Ah, the family road trip. A source of endless possibilities, new experiences and family bonding. That being said, let’s not forget about restless children, aching backs and that age-old question: 'are we there yet?'. Throw in a dog and a full bladder and you might be wishing the road led right back to your driveway. If that sounds familiar, don’t despair! The following road trip destinations will prove their worth, having the entire family hanging their heads out the window rather than staring at their screens. Read on!
Lake Placid, New York
Nestled within the Adirondacks, Lake Placid hosted the last of the small town Olympics back in 1980. Today, the area still attracts world-class athletes for training, but the real attraction is the outdoor beauty. Lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and dense forest provide a slew of family-friendly activities; from fishing, kayaking, rafting and hiking, to biking and boating. The area was once popular with the power elite who built Great Camps, which were massive hideaways for their friends and family. White Pine Camp is one of the few remaining and is available for family retreats with an abundance of summer camp-like activities that will take you back to your childhood.
If your family has a cowboy/girl at heart, then this is the drive for you! The soul of the Southwest is located in Southern Arizona, where cowboys once roamed and artists still reign. Don’t miss the ol’ west cowboy town of Tombstone with its dusty boots, low-slung six-shooters and a daily re-enactment of the historic OK Corral shootout. Not far from Tombstone is Bisbee, a quirky mining town with an enclave of artists and eccentric charm.
Ninety miles west is Tubac, a former Spanish presidio with a nearby mission called Tumacacori that dates back to the 17th century. If your kids (or you!) like stranger than strange rock formations, you’ll all love the Chiricahua Mountains where thin spires (called hoodoos) support larger rocks that appear to be balancing on top. Lastly, Southern Arizona is the only place in the U.S. where you’ll find the Organ Pipe Cactus, a large prickly plant that looks like a 6’ tall upside down spider with twenty legs.
Vicksburg: what southern hospitality and history are made of. Civil War history? Check. Stunning National Park? Check. Outstanding Blues music? Double check!
Highway 61, also known as the Blues Trail, rivals that of Route 66, if not for its historical importance, certainly for its musical significance. This legendary Blues Highway runs right through the heart and soul of Vicksburg, while the Great River Road follows the mighty Mississippi River. Antebellum homes, more music and soulful food also welcome you in Vicksburg.
Moab has a landscape so awe-inspiring that it is home to two National Parks, and where countless movies, TV shows and commercials have been filmed. Hwy 128, which runs along the Colorado River, is one of the most scenic roads in the country. Activities are boundless, from water sports, hiking & biking, to off-roading through the vast wilderness. Moab is a place that will stir the inner-explorer in you and your kids.
Known as Rocket City, Huntsville will blow you away with its friendly atmosphere and an abundance of activities that both kids and adults will equally enjoy. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center will delight your inner-astronaut as you look down the 363’ span of a Saturn 5 rocket. The Lowe Mill Arts Center is a former textile mill now providing a backdrop as a cultural complex with myriad artists and performers. A stroll through the historic Twickenham district is a must with its treelined streets and splendid antebellum homes. The epicenter of town is Big Spring Park, an urban oasis providing recreation, annual events, lodging, restaurants and shopping.
Simply said, this drive is sensory overload! Waterfalls, picturesque shoreline, pristine lakes, mountain views and a dense rainforest await you in the northwesterly part of Washington State. That is, if your kids don’t convince you to veer off to Forks, where the ever-popular Twilight movie franchise was filmed.
Don’t miss hiking through Sol Duc. Even if it’s raining, the nearly impenetrable forest canopy will keep you dry. Driving along coastal Hwy 112 will take you to the end of the road at Cape Flattery; the most northwesterly point in the contiguous United States. Sequim is a great home base for exploring the area with some excellent inns and restaurants. While there, don’t miss walking along the Dungeness Spit, a unique phenomenon, and, where you’ll find the famous namesake crabs.
Nestled within the Gallatin Valley of the western Rocky Mountains, Bozeman is perfectly positioned to explore the splendor of Yellowstone National Park. The area is surrounded by majestic mountains, pristine rivers, rippling waterfalls and open prairies with wildlife moseying through their day. If spotting bald eagles, bison and bighorn sheep doesn't do it for the kids, the guest ranches and lodges that embrace the flair of cowboy life certainly will. And don’t miss the snowcapped peaks, alpine lakes, glaciers and plateaus of the Beartooth Highway; it's a road tripper’s delight.
Traverse City, Michigan
Scenic coastal roads, cobalt blue waters, roadside farm stands and Midwestern charm are just a few of the things to experience when road tripping around Traverse City. The Pierce Stocking scenic drive is a 7.4 mile loop through a Maple and Beech forest with massive sand dunes and stunning lake views. Rent some bikes and head down the trails through pumpkin patches, corn mazes, cider houses and orchards. Be sure to make pit stops to enjoy the apple and cherry juice for which the region is famous!
South Lake Tahoe
The magnificent mountain town of South Lake Tahoe is situated along the banks of a breathtaking body of water that has inspired artists and outdoor enthusiasts for generations. The whole family can take advantage of year-round activities, whether lacing up hiking boots, snapping in snow boots or renting kayaks for a lazy day on the water. If you like your drive with some excitement, the curvy mountain and lakefront roads provide amazement around each bend.
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls was one of the first road trip vacation destinations in the country. Beyond the impressive display of waterfalls, Niagara has some wonderful nearby road trips. This area will have you sneaking lessons in history into your vacation, all without the little ones knowing it! There’s no better way to interest young minds in history than Old Fort Niagara, an immersive historical site with exciting reenactments and demonstrations. Don’t pass up the chance to see the Erie Canal, where an engineering marvel connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean through a series of locks.
In this day and age, where young and old eyes are glued to screens of all sizes, a road trip can be the perfect antidote to unplug and rediscover this beautiful and diverse country, not to mention each other.
Mike Shubic is a road trip blogger on MikesRoadTrip.com