts of armor, self-playing pianos and more.
WYOMING — Yellowstone National Park
Dedicated campers know all about Yellowstone National Park, so here are a few additional reminders about why this park is so awesome: Old Faithful, llama packing, snowmobiles and fishing.
photo: Bryan Ungard via flickr
If you could choose only one spot to visit, where would you go? Let us know in the Comments below!
— Christal Yuen