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Travel Inspiration

Fantastic family road trips we loved (and how you can plan them too).

Our car in tuscany while road tripping in Italy

Epic family road trip ideas: best road tips with kids in Europe and the US we loved! Updated October 2023.

Family road trips are my favorite type of family vacation.

I love being in the car while the landscape flows around me and the car is filled by chats of the kids in the back and the mud from the radio.

I love the sense of purpose of being on the road to a destination, the freedom to stop when you wish and the excitement of reading on the maps and road signs new, promising and exotic names.

Our kids share this love.

As much as they like to hop on and off trains and ferries, a road trip is always comforting for them (yes, also when they inevitably bicker and try to hit one another!). The car is like a little house on wheels while we travel!

We have taken many road trips with the kids in Europe and during our vacations in the US.

This is my selection of the best road trips for families, based on our experience. For each, I have shared highlights and vibe, so you can plan your own!

Table of Contents

How we choose these road trip ideas for families

When choosing the road trips to showcase in this article, we took into considerations:

  • How successful these trips were for us as a family with young kids
  • Overall beauty and interest of the destination
  • Child friendly attractions on the way
  • Reasonable distances
  • Advantages of having a car vs traveling by train. Some areas of Europe are exceptional for families but if you want to visit Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris, or Rome-Florence-Venice, then the train is your best friend!

Best road trip destinations for families in Europe

Europe as a whole has an excellent train system however some areas are better explored by car.

These are our favorite road trip destinations for families with kids in Europe.

Family road trip in Ireland

Ireland is the perfect country for a family road trip in Europe.

Tips fro driving in Ireland

The country is famous for stunning, remote landscapes, windswept cliffs, abandoned castles and green lawns and there is no better way to reach the most beautiful places in Ireland than to hop on your car and follow the road.

There are plenty of family friendly places you can reach with your own vehicle.

We road trip around Ireland often: did you know we live part of the year in Dublin? We do! And from here, we often venture West, to explore this beautiful Emerald Isle, its castles, cliffs and windswept landscapes.

Based on our long and short road trip here, we highly recommend you seek out:

Dublin , Ireland’s capital and a fun place to visit with kids. I recommend you use it as a starting point for your road trip or an end one, since the car is useful to get here but a bit of an hindrance to explore the town.

Find here our Guide to Dublin with kids | Best things to do in Ireland with kids | Tips for planning a family trip to Ireland | Tips for driving in Ireland

Glendalough : a fantastic historical monastic site with also lovely hiking routes perfect for hikers of all ages. Find our tips for visiting Glendalough with kids here

Blarney Castle , a beautiful castle with stunning family friendly grounds. You can read about it and all our favorite castles in Ireland here.

The Cliffs ofMoher, among the os famous cliffs in Ireland, very impressive and surprisingly easy to visit with kids. Find our tips for visiting the Cliffs of Moher with kids here.

Killarney, the stunning National Park in the West of Ireland. kids of all ages will love. Find our guide to Killarney here .

As well as stunning locations, an Ireland road trip is perfect for families thanks to the short distances, which means you don’t need to subject the kids to crazy long hours in the car each day and still see much of the country.

To top it all, the family friendly attitude of the Irish will make feel your kids welcome anywhere you go!

Kid-friendly Portugal road trip

Portugal is another fabulous destination for a family road trip in Europe.

cabo da roca lighthouse Portugal

We took this road trip with my children and parents (we love multigenerational holidays!) and we all adored it.

The grandparents loved the monasteries and architecture, the kids loved the beaches and family friendly resorts, everyone adored the laid back atmosphere of Portugal and the country’s beautiful nature.

There are many places to visit n Portugal with kids , but some we recommend are:

Lisbon , a stunning city with amazing art, atmosphere, food and a plethora of kid friendly attractions to keep even young kids busy and entertained. You can find our guide to Lisbon with kids here .

Porto , wonderful and fun for kids thanks to its lovely parks and impressive river

Cascais , a lovely coastal town with one of the best family resorts we have ever visited

The Algarve , the spectacular southern coast of Portugal, famous for spectacular beaches and also well equipped se and sun holiday resorts that are great for families.

The best place to relax after days driving!

Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy road trip for families in France

One of the best family road trips I have ever taken was a trip that saw us traveling across the Loire valley and Brittany in the North West of France, some of the best places to visit in France with kids of all ages .

Mont Saint Michel, France

It was a road trip so varied, so easy and so successful I have actually taken it more than once and it never disappointed me.

Here, the distances are reasonably small, there is a huge variety of landscapes and attractions (small villages, castles, wild coastlines), you will have a nice mix of warm and cold weather and you have the abundance of delicious for that France does so well.

Some of the best places to include in this northern France road trip with kids are:

Paris – the starting point of our loop, a place that needs no introduction and that is, as they say, ‘always a good idea’.

You can find here our favourite things to do in Paris with kids | The best hotels for families in Paris

Blois , a lovely town and a great base to discover the stunning Loire Valley castles with kids . I particularly love the castles Chenoncenau, Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau and indeed Blois itself, all easy to visit with kids and very beautiful

Belle Ile en Mer , lovely island off the coast of Brittany with stunning beaches, pretty villages, stunning lighthouses and a lovely cycling loop easy to cycle with kids too

Brittany lighthouses – the wild and beautiful coast of Brittany is full of fabulous lighthouses, some perched in the middle of the stormy sea, some at the end of easy, family friendly coastal paths and all very scenic!

St Malo , stunning Brittany historical towns with pretty streets, a nice coast and family friendly atmosphere.

Le Month saint Michel, one of the most incredible places your kids will ever see and one that will make them feel like the stepped into a storybook!

The D-Day drive in Normandy, a beautiful and daunting drive to some of the most important locations of the II World War, perfect for school-age kids and kids who love history.

Roadtripping with kids in Iceland

I have only been to Iceland in the winter and even with the challenges posed by less than idea weather conditions, the place strikes me as one of the best in Europe for a road trip with kids.

iceland waterfall

Iceland is stunning, scenic, varied and has plenty to offer especially to outdoorsy families.

Here you can see stunning waterfalls, bathe in in hot springs, ride Icelandic horses and see cute animals like puffins!

Driving in Iceland is easy.

There is basically no traffic and plenty of wonderful and easy roadside stops so you can stretch your legs.

Also, you’ll find infinite opportunities to feel like you are alone in nature while still staying safe close to a main road.

Places we loved are:

Reykjiavik – a family friendly town with a beautiful city center, kid friendly museums, excellent family hotels and a lot of outodoor space for kids to run around and get the road tripping tiredness offf their legs!

You can find my guide to Reykjavik with kids here | What to see in Reykjavik in one day

Waterfalls – Iceland has many scenic waterfalls that you can reach by car. Many have well equipped viewing areas and access points that make them easy to enjoy with kids

Geysers – what can be more exciting for kids than to have pit stop while road tripping at an erupting geyser?

Þingvellir National Park  – stunning a historical national park famous for having had the first Icelandic parliament and where you can see the meeting point or tectonic plaques: incredible for kids (and adults!)

Vik and its black beach – one of the most scenic and impressive beaches and sceneries you will ever see, and an easy drive from Reykjavik you can easily do with kids

With all of these kid friendly attractions, good roads and short distances between landmarks, Iceland is one of the best road trip destinations in Europe for families with kids.

You can find our itinerary in Iceland in winter here

Devon and Cornwall UK road trip for families with kids

Devon and Cornwall are among the most beautiful areas of the UK and a delight to vista by car.

This area of the UK is blessed by a lovely coastline, delightful small towns, stunning castle and some of the best weather in the UK.

If you road trip here in summer, you may have lovely opportunities for days at the beach as well as sightseeing!

Like in other itineraries recommended in this best family road trip roundup, the distances here are not vast, they can easily be negotiated even with small kids in tow or toddlers and there is plenty to see.

You can easily come here from London, if you wanted to also treat the children to that fabulous city!

You can read here >>> how we spent a wonderful day in London with the kids

My kids in London beside a red telephone box

This is one of the first road trips we ever took, and still a favorite.

Among the many things to see and do with kids in Devon and Cornwall there are:

Devon beaches – did you know the UK has stunning beaches? It does: have a look at this list of the best beaches in Devon and tell me: aren’t they simply wonderful?

Tintagel – stunning, scenic castle associated with the legends surrounding King Arthur, a magical place for kids and a stunning one for parents too.

Land’s End – a fun landmark for kids, marking the Most Westerly point in the UK

Dartmoor National Park , an area of great natural beauty that is so easy to explore with kids, it is considered one of the best family vacation destinations for families in the UK .

Lots of adventure parks and National Trust properties , perfect for mixing sightseeing and fun times playing!

The distances in this area are not vast, perfect if you want to avoid long car drives with kids, and the area is very well equipped to welcoming tourists and families.

This area is simply perfect for a family road trip but there are ma y more places you can also add to your adventure if you have the time. You can find here more wonderful road trip ideas in the UK perfect for all tips of visitors.

Tuscany road trip for families

Tuscany is probably my most favorite family destination in Europe and the absolutely perfect destination for a family road trip.

pienza Italy bastion walk with child

This region of central Italy is blessed by a variety of attractions and landscapes like no other.

Within a short driving distance you have rolling hills, hilltop villages, art cities and even the sea!

I am from Rome and Tuscany is my backyard. I have been roadtripping here since my childhood and every summer we still try and get our Tuscany fix by getting the car and driving up!

Places I recommend you include in your family road trip to Tuscany are:

Siena – stunning, UNESCO World Heritage town with a family friendly city center and an absolutely wonderful park for kids, Orto de’ Pecci. Find my guide to Siena here.

Pienza – lovely, family friendly small town with a car free city center great for small kids, nice playgrounds and lovely farmhouses perfect for animal encounters! Find my guide to Pienza here .

San Quirico d’Orcia – another small town with a lovely kid-friendly town center, a nice park, playgrounds and plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, good for all ages.

Saturnia and Bagno Vignoni – two small and stunning hot spring destinations in Tuscany , where you can soak in hot thermal water with your kids!

The Etruscan Coast – beautiful stretch of coast in Tuscany with kid-friendly beaches and lots of outdoor activities for kids. Find my family guide to the Etruscan Coast here.

Lucca – lovely, historical family friendly town with a wonderful thing for kids: the opportunity to cycle along its impressive city walls! Find my guide to Lucca with kids here

Florence – a powerhouse of art and beauty and a surprisingly family friendly city, that you can use as a starting point for your family road trip. You can find my guide to Florence with kids here .

Tuscany has well kept road and many scenic drives that make it perfect for a relaxing and beautiful road trip with children.

I recommend you check out our tips for planning a Tuscany itinerary and our guide to the b est things to do in Tuscany with kids .

Southern Italy road trip vacation with kids

We went road tripping around Southern Italy with the kids last year and it was one of the best family roads tips we have ever taken.

Monopoli, Puglia

The area is slighly lesser visited than others in Italy and has a lot to offer.

Here, you find lovely small towns and villages, beautiful Unesco World Heritage Sites, stunning beaches and a lots and lots of kid friendly food, served to you with the typical family-first attitudes Italians are known for!

Places we recommend you visit while road tripping in Puglia and the south of Italy with kids are:

Trani and Castel del Monte, respectively a lovely town and beautiful castle, a short drive from each other, guaranteed to spark the curiosity of kids of all ages. Find my guide to Trani here .

Locorotondo and Martina Franca , two adorable white towns in Italy that are easy to reach by car and to explore with kids, thanks to their gif-friendly town centres.

Alberobello – the home of real hobbit-like houses, i trulli , which are a delight to see with kids as they seem out of a fairytale!

Matera – stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site that will make your kids feel like they stepped into a different world, thanks to its incredible history and cave houses

Paestum – a fantastic archaeological park with incredible Greek temples on large lawns, one of the easiest historical places to visit in Italy with children and one of the most beautiful!

You can find our recommended Southern Italy itinerary by car here.

Road tripping in Sicily with kids

Road tripping is also the best way to visit Sicily, one of the most beautiful destinations in Italy and a place that will conquer the heart of both adults and kids.

Taormina

Sicily is a world and a road trip here can be as short or as soling as you want: basically, you will not run out of things to see in Sicily!

Some of the best places we recommend you plan to see during your family road trip in Sicily are:

The beaches of the Riserva dell Zingaro area , easy to reach by car from Palermo and perfect even for little kids. You can find a list of our favorite in this post about Scopello , one of out favorite places and the perfect first stop on an island rod trip adventure!

Taormina and the area of Mount Etna – a lovely area in the east of Sicily that is easy to visit by car and with lots of beaches and kid-friendly towns and localities. You can find my guide to Taormina here.

Siracusa – a stunning town and one of my favorite places to visit in Italy with kids, thanks to a kid-friendly city center, a very beautiful and interesting archaeological park and the proximity of nice family friendly beaches. Find my guide to Syracuse Sicily here.

You can find our recommended itinerary in Sicily here and our guide to Sicily with kids .

Continental Greece road trip with children

Our family road trip to Greece is the one we took most recently and it was a huge success! We are in love with Greece!

our family in Athens during our family road trip in Greece

Like other places on this list, Greece strikes us as perfect for families road tripping as it has short enough distances, a very varied offering in terms of attractions (sea, mountains, archaeological sites) and a friendly, relaxed atmospheres.

You can read here >> our exact road trip itinerary between Athens and the Peloponnese

Places we have on our Greece road trip itinerary are:

Athens – powerhouse of history with the unforgettable acropolis, a sight that I believe should be in any child travel bucket list and one of my favourite European cities to visit with kids.

Epydaurus and Olympia , beautiful and and meaningful archaeological sites that are guaranteed to get your kids hooked to Greek history and mythology

Koroni and the Peloponnese , an area with wonderful family-friendly beaches, perfect to relax after all the driving.

Good to know! If you want to mix road-tripping and time on the beach, you can also opt for a Greek island such as Crete, one of the best Greek islands for families – the car will be invaluable here and you will find a mix of sightseeing opportunities and beaches the whole family will love.

Best Road trips for families in the US

Driving california pacific coast highway with kids.

Driving the Pacific coast highway way from San Diego to San Francisco had been a dream of mine for ages and when we finally did it, this road trip delivered all I had expected, and more!

view from highway 1 California

The area is simply stunning and truly deserves its fame as one of the most scenic drives in the world and the perfect road trip for families and not just!

The landscapes here is incredible and there are plant of things that make this road trip great for kids.

The first part, Southern California , is full of kid find attractions.

Depending on how many days and stops you want to take, you can visit here Disneyland , the pirate tower of Laguna beach , Santa Monica and its fun pier, Venice Beach and its cycling path or you can even use th area to explore LA with kids (the city requires a car anyway)

The middle park, the area of Cambria and Big Surprise, has landscapes so expansive the children (and you) won’t believe your eyes and once you get to San Francisco wow, there is so much to see an do with kids the problem won’t be how to entertain them but how to get them away!

On top of this, you can also plan side trips around California, that can be mini road trips great even for small kids.

We loved for instance exploring Joshua Tree National Park from LA and we adored our road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite .

Grand Canyon and Monument Valley Arizona road trip for kids

If you want to treat your kids to a road trip to two of the most iconic places in the USA then you can follow our itinerary for they southern US road trip that ad us Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Monument valley.

monument valley

This road trip can be done in a handful of days, like we did, however, there is a bit of long driving involved especially to get to Monument Valley so my advice is to mix days in the car with more relaxing one exploring the great outdoor that, in this area, is stunning.

You can find our full South West USA road trip itinerary in this area here.

Not to be missed are:

Gran Canyon South Rim , National Park, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and one that is perfect for kids thanks to the excellent junior programme offered by the park rangers, that gives them plenty of ways to exolore and learn about the park in their own time. Find my guide to Grand Canyon with kids here.

Monument Valley , stunning, and a great place for kids to take in scenery and also learn about the Navajo people who own and live in this land. This is the quintessential American road trip destination! Find my guide to Monument Valley and where to stay in Monument Valley .

Sedona , fantastic place with red peaks and lovely hiking opportunities for the whole family

Flagstaff , a nice town with an outdoorsy feel fun for kids big and small

Utah and Arizona road trip for families

Utah and Arizona are two perfect states for a family road trips thanks to large beautiful roads, plenty of opportunities for kid-friendly stops and well equipped National Parks, offering endless entertainment opportunities for kids of all ages and scenic drives.

Zion Valley, Utah

Places we fond of particular interest were:

Bryce Canyon , a stunning canon with increible rock formations and many kid friendly hikes.

Zion National Park one of the most beautiful nations parks we have ever seen, packed with kid friendly hikes.

You can find our full recommended itinerary for a road trip in Utah and Arizona with kids here.

I hope you enjoyed this selection of epic family road trip ideas and it sparked your family wanderlust. Safe travels!

This post was written in 2020 and has now been updated with recent photos from our travels and additional links to our guides, based on our family travels.

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Marta Correale

Marta Correale is the creator, writer and creative mind behind Learning Escapes. A travel loving mama of two from Italy, Marta currently lives in Ireland with her husband and two kids, they take frequent trips to European destination, the US and beyond. A professional travel blogger for over a decade, Marta is passionate about traveling with kids and helping others to travel more and better as a family.

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The Best Family Road Trips for Every Age

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, we've got you covered

road trips with family

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  • 0-18 Months
  • 12-18 Years

We’re dedicating our  March features  to family travel. Read on for insightful guides to the best road trips for different ages, the best hotels with amenities for children , and the changing face of family trip planning , as well as inspiring stories of traveling with a newborn , family travel post-divorce , the lowdown on family campground culture , and more.

When my twins, Michaela and Talia, were 10 years old, we set off on a six-week mother-daughter road trip, driving from Boston to Vancouver, Canada . We ran through the spray at Niagara Falls, hiked around the lakes in Grand Teton National Park, and accomplished the girls’ goal of eating mashed potatoes and gravy in 14 states. Sure, there were a few meltdowns, a tornado warning, and a grumpy day or two, but years later, it’s a trip we still talk about with fondness.

Whether your children are babies, teens, or any age in between, a road trip can be a memorable family holiday—as long as you tailor your travels to your kids’ ages and interests. We’ve outlined ideas for traveling with kids at different stages to help spark your road trip wanderlust.

Jasper James / Getty Images

Best for Traveling With a Child Ages 0-18 Months

Hit the beach.

If you’re planning your first road trip with your baby, stay close to home. Think family-friendly beach getaways, like Cape Cod, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, or Southern California’s coastal towns. Any place where you can spend time outdoors while adapting to your child’s eating and sleeping schedules can be a baby-friendly road trip destination. A cottage by a Wisconsin lake or even a Florida condo with a wading pool could be perfect.

Travel Tip: Many babies will sleep in the car, particularly if you plan your drives for their regular nap times (and use a car sun shade to block out excess light). As they become more mobile, take frequent breaks. A quick stop to run around a playground can sometimes head off an “all done in the car” tantrum.

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Best For Traveling With a Child Ages 2-4 Years

Touch and do.

Toddlers and preschoolers are active and hands-on, with little tolerance for long drives, so organize your road trip around things that kids can do or touch. Visit farms to feed the animals or an aquarium with a touch tank. Walk through outdoor markets to find new-to-you foods to add to your picnic lunch. Collect shells at the ocean or gather colorful autumn leaves as you walk in the woods. Forget about seeing “the sights” and simply explore.

Travel Tip: Consider road tripping with grandparents or with friends who have kids of similar ages. The youngsters will have companions, and the adults can swap childcare duties for some quiet grown-up time. And always make sure you know where the closest bathroom is (or pack a portable potty). 

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Best For Traveling With a Child Ages 5-7

Hands-on experiences and museums.

Engaging, hands-on museums like the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, or The Exploratorium in San Francisco, are good for this age group. Consider an island-to-island road trip among Washington State’s San Juans , or go from beach to beach along the Maine coast. Kids in this age group continue to enjoy farms, markets, and outdoor adventures. They’re not too young to pack snacks in their own small daypack and join you on a hike.

Travel Tip: This is also the perfect age to involve your kids in trip planning, as they’re keen to do things themselves. Read books about places you’re planning to visit and have them draw pictures of things they want to see. Give them a journal or trip box to collect road trip mementos. 

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Best for Traveling With a Child Ages 8-11

Historical trips.

By elementary school, many kids are curious about other people and time periods. On an East Coast road trip, walk Boston’s Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail , then talk with the Wampanoag people and “settlers” at Plimoth Patuxet Museums . In New York City, visit The Tenement Museum , which recreates immigrant life on the Lower East Side.

On the other side of the country, learn more about Asian cultures and heritage in San Francisco’s Chinatown, at the Manzanar National Historic Site where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II, and in Orange County’s Little Saigon, home to one of the nation’s largest Vietnamese communities. 

Travel through Indigenous cultures in the Southwest at sites like Mesa Verde National Park and remote Chaco Culture National Historical Park , or spend the night in a Navajo hogan . Your youngsters might appreciate quirkier museum stops, too, from the JELL-O Gallery Museum in upstate New York to the SPAM Museum in Minnesota.  

Travel Tip: This is a good age for national park road trips, car camping, and longer day hikes, whether you tromp past the geysers in Yellowstone National Park , hike through the volcanic sands at Idaho’s Craters of the Moon , or try to spot alligators in the Everglades .

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Best for Traveling With a Teen

Cultural experiences.

Whether experiencing diverse cultures or embarking on outdoor adventures, teens can take on greater challenges than younger children. Consider a road trip through the South along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail . Explore human rights issues at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and help your teens understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at the National Historical Park in Atlanta that bears his name. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute shares that city’s role in the civil rights movement, while the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas, walks you through the history of segregation in the U.S. and the landmark Supreme Court decision.

Or plan a Midwest city-to-city road trip and let the teens find their favorite neighborhoods in Cincinnati , Chicago , and St. Louis . Do the same with Seattle , Portland , and San Francisco , as you drive the Pacific Coast. For the outdoorsy, you can organize a hiking-focused road trip and tackle sections of the Appalachian Trail.

Many teens enjoy sleeping in unusual places, from funky motels to yurts in the forest. Bunk in Astoria’s colorful Atomic Motel as you start an Oregon Coast road trip or roast marshmallows outside your travel trailer at Waypoint Ventura in southern California.

Travel Tip: Include fun food quests on your trip. Plan a taco crawl along Tucson’s South 12th Avenue, go for dim sum in Oakland or Monterey Park, or hunt for sugar cream pie in Indiana, key lime pie in Florida, and blueberry pie wherever it’s in season. 

And if your kids want to plan your road trip around stops for mashed potatoes and gravy, go for it. You’ll create some delicious family memories.

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15 of the Best Family Road Trips in the US

posted by James Brockbank on November 29, 2021 // last updated on November 29, 2021

Road trips are the perfect opportunity to spend time with family and create lasting memories. While packing up the bags and getting everyone together for the trip may be a hassle, the adventure you find along the way and watching the scenery change around you is an experience you won’t soon forget. 

Experiencing these new places with your family is by far the best part of family road trips as you live the stories you will one day tell years down the road at holiday dinners. 

If your family is an avid road trip family, you may be running out of family road trip ideas. If this is the case, there is no need to worry as we have compiled a list of 15 of the best family road trips in the US.

Branson, Missouri

Vermont fall foliage road trip, grand canyon, bryce canyon, and zion national park, pacific coast highway, highway 7 scenic byway, north shore scenic drive, blue ridge parkway, scenic byway 12, the high road to taos scenic byway, florida keys, saddle road, george park highway, state highway 82, the best road trips in the us for families.

road trips with family

Families all across the United States find happiness in partaking on a road trip adventure. However, inspiration for these road trips can be hard to come across, depending on the time of year and home location. 

Whether your family seeks road trip adventure regularly or you are partaking on your very first family road trip, here are the best road trips in the US for families. 

road trips with family

There is nothing quite like a trip to the good ole midwest. Whether you are a midwest native or as far from the midwest as you can get, a trip to Branson, Missouri, will not disappoint. 

Branson is a year-round destination spot with the best times to visit in the middle of the summer or Christmas. Because Branson is located on Table Rock Lake, like time activities and beautiful lake condos are a draw to the area. 

Once you enjoy a day out in the sun on your boat rental, drive down the Highway 76 Strip to experience what is known as “Little Vegas.” The Strip is bursting at its seams with entertainment opportunities. 

A significant draw to Branson is the Winter Wonderland it transforms to in November and December. If your family needs a vacation destination for Christmas, Branson will not disappoint. Visit The Branson Landing and immerse yourself in Christmas music and a Christmas light show. Or, visit Silver Dollar City to take in the millions of sparkling Christmas lights on display.

One of the best parts about a family road trip to Branson is no matter which direction you come from, the beauty of the Ozark hills allows you to see for miles. The rock formations on both sides of the highway let you experience the area’s true natural beauty before reaching the majestic Table Rock Lake-town.

road trips with family

Route 66 is one of the most well-known family road trips in the United States, stretching from Chicago, IL, to Los Angeles, CA. This 2,448-mile trek is a must for every family. 

The historic route goes through the heart of the midwest. It allows you to mark the states of Illinois , Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas , New Mexico, Arizona , and California off your list of states you’ve visited. 

One of the most beneficial parts of the Route 66 road trip is that you don’t have to travel the whole thing to enjoy what it has to offer. Start on I-44 Springfield, MO, and travel to Carthage, MO, to see a Drive-In movie at 66 Drive-In Theatre .

After your movie and a night’s stay in The Westport Lodge , make your way to Oklahoma City, OK, to check out the American Banjo Museum. Once you have your fill of banjos, stop at Boomarang Diner in OKC before continuing your trip East towards Texas. 

You can’t drive through Amarillo, TX, without stopping at the unique Cadillac Ranch , where you will find ten Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground. These ten Cadillacs represent the succession of the car line, and the cars used were either older or junk cars. We promise your trip on Route 66 will not disappoint!

road trips with family

It’s no secret that Vermont is a premier fall foliage destination. Stowe, Vermont, was named one of the best places in the United States to view the autumn colors. If your family enjoys the beauty of the leaves changing from their green colors to vibrant oranges and reds, a road trip to Vermont in the fall is a must.

Starting in Bennington, VT, travel north through Weston and Killington. After stopping and exploring Killington, continue north and cross over the Winooski River into Middlesex. Once you arrive at Middlesex, stop by Red Hen Baking Co. and enjoy a fresh piece of Apple Pie and a glass of milk. 

If you’re not served a dairy side with your pie, such as milk, cheese, or a big scoop of ice cream, you may have to call the authorities as it is illegal for restaurants to serve apple pie without a “good effort” to serve dairy side in Vermont .

road trips with family

A list of the best family road trips in the US wouldn’t be complete without the Grand Canyon . If natural beauty is the name of the game, the Grand Canyon takes home first place. The stunning views of the canyon, mixed with its surrounding natural beauty, make it one of the most highly sought-after vacation destinations in the world. 

Because there is so much natural beauty surrounding the Grand Canyon, it would be a shame for you to visit the Grand Canyon and not explore the surrounding canyons. That is why this loop of the area is elite. 

Starting in Las Vegas, travel to the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Here you have the opportunity to take in the majesty of the canyon and enjoy the most visited part of the park. After taking in the views and visiting the visitor center, hop back in the car and head towards the north rim, then continue onto Page, AZ, where you can view the canyon’s east side.

From Page, AZ, make your way to Bryce Canyon for a less-visited canyon, but still popular nonetheless. The red clay mixed with the unique rock structures of Bryce Canyon makes it a unique destination you won’t soon forget. 

Once you have your fill of Bryce Canyon, continue onto Zion National Park then, finish your loopback in Vegas. 

road trips with family

Although the Pig Trail is a renowned motorcyclist trail, it is also the perfect family road trip to take in the beauty of the Ozarks. Starting and ending in Fayetteville, the Pig Trail gets its name from the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, which call Fayetteville home. 

Motorcyclists heavily trafficked this trail during Bikes, Blues, and BBQ , an annual bike fest with a BBQ destination in Fayetteville. This festival is typically held on the last weekend of September. 

If a family road trip on the Pig Trail is on your bucket list, you may consider refraining from taking this trip during the festival. Otherwise, you may have issues with bikers attempting to pass your vehicle on the curvy roads, preventing you from enjoying your drive.

Take in the beauty of the Ozarks and the small, historical towns along the way. Make sure you stop by The Farmer’s Table Cafe and eat an authentic Arkansan breakfast. You may also consider stopping in Eureka Springs, comparable to Gatlinburg, TN, and walking the historic downtown area while enjoying the rolling hills.  

road trips with family

If you love the ocean breeze and live for beach vacations, there is no doubt that you’ve heard of the popular Pacific Coast Highway. Running along the Pacific Ocean from Washington to California, the Pacific Coast Highway is full of ocean views, magnificent cliffs, and picturesque towns.

Composed of highway US 101 in Washington and Oregon and California Highway 1 in the Golden State, this 1,675-mile stretch is sure to impress everyone in your family. 

Starting in Olympia, Washington, head south on US 101 and make a stop at Hoh Rainforest . A rainforest in Washington? That’s right! Because of the precipitation the area receives, this area qualifies as a rainforest—the foliage is a sight to see. 

After a small hike through Hoh Rainforest, continue south, stopping at the various beach destinations through Washington and Oregon. One of the more unique beach stops is Devils Punch Bowl, where you will find a unique rock formation in the ocean. 

Once in California, you must drive through the redwood trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and stop to take a quick hike. Further south, you will find the Fort Bragg glass beach that is full of sea glass. 

Continuing down the Pacific Coast Highway, you will find numerous stops with fantastic views and unique experiences. You must stop and get some seafood along the way. Even if you don’t prefer seafood, fresh and professionally prepared seafood may change your mind. 

road trips with family

There is a reason Arkansas highways are on this list more than once. The Highway 7 Scenic Byway is known as one of the best drives in America , which totals 290 miles. 

Another popular drive among motorcyclists, this byway begins on the southernmost border of Louisiana and Arkansas in El Dorado, AR. It ends in Diamond City, AR, near the Arkansas and Missouri border. 

This scenic route winds through four of the state’s geographical regions and passes through the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. The Ouachita Mountains are known for their quartz crystals, while the Ozark Mountains produce winding roads with spectacular views.

While on your scenic tour of Arkansas, be sure and stop in Hot Springs, where you can enjoy the Hot Springs National Park. The national park is known for the naturally warm waters that you can experience along Bathhouse Row . 

It is also imperative that you partake in a true midwestern activity at Ron Coleman Mining in Jessieville. Give your legs a stretch in Jessieville by visiting Ron Coleman Mining, where you can dig for quartz and crystals. Anything you find you are free to take home, which makes for a unique souvenir.

You will also find numerous hiking spots along the way, with some of our favorites in Newton county along the Buffalo National River. Don’t miss out on the beauty the Ozarks have to offer by planning your road trip on Highway Scenic Byway today!

road trips with family

Lake Superior is known for its scenic shoreline and crystal clear waters, which makes the North Shore Scenic Drive one you have to experience. Located in Minnesota, this drive takes you along access points to eight different state parks and through Superior National Forest. 

Make a stop at the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse , which has become a Minnesota icon through the years. Or, take some time out of your vehicle to visit the commercial fishing museum in Tofte. 

If reading about the area’s history doesn’t strike your interest, stop at the Superior Hiking Trail and go for a short hike to stretch your legs while taking in the surrounding scenery. You can also visit the local golf course, mountain biking park, and ski area to add multiple activities to your quest. 

Don’t forget to stop by the New Scenic Cafe in Duluth, MN, to experience local cuisine like Canadian hot chicken or smoked beets. It’s also a must to stop by Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, MN, for some Banana Cream Pie. 

road trips with family

It’s nearly impossible to compare the vast difference of the natural scenery from one side of the United States to the other. You have the canyons and desert in the west and the majestic mountains in the east, which offer immaculate views. However, if I had to pick my favorite family road trip destination, it would have to be Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway is located along the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Carolinas and Virginia and offers some of the most spectacular views in the US. Begin your journey on Blue Ridge Parkway at the base of Shenandoah National park in Afton, Virginia, and end in Cherokee, North Carolina , near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Along the way, you will travel through mountain towns like Roanoke, Virginia, and Asheville, North Carolina. In Roanoke , you can shop at the local markets and boutiques along the historic downtown stretch with views of the mountains as the city’s backdrop. 

Continuing along the parkway, you will travel through the quaint little town of Blowing Rock, NC, before finding yourself in Asheville, NC. In Asheville , you will find numerous recreation and nature activity options mixed in with an artistic atmosphere. 

Whether your family is all for getting out and exploring nature or prefers to enjoy the local culture, you are sure to find something that the whole family will enjoy along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Known as the “All-American Road,” Scenic Byway 12 in Utah is sure to get your kids off their phones and fixated on the scenery out the window. Just over 122 miles, this stretch of road takes you through the desert mountains, where you will see slickrock and how the sun reflects off the red rocks.

This Scenic Byway connects US 89 near Panguitch to SR 24 near Torrey. Stop at the scenic overlook along the route to take in the 9,000-foot view where you can see for miles and take in what the area’s natural beauty has to offer. 

Be sure to stop at the Dixie National Forest, where you can explore the area by food and view various peaks and plateaus, lakes, and valleys. You can also stop along the way at the Capitol Reef National Park, where you will find a stretch of the Waterpocket Fold with multi-colored rock and rolling hills.

The Hogback Area of the byway stretches along a narrow ridge, with both sides of the road dropping drastically. This stretch is one of the more famous parts of the byway, and for good reason.

With so many naturally beautified spots along Scenic Byway 12, it’s tough to pick and choose which ones to stop at and enjoy and which to pass up. While all stops along the way are 100% worth it, one of the more unique stops is the Lower Calf Creek Falls. 

In the middle of the desert, it is refreshing to find a scenic waterfall. While this waterfall does require a hike, it is a must-stop along the byway. You can find the trailhead that takes you to Lower Calf Creek Falls at the Calf Creek Campground . 

road trips with family

Mountains, desert, forests, farms, and Spanish and Indian villages, The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway in New Mexico has it all. A road trip out west is one of the most American road trips you can take as you engulf yourself in the area’s rich history and enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds you.

Pack your bags and load the kids; this scenic highway is one we are sure will not disappoint. This byway runs between Santa Fe and Taos and provides mountain views with historic Spanish and Indian villages along the way. 

See local architecture that you don’t see anywhere else as you travel along the byway. Stop at the Iglesia de la Santa Cruz de la Canada, a massive church that has seen continuous use for 250 years. Sharpen your western US history by visiting the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian Arts and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. 

Don’t forget to try some of the local Spanish cuisines in Taos , such as tamales, enchiladas, chile Rellenos, and posole. 

road trips with family

It is difficult not to enjoy a road trip along the ocean. But what about a road trip on the sea? That’s right, the roadway travel from mainland Florida to the Florida Keys is a road trip you take on the ocean.

The seven-mile bridge that connects keys makes you feel like you’re driving on water. While the bridge that connects the middle keys to the southern keys is seven miles long, the total road trip from Key Largo to Key West is 110-miles and is known as the “Road to Paradise” by locals. 

With a mixture of the blue waters to the tropical scenery, you won’t get tired of looking out the window along this road as you can point out the marine life swimming through the ocean waters or the tropical birds floating in the wind. 

Stop at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to stretch your legs and discover what lives on the ocean floor and how it survives. You will also have the opportunity to learn a history lesson by visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. 

As with any other road trip, you must check out some local cuisines by visiting Mangoes Key West Cuisine in Old Town Key West for some Cuban seafood stew. 

road trips with family

It’s time to get your hula skirts and sunscreen out because we are going to Hawaii . Saddle Road in Hawaii is one of the best family road trips in the United States because it offers pure adventure. 

Saddle Road is named after its geographical location in the valley or “saddle” between the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Mountains. The technical term for the stretch of road is Hawaii Route 200, but we like Saddle Road better. 

This 54 mile stretch of land gives you the Hawaiian experience as you can view the pastureland of Hawaii while passing by dried lava flows. You will also experience the edge of the rainforest and desert fields. 

You are sure to get an experience like no other on this road trip because who else can say they experienced a rainforest, pastureland, and dried lava on the same road trip?

Don’t forget to get out of the car and stretch your legs along the way by stopping at one of the trailheads or a quaint lunch spot along the highway. 

road trips with family

You may have to rent a vehicle to embark on this road trip, but it is a must for your family road trip bucket list. The George Park Highway is in Alaska and is the road that connects Anchorage and Fairbanks, the two largest cities in the state. 

Running approximately 320 miles, this highway takes you through Alaska’s wild wilderness for an experience you won’t soon forget. Keep a close eye out for wild moose or even bears as you travel the George Park Highway.

You can also take in the magnificent views of Denali , the tallest mountain in North America. But why just look at the mountain? Why not make a pit stop and explore? With over six million acres of untamed land, Denali National Park is a must-stop on your Alaskan road trip. 

Make sure you take the time to stop along the way for a taste of Alaska at Moose-AKa’s , an Eastern European Restaurant and Tavern. At Moose-Aka’s, you will find appetizers such as Schnitzel Fingers and Mekice, which is fry bread with red peppers and cream cheese.

If you think their appetizers sound unique, wait until you see their main menu with stuffed peppers, Moussaka, and varying types of schnitzel. We promise you will fall in love with the Eastern European cuisine Moose-Aka’s has to offer. 

Whether you enjoy experiencing new places for the scenery and adventure, or the delightful food, Alaska has plenty of both to offer along the George Park Highway. 

road trips with family

Colorado is known for its steep mountains and beautiful scenery. That is exactly what you’ll find along Colorado State Highway 82. The highway is engulfed in mountainside scenery that makes you feel finite.

At 12,095 feet above sea level, this 85 mile-long stretch of road is the highest paved road on the Continental Divide in North America and the highest road in Colorado. This means the views from the highway are unmatched, as you can see for miles along the route.

Because this pass is so high above sea level, it is closed in the winter months as winter weather causes driving hazards that shouldn’t be risked.

Stop along the route at one of the many hiking trails to stretch your legs and take in the fresh, crisp air. You may also want to stop by The Twin Lakes Inn Restaurant and enjoy a Tasso Green Chili Omelet for Brunch or a Shrimp Bisque for dinner. 

Family road trips are an excellent way to bring the whole family together to create lasting memories. Whether you plan to travel far from home and take a road trip somewhere you’ve never been before, or if they are to stay close to home and see a different side of your local terrain, there are road trips all across the United States that will not disappoint.

Explore the midwest by hopping on Route 66 and driving through the heart of the US. Or, take a more tropical road trip down south to Hawaii along saddle road or the infamous Pacific Coast Highway in California. If you’re in for more of a western adventure, drive along The Highroad to Taos and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.

Taking a vacation as a family doesn’t just have to be about the destination; let the road trip to your end destination be the adventure your family seeks. What is your favorite family road trip in the United States?

More about our TFVG Author

road trips with family

James Brockbank

A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.

Featured in Travel articles such as Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy and SFGate, you know you're reading some of the best vacation tips online.

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Niagara Falls

15 BEST Family Road Trips in the USA

A family road trip is a classic American holiday, but it takes planning to make it great. Some places are better for road trips, while some are better treated as a single-focus destination. In addition to considering the sights and scenery, you need to factor in things like hotel costs and gas prices.

Planning the best family road trip in USA

How to make a family road trip in the USA a success? Keep the little ones occupied. Watch some great family road trip movies . Make up trivia questions on certain places of interest, when you are passing certain landmarks. Have you already played my National Parks Trivia Game? If not, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this article and I will add you to my newsletter subscription send it to you absolutely FREE!

Strive to keep the pit stops kid-friendly. You don’t have to get too “sophisticated or elaborate” at restaurants, but do give children an opportunity to sample – and learn from – the local flavors and culture. We recommend taking them to a location where they can try local things and have them relate to wherever they are.

Finally, be open to new experiences. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great, as are in-the-know tips from your trip advisor.

For more great tips on keeping sanity while road tripping with kids check out A Dozen Tips for Stress Free Travelling with Kids.

When on a trip with the whole family, safety is of high importance. Also, never drive without a license. For a safe drive, follow traffic laws and rules, and never forget what you’ve learned from the DMV written test . For more information, also check out my recent article What Makes a Good Driver .

road trips with family

Why are Family Vacations Important?

Taking a family vacation is not just about having fun. There are some great benefits to family holidays.

The Benefits of Taking Family Vacations:

  • Getting away helps you take a break from a high-stress lifestyle.
  • You can model successful problem-solving and planning for your kids while on holiday.
  • Family vacations give a chance to learn new things.
  • Traveling together can create a bond over shared experiences.
  • You’ll create family memories that will last for many years.

How Much Does the Average Family Vacation Cost?

The expense of a family vacation varies based on many things. Are you taking a road trip or flying? Are you planning to attend many attractions with entrance fees or planning to do mainly free things? Where are you staying? A five-star hotel will obviously cost more than staying in a budget motel. 

According to American Express, the average cost of family vacation for a family of 4 is $4,580. Travel taxes can “eat” a lot of your travel budget. If you are taking a family road trip, you are, of course, saving money on air travel, which is a huge chunk.

For great ideas on saving money on travel, please, read my article How to Travel Cheap .

How Long Should a Family Holiday Last?

There are a couple of things that will decide how long a family vacation should be. Some studies have suggested that a vacation should be eight days long to capture the full advantages of your time away.

But for some families, you may be limited based on how many vacation days you have from school or work. Hotel and food can also add up quickly, so longer holidays will mean spending more money on the trip.

We typically like to plan our main family vacations for our household to be seven to eight days long, depending on travel time. If we’re flying the majority of the first day, then we might need an additional day to experience the destination.

I will be honest that by day seven, most of us are missing home and somewhat tired. You don’t need to be so busy on vacation that you feel like you need a vacation following your vacation!

Best Family Road Trips in USA

There might be no greater sense of freedom than the one felt while driving on an open road with a full tank of gas. Road trips are a fantastic vacation option for households, as you control every aspect of the trip: the route, space, the time spent in each place, where you are going to stop and when. You’ll save more and see more than you ever thought possible and avoid the hassle that is mixing kids and airplanes. Explore your home state, drive through the Southeast, lay your head in one of the National Parks or explore the whole nation – the possibilities are endless! Here is the list of 15 best family road trips in USA that every family should make.

Best Family Road Trip # 1: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is the 2nd most visited park in the USA., with roughly six million visitors annually. The canyon itself is 277 miles long, yet there are 1000 miles of road excursion possibilities that you can explore to understand and see the true beauty of this canyon.

That means that if you would like to take a short road trip or a long one, the Grand Canyon is the best spot to do it. Here is a detailed itinerary for you to make planning super easy: Arizona Road Trip Itinerary Phoenix to Grand Canyon .

Grand Canyon best family road trips usa

Best Family Road Trip #2: Pacific Coast Highway, California

I highly recommend Pacific Coast Highway in California for your family road trip in USA if you could travel on just 1 highway. This road (HW 1 joining in places with U.S. 101) goes north through Oregon and Washington and offers some of the most amazing views you’ll ever see.

The highway follows the Pacific Ocean, so your drive through The Golden State will be much more than only a drive. It is an experience of a lifetime. All of its 656 miles have something fantastic to offer. Here are some top highlights that you should not miss: Big Sur and Redwoods State and National Parks .

Big Sur itinerary best family road trips usa

Best Family Road Trip #3: Niagara Falls, Ontario/ New York

Are you thinking of a Niagara Falls family road trip? Making your way through New York to the main attraction can in itself be enjoyable. Some stops along the way can make your journey amazing! These always popular attractions include; Cooperstown, Letchworth State Park, and the Erie Canal, among other excellent attractions.

If you want the authentic Niagara Falls Experience, be sure to pack your passport because the most famous view of Niagara Falls is on the Canadian side. In addition, there are lots of hotels, attractions, and restaurants on the Canadian side also!

Once on the Canadian side of the falls, be sure to fit time in to travel on the Niagara Parkway and pay a visit to the famous town of Niagara on the Lake that’s full of shops and other terrific places to visit.

road trips with family

Best Family Road Trip #4: Yosemite National Park, California

The great thing about choosing a road trip to Yosemite National Park is the drive itself is half the fun! There are countless routes that you could take here.

A lot will depend upon whether you want to drive and get to the park, stop in fun places along the way, or even if you want to enjoy beautiful panoramic views across the way.

This is one of the most beautiful national parks I have visited with my family. But please, note that Yosemite goes way beyond the most popular Yosemite Valley. Check out all the driving routes which generally are less crowded than the Valley. But if your heart is set on it, I have a detailed article with a road trip itinerary to the Yosemite Valley .

If you have time add Sequoia National Park to this road trip, which is located about 130 miles South of Yosemite.

yosemite best family road trips usa

Best Family Road Trip #5: Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Want a break from the bright lights of Las Vegas? A road trip to Valley of Fire State Park should be on your itinerary! It is just an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, and it’s one of those places you need to go to and take your camera as well. It’s extremely kid-friendly, with plenty of hikes fit for everyone.

The drive through Valley of Fire is easily one of the most breathtaking drives you’ll ever take. The orange, red, clay-colored, and pink sandstone rocks create the most amazing vistas.

You can spot landmarks like The Beehives and Elephant Rock without even getting out of your car – although you want to get out and catch some photos.

Best road trips from Las Vegas

Best Family Road Trip #6: Zion National Park, Utah

Zion is very centrally situated, which means it makes a great road trip destination for many! Many people don’t realize this, but it’s just 2 hours outside of Vegas, making it a perfect road trip in the Las Vegas area.

If you’re new to exploring Utah, you will be amazed to learn that this state is home to 5 of the country’s most beautiful National Parks, Zion being the most popular of them.

With its beautiful expansive canyon, amazing hiking opportunities, natural stone arches, and spectacular views, it’s no wonder why.

I have a detailed article for you with more fantastic ideas on top road trips from Las Vegas which also has information in Zion and The Valley of Fire mentioned above.

Best road trips from Las Vegas

Best Family Road Trip # 7: Hana Coastline, Hawaii

When you start looking for the best family road trips in the U.S., you will always find the Hana Coastline on the listing. This road trip is taken by tens of thousands of tourists every day and for a good reason.

With 35 winding miles of awe-inspiring views of the coastline, sights of classic Hawaiian farms, and much more, this is a drive that is well worth it!

You can find the information on some of the best Road to Hana highlights and stops in my article Classic Maui Itinerary 6 Days Perfect for Families .

Road to Hana

Best Family Road Trip #8: Florida Keys, Florida

Looking for a relaxed family road trip in USA? Then head down Overseas Highway – U.S. 1 to the Florida Keys. This drive is approximately 100-miles each way and lets you drive down the Florida Keys to experience sandy beaches and amazing seafood.

Strategize to make a few stops along the way before you reach Key West, where you’ll find the Southernmost point of the U.S. that’s also just 90 miles to Cuba. Can you believe that?

If you want to explore Florida Keys, definitely check out my article Things to Do in Key Largo with Kids .

Things to do in Key Largo with kids

Best Family Road Trip #9: Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia & North Carolina

Whether you are looking for a one-day drive or a multi-day experience family road trip in USA, you should think about a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile long road that weaves through Virginia and North Carolina.

The cultural experiences here are like no other and will introduce you to Southern Appalachian history, Cherokee history, and more.

Right off the Blue Ridge Parkway you can also find the most popular National Park in the U.S. – Great Smoky Mountains National Park , which is worth a trip on its own.

Great Smoky Mountains

Best Family Road Trip #10: Route 66, Illinois to California

I don’t think there is any family road trip more popular than Route 66. This road trip has been very instrumental to pop culture. To do the entire Route 66 road trip, it is stated that you need a solid two weeks, but that does not mean that you can’t enjoy part of Route 66 with less time.

Route 66 begins in Chicago and officially ends at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. Despite being removed from the U.S. Highway System in the mid-80s, this road trip route has maintained its popularity.

We explored Route 66 in Arizona and it was an unforgettable experience! Here is our fun video below to give you the taste of it:

 Best Family Road Trip #11: Estes Park, Colorado

Whether Estes Park is the destination, or you happen to be passing through on your way to the Rocky Mountain National Park , this is a must-stop place for a Colorado road trip.

The views seem like they come straight from a postcard or a nature photography book. They are that amazing.

A road trip through Estes Park means you will be treated to amazing mountain views while driving through areas surrounded by sheer granite walls. Another bonus is that this family road trip can easily be enjoyed whatever the time of year!

road trips with family

 Best Family Road Trip #12: Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is a great place for a road trip! From awesome tourist attractions such as Stone Mountain Park (the country’s number 1 attraction), The Jimmy Carter Museum, and much more, you are going to find a lot to do!

Atlanta is also recognized as the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr! The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must.

If you wish to get away from town for a bit, then add Athens to your family road trip, which has been named” The # 1 College Music Scene in America” by Rolling Stone Magazine. If you’re a music enthusiast, this is a perfect stop on any Atlanta road trip since it is the birthplace of these iconic groups as Widespread Panic, The B-52s, and R.E.M.

For the most unique experience, drive 89 miles to Helen GA where you can experience… Germany! Helen is one of the best Germantowns in the U.S. and is a top highlight on my list of International Experiences in the U.S .

road trips with family

Best Family Road Trip #13: Portland, Oregon

A Pacific Northwest road trip truly is an unforgettable experience you will want to relive over and over. While there is an infinite number of awesome places throughout the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon should be on your family road trip list. From a beautiful botanical garden to an amazing Columbia River Gorge, Portland has it all.

With a couple of additional hours, you can even go to the Oregon Coast or the beautiful high desert region of Central Oregon. Portland is a road trip destination that warrants at least a week so you can get a real feel for the beauty of the country itself!

road trips with family

Best Family Road Trip #14: Door County, Wisconsin

If you’re road tripping with kids, then a road trip through Door County is going to be a hit! Not only will you get treated to a number of the most beautiful scenic drives (especially in the fall), but the attractions along the way make for a wonderful family vacation!

These attractions include such quirky things as Pinkie the Elephant in DeForest, the World’s Largest Six Pack in La Crosse, the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, and much more!

I personally adore this Midwest gem, so much so that I creates a stand along guide to best family vacations in Wisconsin .

road trips with family

Best Family Road Trip #15: Portland, Maine

On a Portland, Maine road trip, you’ll be lucky enough to experience the quaint coastal towns, rocky coastline views, delicious lobster rolls, and much more.

Late summer is always a wonderful time to go to, though a road trip like this is wonderful any time of year. Stopping by to see all the gorgeous lighthouses are a must. And autumn is the time to enjoy the fabulous New England fall colors.

In case you have enough time, be sure to drive to Acadia National Park . The drive down there and the beauty of the national park is completely worth it.

road trips with family

Hopefully, this article has given you a couple of ideas, and you can begin planning your family road trip in USA. The goal is to use these destinations above as the main point of your road trip and then add other stops along the way. Take your time, don’t rush, make frequent stops and enjoy everything a road trip has to offer. And then do it again next vacation!

I would like to thank DMV Written Test for their collaboration on this article. They provided lots of useful information on these 15 best family road trips in the USA and especially on those that are still on my family road trips “dream list”.

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48 of the Best Road Trip Destinations in the U.S. for Families

There's a little something for everyone in these top spots across the country.

best road trips families

Seattle, Washington

road trip seattle

Where to Visit: Pike Place Market

Grab a bite to eat at Pike Place Market and then make your way to the famous "Gum Wall" —the one (and only!) place you can encourage your kids to leave their chewing gum. Then head to the Seattle Great Wheel for the best views of the city, the Seattle Aquarium to spend the day with some new fish friends, or the Museum of Flight where kids 10 and oler can test their flying skills through "The Pilot Experience."

Crater Lake, Oregon

best road trips oregon

Where to Visit: Crater Lake National Park

Get ready to hear plenty of "oohs" and "aahs!" Trust us, everyone in the family will become wide-eyed when they see Oregon's stunning Crater Lake, which was formed by a now caved-in volcano. Within the national park, your family can enjoy camping, hiking, bike trails, water sports, fishing, and more activities.Your clan can also check out several nearby national forests while you're in the area, including Umpqua National Forest , Deschutes National Forest , and Wallowa-Winema National Forest .

Reno, Nevada

Where to Visit: National Automobile Museum

Skip Las Vegas, and head to this family-friendly destination instead. Gearheads will love Reno's National Automobile Museum, which is home to 200+ vintage and modern vehicles.

If cars aren't your thing, spend the day honing your bowling skills at the National Bowling Stadium . And just an hour away, you'll find scenic Lake Tahoe , which is the perfect place to stretch and take in some fresh air on your way to the next stop.

Anaheim, California

Where to Visit: Disneyland

Just past Los Angeles, you'll find Anaheim, home of Disneyland . While the amusement park will give your family plenty of things to do and see, you can also enjoy a baseball game at the Angel Stadium or a concert at Honda Center .

Grand Canyon Village, Arizona

Where to Visit: The Grand Canyon

You simply can't take a cross-country road trip without stopping at the Grand Canyon ! If you only have time to make one quick stop there, make it Yavapai Point , which offers sweeping views of the entire canyon. But if you can spare a couple of days on your journey, make the drive down south to Kaibab National Forest , which offers even more vistas.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Where to Visit: Santa Fe Children’s Museum

Known for its unique architectural style and look, this capital city is full of interesting structures, homes, and buildings. Once you've seen your fair share of adobe architecture, head to the Santa Fe Children's Museum , which features please-touch exhibitions for youngsters. Budding artists may also enjoy the Georgia O'Keeffe museum and the kid-friendly Museum of International Folk Art .

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Where to Visit: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Little ones can try their hand at roping and barrel races for free through the museum's "Little Buckaroos Round-Up" on Saturdays. After you've learned all about cowboys, the wild west, rodeos, and Native American culture, make your way to western-themed amusement park Frontier City for more fun.

Arlington, Texas

Where to Visit: Six Flags Over Texas

On this road trip, you'll make your way from Fort Worth to Dallas through Arlington, Texas, home to Six Flags and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor . While you're there, you can also watch a football game at the Cowboy's AT&T Stadium or take in a baseball game at the Ranger's Globe Life Park .

Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Where to Visit: Crater of Diamonds State Park

Try your hand at diamond digging at this one-of-a-kind park. It's the only diamond mine in the world that's open to the public, and just last year, a teenager found a 7.44-carat rock—the largest to ever be found at the park!

Memphis, Tennessee

Where to Visit: Graceland

Pay tribute to the king at Graceland , where you can tour the star's old stomping grounds and see an array of shows. Once you've eaten Elvis' favorite fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich at Gladys' Diner , give your kids the history lesson of a lifetime by heading over to the National Civil Rights Museum . End the day eating barbecue on Beale Street .

Cave City, Kentucky

Where to Visit: Dinosaur World

Between stopping to see the stunning rolling hills and pastures in this pretty state, spend some time learning all about the creatures that used to walk the planet at Dinosaur World , and then make the short-drive to Mammoth Cave National Park to see enormous caverns.

Bridgeport, Alabama

Where to Visit: Russell Cave National Monument

In this national park, you'll have access to one of the oldest settlements in the U.S., which was inhabited by Native Americans more than 10,000 years ago. History buffs will love to see the prehistoric artifacts found in the caves while animal lovers will enjoy seeing the hundreds of types of birds on site. And just a few miles away, you'll find the Bridgeport Railroad Depot Museum , where kids can see vintage train and railroad gear.

Atlanta, Georgia

Where to Visit: Georgia Aquarium

Make friends with the fish at the impressive Georgia Aquarium where your kiddos can see all kinds of marine life (including dolphins and penguins!). Before you leave the southern city, you may also want to check out the nearby World of Coca-Cola and the Legoland Discovery Center .

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Where to Visit: Gulf Islands National Seashore

Get ready for a beach day when you arrive in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Here, spend the day kayaking and camping in the backcountry.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Where to Visit: Café Du Monde and French Quarter

Indulge aspiring little musicians in the sounds of this city with a day spent in the French Quarter , where bands perform live on most street corners. Load up on yummy beignets at Café Du Monde and then walk around the neighborhood to see the historic buildings.

Orlando, Florida

Where to Visit: Disney World

Treat the family to another day at Disney and visit one (or all!) of the nine parks, including Magic Kingdom , Epcot , and Animal Kingdom . And if you simply can't get enough amusement park fun, head to Universal Studios and visit Hogwarts at Harry Potter World or fly with superman at Marvel Super Hero Island .

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Where to Visit: Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

Just across the river from historic Charleston, you'll find some of America's most impressive ships and aircraft carriers. Plus, your family can even camp and stay overnight on the historic USS Yorktown. And with so many gorgeous beaches just a few miles away, you'll probably want to spend a few days in the area.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Where to Visit: NASCAR Hall of Fame

On your journey, be sure to make a pitstop at this North Carolina Institution. Grownup gearheads will love seeing the historic cars while kiddos will have a blast at the Disney and Pixar Cars 3 Exhibit. Afterwards, make your way to Discovery Place and watch an IMAX movie together.

Cass, West Virginia

Where to Visit: Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Take your youngsters on the train trip of a lifetime at this West Virginia State Park. Ride historic steam-driven trains while taking in stunning sights of the Appalachian Mountains. While you're there, you can also spend the day biking, fishing, hiking, or picnicking on the grounds.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Where to Visit: Colonial Williamsburg

Kids will be so much more interested in American history when they can see it all reenacted right in front of them. Plan to spend two days here—the first in historic Williamsburg, the second at the Busch Gardens amusement park .

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10 of the Best U.S. Road Trips for Families

Create memories with your kids on these short but sweet journeys that feature stunning scenery and unique landmarks.

Elizabeth Rhodes is a special projects editor at Travel + Leisure , covering everything from luxury hotels to theme parks to must-pack travel products. Originally from South Carolina, Elizabeth moved to New York City from London, where she started her career as a travel blogger and writer.

road trips with family

A road trip is a classic American vacation, but it takes planning to make it great — especially when little ones are involved. To help you plan your family's next journey, we've rounded up some of the best road trips around the United States for families with kids, from single-day jaunts to journeys that can take more than a week. With stops the whole crew will enjoy, these drives are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Charleston, South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia

Explore two popular Southern cities on one trip with this short-distance getaway. The drive from Charleston straight to Savannah takes just under two hours, but we'd recommend extending your itinerary over a few days so you can stop to enjoy the outstanding hotels and beaches along the way. You can stay at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island an hour south of Charleston, or fill up the tank for a beach day at Hilton Head , only an hour farther. Once you've passed through Savannah, drive one more hour south for a stay at The Cloister at Sea Island . This five-star resort is another good option for families, with plenty of swimming, fishing, and nature walks.

San Diego to Los Angeles, California

At around two hours, this drive is easy for parents and just long enough to be exciting for the kids. San Diego, Los Angeles, and the stretches of coast between them are packed with beaches and a plethora of crowd-pleasing attractions. Explore the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California, and Disneyland, about a 30-minute from downtown L.A. in Anaheim.

New York City or Boston to Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Whether you choose to stay in a shingled cottage or beachfront apartment, your kids will fall hard for the Cape . Wellfleet is a particularly great destination for families, reachable in two hours from Boston or five hours from New York City. You'll want to stop in other charming towns along the way, like Falmouth and Chatham, before settling in the sands of the Outer Cape. Once you're there, no trip is complete without a visit to Mac's on the Pier , where you can gaze out at the harbor and feast on whole belly clams. Exploring one of the Cape's kettle ponds, which families often have all to themselves, is also a must, as is checking out the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary , home to five miles of trails and salt marshes.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Beginning in Orange County's Dana Point and reaching north to San Francisco, this popular drive can be completed in under eight hours. But why keep it short? With many major stops — from Los Angeles to Carmel-by-the-Sea — you could make this road trip last for days. Driving northward, head to the top of the Topanga Lookout in Malibu for incredible views of the San Fernando Valley. A few hours north in Santa Ynez wine country, relax with a glass of vino as you plot your visit to Hearst Castle. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the media magnate's vast estate, with its sprawling gardens, Roman-style pool, and extensive art collection.

New York City to Philadelphia to the Poconos

At Woodloch Resort in the Pocono Mountains, you'll feel like you're back at summer camp — in a good way. On and off the property, there's plenty to do, including golf, paintball, fishing, and more. A variety of accommodation options are available, too, perfect for families of any size. Whether or not you're headed to the Woodloch, though, the Poconos are an easy getaway for East Coasters. New York City is about a two-hour drive and Philadelphia is about three hours; the two cities can easily be combined with a Poconos visit for a fun multiday adventure.

Boston, Massachusetts, to Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont, is a great destination in all seasons for families road tripping within New England. Just three hours from Boston, the town offers some of the East Coast's best skiing in wintertime and an abundance of outdoor adventure in summer. On your warm-weather visit, cool off with the kids at the Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury Center State Park , or enjoy the fresh mountain air with a hiking or biking excursion.

There are few roads as iconic as Route 66 , so why not take your kids on this classic American trip? Whether you embark on the full journey from Chicago to Los Angeles or opt for a smaller section, you're bound to have a memorable time. Little ones will love the route's kitschy roadside attractions (world's biggest ketchup bottle, anyone?), while adults will be wowed by the scenery, from the wide-open spaces of west Texas to the mountains of Santa Fe.

Tucson to the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Lauren Breedlove/Travel + Leisure

Take in some of the country's best views on a multiday road trip through Arizona . Start in Tucson and visit Saguaro National Park to see the namesake cacti before heading to Scottsdale. Next up, drive to the stunning, red rock-surrounded town of Sedona. Finally, continue north to Grand Canyon National Park for a couple of days in the great outdoors, reveling in this massive natural wonder.

Rocky Mountain Loop from Denver

If you'd like to swap red rocks for snowy mountaintops, set off on a Colorado road trip through some of the state's incredible national parks and charming small towns. From Denver, head northwest to Boulder and Estes Park, a perfect home base for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park . Drive farther into the mountains to check out towns like Glenwood Springs, Telluride, and Durango, all located in the western part of the state. Spend a day at Mesa Verde National Park , home to ancient Native cave dwellings that will fascinate kids and grown-ups alike before turning back east. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Colorado Springs are great stops en route back to Denver.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Beautiful year-round but especially colorful in spring and fall, the Blue Ridge Parkway makes for an excellent family road trip. Connecting Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park , the Blue Ridge Parkway offers scenic mountain and foliage views across the Appalachian landscapes of Virginia and North Carolina. Plus, there are plenty of great hikes for all skill levels and places to camp along the parkway if you want to spend a few nights under the stars.

Related Articles

road trips with family

These are the best scenic family road trips for families, from a parent and travel expert who's been to all 50 states.

  • I'm a travel expert, and I've been to all 50 states.
  • I love taking road trips with my family. We get to see a lot of different things on one trip.
  • These are my top three favorite routes for families traveling in the United States.

Road trips are the ultimate symbol of freedom, discovery, and the boundless beauty of the US. On many such trips with my family, it has not been just the destinations but also the journey that holds the magic; the open road itself becomes a vehicle for family memories and shared experiences.

Over my life, I've traversed all 50 states , both with my family while growing up and now with my husband and kids, and I've reveled in the splendor of countless scenic highways and breathtaking byways. As a travel expert, I believe these three incredible routes are the best if you're looking to go on an amazing road trip experience with your own family.

Cruise up (or down) California's Pacific Coast Highway

Family travelers looking for a truly magical journey need to look no further than the Pacific Coast Highway or California State Route 1. At about 650 miles, it's the longest route in California and the second longest in the US. Beginning in the charming seaside town of Dana Point, just outside Los Angeles, and winding up to San Francisco (or vice versa), this spectacular drive offers an endless array of jaw-dropping coastal vistas, sun-soaked beaches, and must-see stops.

As you travel north to Santa Barbara, stop at the Santa Barbara Zoo and take in unobstructed sunset vistas at Ellwood Mesa. Continue to San Luis Obispo, where you can choose from 65 hiking trails, explore the children's museum, or stroll through the infamous Bubblegum Alley. And don't miss out on other notable destinations like Big Sur, the charming seaside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and its crescent-shaped beaches and storybook-like architecture, or Monterey, home to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium .

Once you reach San Francisco, take an exciting ride on the city's famous cable cars. Then visit the California Academy of Sciences, an all-in-one planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum in Golden Gate Park. And no matter how often you visit San Francisco , you must visit the Golden Gate Bridge, on foot or at vantage points like Battery Spencer or Fort Point.

Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway, affectionately known as "America's Favorite Drive," meanders nearly 500 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. Connecting Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this scenic route boasts 272 magnificent overlooks and more than 100 hiking trails , including the famed Crabtree Falls.

Roanoke, the largest city along the Parkway, offers families a multitude of outdoorsy activities, like mountain biking at Explore Park and hiking to the famous Roanoke Star in Mill Mountain Park. A bit farther south, near Meadows of Dan, VA, my family had a wonderful time at Primland Resort. We stayed in one of its 22 spacious lodge suites; they also offer unique treehouses and villas, an observatory for stargazing, guided nature walks, thrilling ATV rides, and a fun-filled game room .

Near the end of the Parkway lies the mountain town of Asheville, which is close to several family-friendly hiking trails , including Graveyard Fields. There, my family enjoyed panoramic viewpoints, toured the iconic Biltmore Estate, and visited the River Arts District, Asheville Museum of Science, and North Carolina Arboretum.

The centrally located Grand Bohemian Asheville, located next to the Biltmore Estate, is ideal for exploring the city's bustling downtown area, which is known for its arts, crafts, and delicious local cuisine. The region also has several excellent glamping options, including the cabins at Asheville Glamping.

Take a road trip through Arizona

From majestic mountains to captivating canyons, Arizona's glorious scenery cannot be fully realized by visiting just one destination. You must explore it through the open road. Start your journey in the Phoenix area, which has an abundance of kid-friendly attractions, like Legoland Discovery Center, Butterfly Wonderland, and the i.d.e.a. Museum.

As you venture just two hours north, stop in Sedona to explore the vibrant art scene and mesmerizing red rock formations. Admire the area's stunning beauty on a thrilling Pink Jeep Tour , and retire to campgrounds like Chavez Crossing RV Park and Rancho Sedona RV Park. Another economical accommodation option is the two-bedroom suites at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa. Families looking to splurge should stay at the Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon for relaxation and endless family-friendly activities, including hiking, stargazing, and cultural activities at Camp Coyote.

Spend several days exploring the west, north, and south rims of the Grand Canyon, marveling at panoramic vistas at the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, and kid-friendly hiking trails, like the 1.8-mile South Kaibab Trail to Ooh Aah Point. For a rush of adrenaline, set out on a whitewater rafting excursion with companies like Advantage Grand Canyon.

To make the most of your time, pitch a tent at one of six campgrounds within Grand Canyon National Park, reserve an RV spot at Trailer Village, or stay at one of the nearby hotels like El Tovar Hotel, Under Canvas Grand Canyon, and the historic Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, where you can take a fabulous train ride to the canyon's South Rim.

Last but certainly not least is a trip to Page, where short hikes lead to the marvelous Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Families can also take a boat cruise on Lake Powell and visit the Glen Canyon Dam.

These are the best scenic family road trips for families, from a parent and travel expert who's been to all 50 states.

The 10 best road trips to take with your family this summer

Devorah Lev-Tov

The great American road trip is a tried-and-true family tradition.

Driving the country's scenic highways and stopping to explore anything that catches your eye — perhaps a stunning viewpoint, a side-of-the-road lobster shack or a historical marker — is a wonderful way to explore the U.S. with your family this summer.

It's also a great way to save money while exploring, whether you redeem points, rent an RV or find affordable hotels, motels or camping sites along the way.

Of course, road-tripping with kids brings a few challenges , including keeping them entertained and dealing with possible car sickness.

Try using one of the fun kid-friendly voices for the Waze app to give directions to keep everyone laughing. Think about bringing iPads that can attach to the back of headrests and make a list of car games to play. Old-school favorites such as I Spy, 20 Questions and license plate-spotting are as good as ever.

To reduce or avoid nausea, be careful what you feed children before getting in the car (no spicy or greasy food), make sure there's enough airflow in the car and consider Dramamine if your child is over 2 years old (but talk to your doctor first).

If an accident does happen, make sure you are prepared with extra clothing, plastic bags and paper towels or wipes.

Packing a good credit card for gas fill-ups is also a very smart move. Check out TPG's guide to the best cards for gas purchases here .

Now that we have the logistics out of the way, here are 10 classic summer road trips in the U.S.

Appalachia to Nashville

road trips with family

Explore Appalachia with a big finish in Nashville on this route through West Virginia and Kentucky. Start in West Virginia's capital, Charleston, which is at the convergence of three major state highways — fly into West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) if necessary.

Visit the state's picturesque Capitol building, which has a gold leaf-covered dome that's 5 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol's; the West Virginia State Museum, where you can learn about Appalachian history and culture; and the Avampato Discovery Museum, an interactive science museum for all ages.

Stroll down the tree-lined Capitol Street and stop into one of several restaurants there, or get tender barbecue with stellar sides from the acclaimed Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill.

All the major hotel chains are here. Use your Marriott Bonvoy points at the Charleston Marriott Town Center (from 15,500 points or $124 per night) or Four Points by Sheraton Charleston (15,500 points or $114 per night), or your Hilton Honors points at Embassy Suites Charleston Historic District (from 37,000 points or $140 per night).

From Charleston, head straight into Kentucky and the horse capital of Lexington. Visit the famous Keeneland Racecourse and tour the Kentucky Horse Park, then go to the revitalized Distillery District for pizza, ice cream, beer, live music and, of course, bourbon.

From there, it's a short drive to Louisville — stop at the Claudia Sanders Dinner House (yes, that Sanders ... Claudia was the Colonel's wife) for a classic Southern family-style meal.

Louisville is full of family-friendly attractions, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the Kentucky Science Center, and kids will love cruising the Ohio River on the oldest river steamboat, the Belle of Louisville.

Stay at the original 21c Museum Hotel (rooms from $309), which has an attached contemporary art museum and is also home to the acclaimed Proof on Main restaurant. The architecturally stunning Seelbach Hilton (from 41,000 Hilton Honors points or $162 per night) dates to 1869 and has classically appointed rooms and lavish public spaces.

Finally, head south to Nashville for a big finish in Music City, where you can stay at Hotel Fraye, part of Hilton's independent Curio Collection (from $224 or 70,000 Hilton Honors points per night).

Guests can get a real taste of the city's eclectic style while checking out attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Radnor Lake State Park, Nashville Zoo and the Grand Ole Opry.

Don't forget to get some made-in-Nashville chocolatey treats at the Goo Goo Clusters Shop before flying out of Nashville International Airport (BNA).

Related: Music City on the mind? These are the best new points hotels in Nashville

Lake Michigan highlights

road trips with family

Hug the lake on this drive that starts in Milwaukee, heads south to Chicago and then back up through Michigan, ending in Traverse City.

Fly into Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) and explore the city's Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum and the hands-on Discovery World Science and Technology Center. Grab a frozen custard at the famous Kopp's . Kids are sure to love the spy-themed burger joint SafeHouse.

Hyatt loyalists can use points or their free night certificates to stay at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee (from $109 or 6,500 points). Or, redeem Marriott points at the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown (from $143 or 30,000 Bonvoy points per night).

Head south out of town, and in about two hours you'll hit Chicago, with its world-class family-friendly attractions like Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Park Zoo and Millennium Park, to name a few.

Related: Forget the ocean: 8 amazing lake vacations to take in the US this summer

From Chicago, curve around the lake shore, stopping at the stunning Indiana Dunes National Park for some outdoor lake time before driving up to charming Holland, Michigan. This Dutch-founded town on the shores of Lake Macatawa is home to a centuries-old windmill, a tulip festival and Dutch-inspired food, like the classic pastries from deBoer Bakkerij & Dutch Brothers Restaurant.

The beautiful lakeshore includes Holland State Park, Laketown Beach, Tunnel Park and an adorable red lighthouse.

Traverse City is 168 miles north, with numerous small towns and the Huron-Manistee National Forests to explore along the way.

Once in Traverse City, take advantage of some well-earned beach time. If you are visiting from July 1-8, don't miss the National Cherry Festival .

For some real family fun, stay at Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy its indoor water park, or redeem IHG One Rewards points at Hotel Indigo Traverse City (from $125 or 20,000 points per night).

Fly out of Cherry Capital Airport (TVC).

Related: TPG's 10 top family vacation destinations for 2023

Big Bend National Park in Texas

road trips with family

This 150-mile-long national park along the Texas and Mexico border makes for a gorgeous and adventure-filled road trip.

Fly in and out of El Paso International Airport (ELP) and then drive about 300 miles east to enter the remote park, with a stop in the artsy enclave of Marfa along the way.

Another option is to take an Amtrak train to Alpine, or start from the San Antonio/Austin area. Either way, you'll likely enter the park at the town of Marathon, where you can stay at the historic Gage Hotel and eat at Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue.

Once inside the 800,000-acre park, the epic drive is dotted with picturesque attractions at every turn.

Hugging the Rio Grande and comprising the stunning Chisos mountain range, much of the park is the Chihuahuan Desert.

Other highlights include traveling the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, discovering the Terlingua Ghost Town, walking the Santa Elena nature trail, zip lining at Lajitas and exploring Boquillas Canyon.

Best of all, there are plenty of kid-friendly hiking trails and boat rides up the Rio Grande.

Related: A beginners guide to visiting Big Bend National Park: Everything you need to know, see and do

If you don't want to camp, the family-owned Big Bend Holiday Hotel has vintage rooms and charming, beautifully appointed casitas in the area (from $160 per night). For more family-oriented amenities (including a golf course and swimming pool), stay at the sprawling Lajitas Golf Resort (from $399).

Central California coast

road trips with family

California's epic coastline is ripe for adventure.

Kids will enjoy exploring the central part of California the best: tons of animals, history and, of course, crashing waves. You can fly in and out of Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield (BFL).

First, drive to Pismo Beach. Check out the Monarch Butterfly Grove, walk the Pismo Pier and rent a multiperson surrey that you can pedal down the boardwalk. Eat at Splash Cafe and sample the goods at Old West Cinnamon Rolls.

Spend the night with your Hilton Honors points at the Hilton Garden Inn San Luis Obispo/Pismo Beach (from $115 or 23,000 points per night), or try the lovely and affordable SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel (from $206).

From there, get on the Pacific Coast Highway and head north along the coast to Morro Bay, where you can see the striking Morro Rock, the last of the Seven Sisters — a chain of ancient volcanoes that lie between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Try to catch it at sunset.

Related: Planning your California road trip using Hyatt points

Then, drive up to Cambria for a bit of farm love. Cuddle some goats, see cows getting milked and, of course, eat some cheese at Stepladder Ranch and Creamery. Ride on a Clydesdale horse at Covell's Ranch, explore the beautiful Moonstone Beach and grab a bite to eat at Robin's.

Keep heading north to San Simeon, where you can't miss the adorable seals at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, just off the highway.

Then head inland a bit to visit the famous Hearst Castle and its 127 acres of gardens, pools and paths. If you're lucky, you may even spot some zebras (yes, really!) on the tram ride up to the castle.

Use 10,000 Choice Privileges points (or $83) to stay at the budget-friendly Quality Inn Near Hearst Castle or, for a more luxurious option, try the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort (from $369 per night).

Related: 43 real-world family travel tips that actually work

Drive coastal Maine 

road trips with family

The eastern coast of Maine is full of rocky cliffs, swirling waves and quaint lobster shacks, making it ideal for a drive up the winding roads that overlook the Atlantic.

Start in Portland, a fun and walkable city with a great food scene. If you need to, fly in and out of Portland International Jetport (PWM) or Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), which is two hours south of Portland. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) in Manchester, New Hampshire, is a good Southwest Airlines destination as well.

Explore the city's Old Port district, where you can stop and buy the kids some fudge while you peruse pottery and jewelry. Then head to the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine and climb up the Portland Observatory for sweeping harbor views.

Portland also has a great food scene. Some family-friendly spots include Two Fat Cats Bakery, Duckfat, Silly's and Salvage BBQ.

Use your Marriott Bonvoy points to spend the night at the Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Waterfront (from $146 or 40,000 points per night), which has an indoor pool. Or you can choose the funky Press Hotel (from $165 or 50,000 points per night), which is part of the Autograph Collection .

Continue north through Freeport and stop at the L.L. Bean Outlet before heading on to Rockland. Visit the Farnsworth Art Museum and check out the Maine Lighthouse Museum and the Coastal Children's Museum.

Stop for hot dogs at Wasses or buy picnic supplies at local co-op the Good Tern and take them to Birch Point State Park. Rockland also hosts the Maine Lobster Festival every summer (Aug. 2-6 in 2023).

From Rockland, drive north to Bar Harbor and the adjacent Acadia National Park for a few days of incredible hiking and biking, sailing and kayaking, swimming in Echo Lake and the best popovers in the state at the famous Jordan Pond House. For your local lobster fix, try Beal's Lobster Pier.

Use your Hilton Honors points at the seasonal Hampton Inn Bar Harbor (open from May to October; from $175 or 33,000 points per night), which has panoramic ocean and mountain views as well as two pools.

Find natural fun in Florida

road trips with family

Florida is so much more than theme parks, even if you're looking for family-friendly activities. And if you want to revel in nature, Florida has it covered. This 118-mile route dives into some of the state's best natural attractions, from Tampa to Fort Myers.

You can't go to Florida without enjoying its beaches, and you'll find some of the state's finest sugar-sand beaches along the Gulf coast.

From Tampa, take Highway 60 west to Clearwater Beach and then head south to Pass-a-Grille. The island road curves along a 20-mile-long strand of alluring beaches and restaurants where you can order grouper fresh from the Gulf.

As you head east back toward the mainland, follow signs for Fort De Soto Park, where there are 1,136 acres of beaches, mangroves, bike trails and remnants of a Spanish-American War fort. Then drive an hour south to Sarasota to spend the night.

Use your Marriott Bonvoy points at the Westin Sarasota downtown (from $254 or 31,000 points per night) or splurge on The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota (from $871 or 65,500 points per night) if you want to be on the beach.

Related: 13 of the best beaches in Florida

Sarasota is filled with natural attractions. Kids can frolic through a rainforest at the Children's Rainforest Garden, part of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens on Sarasota's bayfront, which parents will also enjoy.

Across Sarasota Bay, discover Gulf of Mexico critters at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and set sail on one of Mote's marine biologist-led eco-boat tours of Sarasota Bay.

When hunger strikes, check out O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill adjacent to Bayfront Park, which has a playground and walking trails, or Old Salty Dog right on Sarasota Bay, where kids get their meals served on a frisbee.

The next day, head inland on Highway 72 to Myakka River State Park, where alligators are the star attraction, often sunning themselves along the river's banks. Walk along the boardwalks and canopy trails that drape over the wetlands and among the treetops. You can also rent kayaks to explore the waterways, or join a boat tour.

Continue south on Highway 41 to Fort Myers, where you can check out the gentle underwater giants at Manatee Park, explore more wetlands at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, and be among colorful winged creatures at the Butterfly Estates.

For a quick and tasty seafood lunch, hit up Shrimp Shack, and for dinner, try the award-winning pies at Fine Folk Pizza.

Use your Hilton Honors points at Hilton Garden Inn Fort Myers (from $174 or 50,000 points per night) or Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Myers-Colonial Blvd. (from $160 or 38,000 points per night).

Fun in the Finger Lakes

road trips with family

Western New York's Finger Lakes region consists of 11 lakes between Syracuse, Rochester and Elmira-Corning, and while some lakes are larger than others, they're all surrounded by charming towns and wineries.

Start in the more eastern town of Skaneateles (pronounced SKINNY-atlas), stopping at Skaneateles Bakery for some of its freshly made doughnuts and blueberry muffins to munch on as you stroll down the pier and walk along the lake.

Go for a boat ride on the lake with Mid-Lakes Navigation — you can even help the Barbara S. Wiles mail boat deliver mail to lakeside homes.

In the evening, catch a movie at New York State's oldest drive-in, Finger Lakes Drive-In, and then spend the night at the cute bed-and-breakfast The Bond 1835 or Skaneateles Suites; points hotels are hard to come by here.

Drive 22 miles west to Seneca Falls to see Women's Rights National Historical Park, where the first women's rights convention was held in 1848.

Keep on Route 20 to Seneca Lake, which is great for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and enjoy a sail with Sail Seneca.

The town of Geneva, at the top of the lake, is home to lovely restaurants and shops like F.L.X. Fry Bird and Kindred Fare. Explore the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, and sip some wines at vineyards like Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Red Tail Ridge Winery, Barnstormer Winery and Fox Run Vineyards. At the bottom of the lake is Watkins Glen State Park, known for its incredible waterfalls, canyons and hiking.

Continue west to Canandaigua Lake, which is home to the chic Lake House Canandaigua (from $239 per night), which boasts a lakefront pool and hot tub, the Rose Tavern with farm-to-table dishes, and kayaks and a yacht for tooling around the lake, among other luxurious amenities.

But if you're looking to earn or redeem Hilton Honors points, the Hotel Canandaigua, Tapestry Collection by Hilton will do you right (from $390 or 60,000 points per night), with its lakefront location, pool and direct access to the Canandaigua Lady at Steamboat Landing. Drive to the bottom of the lake to Naples to sample its famous grape pie.

End your trip in Rochester, just 28 miles northwest from Canandaigua. Once there, check out the George Eastman Museum, a photography museum devoted to the founder of Kodak; the Strong National Museum of Play, an interactive museum dedicated to toys and games; the Susan B. Anthony House, the home of the suffragette that's now a museum; and Highland Park, a beautiful landscaped park that hosts annual flower festivals.

To try some regional foods, visit the Rochester City Public Market, a massive farmers market with vendors from across the region, and for the city's famous "garbage plate," head to the original: Nick Tahou Hots, who invented the one-plate meals with potatoes, meat and several other sides.

Use Hyatt points at the recently renovated Hyatt Regency Rochester (from $139 or 6,500 points per night) or book a night at the Courtyard by Marriott Rochester Downtown (from $193 or 17,000 points per night) for a centralized location.

The South Carolina coast

road trips with family

Start in Hilton Head Island and catch some rays at the popular Coligny Beach Park, or if you like a quiet scene, try Alder Lane or Burkes Beach.

Learn about South Carolina's Lowcountry and Gullah history and culture at the Coastal Discovery Museum and enjoy the area's natural beauty at the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and Sea Pines Forest Preserve.

Later, chow down on authentic Gullah cuisine at Ruby Lee's, or enjoy seafood at Skull Creek Boathouse. Book a night at an amenity-filled beach resort like Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort (from $280 per night), or if you have Marriott Bonvoy points to burn, check out the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa (from $339 or 40,000 points per night).

Head north on Route 17 along the coast up to charming Charleston. Once there, you can explore Museum Mile, a walkable route that includes museums like the Charleston Museum and the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, along with some historic homes and buildings and green parks.

The Battery and White Point Gardens, at the southern end of the Charleston peninsula, features displays of Civil War artillery, views of Fort Sumter and picturesque live oak trees. Kids will love the South Carolina Aquarium, which houses a wonderful touch tank.

For more beach time, check out the 6-mile-long Folly Beach, and try Lowcountry favorite frogmore stew at Bowens Island Restaurant.

Related: 7 reasons why your next vacation should be on Hilton Head Island

The food scene in Charleston is legendary, and as long as you seek out authentic Southern food, you'll be happy; a few favorites include Rodney Scott's BBQ, The Ordinary and Bertha's Kitchen.

All the big hotel brands are here, so depending on your loyalty, you can book a night at a place like the Charleston Marriott (from $238 or 32,000 points per night) or Hyatt Place Charleston/Historic District.

But if you're looking for character, some of Charleston's best hotels are independent boutiques like The Loutrel, Planters Inn and The Dewberry. For the best of both worlds, try Mills House Charleston, Curio Collection by Hilton (from $312 or 65,000 points per night).

Just before you cross into North Carolina, you'll arrive in Myrtle Beach, one of South Carolina's most popular beaches. While it has some tackier attractions like water and amusement parks, chain restaurants and shopping malls, it's also home to 60 miles of gorgeous beach, known as the Grand Strand.

Check out the Golden Mile for a hotel-free zone, or hit the sand near 82nd Avenue for the gay beach. Beyond the beach, walk down the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk, stopping to hear live music and sip drinks along the way, or stroll down the lively Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. And save room for some authentic barbecue at True BBQ, owned by locals Joseph and Sheila Evans.

Redeem your Hilton Honors points at the all-suite Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Enclave Myrtle Beach (from $169 or 84,000 points per night), just two blocks from the boardwalk with two pools, a kids activity center and an oceanfront restaurant.

Pacific Northwest parks trip

road trips with family

Start in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park, which is home to the deepest lake in the country. Known for being extremely pristine, its purity is created by rain and snow filling in the deep caldera that was formed during a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Drive the park's 33-mile loop road around the crater, stopping off for spectacular views and hikes along the way. Camp at Farewell Bend Campground or use 20,000 Choice Privileges points at Sleep Inn & Suites in nearby Chiloquin.

The next day, drive 100 miles north to the adorable town of Bend, Oregon. Explore the Bend Ale Trail, home to 30 breweries, and if it's fall, visit Smith Rock Ranch for a corn maze and pumpkin patches. Explore the Old Mill District's shops and restaurants along the Deschutes River and visit the High Desert Museum to learn about the wildlife, history and art of the region.

Sleep over at Hampton Inn & Suites Bend (from $145 or 28,000 Hilton Honors points per night) or Residence Inn by Marriott Bend (from $156 or 32,000 points per night) if you have Bonvoy points to use.

Finally, head to the McKenzie River Valley and its centerpiece, the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. Don't miss the Sahalie and Koosah falls.

Exploring Missouri via Route 66

road trips with family

This classic strip of highway has been mostly replaced by interstates, but this route will have you going over parts of it.

Start in St. Louis, the Gateway to the West. You'll want to check out Gateway Arch National Park, which includes the famous arch as well as the courthouse where the Black enslaved man Dred Scott sued for his right to freedom in the late 1840s.

Also worth visiting are the Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Art Museum and the super-interactive City Museum, made of repurposed industrial objects inside an old shoe factory.

If you have little ones, the Magic House children's museum is a great addition. For eats, consider the City Foundry Food Hall, Balkan Treat Box, Louie and the James Beard Award-winning Gioia's Deli. For authentic St. Louis barbecue, head to Pappy's Smokehouse.

Use your Hilton Honors points at Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Louis Downtown (from $148 or 40,000 points per night) or World of Hyatt points at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch (from $119 or 8,000 points per night), which overlooks the iconic arch. Marriott Bonvoy points can be spent at the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel (from $213 or 30,000 points per night), a historic property inside a 1924 building that once hosted Cary Grant.

Related: Home is where the arch is: The best things to eat, see and do in St. Louis

Go west on Interstate 44, which replaced Route 66 in Missouri. You can stop at Route 66 State Park and some campy roadside attractions like Meramec Caverns and the Jesse James Wax Museum.

You'll also drive through the small town of Cuba, aka Route 66 Mural City, where you can see 14 murals painted on buildings along the route.

If you're craving barbecue, stop at Missouri Hick Bar-B-Que while you're there. Once back on the road, drive a portion of the original Route 66 through the beautiful Mark Twain National Forest and the Devil's Elbow bend of the Big Piney River. For an authentically vintage experience, stay in a Route 66-themed room at the vintage Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon.

The next day, drive to one of Missouri's largest caves, Fantastic Caverns, just outside Springfield. Then head to Springfield, where kids and grown-ups alike will have a blast at the Discovery Center, Wonders of Wildlife and the Dickerson Park Zoo. Grab burgers at Black Sheep, and for a sweet treat, head over to Askinosie Chocolate.

Sleep over at the Best Western Coach House (from $72 or 16,000 Best Western Rewards points per night) or Hilton Garden Inn Springfield, MO (from $116 or 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night).

Bottom line

Road trips do not have to mean burning rubber all day to cover as much ground as possible. In fact, some of the best trips look nothing like that at all. They focus on amazing sights and experiences along the route.

Julie Around The Globe

14 Best Family-Friendly Road Trips on the East Coast

Posted on August 20, 2022 | Julie J. |

East Coast Family Road Trips

Last Updated on April 9, 2023

Planning a family road trip on the East Coast and wondering where to go? Hit the open roads, get ready for some adventure, and discover some of America’s most stunning landscapes, prettiest cities, and most important historic sights.

Whether you’re looking for a short road trip near you for your next weekend getaway or a long one for your next vacation, you’ll find the best East Coast family road trips listed below. From wild beaches and quaint villages to mountain roads and national parks , find inspiration for your next family road trip.

These road trips feature plenty of kid-friendly activities and many stop opportunities to avoid driving for too long . They can easily be adapted to the time you have, the things you want to do and see, and your kids’ age.

Keep on reading to discover the best road trips on the East Coast for families!

Related – Road Trip Must-Haves and Packing List

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on any links and make a purchase, we’ll get a small commission, at no cost to you.

Before You Go – Family Road Trip Tips

  • Make sure to pack road trip entertainment and snacks for the kids;
  • Plan where you’re going to spend the night beforehand and book everything, especially during high season. You can check the best deals on hotels here and the best deals on vacation rentals here ;
  • Before heading out to more remote areas, make sure you have enough gas , and check where you can fill up your tank;
  • If you’re flying in, check the best deals on flights on Skyscanner and the ones for car rental here;
  • Getting travel insurance can be a good idea. World Nomads has a plan for road trips, covering sudden trip cancellations, unexpected medical emergencies, rental car insurance for vehicle damage, emergency assistance, road trip interruptions and delay, and protection for stolen belongings – More info on their website.

Vermont Fall Foliage Road Trip

Stowe Pinnacle, Vermont

Start: Wilmington End: Newport How many days: 3 to 7 days Length: 216 miles Best time: Fall

Route 100 in Vermont is one of the most picturesque roads on the East Coast , especially during the fall, when the trees’ colors turn into intense shades of red and oranges. Meander through the Green Mountains enjoying the scenery, and visit charming New England villages.

You can complete the road trip in 3 days but can easily stretch it to a whole week. You can start in Wilmington, in the south, and make your way north to Newport.

Take the time to visit Wilmington then make your way to Ludlow (maybe the next day depending on when you get in town). On the way stop at Mount Snow and ride the gondola to the top of the mountain to see the fall foliage from high up.

Next head to the charming town of Jamaica, for an easy hike through the forest , don’t miss Jamaica State Park . The West River Rail trail is ideal during fall and easy enough for children to hike it.

Next stop is the picturesque town of Weston . There, stroll around town, window shop, and stop by the Vermont Country Store where you’ll find a bit of everything.

Once you’re in Ludlow, enjoy the small-town vibes and head to Buttermilk Falls , gorgeous during the fall. If you want to meander through the countryside, you’ll find a couple of trails around town.

The next stretch of road, from Ludlow to Stowe, is filled with charming villages, acres of farmland, and plenty of scenic lookouts. Some of the most popular stops for families include Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch , Moss Glen Falls in Granville , Ben & Jerry’s Factory Store , and  Little River State Park .

Once you reach Stowe, make sure to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain , Vermont’s highest peak.

If you have time, you can make a detour to Smuggler’s Notch on route 108, a narrow pass between Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak with plenty of easy hikes you can do from the road. The trail to Bingham Falls is only a 1.6-mile round trip. Note that the pass is not suitable for RVs.

Related – Best Road Trips in the US for your Bucket List

Great Lakes Seaway Trail

Lake Superior

Start: Erie, PA End: Massena, NY How many days: 3 to 7 days Length: 518 miles Best time: Spring through Fall

Outdoorsy families will love driving along Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River , stopping at state parks, and enjoying the wilderness. With stunning scenery and plenty of fun things to do , the Great Lakes Seaway Trail is one of the best East Coast family road trips.

You can drive it within a day but you can also take your time, visiting the towns along the way, enjoying water activities (if you’re there during summer), visiting historic sites, and hiking at some of the state parks. It’s an ideal road trip to take with kids as you’ll find plenty of easy trails and fun things to do.

There are plenty of stops you can take, depending on what you want to do, make sure to visit a state park or two, some beaches, historic lighthouses, maybe a museum or two, and a couple of small towns and cities. You can check out Wikipedia’s page for a full list of attractions along the way.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking Glass Rock, Blue Ridge Mountains, Brevard, NC, USA

Start: Front Royal, VA End: Cherokee, NC How many days: 3 to 7 days Length: 469 miles Best time: mid-May to mid-September

From Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches through stunning landscapes and offers plenty of kid-friendly things to do.

You could drive the parkway in 2 days but it’s recommended to stay at least 5 days , to really explore the area and see the top sights. You can also plan a longer road trip, you won’t get bored.

Along the way, you’ll find plenty of easy hikes that will be perfect for kids and that will take you to stunning overlooks. Some of the most kid-friendly trails include:

  • Fallingwater Cascades Trail – 1.4 miles back and forth
  • Gully Creek Trail – 2-mile loop (recommended for older kids as some parts are pretty rough)
  • Price Lake Trail – 2.2 miles
  • Rough Ridge Trail – 0.2 miles, leading to a viewpoint
  • Hike to the top of Mount Mitchell – great if you are looking for a longer hike.

The towns of Waynesboro, Roanoke, Blowing Rock, Asheville, and Gatlinburg make great places to stay for the night – and also, offer plenty of activities the kids will enjoy.

For more cultural activities, visit the 1890s farm building in Humpback Rocks , stop by Mabry Mill , tour the Moses Cone Manor House , and visit the Museum of North Carolina Minerals.

Florida Keys

Seven Mile Bridge, Key West, United States

Start: Miami End: Key West How many days: 2 to 3 days Length: 165 miles Best time: Winter and Spring

A great family road trip to escape the cold weather in winter, the Florida Keys offers pristine beaches, fun water activities, and opportunities for kids to learn new things.

The easiest is to start in Miami, you can drive to Key West in a day, but it’s better to plan 2-3 days so you can stop along the way. You can then spend a couple of days in Key West before driving back.

You should plan to spend a day exploring Everglades National Park . Airboat tours are popular, but for something more eco-friendly take a kayak tour to learn more about the different plant and animal species. There are also short hikes you can take with kids – Bobcat Boardwalk Trail , Eco Pond Trail , Anhinga Trail , Pa-hay-okee Trail are recommended.

Next, spend some time snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – watching the beautiful coral reefs, colorful fish, and their famous underwater statue. There’s also a mangrove area where you can kayak.

You can plan to spend a night in Key Largo , where you can enjoy cruising the canals onboard the famous African Queen , and watching the sunset from Plantation Key’s Mile Marker 88 Beach.

Kids will love seeing the giant Lobster statue on marker 86. Another highlight of the drive is the impressive 7-mile bridge.

Once you reach Key West, relax at the beach for a couple of days and enjoy some water activities.

If you have more time you can drive down the entire East Coast of Florida, starting in St Augustine or Jacksonville , planning a few stops at Hollywood, Cocoa Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, before heading to the keys.

Finger Lakes Road Trip, New York

Taughannock Falls State Park, Finger Lakes

Start : Canandaigua, NY End: Ithaca, NY How many days: 3 to 7 Length: 100 to 300 miles Best time: May through September

With 9,000 square miles of stunning lake views, endless farmlands, gorges and waterfalls, world-class vineyards, flower fields, breweries, historical museums, and much more, the Finger Lakes region will make an awesome family road trip destination in New York.

With the perfect blend of culture, history, and nature, everyone in the family will have fun . There’s not one itinerary you have to follow, you can adapt it according to how long you have and what you want to see.

The main lakes are Canandaigua, Kekua, Seneca, Cayuga, and Skaneateles Lakes, and are called Finger Lakes, because of their shape.

Along the way, you’ll find a couple of state parks and easy hiking trails , waterfalls, small towns, historic sights, farm-to-table restaurants, museums, and crafts markets.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Outer Banks

Starts: Nags Head, NC Ends: Beaufort, NC How many days: 5 Length: 138 miles Best time: Mid-April to Mid-December

The perfect East Coast road trip for families, the Outer Banks Scenic Byway will take you through North Carolina’s beautiful beaches, thriving wildlife preserves, historic towns, and iconic lighthouses . Kids will love spending time at the beach, exploring historic buildings, and seeing wild horses roam free.

Start in Kitty Hawk and visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial where the first flight took place. In town, you can have a meal at the kid-friendly Rundown Cafe , serving Caribbean and Pacific Rim-inspired food.

Then keep heading south until you reach Beaufort . You can drive the byway within a day, but it’s better to plan at least 5 days for the trip as you’ll want to spend time visiting some of the places along the way.

Some of the top sites to tour with children include Jennette’s Pier  in Nags Head, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse , the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station from the 19th century, the shipwreck Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum , and Ocracoke Lighthouse .

You’ll find plenty of pretty beaches, nice restaurants, and small towns to stop by along the way as well.

Outdoorsy families who want to spot wildlife, enjoy unspoiled beaches, and go for easy hikes, need to include Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge or Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in their road trip.

You can visit the Outer Banks year-round, but most restaurants, hotels, and shops will be closed during winter.

Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip

Acadia National Park

Starts: Boston, MA End: Bar Harbor, ME How many days: 3 to 7 Length: 280 miles Best time: Summer and Fall

If you’re feeling like going on an adventure with stunning views of the coast, beautiful state parks, and historic towns, the quick yet scenic East Coast road trip from Boston to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor is one the whole family will enjoy.

Crossing Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, the whole trip can be done in a day, and then, you can spend a couple of days in Acadia National Park or you can plan a couple of overnight stops along the way. This road trip can also be started in NYC or Portland.

If you have time, you can take a detour to drive the Kancamagus Highway part of the White Mountains Scenic Byway.

You should definitely plan to visit a couple of historic cities like Portsmouth , Portland, Rockport, and Camden , strolling around their historic district and maybe touring a couple of historic buildings and museums.

If your family likes hiking, then stop for a short hike in one of the many state parks you’ll pass by . Stroll around the 19th-century gardens and plantings at Maudslay State Park , go for a swim at Bear Brook State Parks, look for birds at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge , and make a small detour to explore Fort Knox State Park .

Once you reach Bar Harbor, you can spend a couple of days exploring Acadia National Park, where you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly hiking and biking trails as well as beautiful beaches . Take a few hours to drive the Acadia All American Road.

Skyline Drive Road Trip, Virginia

skyline drive

Start: Front Royal, VA End: Rockfish Gap, VA How many days: 1 Length: 105 miles Best time: Spring and Fall

Located within Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is one of the most scenic road trips you can go on on the East Coast. Featuring stunning scenery over the Shenandoah Valley, picturesque viewpoints, and easy trails accessible from the road , this drive is ideal to take with kids. And, if you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife.

Running along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the drive will take you through 75 overlooks and will connect you to all the major visitor centers, campgrounds, lodges, picnic areas, and most trailheads.

You can do this road trip in a day, but you can also plan a couple of overnight stops at the campgrounds or lodges found along the way within Shenandoah National Park. Just make sure to book ahead.

Some of the top kid-friendly hikes you’ll find along the way include:

  • Fox Hollow Interpretive Trail – 1.2-mile loop
  • Traces Trail Hike – 1.7-mile loop
  • Mary’s Rock Trail – 3.7-mile round trip – Moderate, recommended for older kids.
  • Stony Man Trail – 1.6-mile round trip 
  • Dark Hollow Falls – 1.4-mile circuit – Moderate, steep and rocky trails, often slippery

Charleston to Savannah Road Trip

Riverboat in Savannah, Georgia

Start: Charleston, SC End: Savannah, GA How many days: 3 to 8 Length: 108 miles Best time: Year-round

Charleston and Savannah both have a lot to offer, and taking a road trip to explore the iconic cities as well as their surrounding is a great thing to do with kids. They’ll enjoy touring historic plantations, visiting children’s museums and their hands-on exhibits, and gorging on Southern food.

Explore the low-country in Georgia and South Carolina, first starting in Charleston, then heading to Beaufort, stopping by Hilton Head Island, then Bluffton, making your way to Savannah (or the other way around). You could do the drive in one day but it’s recommended to plan a couple of overnight stops.

Spend time exploring the historic districts , visit museums and historic buildings , enjoy the beach, stroll around a state park or two ( Edisto and Hunting Island State Parks are recommended), and don’t miss touring a plantation.

If you have time, you can drive the Savannah River Scenic Byway where you’ll find scenic views, get a glimpse of life in the rural South, and experience southern hospitality. The byway starts a bit before Clarks Hill and ends in Oakway, it takes around 3 hours.

You can also start this road trip in Raleigh, North Carolina, and drive to Myrtle Beach, then onto Charleston.

Appalachian Trail Road Trip

Appalachian Trail

Start: Carrabassett Valley, MA End: Tallulah Gorge State Park, GA How many days: 14 Length: 2,100 miles Best time: Spring through Fall

One of the most popular hiking trails in the United States, the  Appalachian Trail winds from Maine’s North Woods all the way down to Georgia. The driving route follows closely along the trail passing by stunning landscapes, charming towns, and historic sites .

The best part about this road trip is that it combines some of the best road trips on the East Coast , so you get to drive some of the most scenic drives in the country in one big road trip.

The Appalachian Trail crosses through 14 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia), 8 national forests, and 6 national parks.

Popular spots along the route include:

  • Baxter State Park in Maine.
  • The White Mountain National Forest, Mount Washington Auto Road, and the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.
  • Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks in New York.
  • Shenandoah National Park, Water Gap National Recreation Area, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and Mount Rogers in Virginia.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains, and Blood and Springer mountains in Georgia.
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in DC and Maryland.

Northern Florida Road Trip

Alexander Springs Ocala National Forest Florida

Start : Falling Waters State Park End: Fort Clinch State Park How many days: 5 to 7 Length: 424 miles Best time: Spring or Fall

Northern Florida has a lot to offer and hides many gems few tourists know about. Plan a road trip there to explore its highlights, enjoying the sun, the beaches, and all the natural wonders it features. It’s ideal for families looking to spend some time outdoors while still having time to relax.

The drive from Falling Waters State Park to Fort Clinch State Park takes around 8 hours but you’ll want to spend time at the stops, so count at least 5 days but a full week would be better as there is a lot to do and see.

Here are the highlights of the trip:

  • Visit Florida’s highest waterfalls at Falling Waters State Park – there you’ll find many easy hikes through the wood, accessible to kids of all ages.
  • Take a 45-minute tour through the caves in Florida Caverns State Park – check the tour schedule beforehand. There you can also kayak on the Chipola River and hike to the Blue Hole Spring.
  • Ride a boat at one of the biggest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park , where you might spot birds, manatees, and alligators. The park also features a couple of nature trails and areas where you can swim and snorkel.
  • Tube down the river at Ichetucknee Springs State Park
  • Swim in a sinkhole at the Devil’s Den Spring .
  • Stroll around America’s oldest city, St. Augustine
  • Enjoy the peaceful scenery at Big Talbot Island and Little Talbot Island
  • Spend some time at the beach on Amelia Island

Washington Heritage Trail, Virginia

Harpers Ferry, Virginia

Start: Paw Paw End: Berkeley Springs How many days: 1 to 3 Length: 136 miles Best time: Year-round

Forming a loop through the Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties, the Washington Heritage Trail traces the footsteps of George Washington and the marks his family left in the Eastern Panhandle . It’s an ideal road trip to take with kids to teach them about American history in a fun way.

There are over 40 official sites to visit along the trai l, from 18th-century towns and historic sites to scenic overlooks and picturesque scenery. You can pick the ones you like best or visit them all!

Most of the sites are located within 5 towns: Berkeley Springs, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, and Charles Towns . At each, you’ll find historic buildings and museums you can visit. You can see the full list here>>

Hudson Valley Road Trip, New York

Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River

Start and End: New York City How many days: 2 to 3 Length: 180 miles Best time: Fall

Less than an hour’s drive away from New York City, the Hudson Valley is ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax for a few days – it’s a perfect road trip from New York City for families looking to explore some stunning landscape and enjoy outdoor and cultural activities.

You can either start from NYC and back or take a train to one of the towns along the Hudson River and rent a car from there (a good idea to avoid traffic).

If you start from NYC, drive the Palisades Interstate Parkway and then Perkins Memorial Drive to reach the top of Bear Mountain . Don’t miss some of the lookouts on the way. Once in Bear Mountain State Park you can spend some time hiking (the Hessian Lake Loop is easy and nice to do with kids) or keep going.

Stop by West Point Academy , you can take a guided tour there and visit the museum. Then stroll around Storm King Art Center , home to one of the largest collections of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the United States – kids will love walking around the park, seeing all these sculptures.

Make your way to Hyde Park , where you can visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home and The Vanderbilt Mansion . Then drive to the village of Rhinebeck , home to over 300 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids will love touring the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum as well.

Next stops include Poughkeepsie (don’t miss the bridge), the Locust Grove Estate, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarrytown.

Cape May to Virginia Beach Road Trip

Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia

Start: Cape May, NJ End: Virginia Beach, VA How many days: 3 to 7 Length: 200 miles Best time: Summer

An ideal road trip to take from Washington DC or Baltimore for families who want to spend some time at the beach, explore the wilderness, and see the famous wild horses.

The top spots on this East Coast road trip include:

  • Lewes and Rehoboth Beach
  • Bethany Beach
  • Chincoteague and Assateague Island National Seashore
  • Virginia Beach

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East Coast Family Road Trips

Related posts:

Best family vacations on the East Coast

road trips with family

Your Ultimate Guide for Family Road Trips

We’ve been road-tripping across Canada and the USA for four years. We’ve made many mistakes and learned so much. I’m here today to help you avoid making those same mistakes, but most importantly, to help you spend a lot of time planning your road trip itineraries.

I’ve researched, made the mistakes, and am now here to help you plan the perfect family road trip.

📍 Discover Canada, the USA and beyond with us!

Unforgettable  family road trips   everyone will enjoy.

At Love Life Abroad, we’re passionate about  turning family road trips into unforgettable adventures .

I’m Emilie, the adventure mom behind this website. I’m a family road trip expert, and I help moms plan epic road trips with their kids, whether solo with the kids or as a family.

unforgetable family road trips. One of the best road trip ever in the Valley of Fire near Las Vegas

Detailed Itineraries

Each itinerary is packed with family-friendly activities, must-visit spots, and hidden gems, ensuring your trip is enjoyable and hassle-free. And the best part? We’ve tested them all with our kids. Read More .

lovelifeabroad - printables and destination guides

Printables & Destination Guides

Step into a world of seamless travel planning with our comprehensive Printables & Guides. Perfect for keeping the whole family entertained and informed, our guides ensure a smooth, enjoyable journey. Read More .

Personalized Itineraries for road trips

Personalized Itineraries

Looking for something tailor-made? Our personalized itinerary service is here to cater to your family’s unique interests and needs . Share your preferences with us, and we’ll create a custom road trip plan that ticks all your boxes. Read More.

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What is this website about?

Our blog contains tips, tricks, and detailed itineraries to help you plan the BEST road trips ever! We love road-tripping with our kids and are here to give you all of our tips and inspiration for epic road trips . Not only will you find great tips to plan screen-free road trips , but we’ve prepared (and tested) unique and detailed itineraries for families .

We do the work, you enjoy the trip!

My goal is to provide concrete tips for planning epic road trips with your family . We list our proven (and tested) tips, we give some product reviews and you’ll also find some printable checklists .

And if you are planning a Canada cross-country road trip, you’ll want to check out the guide I created to help families plan their LONG road trip across Canada .

Our Most Recent Itineraries

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10-Day Banff to Glacier National Park Itinerary Road Trip

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Invermere (and Area) Winter Activities Weekend Itinerary

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The ULTIMATE Northern Ontario Road Trip for Outdoor Lovers

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Winter in Lacombe: Things to Do & Itinerary for Families

About love life abroad, meet emilie, the voice behind love life abroad.

Emilie is the founder of Love Life Abroad. She’s  a born wanderer . From an early age, she wanted to be on the move. Whether searching for a condo in California (at age 16) or flying to Ireland to see musician Damien Rice, she’s always looked for any excuse to pack a bag and explore.

Now, she has two boys, who are planning epic road trips and adventures as much as possible. Emilie helps families with young children to plan unique road trips and outdoor adventures because who said adventuring had to stop once we have kids?

Meet Emilie the founder of Love Life Abroad

Why Love Life Abroad

As you can see, our name, Love Life Abroad, doesn’t 100% reflect what we share. But there is a reason for that. I started this website as a way to document our family trip around the world. Sadly, our trip never happened. We traded our suitcases for a long road trip across Canada and Western USA. After those EPIC adventures, we pivoted and dived into family road trips and outdoor adventures!

Getting Ready for a Road Trip with Kids

snacks on the trail are so important

Best Road Trip Snacks

Here’s a list of great ideas for road trip snacks for kids . Some of these great snacks are healthy, and some of them aren’t so much. But you can make your own decisions about the best ones for your family. Read More .

Smart Games. One of our new favorite games to bring on road trips

Best Road Trip Games

Here’s a list of  our favorite games to play in the car on a road trip  to pass the time. They are all fun games for kids (but also for the entire family, from toddlers to older kids and adults). Read More .

what to pack for a road trip

Road Trip Packing List

Here are our  family road trip packing list s that you can download to keep things organized. Plus, you can find a few tips on packing  for a road trip  to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for everyone. Read More.

TRAVEL & ROAD TRIP RESOURCES

After traveling to more than 25 countries (with and without the kids) and living in three countries , we’ve become experts in travel resources. We’ve tested many travel products and online websites to help you plan your perfect family trip.

Check out our travel and road trip resource center .

How to Book a Car or Campervan

DiscoverCars   is a reliable car rental comparison platform, making it easy for families to find and book the perfect vehicle for their travels. By partnering with both major and local car rental providers, the platform offers a wide selection of vehicles at competitive prices.

▶️ You can read our DiscoverCars review here!

Outdoorsy  is a popular peer-to-peer RV rental platform, connecting families with a variety of recreational vehicles, campervans, and travel trailers for their outdoor adventures. Offering a user-friendly experience and secure booking process,  Outdoorsy makes it simple  to find the perfect home-on-wheels for your family’s needs.

RVezy is one of the largest and safest RV rental marketplace in North America, especially in Canada. With an extensive range of RVs, motorhomes, and travel trailers available, the platform ensures that users are covered with a $2M insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, and personal bilingual support. RVezy offers a seamless and secure booking experience.

▶️ You can read our comparison review on Outdoorsy and RVezy here!

Escape Campervans  offers custom-built, fully-equipped campervans, adorned with hand-painted exterior artwork by top artists from Los Angeles. It allows travelers to explore the vast terrains of the US and Canada without compromising on the comforts of home. These campervans come with features like a queen-sized bed, a 2-burner propane stove, dual-powered refrigerator, and more.

▶️ You can read our Escape Campervans review here!

How to Book Unique Tours

Viator is a platform where you can book tours, attractions, and experiences at your travel destination. Viator makes it easy for families to find activities that everyone will enjoy, regardless of age or preferences, with an extensive selection of options, from city sightseeing tours to outdoor adventures and cultural experiences.

Get Your Guide is a great alternative to Viator where you can book unique tours, attractions, and experiences at your travel destination. This platform specializes in connecting travelers with local guides and experts, ensuring an authentic and memorable experience.

Orlando Vacation is a dedicated resource for families planning a trip to Orlando, Florida. It’s a family-run business that offers competitive prices for theme park tickets, vacation packages, and accommodations. They make sure to provide the best prices available in the market and only require a $50 deposit to reserve your lodging reservation.

Our Favourite Travel Apps for Families

GoWhee is a crowdsourced app to help parents find kid-friendly locations across the globe. From playgrounds to hikes and kid-friendly lodging, traveling families add and review all locations. We are, in fact, ambassadors for the GoWhee app, so you can find many of the fun places we’ve been to on the app.

GuideAlong (or originally Gypsy Guides) offers self-guided tours with informative, location-based audio commentary. The app uses GPS technology to automatically trigger engaging narratives about the area’s history, culture, and hidden gems as you explore your destination.

RoadTrippers is a road trip planning tool. It shows unique content and wonderful “off the beaten path” places to visit. You can use the app to map out your road trip and even share it with friends. Use this link to get $5.00 off your Pro membership .

The best US road trips for the entire family

Feb 17, 2020 • 6 min read

road trips with family

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!

A young mom takes a selfie of a man and two children posing on the hood of a car.

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. 

Read more:   Dig into the chilly charms of Lake Placid in the winter

Southern Arizona

An old stage coach driven by horses goes through the town. There are storefronts behind with Wild West style signs.

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, Mississippi

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.  

A road winds through a large red canyon, with one car on it. On the left is a river with some people on the edge.

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.

Huntsville, Alabama 

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.

Olympic Peninsula

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. 

A calm empty lake with mountains all around and reflected in the water.

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.

Bozeman, Montana

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

Aerial shot. The ground is covered in snow, there are tall pine trees everywhere, a calm blue lake on the left and an apartment block on the right with mountains behind it.

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

You might also like: 16 ways to keep your kids (and wallet) happy on family holidays 7 best US national parks to take your kids Unlikely destinations for an unforgettable family holiday  

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11 U.S. Road Trips Kids Should Experience Before They Grow Up

Happy family on a road trip in their car.; Courtesy of Estrada Anton/Shuttertsock

Nov 6, 2020

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

The classic family road trip should be experienced by every kid at least once in their lifetime (more if you can withstand the are-we-there-yet’s!). When the vacation is about the journey, the memories last even longer. Kids will remember the quirky roadside attractions or the funny jokes dad told in the car more than the amusement park ride that lasted three minutes. Road trips allow families to reconnect and truly experience a journey together. These are our picks for the best road trips kids should experience before they grow up.

Famous Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California; Courtesy of Traveller70/Shutterstock

1. Pacific Coast Highway 101 Road Trip

Technically, the Pacific Coast Highway 101 (which becomes Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California) runs from Seattle all the way to San Diego for a total of 1,650 miles. You could do one ultimate family road trip and drive the length of Pacific Coast Highway or you could conquer half in two different vacations.

The Northern portion of a Highway 101 road trip would run between Seattle and San Francisco for about 1,075 miles. Near Legget, California, Highway 101 splits and families can continue on 101 or continue the drive down the coast and take Pacific Coast Highway 1 to San Francisco.

Pacific Coast Highway 101 Road Trip Stops 

  • Seattle, WA:  The iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market are a must when in Seattle. The Seattle Great Wheel gives a great birds eye view of the skyline and the Seattle Aquarium is small enough to do in an hour or so.
  • Cannon Beach, OR:  After a long ride in the car, a walk along Cannon Beach is exactly what everyone needs.
  • Portland, OR:  Portland offers one of the nation’s best science museums, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. You might also rent bikes and stop by a kid-friendly brewery.
  • Columbia River Gorge:  Located about 30 minutes from Portland is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which features gorgeous waterfalls, hiking trails, the Lost Lake and the “Fruit Loop,” an area with lots of pick-your-own berry farms.
  • Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area:  Located along the Oregon Coast, these sand dunes stretch for more than 40 miles. Families can rent ATVs and ride the sandy hills, go horseback riding or take a hike.
  • Gold Beach, OR:  After playing in the sand dunes, it’s time to hit the rapids! Families looking to pick up some speed can hop aboard a jet boat that rushes down the Rogue River (but you can also slow down to enjoy nature along the way).
  • Eureka, CA:  Once you’ve reached California on your Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip, you will be taken back in time to a Victorian-era Old Town where there are mansions to tour and hundreds-of-years-old trees that reach high into the sky.
  • Leggett, CA:  For what could possibly be the most memorable drive on your Pacific Northwest road trip, make a stop in Leggett. There you can drive through a Redwood tree. The Chandelier Tree, which is so large most vehicles can fit through the center of it, is located in the aptly named Drive-Thru Tree Park.
  • Mendocino, CA:  This pretty village offers gorgeous Northern California Coastline. Families can get out of the car and into a canoe, take a hike or bike ride or just stroll the village to admire all of the historic New England-style homes and buildings.
  • Santa Rosa, CA:  For Snoopy and Peanuts  fans, Santa Rosa is a must! It is the adopted hometown of comic creator Charles Schulz and families can visit his museum to see original works, as well as create their own!
  • San Francisco, CA:  Whether San Francisco is the start, stop or middle point of your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, there’s lots to do. Visit Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Alcatraz.

Recommended Hotel:  Omni San Francisco Hotel 

Related:  28 Roadside Attractions Worth a Stop on Your Next Road Trip

Bixby Bridge on Pacific Coast Highway in California; Courtesy of Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com

2. Pacific Coast Highway 1 Road Trip

The Southern portion of Pacific Coast Highway 1 runs from San Francisco to San Diego for about 575 miles (turning into I-5 at Dana Point). With coastal cliff views almost the entire way, it might be the most picturesque road trip your kids will ever experience.

Pacific Coast Highway 1 Road Trip Stops 

  • San Francisco, CA:  Visit the Painted Ladies (the colorful Victorian row homes) and Alamo Square Park, especially if your kids watched Full House  (or Fuller House ). Then take a ride on a cable car before hitting the road in your own car.
  • Santa Cruz, CA:  Only about 90 minutes south of San Fran, Santa Cruz offers families a few unique things to see on a road trip with kids. There’s Natural Bridges State Park and the world’s largest whale skeleton at Seymour Marine Discovery Center. But for a true enigma, visit the Mystery Spot, a small section of the Redwood Forest where balls roll uphill and gravity doesn’t seem to exist!
  • Big Sur, CA:  Travel over the most photographed bridge on the West Coast in Big Sur. The concrete Bixby Bridge is 714 feet long and 280 feet high and offers fantastic views from either side.
  • San Simeon, CA:  The iconic Hearst Castle can be found in San Simeon will wow your kids (and you). William Randolph Hearst himself would love to have your kids marvel at his theater, billiard room or the library, or his magnificent outdoor pool or the indoor Roman pool, modeled after the ancient Roman baths.
  • Santa Barbara, CA:  Hit the beach, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or one of Santa Barbara’s many museums as you continue your road trip down the West Coast.
  • Los Angeles, CA:  Once you reach the City of Angels, take a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame or Rodeo Drive. Turn your eyes to the sky at Griffith Observatory or look for movie stars instead on a Legends of Hollywood Tour.
  • Buena Park, CA:  Less than an hour from LA is Knott’s Berry Farm, an amusement park that’s more manageable than Disneyland nearby. Knott’s features thrills for everyone in the family.
  • Carlsbad, CA:  After roller roasters and log flume rides in Buena Park, head to Carlsbad for some LEGO fun on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip with kids. LEGOLAND California features more than 60 rides and shows, and millions of blocks of LEGOs.
  • San Diego, CA:  End your Pacific Coast Highway 1 road trip in San Diego (or drive another 30 minutes and finish the route at the Mexican border). It’s all about the animals in San Diego where families will find SeaWorld and the legendary San Diego Zoo, with the Elephant Odyssey, Urban Jungle and Panda Canyon.

Recommended Hotel:  Rancho Bernardo Inn

3. The Oregon Trail Road Trip

The Oregon Trail runs from Cape Cod to Portland, Oregon, across the northern part of the U.S. It’s quite a lengthy road trip at about 3,100 miles, but surely it can be done more quickly than the early pioneers, whose journey averaged four months! Your kids will see several wonders of the world–Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park–on this road trip they need to experience before they grow up.

Oregon Trail Road Trip Stops 

  • Cape Cod, MA:  Start your Oregon Trail road trip off with some beach time on Cape Cod. Relax in the sand and surf before gathering your rations and hitching your wagon for the West.
  • Rochester, NY:  Rochester offers both American history, and history of toys! It’s the perfect mix of education and fun. The Toy Hall of Fame is located here, where kids can play and adults can feel some nostalgia. Susan B. Anthony’s House and Museum are also located in Rochester and help remind families how far women have come since the Oregon Trail pioneer days.
  • Cooperstown, NY:  For baseball history, you’ll want to make a stop in Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Or experience life as a true pioneer at the Farmers’ Museum, which features a recreated historic village and is a working farm.
  • Niagara Falls, NY:  Make one more stop in New York and view the three awe-inspiring waterfalls at Niagara Falls State Park, which also happens to be the oldest state park in America.
  • Cleveland, OH:  Rock ‘n Roll and roller coasters await in Cleveland (two things that the Oregon Trail pioneers surely didn’t experience). Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for all things music in Cleveland and then visit the Roller Coaster Capital of the World at Cedar Point.
  • Fort Wayne, IN:  If you want to dig into your own family history and find out if your ancestors journeyed along the Oregon Trail, stop in Fort Wayne and visit the Allen County Public Library. This public library, which also features a children’s center and LEGO club, is the second largest genealogy center in the world. Families can search (for free!) the more than 1.2-million physical records and 2.8-million online records.
  • Chicago, IL:  If you have an American Girl Doll fan in the family, visit the American Girl Place Chicago, the birthplace of American Girl Dolls. Kids can have lunch with their dolls or get their hair styled together. One of the original American Girl Dolls, Kirsten Larson, represented the pioneer era and would love a visit with your family as you cross the Oregon Trail!
  • Des Moines, IA:  Take your Oregon Trail road trip in August and you can make a stop in Des Moines so your kids can experience the iconic, internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair.
  • Mount Rushmore, SD:  The four presidents carved into this national memorial were chosen because they played important roles in American history. What better stop to make on an Oregon Trial road trip with kids?
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY:  Kids will see wildlife, bubbling mud pots, canyons, rivers, forests, hot springs and geysers at Yellowstone. Old Faithful is of course the highlight and the park rangers can tell you when this predictable geothermal wonder will erupt!
  • Bend, OR:  After driving across the country and reaching Oregon on your Oregon Trail road trip, you’ll want to go for a hike and get outside. Bend offers several hiking trails, some with waterfall or citywide views. Or you can go tubing on the Deschutes River, a classic pastime in Bend.
  • Portland, OR:  You’ll surely be out of rations by the time you reach Portland, Oregon, on an Oregon Trail family road trip so make sure to visit The Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic loop of farms where you can pick your own cherries, apples, berries and more.

Recommended Hotel:  Best Western Plus Hood River Inn

Related:  A (Tongue-in-Cheek) Guide to Surviving the Oregon Tail with Kids

Santa Monica Pier; Courtesy of Mark and Anna Photography/Shutterstock.com

4. Historic Route 66 Road Trip

Historic Route 66 was about 2,448 miles long but officially, it no longer exists in its entirety. Today, the trip runs about 2,278 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica and can be done in about two weeks time. On this classic road trip across the American Midwest, Great Plains and Southwest, your kids will surely get their kicks seeing some great Route 66 attractions along the way. You can even begin and end your road trip with a Ferris wheel ride!

Route 66 Road Trip Stops 

  • Chicago, IL:  Museum Row, lakefront beaches and Navy Pier fill Chicago with plenty for the kids to see and do as you kick off your Route 66 road trip from this midwestern metropolis. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier and see if you can map out your entire Route 66 road trip.
  • Springfield, IL:  The Land of Lincoln offers some great Route 66 attractions filled with Abraham Lincoln history. Families can take a guided tour of the home Lincoln shared with his wife and kids, visit the Presidential Library and Museum and see Lincoln’s tomb, where you can rub a statue of Lincoln for good luck on your road trip with kids.
  • Tulsa, OK : Situated just 20 minutes from Tulsa is the Big Blue Whale of Catoosa. A giant whale structure in a pond, it’s become one of the most recognizable Route 66 attractions. When it was built in the 1970s, it actually had waterslides you could ride into the pond. You can’t use the slides today, but it’s still a cool roadside attraction along Route 66.
  • Amarillo, TX:  A small historic portion of Route 66 exists in Amarillo. Families can drive along the mile-stretch of road and stop at one of the antique shops or cafes. Then visit Cadillac Ranch, a true must-see Route 66 attraction. The art installation from the 1970s consists of 10 Cadillacs buried nose down in the middle of an empty field. The colorful cars have been spray painted over and over again, creating an ever-changing piece of art. Don’t forget to bring a can of spray paint to add your own touch. If you’re traveling in an RV on your road trip with the kids, stop at Jack Sisemore Traveland RV museum and see how families have road tripped through the years.
  • Albuquerque, NM:  If you’re taking your Route 66 Road Trip in October, that’s when Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta and the sky is filled with colorful hot air balloons. If you aren’t in town for the festival, make sure to check out Old Town, where Spanish families settled in the 1700s.
  • Flagstaff, AZ:  Flagstaff offers families plenty of space to stretch their legs during a road trip across the USA. There are numerous hiking trails in several state parks. You can even hike through a lava river cave, an underground cave where you will need flashlights and headlamps to guide you over rocks and boulders.
  • Los Angeles, CA:  Check out one of the many museums in LA, including the Automobile Driving Museum, where families can explore the classic and vintage cars
  • Santa Monica, CA:  Mark the end of your Route 66 Road Trip at Santa Monica Pier where you can ride the Ferris Wheel and see how far you’ve come. Your kids will never forget beginning and ending a Route 66 road trip with a Ferris Wheel ride.

Recommended Hotel:  Shore Hotel

The Mount Washington Auto Road, near Gorham, New Hampshire.; Courtesy of Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

5. Mt. Washington Auto Road

This New Hampshire scenic drive is less than 8 miles long and is a must see for kids before they grow up. While the Mount Washington Auto Road  is short in miles, it’s high in elevation. The road climbs more than 4,600 feet from an altitude of 1,527 feet to 6,145 feet and offers narrow mountain roads without guardrails. You can drive yourself up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, America’s first manmade attraction, or take a guided tour if mountain driving makes you nervous. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to drive each way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKacMRQgpJM  Mt. Washington Auto Road Stops 

  • Mountain Turn-Outs:  There are several turn-outs or pull-off points where you can stop along your Auto Road Road Trip. Stop to admire the view or park the car and go for a hike on one of the many trails.
  • Mount Washington Summit:  As the highest peak in the Northeast, the views are outstanding from the top and your kids might see as far as the Atlantic Ocean. At the top, families can explore the historic Tip-Top House, the Summit Stage Office Store and learn more the mountain at the interactive Mt. Washington Observatory Museum.

6. Lake Champlain Byway Road Trip

This family road trip is about 80 miles and can be done in about two and half hours or a few days depending if you want to stop for some overnights. It starts at the Canadian border and runs south to Middlebury, Vermont.

Lake Champlain Byway Road Trip Stops 

  • Rouses Point, NY:  The Lake Champlain Byway begins in the small New York village near the border of Canada. Make a quick stop at the small Champlain Historical Society to better understand the area before embarking on your family road trip.
  • Grand Isle County, VT:  Visit the Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve in Isle La Motte where kids can wonder at the 480-million-year-old fossils found throughout the 85-acre preserve.
  • Burlington, VT:  As Vermont’s largest city, Burlington is located on the shores of Lake Champlain between the Adirondack and Green Mountains. While strolling Church Street Marketplace and admiring all of Burlington’s charm, don’t forget to visit the world’s tallest filing cabinet, too. It’s 38-feet tall and a must-see roadside attraction on a New England road trip.
  • Shelburne, VT:  Shelburne is home to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, where kids can make their own bear. The Shelburne Museum is also a must.
  • Vergennes, VT:  In Vermont’s oldest city, stop for a picnic at Vergennes Falls Park or MacDonough Park and enjoy the walking trails and waterfall views. If you have time, enjoy an overnight at Basin Harbor Resort .
  • Middlebury, VT:  You can wrap up this New England Road Trip with several charming covered bridges like the Pulp Mill Covered Bridge, Halpin Covered Bridge and the Cornwall-Salisbury Covered Bridge.

Recommended Hotel:  Basin Harbor Resort

7. East Coast Road Trip

A full-length East Coast road trip can be a bit overwhelming so we’ve broken this family road trip option into a smaller chunk. For a history-heavy road trip with lots of big city stops (and beach town alternatives), an East Coast road trip down I-95 is filled with landmarks kids need to see before they grow up.

East Coast Road Trip Stops 

  • Boston, MA:  Start your East Coast road trip in Boston and walk the Freedom Trail where kids can see Paul Revere’s House, Faneuil Hall and the Bunker Hill Monument. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, the stories and history at Fenway Park can’t be missed on a behind-the-scenes guided tour. Before heading down the coast, make a stop at the Hood Milk Bottle, a must-see roadside attraction. It’s a 40-foot milk bottle that weighs 15,000 pounds and was one of the first drive-in restaurants in the U.S.
  • Newport, RI:  Get out of the car and stroll the Cliff Walk in Newport. This popular 3.5-mile walk shows off the Rhode Island beach coastline on one side and the massive Newport mansions on the other. Mansions like The Breakers (the Vanderbilt’s “summer cottage”) can be toured and kids can see how a Vanderbilt child once lived.
  • New York City, NY:  The Big Apple is overflowing with things kids should see before they grow up, including the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway shows .
  • Philadelphia, PA:  As the birthplace of the U.S., kids can see where the Declaration of Independence was signed, visit Betsy Ross’s house and the Liberty Bell and walk the cobblestone streets that Ben Franklin once walked. But a visit to Philly wouldn’t be complete without eating a cheesesteak and running up the “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Baltimore, MD:  After seeing where Betsy Ross sewed the American flag, families can visit Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, where the story of America’s national anthem began. Visit the historic ships along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and make some time for the National Aquarium, too.
  • Washington, DC: As with NYC, the number of things to see in our nation’s capital can be overwhelming for a family road trip. We recommend choosing one or two museums and a few landmarks depending on the interests of your family. The National Air and Space Museum, National Mall, Tidal Basin, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and International Spy Museum are just a few of your options.
  • Charlottesville, VA:  In Richmond, Virginia, families will want to stop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the former president’s home and gardens, for a guided tour.
  • Fayetteville, NC:  For a look at the U.S. Army’s history, visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. The free museum honors the original paratroopers and Army Parachute Test Platoon, as well as the special operations units of today.
  • Savannah, GA:  Some say the cobblestone streets of Savannah are haunted. So take a ghost tour when you arrive and explore the 22 squares in the historic district that are dedicated to important people from the Revolutionary Wartime.
  • Alternatively, if you want to sprinkle in some beach time and skip parts of I-95, after Philadelphia, visit Ocean City, MD,  and then Virginia Beach, VA  (both towns offering sand, surf, and boardwalks!) and then pick I-95 back up in Fayetteville.

Recommended Hotel:  Hotel Indigo Savannah Historic District

Aerial view along the seven mile bridge of US1 to the florida keys; Courtesy of Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

8. Florida Keys Road Trip

It’s all about wildlife on the road to Key West. Take the Overseas Highway (Route 1) across the water for about 160 miles for a family road trip from Miami to Key West. This shorter family road trip can be done in a day, or make longer stops along the way and spend a few overnights.

Florida Keys Road Trip  Stops 

  • Miami, FL:  Kick off your wildlife Florida Keys road trip with the primates at Monkey Jungle in Miami. Families can walk the fenced-in trails and watch the 30 species of monkeys in their own habitats.
  • Everglades National Park, FL:  After the monkeys, it’s time for some reptiles on your Florida Keys road trip. A stop at Everglades National Park means a visit with the American crocodile and alligators. Families can take a boat tour to see alligators, manatees, birds and more.
  • Key Largo, FL:  After the Everglades, it’s time to embark on the overseas portion of the highway and hang out with some mammals. In Key Largo, families can interact with and experience dolphins in their natural seawater homes within a variety of dolphin encounter opportunities.
  • Islamorada, FL:  Just another 20 minutes south on the road to Key West, families can make a stop at the Theater of the Seas in Islamorada. The marine mammal park is home to dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, stingrays, alligators, birds and more.
  • Marathon, FL: Stop at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon for a guided tour of the rehabilitation and release center for sea turtles. Families will learn how they can help injured sea turtles, tour a turtle operating room where many turtles have been saved, and–if timing is just right–you may be able to witness a turtle release back into the wild.
  • Sugarloaf Key, FL:  Trade your car in for a boat charter on your Florida Keys road trip and go fishing in Sugarloaf Key.
  • Key West, FL:  Once you reach the southernmost point of the continental United States, make sure to visit the six-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway House and the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. Kids will also love a conch train tour around the streets of Key West.

Recommended Hotel:  Parrot Key Hotel and Villas

9. Appalachian Trail Road Trip

The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. But if hiking through 14 states isn’t your speed, there’s an Appalachian Trail road trip that (mostly) parallels the iconic walking trail. It’s still quite a lengthy road trip so families could do the full road trip or portions of it with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive (see below).

Appalachian Trail Road Trip Stops 

  • Mount Katahdin, ME:  The Appalachian Trail technically begins in the North at Mount Katahdin, which is situated in Baxter State Park in Maine. Hiking Katahdin isn’t for the novice hiker so we recommend starting your Appalachian Trail road trip with a smaller hike or night of camping in Baxter State Park.
  • Washington Auto Road, NH: This 8-mile New Hampshire scenic drive up to Mt. Washington can be its own road trip (see above) or it makes for a cool drive along your longer Appalachian Trail road trip.
  • Woodstock, NH:  In this charming New Hampshire town families can visit the Cascade waterfalls and the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. Arrive at night and take a guided lantern tour through the caves!
  • Somerset, VT:  Visit Mount Snow in Vermont in the summer months and stretch your stiff legs with some mountain biking.
  • Mt Washington, MA:  Visit the Mount Washington State Forest in the southwest corner of Massachusetts and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Cornwall, CT:  Drive across the West Cornwall Covered Bridge on your way through Connecticut. It dates back to the 1800’s.
  • Danbury, CT:  Make a road trip stop at the Danbury Railway Museum, where you can ride the rails and tour the museum. The former Danbury train station was a major thoroughfare in the first half of the 1900’s and is also where Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Strangers on a Train was filmed.
  • Monroe, NY:  The Museum Village, a living-history museum in Monroe, New York, is a great road trip stop alongside the Appalachian Trail. Kids will love the 200-year-old log cabin, one-room schoolhouse and the general store, all depicting 19 th century rural American life.
  • Easton, PA:  After history and hiking on your Appalachian Trail road trip, it’s time for some creativity. Visit the Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania, to see how crayons are made, play with interactive games, create your own unique crayon, splash at the water table, draw with chalk, paint, sculpt, color and more.
  • Lancaster, PA:  At the Turkey Hill Experience, families can learn how ice cream is made. While this isn’t a working factory, kids can star in their own commercial, milk a mechanical cow and create virtual ice cream flavors. The Amish Experience is also worth a stop; families can visit an Amish farm, home and one-room schoolhouse.
  • Gettysburg, PA:  Kids can learn about the American Civil War at the Gettysburg National Military Park, where the Battle of Gettysburg (a turning point battle in the war) took place. Families can take a guided battlefield walk, visit the National Cemetery, experience a living history battle demonstration or go horseback riding along the trails.
  • Frederick, MD:  Take a stroll through Historic Downtown Frederick and visit the playgrounds and lake at Baker Park. Your kids might also enjoy the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
  • Shenandoah National Park, VA:  The Appalachian Trail runs the length of Shenandoah National Park. Stop for a hike, picnic, some fishing or a bike ride.
  • Roanoke, VA:  Visit the animals at the Mill Mountain Zoo in Roanoke where you’ll find snow leopards, red panda, otters, turtles and more. Or go mountain biking or kayaking in the river.
  • Asheville, NC:  Get out of the car and head to the treetops with a variety of ziplining experiences throughout Asheville. Some are more daring than others, but all of the courses will have your family seeing Asheville from on high. A tour of America’s castle, the Biltmore Estate, is also a fun, with kid-friendly audio tours.
  • Great Smoky Mountain National Park, TN:  Families will love to go fishing, camping or hiking to see waterfalls, wildflowers and wildlife in this expansive 800-acre national park.
  • Springer Mountain, GA:  As the end (or start) in the south of the Appalachian Trail, families can complete the Appalachian Trail road trip with a 2-mile hike to the summit from the Springer Mountain parking area. It’s a moderate hike with rocky areas, but offers outstanding views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to complete your ultimate family road trip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHy6n9NAOI0  Recommended Hotel:  Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort

Skyline Drive and view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia; Courtesy of ESB Professional/Shutterstock

10.  Skyline Drive Road Trip

Skyline Drive (which can also be part of the longer Appalachian Trail Road Trip) runs 105 miles north and south along the Blue Ridge Mountains within Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. You can drive the length of Skyline Drive, which takes about three hours, or choose only a portion as there are four entrances to this road trip.

Skyline Drive Road Trip Stops 

  • Front Royal Entrance Station:  Before officially entering Shenandoah National Park, make a stop at Dinosaur Land, a prehistoric forest from the past. Kids will love seeing the (almost) life-size dinosaurs that fill the park. On a family road trip, this kitschy roadside attraction is a must.
  • Thornton Gap Entrance Station:  Near the Thornton Gap Entrance Station on Skyline Drive, families will find the Luray Caverns, underground caves that were discovered in 1878. Kids will marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites along the 1.5-mile guided underground tour. A bonus when visiting Luray Caverns is that your ticket also includes the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum and the Toy Town Junction.
  • Swift Run Gap Entrance Station:  Big Meadows is located about 30 minutes from the Swift Run Gap Entrance at milepost 51 along Skyline Drive. Families will find several Skyline Drive hikes at Big Meadows, as well as camping facilities.
  • Rockfish Gap Entrance Station:  Continue your Skyline Drive hikes near the Rockfish Gap Entrance to Shenandoah National Park as you reach the southern point of your Skyline Drive road trip and the northern point of a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip (see below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjWsrkBvTts  Recommended Hotel: Big Meadows Lodge

11. Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

From Virginia to Tennessee, this family road trip begins and ends at two different national parks, Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A Blue Ridge Parkway road trip, which runs about 469 miles, allows your kids to experience two great national parks in one road trip.

Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Stops 

  • Shenandoah National Park, VA:  Begin your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip at Shenandoah National Park’s Rockfish Gap Entrance Station. This is the point where Skyline Drive ends in the south and the Blue Ridge Parkway starts in the north.
  • Natural Bridge, VA:  Make sure to stop at this 215-foot tall natural arch on your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Located within Natural Bridge State Park, the Natural Bridge is a limestone gorge carved out by Cedar Creek and as a Virginia Historic Landmark, it’s definitely something kids should see before they grow up.
  • Roanoke, VA:  Visit the Roanoke Pinball Museum, where there are 55 playable machines dating as far back as the 1930s.
  • Blowing Rock, NC: In this charming North Carolina town along the Blue Ridge Parkway sits a rock formation that juts out from a cliff. The wind blows upward from the Blowing Rock and snow seems to fall upside down here. The lore behind why the wind blows upward at Blowing Rock is a love story between a Chickasaw Chieftain’s daughter and a Cherokee brave.
  • Asheville, NC:  A tour of the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, is a must on a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Built by George W. Vanderbilt in the 1890s, it features 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.
  • Cherokee, NC:  As the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, families can visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where kids can experience and learn about the 13,000 years of Cherokee history through artifacts, art work, life-sized figures and special effects.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN:  This expansive 800-acre national park sits in North Carolina and Tennessee and is home to some of the oldest mountains in the world. Finish out your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip with some family camping. There are a variety of campsites and facilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park; whether you want to rough it on the ground or camp near your car with running water, you have options.

Recommended Hotel:  Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg Downtown

Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.

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The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall.

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50 Best Family Vacation Ideas on a Budget for 2024

From all-inclusives in the Caribbean to quick getaways in the U.S., there's something for every traveler in your group.

family running and splashing into sea together with body boards

It's not lost on us that travel, like everything else, is getting more expensive, so we focused many of our picks on properties that provide great value. When we feature splurgy spots, rest assured they're worth every penny.

Whether you're looking to chill out at an all-inclusive resort , get active in the great outdoors , check out new attractions at a theme park, hit the beach or cozy up at ski resort , there's a destination or experience here to match every vacation vibe and party size. After all, bringing the grandparents comes with so many benefits, not the least of which is babysitting so you can score some much-needed time for an interruption-free dinner, spa treatment or romantic walk on the beach.

Use this guide to help narrow down your options, and then check out the Good Housekeeping Institute 's tried-and-tested list of essential travel gear and accessories to get ready for your trip. You can also consult our guides on how to choose a family-vacation hotel as well as how to keep all ages entertained . Since the early bird gets the best deal, shore up your spring break and summer vacation plans now.

Mexico and the Caribbean

a slide with a shell that says"mexico and the caribbean"

Spend your days rolling in the waves, relaxing by the pool or enjoying quiet time (thanks to some superior kids' clubs) at these island resorts.

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, Mexico

nickelodeon hotels resorts riviera maya, mexico

With massive waterparks, daily slimings and Nickelodeon characters galore, the kids have it made at the all-inclusive Nickelodeon Hotels & Resort Riviera Maya, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award Winner. But grown-ups aren’t left out of the fun. Tequila tastings, spa treatments and romantic dinners can be on your agenda thanks to the supervised club for kids ages 4 to 12. And while you probably wouldn’t be booking a SpongeBob-themed room if you didn’t have the kids in tow, the decor is as mod and classy as it can be. All the accommodations are suites that sleep up to five and have two bathrooms. Suites have direct access to a pool from the balcony. (Yes, even on the top floor!)

RELATED: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana Is the Best Place to Travel With a Baby and a Sibling

Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas

view of atlantis hotel in the bahamas, good housekeeping's pick for best family vacation destinations

Winner of a 2024 Family Travel Award, Atlantis is a top choice for families of all ages looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. Its adrenaline-pumping waterpark features high-speed slides, including a one-of-a-kind tube slide down a Mayan pyramid. Animal encounters, like getting up close to a dolphin, are thrilling in a different way. But on the other side of the massive resort, the beaches are super chill. The gentle water is just perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Supervised clubs for kids, tweens and teens truly wow, so adults can enjoy the casino and a meal at one of the resort's fine-dining restaurants.

EXPLORE NOW

Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, Dominican Republic

the sunset at club med michès playa esmeralda, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Movies under the stars, trapeze lessons, windsurfing — with cool activities like these, kids will never want to leave this newish resort in the lush, away-from-it-all part of the island. Supervised clubs for babies through teens keep the good times rolling while you’re at the adults-only Zen pool or doing treetop yoga. (Yes, that’s a thing.) Solar panels, recycling, plastic-free water bottles and other sustainable initiatives are part of the eco-minded resort culture.

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Negril, Jamaica

a sparsely attended white sand beach at beaches negril, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

While this all-inclusive resort and 2024 Family Travel Award-winner caters to all ages, toddlers and preschoolers will be star-struck. Sesame Street characters entertain them with story times, dance parties and even puppet-making! That’s on top of the mini water slides, splash areas and a playground that makes little ones squeal with glee and wears them out, so they’ll hit the sack early.

Private childcare and supervised kids’ clubs (for babies through teens, including those with special needs) are an option when you want a spa treatment, a quiet dinner or just to read a book on the resort's idyllic 7-Mile Beach. All the rooms and suites got a glow-up in 2020, plus there are new villas with butler service (sign us up!)

RELATED: 20 Best Caribbean Resorts for Families to Visit

Fairmont Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

an aerial view of the beach at fairmont mayakoba, a good housekeeping pick for best family resort

When it comes to baby and kid gear, this luxury resort has you covered. Need a bottle warmer? They got it. How about a step stool for a toddler to reach the sink? Yours for the asking. With these worries aside, you can concentrate on the beauty of the surroundings (the resort is surrounded by a lush mangrove forest) and incredible bucket-list activities, like kids’ carnivals and night kayaking. All the rooms have received a glow-up and there's a sleek new beach club to boot.

Rock House Resort, Turks & Caicos

the infinity pool at the rock house resort, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Your family may never leave the water at this Mediterranean-inspired oasis , which opened in May 2022. In addition to a full kitchen and roomy living room, many of the villa-style accommodations feature a spacious private pool. (Yes way!) And if your crew ever tires of it, fun awaits at the resort’s oceanfront infinity pool and stretch of white sand beach, which is exclusively for resort guests. Just note that while a cliffside setting makes the resort incredibly picturesque, it’s impossible to navigate with a stroller — so bring the tweens, teens and even grandparents if they don’t have trouble climbing stairs.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort

embassy suites by hilton aruba resort

A brand that's popular with families because it offers separate sleeping spaces for kids and adults, Embassy Suites recently opened a location in Aruba. (Pinch us now.) The 330-suite hotel boasts a kids' pool and playground and is just steps away from the iconic Eagle Beach. A breakfast buffet (with made-to-order items) is included in the price, which is already a value. Rooms also feature a kitchenette, so you can stash drinks and snacks and save your budget for the island's many incredible water activities.

New England Cozy

a slide that says new england cozy with a whale tail

Lakes, lighthouses and hiking trails make New England a great place to visit in almost any season.

Quisisana Resort, Lovell, ME

two friends frolic in a lake at the quisisana resort, a good housekeeping pick for family vacation destinations

Kids will get a digital detox at this all-inclusive lakefront resort , but they’ll be too busy playing to miss their devices. Without TV or a Wi-Fi signal in the comfortable, air-conditioned rooms and cabins, they’ll be fully immersed in the slew of included activities — from paddle boating to tennis to sandcastle-building. They might even learn to kayak or catch their first fish.

At night, music fills the resort. Broadway-style shows, held in a new outdoor theater, entertain all generations. There’s something about the fresh air and a choice of lollipops that keeps most kids from getting too wiggly, and the caliber of the performances is at least on par with good community theater.

The three included daily meals — with menu items like lobster rolls and Maine blueberry pie — will leave your crew’s bellies happy and full. And if you do need Wi-Fi occasionally, you can pop in the main lobby for a signal. Shh: The kids will be fine without it.

Hidden Pond, Kennebunkport, ME

campfire at hidden pond in maine, good housekeeping's pick for best family vacation destinations

Open from May to October, this nature-focused retreat provides a refuge from city life. Yoga sessions in the garden, a shed filled with arts and crafts supplies for kids, guided nature walks and outdoor art classes are easy-going yet exciting at the same time. Cottages with fireplaces foster togetherness, and complimentary breakfast arrives at your door every morning so there's no need to rush out for coffee.

Smugglers' Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT

a family goes biking through green hills at smuggler's notch, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Nestled in the Green Mountains, this resort is just as fun in the summer months as it is during prime ski season. Besides eight heated pools (some with waterslides!), the action-packed lineup of family activities has plenty to do whether you’re traveling with a toddler, teen or both. Sing-a-longs, magic shows and scavenger hunts keep little ones entertained while older kids will welcome the chance to take a guided hike, design and launch a water rocket or play glow-in-the-dark volleyball. A GH 2024 Family Travel Awards winner, condos at this property accommodate up to five bedrooms, making it possible for extended family and friends to stay together.

Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club, Brewster, MA

the boardwalk to the beach bar at the ocean's edge resort  golf club, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Beach, pool, eat, repeat — that’s how your crew will spend laid-back days at this Cape Cod gem . The private beach has gentle surf and at low tide, kids can spy little sea creatures in the tide pools. When the tide changes, head to the heated outdoor or indoor pools. Outdoor movies are the perfect wind-down to bedtime. And if you can pry the kids out of the water, activities like scavenger hunts, curated by the resort’s new director of fun (for real!) await. Just make sure to stay in the “mansion” section of the resort because that’s the part with private beach access.

Sebasco Harbor Resort, Phippsburg, ME

the kids' club at the sebasco harbor resort, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

Kids will never forget sleeping in a lighthouse next to the ocean. The resort’s 1945 lighthouse contains recently renovated guest rooms with amazing views, sea breezes and conveniences like a fridge and microwave. The lighthouse rooms are also near the resort’s iconic oceanfront saltwater pool, which recently got a makeover. A vintage bowling alley, weekly pirate cruise and old-school kids’ club add to the New England charm.

Bluebird Cady Hill Lodge, Stowe, VT

bluebird cady hill lodge

A fantastic value, this new '70s-inspired cozy lodge is perfect for families who want to explore Vermont's Green Mountains. The scenic trails of Cady Hill Forest are just steps away and downtown Stowe is about a 10-minute walk. Two- and three-bedroom cottages at Bluebird Cady Hill Lodge have plenty of space for families and a kitchen to boot. A game room, fire pits for s'mores roasting and a pool make hanging at the lodge a nice respite in between nature activities.

California Dreamin'

a slide that says california dreamin' with a picture of a palm tree

Choose your Cali adventure: You can find bustling cityscapes, tranquil trails, stunning beaches and even a fairytale castle.

Los Angeles, CA

morning scenery of griffith observatory and downtown la los angeles is good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

Tweens and teens won’t roll their eyes if you suggest a vacay in L.A. — where, trust us, they’ll ask you to eat at In-N-Out-Burger (look cool and say you already had it on the list). Some more must-dos: Visit the Griffith Observatory for the out-of-this-world exhibits and a stellar view of the Hollywood sign, and if you're an outdoorsy family you can hike down from the observatory to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and famous TCL Chinese Theaters .

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures , where anyone 17 and under gets in free, is conveniently located near the classic La Brea Tar Pits and the cool LACMA ( Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Some outdoor shopping at The Grove L.A. and a beach day in Santa Monica with a spin on the iconic wheel at the Santa Monica Pier will get you more well-deserved parent cred. Or, you can take a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood , where, for now, you can find the only Super Nintendo World open in the United States. Stay at The Garland in North Hollywood, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Awards winner. It has a swanky trolley that transports guests to and from Universal, as well as other kid perks like dive-in movies and a retro-chic family suite with bunk beds.

San Diego, CA

an overhead shot of the loews coronado bay over the water in san diego, a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

Can’t decide between heading to the beach or exploring a big city? San Diego has the best of both worlds, with near-perfect weather to boot. Make your home base a beach resort like the Kona Kai San Diego Resort & Spa , San Diego Mission Bay Resort or, if you're bringing a big group, Shore House at Del, a Good Housekeeping 2024 Family Travel Award winner. Intersperse oceanside fun with short drives to the city’s famous zoo and museums in Balboa Park. Plan to spend at least a half day at Liberty Station , a cultural attraction that has many places to eat and shop. New stores and restaurants are open at Seaport Village , which has a classic carousel for kids to ride.

RELATED: The Best Things to Do in San Diego With the Whole Family

Monterey, CA

guests wearing face coverings and enjoying the kelp forest exhibit at the monterey bay aquarium monterey is a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destination

The number one reason to book a vacation in this coastal town: the aquarium. Yes, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that good. It levels up the typical touch tank experience by letting little kids crawl through tunnels surrounded by tropical fish displays and use squirt toys to learn how animals stand up to big waves. There’s even a padded zone with eye-level exhibits for toddlers! And the whole family will be wowed by the aquarium’s newish exhibition, "Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean." Some of the creatures in the 21 live exhibit areas are newly discovered and haven’t even been named yet. Mind blown! Stay at the hotel next door, InterContinental The Clement Monterey .

Disneyland Resort and California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

the ferris wheel at disneyland california adventure disneyland is a good housekeeping pick for best family vacation destinations

If you're looking for a Disney trip with young kids, Disneyland may have the edge over an Orlando vacay. Here are some reasons why: You can get on more rides without as much walking in California, so that means fewer tired and cranky kids. Summer weather is also usually better in Anaheim than in hot-and-humid Florida. And rides like Radiator Springs Racers, which looks like it’s right out of the movie Cars , are Cali-exclusive. The new Villas at Disneyland Hotel offer options that sleep up to 12 guests plus the decor is whimsical.

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Road Trips , United States , Washington

10 scenic road trips from seattle for the ultimate adventure.

road trips from seattle

One of my absolute favorite things to do throughout the year is to go on road trips from Seattle and explore new areas. Who doesn’t love the thrill of hitting the open road and discovering all sorts of hidden gems along the way? I know it’s not always affordable to go on vacation, or you may not have the time, so the best part about road trips is being able to go on these for any duration, any time of the year.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know there are so many amazing places to choose from in the Seattle area, so narrowing down your options can be tough. Luckily for you, I’ve been cruising around the Pacific Northwest for years now, so I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite scenic drives from Seattle that you can turn into epic Seattle road trips of your own.

To make things even easier, I’ve organized these road trips based on their length – so you can pick and choose what works best for you based on your time constraints. Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway from Seattle or an extended adventure, I’ve got you covered. With that, let’s dive into some of the best road trips from Seattle and all the essential info you need to prepare for them!

Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and find new places to add to my itinerary!

Table of Contents

Tips for a Seattle Road Trip

Here are some tips to consider first before going on a road trip near Seattle.

  • Check traffic first. This may seem obvious, but many people forget that traffic tends to get worse around Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia at rush hour, so this can add hours to your road trip if you don’t time it right (and I say this from experience!). The best place to check it for Washington is the WSODT website .
  • Be prepared if crossing passes. Similar to the tip above, always check the same website to see how the passes look if you’ll be crossing them. This is the worst place to be stuck, as there often isn’t anywhere to turn around. I once planned a trip to the other side of the mountains after we’d had a warm week in April, only for the day of my planned trip to get completely dumped in snow and the passes ended up closing. If it’s snow season, always bring chains , blankets, and food/water just in case.
  • Check the weather. Even if you’re not going into the mountains, you’ll want to know if the roads you plan on going around might be slick with rain or ice and pack appropriately.
  • Don’t have a tight itinerary. I know not everyone can take as many days off as they want for a vacation, but avoid the temptation to jam-pack your trip with stops. It’s more enjoyable when you know you have time to make random stops along the way or don’t have to get stressed if you do get caught in traffic.
  • Take breaks . I’m the queen of making a tight itinerary when I travel, but I’ve learned over the years this doesn’t benefit anyone. You and your passengers will get tired, which is not only unsafe for the driver but means the trip won’t be as fun. Plan for breaks ahead of time or be flexible and take one if it feels like a good time.

This post was first written in 2021 and last updated in February 2023.

What to Pack for a Road Trip From Seattle

You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for any Seattle road trip you take, whether it’s only a few days or a week. I have an entire article on road trips essentials , but here are some of the ones I recommend most:

  • Water bottle – I fill up multiple water bottles and put ice in them so they stay nice and cool, and I’m also hydrated during my trip.
  • Cooler – Save money by bringing your own snacks and keeping them cold in your cooler. This is also helpful if you buy food on the road and don’t finish it but need to keep it cold.
  • Coffee mug – I love treating myself to a latte now and then, but I don’t want to waste cups on the road every day getting a new drink. Having a reusable coffee mug helps with that problem.
  • Polarized sunglasses – It can get really bright on the road depending on what the sun reflects on, so keep yourself safe and have a good pair of sunglasses.
  • Sunscreen – You’ll need sunscreen when you’re out and about exploring, but it’s also important to have it on when you’re in the car as well. You can have one side of your face and arm exposed for hours, depending on the time of day.

10 Road Trips From Seattle You’ll Want to Go On

With so many amazing destinations to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10, but I’ve compiled a list of some of the best road trips from Seattle that are my favorites. Get ready to hit the open road and explore the stunning natural landscapes and charming towns of the Pacific Northwest!

1. Olympic Peninsula

seattle road trips washington coast

Distance: 361 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Port Angeles , Forks

A road trip around the Olympic Peninsula is the perfect way to reconnect with nature and the best road trip from Seattle for many people. I live near one of the ferries going here, so I am lucky to be able to visit the area often.

Take your car on the Bainbridge ferry to Bainbridge, where you’ll find tons of things to do on Bainbridge Island . The ferry ticket costs $20.40 (for the vehicle and the driver) and will take you over Elliott Bay, offering stunning views in Seattle of the water during one of the best Seattle road trips.

Alternatively, you can also take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston (make sure to check out all the things to do in Edmonds first).

From Bainbridge Island, head south on Highway 305 and cross Hood Canal Floating Bridge. Get onto the Olympic Highway (Highway 101) , which will take you on a picturesque drive past Discovery Bay and the west side of Sequim Bay. 

Spend the night at the quaint coastal town of Port Angeles at a place like Port Angeles Inn  during one of the short road trips from Seattle. It has a bustling marina and beautiful natural landscapes you can explore in the morning before you head out on the road again. You can also look at my full list of where to stay in Olympic National Park .

In the morning, travel inland past Lake Crescent on your way to the magnificent Olympic National Park, where you can spend the night. There are plenty of Olympic hikes to do if you want to get some exercise (my favorites are Marymere Falls and Hurricane Ridge , which are fairly easy hikes in Washington ).

hiking marymere falls

On the morning of day three, take the Olympic Highway along the west coast through Queets. Then travel south to Aberdeen and up through Tacoma to return to Seattle.

Alternatively, you could do a quick Seattle day trip here if you only have one day in Olympic .

Olympic Peninsula

Looking for the ultimate Seattle travel guide written by a local that tells you all the best places to go and what to see? My new ebook is now live, so  click here  to buy your copy!

2. Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Distance: 389 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Yakima , Portland

Drive through Tacoma and Portland for 3.5 hours to get to the glorious Columbia River Gorge on your road trip near Seattle. The 4,000-feet deep canyon demarcates Washington from Oregon and offers one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the country.

The canyon spans a whopping 80 miles as the river bends through the Cascade Range. You’ll be glad you braved the long road trip from Seattle for this view. 

You can either take the same way home or make a loop trip going through Yakima and Snoqualmie Pass. The latter journey will take you one hour longer, but you may be keen on seeing Snoqualmie Pass if you haven’t before. 

On this Seattle road trip, you can spend a night in Yakima , Washington (my favorite hotel there is Hotel Maison , located centrally). Otherwise, if you’re going through Portland and looking for things to do in Portland , be sure to check out Washington Park on your way back to Seattle.

There are also plenty of short day trips from Portland to explore before you head home, or you can continue driving from Seattle to Portland .

If you’re a little tired from your journey, the 400-acre park is the perfect place to rejuvenate with some fresh air and a picnic. You can take the 3- or 4-hour road trip to Seattle in the morning, or you can continue on a Seattle to San Diego road trip .

Columbia River Gorge

3. San Juan Island

san juan island me

Distance: 214 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Friday Harbor

Take I-5 north from Seattle north until you reach Burlington, where you can take exit 230 on your road trip from Seattle. You’ll then travel west towards Anacortes, where you can take the ferry (you’ll need an advanced reservation ).

The drive to Anacortes should take about 90 minutes, and the ferry trip is just under 1.5 hours long. I think traveling by ferry is one of the best parts of getting to the San Juan Islands, so enjoy it.

You’ll likely be exhausted once you get there, so book a room at the luxurious Earthbox Inn & Spa . You can familiarize yourself with the incredible San Juan Island in the morning. Filled with activities like whale-watching and kayaking , you’ll never be bored here during one of the more exciting road trips around Seattle.

Take a walk along Friday Harbor or take photos at the extraordinary Pelindaba Lavender Farm . I recommend taking the time to browse all the items in the store (I always get the lavender linen spray). You’ll have to take the same route back, but the ferry over the water is just as inspiring the second time around.

There are also plenty of hikes on the San Juans if you want to get some exercise in.

If you’d like to make a stop on the way home, pull over halfway home at the Boeing Future of Flight Museum . The museum has fascinating exhibits on the evolution of aviation, not to mention the actual disused planes hanging from the ceiling.

If you want to go to another island, Orcas Island and Lopez Island are both easily accessible from San Juan. I do recommend taking a day for each of these so you don’t rush through them, however.

San Juan Island

4. Sea-to-Sky Highway

road trips from seattle sea to sky highway

Distance: 436 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Bellingham , Vancouver (BC) , Whistler

One of my absolute favorite drives in North America is Sea to Sky Highway , where you can go on a road trip to Whistler, Canada, and back. Your first stop is 90 minutes outside of Seattle in the laidback Bellingham . The area has plenty of waterfalls, lakes, and fishing spots, not to mention tons of hiking trails for you to explore.

Boundary Bay Brewing makes the perfect pit stop for lunch and a beer (and it’s my old stomping grounds from when I went to college here years ago).

Spend the night getting to know the town, or head to the rugged coastline of Larrabee Park. Watch a spectacular sunset over the water before you turn in for the night at a local Bellingham lodge, such as Hotel Bellwether .  

On Day 2, cross the Canada border on a Seattle to Vancouver drive and stop in Vancouver on your way to Whistler (want to experience more of the city? You can spend 2 days in Vancouver, BC or visit Vancouver in three days on the way up).

This stunning mountain town will take your breath away. I’ve been here in every season, and it’s hard to pick the best time to go because each season has its own charm to it. They also have amazing coffee, so you’ll love visiting all the coffee shops in Whistler .

Go mountain biking in the summer or sledding in the winter. Whistler is postcard-perfect all year round, whether you visit Whistler in the summer or are looking for things to do in Whistler in the winter.

Stay at the superb Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel for a night of luxury. You’ll want to get a good night’s rest before heading back to Seattle in the morning.

The journey back is over 4 hours, but this is your second opportunity to be captivated by the view on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. You can also stop at Canada’s famous White Rock Pier on your way back.

Sea-to-Sky Highway

5. North Cascades Highway

road trips from seattle north cascades

Distance: 424 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Leavenworth , Winthrop

Explore Seattle’s north country on an unforgettable loop trip around the North Cascades National Park, which is one of the best national parks in Washington . The North Cascades Highway is a classic route used by locals and tourists for weekend road trips from Seattle. This is only open from about June until October, so make sure to check road conditions first.

Drive east along Stevens Pass , and you’ll see lush orchids, pine forests, and the slopes of the Cascade mountains until you reach your first stop, Leavenworth .

Stop to check out the Waterfront Park for panoramic views of the Wenatchee River and spend the night in a local lodge (I recommend Icicle Village Resort ). The park has loads of hiking trails for you to explore in the morning, or you can take a kayak out on the water before you get back on the road.

If you want to see a magical Bavarian village in the snow, visit Leavenworth in the winter . Just be aware that the pass can get heavy snow, so make sure your car is prepared with chains.

Once you’re done exploring, take Highway 97 up to visit Lake Chelan for more sightseeing, pass the town of Winthrop , and then head west until you reach North Cascades National Park.

cutthroat lake hike

There are plenty of hikes in North Cascades for you to explore the following day ( Heather-Maple Loop Pass is one of my favorites), after which you can complete the loop of your road trip. 

You can go through Rockport and Concrete, heading west towards Mount Vernon, then travel south to get back to Seattle. Since the park is only open seasonally, Seattle in the summer or fall in Seattle are the best times to visit.

North Cascades Highway

6. Vancouver Island

road trip from seattle vancouver island

Distance: 337 miles Number of Days: 3 Where to Stay: Port Angeles , Victoria (BC) , Bellingham

Head north from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada, during this international road trip from Seattle. Stop at the Mount Vernon Lions Club Roadside Park if you need to stretch your legs on this charming Vancouver weekend trip . This charming park sits on the edge of the Skagit River, and there are picnic tables where you can kick back and enjoy the view. 

Don’t leave Vancouver without catching the sunset from the Vancouver Lookout . The observation deck offers panoramic views of the city from 550 feet above the ground! This is an excellent way to get a snapshot of the city before you turn in for the night (you’ll love the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront) . 

On Day 2, take the 90-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo , a bay town on Vancouver Island that looks out over the Salish Sea. Stop at one of the many restaurants on the harbor for a bite with a waterside view, and then head to Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort for your lodging for the night. I keep staying here every time I come because it’s so charming being right on the ocean.

victoria with kids butchart gardens

After spending the night, drive south to Spectacle Lake for a pleasant swim surrounded by forest trees. Then, hit the road until you hit Victoria on this driving trip from Seattle. This town is also known as the “City of Gardens” thanks to its abundance of parklands. Be sure to check out the renowned Butchart Gardens for an afternoon stroll.

You can rest for the night in Victoria (you may like the Strathcona Hotel ). In the morning, take the ferry to Port Angeles and drive down the Olympic Peninsula to get home.

Vancouver Island

Another beautiful road trip is the Seattle to Banff drive , which takes you through Canada.

7. Willamette Valley

willamette valley youngberg hill sunrise

Distance: 554 miles Number of Days: 4 Where to Stay: McMinnville , Cannon Beach , Olympia

Discover the south coast on a drive through Willamette Valley , one of the best road trips from Seattle if you love wine. You can travel through Portland on your way to McMinnville , where you can indulge in some of the best wine tours in Oregon.

This is also a popular weekend getaway from Portland for many locals – I felt like I was in Sonoma the first time I visited!

There are dozens of wineries to choose from in the area, so you won’t need to worry about a shortage in that department. I personally love Kings Estate Winery, Irish Vineyards, and Kason Vineyards if you want to narrow down your selection. For lodging, I recommend staying at a place like McMenamins Hotel Oregon to relax for the night.

The People’s Coast, Oregon’s stunning coastline, is perfect for whale-watching, tidal pooling, and amazing Pacific Ocean views. Spend the night at the nearby Starfish Manor Oceanfront Hotel to fall asleep to the sounds of the ocean. 

oregon coast hike

On Day 3, take a detour to Ecola State Park on Cannon Beach as you make your way back to Portland (this is especially nice during wintertime in Portland ). Spot Haystack Rock – one of Oregon’s most famous landmarks – a stunning 234-foot rock formation on the edge of the shoreline. This is one of my favorite parts of an Oregon Coast drive .

Spend the afternoon exploring Portland, where you’ll find loads of coffee houses, parks, cycling trails, and microbreweries. You can check in at the Mark Spencer Hotel downtown and drive back to Seattle in the morning. 

Willamette Valley

8. Washington Coast

best road trips from seattle ocean shores

Distance: 462 miles Number of Days: 4 Where to Stay: Long Beach (WA) , Westport (WA)

When you want road trip ideas from Seattle, consider this 3-hour drive from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon . After a night in Astoria, you can embark on a 4-day adventure along the Washington Coast. This is an ideal trip in Seattle during winter , as you won’t encounter much, if any, snow.

First, visit Cape Disappointment , the headland of the Pacific Northwest. You won’t be staying here long, but the views of the lighthouse at the end of the beach are worth a quick stop. 

You can spend both your first and second nights in Long Beach (I stay at the Adrift Hotel every time I visit this area!). You’ll be delighted to wake up in this fun coastal town, where you can horse ride on the beach, swim in the ocean, or shop on the boardwalk. 

When you’re done frolicking on the sand in Long Beach, drive out to Westport for more beach activities, great views, and fishing on the pier. The trip will take you about an hour and a half, but don’t worry – it’s worth it.

what to do in ocean shores

You can book a room in Westport ( LOGE Westport is always a fun place to stay) and wake up early to explore the place (and check out some amazing Washington surf spots if you’re into that!). 

In the morning, take a picturesque drive around North Bay . You’ll go through Aberdeen (the birthplace of legendary Kurt Cobain), where you can stop for fuel. Check out the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park in town if you’re a Nirvana fan. 

Your final stop is in Ocean Shores , where you’ll be right by the ocean for your whole trip (and you’ll love all the things to do at Ocean Shores that you’ll find). The Polynesian Resort  is a good choice for an affordable hotel with a view of the water. Luckily, your drive back to Seattle will be under three hours from this charming coastal village. 

Want to extend your oceanfront trip? Head down to California for a Big Sur one day trip .

Washington Coast

9. Yellowstone National Park

one day in Yellowstone

Distance: 1,690 miles Number of Days: 6 Where to Stay: Spokane (WA) , Missoula (MT), Bozeman (MT) , Boise (ID)

People from around the world dream about one day visiting Yellowstone National Park. Here’s your chance to go on one of my favorite road trips from Seattle!

You can take a scenic drive through Snoqualmie Pass and stop in Spokane for fuel, food, and rest. If you’re looking for a great hotel, try The Davenport Grand . 

Drive past the breathtaking mountain lake Coeur d’Alene on Day 2. You’ll then take the Interstate through the gorgeous scenery of Montana until you reach Missoula. Check out the Missoula Art Museum and spend the night at the La Quinta Inn .

You can hike the Mount Sentinel trail in the morning before hitting the road. It’ll take you three hours to reach Bozeman, Montana , where you can spend the night at The Mountainview Lodge after a long day of hiking and driving.

Alternatively, you could also decide to extend your trip and do a Glacier National Park road trip before heading to Yellowstone.

Drive from Bozeman early on Day 3, and you’ll finally reach Yellowstone , the majestic national park replete with canyons, rivers, and forests. Yellowstone is massive, so you’ll want to spend another day exploring the over 3,000 acres of wilderness. 

I have a whole post on taking a road trip from Yellowstone to Seattle for a more detailed itinerary.

Additionally, if you want to spend multiple days at the park, you can look at my Yellowstone 4 day itinerary for suggestions.

To get back to Seattle, travel south through Idaho . You can stop at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and the Umatilla National Forest on your way back. If you need another stop-over town, you can spend the night of Day 5 in Boise. 

Yellowstone National Park

10. Washington National Parks

day trip to mt rainier

Distance: 705 miles Number of Days: 8 Where to Stay: Winthrop , Wenatchee , Longmire

Keep reading if you want to see all three of Washington’s national parks on one monumental Pacific Northwest road trip . The North Cascades Highway will take you to North Cascades National Park in about two hours from Seattle. 

If you arrive early, you’ll have the entire day to check into a hotel and explore the expansive park. I recommend spending two nights in the area, and Winthrop is a great base (I always stay at Hotel Rio Vista ).

After this, drive through Twisp, Chelan Falls, and Wenatchee. You can spend the night there ( Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel  is in the middle of downtown) and go to spend a day at Mount Rainier in the morning. 

Take the scenic drive through Snoqualmie Pass until you reach Mount Rainier . After a long drive, you’ll probably be quite drained, so get some shut-eye and reserve your energy.

You can stay at one of the few hotels there, such as the National Park Inn in Longmire, or a vacation rental like a cute cabin near Mount Rainier . You can spend Day 4 and 5 going on Mount Rainier hikes , riding bikes, and kayaking in the park.

bench and snow lakes mt rainier hikes

If you’re visiting Mount Rainier in the winter , make sure to read my article first to be prepared for the snow.

On Day 6, take the 702 for hours until you reach Olympic National Park . Welcome to the third and final Washington national park! There are activities aplenty in the park, such as plenty of Olympic National Forest hikes, so you can traverse the impressive wilderness for two whole days. 

On the morning of Day 8, it’s time to bid the park goodbye and drive two hours back to Seattle through Tacoma.

Washington National Parks

The hardest part will be choosing which of these road trips from Seattle to go on first!

road trips with family

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a Seattle local who's obsessed with exploring all things Pacific Northwest, especially hiking, road trips, and national parks. She's been to hundreds of places all over the region and started this website to help others discover the beauty of the area and create their own trips.

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The Lil Wrangler kids' club at Brush Creek Ranch is a standout experience for families.

The Geographical Cure

Perfect 1 Week Itinerary for a Vermont Road Trip

If you’re yearning for a peaceful escape in New England, look no further than Vermont. This one-week Vermont itinerary offers the perfect road trip through the picturesque and tranquil state.

Vermont’s unspoiled landscapes and breathtaking scenery make it an ideal destination for those seeking solitude and natural beauty. And if you find yourself with extra time, I’ll also provide options to extend your trip and explore more of what Vermont has to offer.

Running water stream in rural Vermont

Vermont rolls out an endless supply of quaint Colonial towns filled with white steepled churches, red barns, red covered bridges, and charming inns.

Vermont is heavily forested, with a green canopy that’s set ablaze with fall foliage. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and fall back into nature and history, Vermont is the perfect place. And, while you’re there, you can enjoy the excellent farm to table cuisine for which Vermont’s renowned.

Pinterest pin for one week road trip itinerary for Vermont

Here’s my guide spending 7 days in bucolic Vermont. This 200 mile Vermont road trip itinerary takes you from southern Vermont to northern Vermont. You’ll drive through the Green Mountains and weave through charming hamlets.

I point out all the must visit attractions and towns in Vermont. I give you tips for visiting Vermont, including where to hike, where to stay, and where to eat.

I also add some bonus destinations at the end of the one week Vermont itinerary, in case you want to extend your Vermont road trip from 7 days to 10 days or more.

Green River covered bridge in Guilford

One Week In Vermont Itinerary

This one week in Vermont road trip itinerary takes you from Brattleboro in southern Vermont to Stowe in northern Vermont. Distances between destinations are relatively short, so you won’t feel rushed.

To begin your trip to Vermont, fly into Bradley International Airport in Hartford. Brattleboro is a 1:15 drive from the airport. Or, simply drive to Brattleboro to begin.

quaint town of Brattleboro

Day 1: Brattleboro

Start your 7 day Vermont road trip in the gorgeous town of Brattleboro in southern Vermont. It’s New England’s most supportive art centric enclave. Artists settled in Brattleboro to escape the high rents of New England’s major cities, while still remaining close.

Brattleboro’s downtown has been revitalized. It’s now full of art galleries, upper story artist studios, and a broad array of art venues.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is housed in a restored railroad depot. It presents 8 exhibitions annually.

Whetstone Brook in Brattleboro, Vermont

Brattleboro also has a performing arts scene focused on classical music. The marquis venue is the Marlboro Music School. Brattleboro hosts the New England Bach Festival, a winter Chamber Music Series, and the Vermont Renaissance Festival (in nearby Vernon). Or you can catch a movie at the Art Deco Latchis Theatre.

If nature calls, Brattleboro offers four seasons of sports. You can ski, snowshoe, and skate in the winter. And swim, bike, hike, and golf in the summer. Be sure to check out the Creamery Covered Bridge, a rare surviving example of a 19th century wooden bridge.

Where to stay in Brattleboro : The Inn on Putney Road, Chesterfield Inn, Treehouse Village Inn

Where to eat in Brattleboro : Mocha Joe’s Cafe, Amy’s Bakery Arts Cafe, Peter Havens, Duo, T.J. Buckley’s

Pro tip : If it’s pottery you’re after, head to Putney just 9 miles upriver.

Quechee Gorge, Quechee National Park

Day 2: Chester, Woodstock & Quechee Gorge

As you leave Brattleboro, head west on Route 9 and link up with Route 100. You’ll be traveling north along the eastern edge of the Green Mountains.

There are plenty of panoramic overlooks to stop and take photographs. And plenty of cute towns to visit along the way — Grafton, Chester, Weston, Woodstock, and Plymouth.

If you have time for just one, I’d pick Chester or Woodstock. Both are enchanting New England villages.

Either makes a good place to overnight, with farm to table eateries and charming inns. Alternatively, you could just visit and continue on to Killington, depending on your agenda.

Chester is best known for its Stone Village and Chester Village Historic Districts. The Stone Village derives its name from the plethora of granite houses in the area.

Chester Village gives off a classic Federal and Colonial aesthetic. Chester is also home to cute boutiques, art galleries, and some fabulous restaurants.

Middle Covered Bridge in Woodstock Vermont

Woodstock is ridiculously charming, the quintessential New England town. Well preserved thanks to the Rockefeller family, strolling the adorable downtown is an activity in and of itself.

There are plenty of boutiques, craft shops, antique stores, and bookstores. FH Gillingham & Sons is a classic Vermont general store. Don’t miss the cute covered bridge.

For some exercise, you can stop for a hike in Quechee Gorge en route to Killington. It’s a fairly easy (but steep) hike down to the base of the gorge.

If the clear water sparkling in the sunshine entices you, there’s a place to enter the river for a swim. The best views are from the bridge. If you didn’t get cheese earlier, now is the time to stock up at the Quechee Gorge Village

Where to stay in Chester : Inn Victoria, Fullerton Inn, Stone Hearth Inn

Where to eat in Chester : Free Range, Heritage Deli & Bakery, Pizza Stone VT

Where to stay in Woodstock : Fan House Bed & Breakfast, Kedron Valley Inn, Twin Farms, The Woodstock Inn and Reort

Where to eat in Woodstock : Barnard Inn Restaurant, Cloudland Farm, Keeper’s Cafe, The Red Rooster

Thundering Falls in Killington

Day 3-4: Killington

One days 3 and 4 of your Vermont itinerary, you arrive in Killington. The town is Vermont’s largest ski resort. It’s a must visit town on your one week in Vermont itinerary.

Killington is really a year round outdoor playground, no matter the season. The downtown is a bit strip mall-ish and overdeveloped. But the views from Killington Peak are sublime.

When the weather is warm, hit the Adventure Center where you can zip line and take scenic lift rides. The ski trails are also open for hiking. Deer Leap Trail is a 3 mile loop and leads to a pretty view overlooking Pico Peak.

In winter, you can ski, snowboard, fat bike, cross country ski, snow tube, and take sleigh rides. Because of its snowmaking capacity, the slopes usually open in early November and the lifts run to early May. The Grand Spa is a nice way to end your day.

Where to stay in Killington : Mountain Top Inn, Birch Ridge Inn, Killington Grand Resort Hotel

Where to eat in Killington : The Garlic, The Peak Lodge, Choices

Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, which is one of the best towns to visit on a Vermont road trip.

Day 4-5: Burlington

You may want to spend another day in Killington, if you’re sporty. But, if not, the next stop is Burlington, land of the poet Robert Frost and known as one of the most livable small cities in the US.

In Vermont, there’s a saying that “you can’t throw a stone without hitting a poet/painter/potter.” As the largest town in a state of small hamlets, Burlington has developed a self contained art scene that’s the envy of many.

To some, Burlington is akin to a mini Seattle — a politically and socially progressive enclave of college students, regional power brokers, and creative minds.

The jewel of Burlington’s art scene is the Fleming Museum on the University of Vermont campus. The museum has a wide range of artworks and artists. In June, you can attend the Arts Alive Festival. The Firehouse Center for the Arts also hosts year round exhibitions and art programs.

University of Vermont

If you want to see a show, head to the Flynn Performing Arts Center . It’s a fully restored Art Deco masterpiece. The Flynn hosts concerts, plays, and traveling Broadway shows.

If you want to disappear into nature, take the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail. It’s a short 1.2 mile woodland walk. You’ll find signs with commemorative quotes from his poems, including The Road Not Taken .

If you’re a foodie, Burlington will suit. It outshines much of the US with a bounty of locally grown food. Farm to table eating is a well established tradition. There’s even excellent street food at Farmers and Foragers Food Truck.

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Creemees on the Waterfront

And Burlington has a wonderful farmer’s market on Saturdays in the summer and fall. There’s everything from organic meats and cheeses to flowers and maple syrup.

Local artisans also sell their wares. The market is a must see if you’re visiting in season.

Where to stay in Burlington : Willard Street Inn, Hotel Vermont, The Essex, Made INN Vermont

Where to eat in Burlington : Bleu Northeast Seafood, Hen of the Wood, Juniper, The Great Northern, Honey Road

Adirondack mountains across Lake Champlain

Day 6: Day Trip To Shelburne and Lake Champlain From Burlington

On day 6 of your 7 day Vermont itinerary, stay in Burlington another night. Then day trip to your next Vermont destination. Drive south to the Magic Hat Brewing Company .

This establishment sparked the growth of Vermont’s microbrewery scene. You can take a free half hour tour and fill up your own growler with an experimental brew.

Just down Route 7 is Shelburne, an affluent suburb of Burlington. Shelburne’s main attraction is the 19th century Shelburne Farms .

There, you can learn how cheese is made from start to finish. Or wander around the beautiful 1400 acre estate. The farm overlooks Lake Champlain. It’s the perfect place for a picnic, if you’re brought your own provisions or purchased some at the farm.

Charlotte Meeting House in Shelburne

Lake Champlain is one of the most iconic places to visit in Vermont. It’s the 6th largest freshwater lake in the US. First head to Oakland Park.

Admire the beach and, if it’s warm, go paddle boarding. Then hike up the Island Line Trail to the Burlington Earth Clock. The clock is a beautiful large stone circle created by locals called Circles of Peace .

If you want to hit up another microbrewery, the Switchback Brewery is your go to place in Lake Champlain. Then, hike the 2.7 mile long Red Rocks Park Loop Trail, where you’ll have beautiful views of the mountains and lake.

the picture perfect town of Stowe

Day 7: Stowe

Just a 30 minute drive from Burlington brings you to lively Stowe Vermont. New England is awash in winter resort towns.

But Vermont’s picturesque Stowe is an incredible year round destination you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s especially known for its breathtaking fall foliage.

En route to Stowe, make the requisite stop at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory . You can tour the facilities and get the low down on how their ice cream is made. Afterward, you can taste some limited-release creations.

Then, on to beautiful Stowe. In the winter, Stowe is a popular ski destination, with Vermont’s tallest peak Mt. Mansfield. If there’s snow when you arrive, hit the slopes or take a sleigh ride.

Come summer, Stowe swaps skiing for hiking, golf, mountain biking, kayaking, swimming, and scenic drives up the winding Auto Toll Road. For a magical experience, you can go hot air ballooning over the Green Mountains.

Scenic mountain view hiking Stowe Pinnacle Trail in Vermont

Where mountainous Stowe really shines is its hiking trails, with a range of options to suit every level of experience. Some take you to towering peaks, others end in waterfalls.

The Stowe Pinnacle Trail is a 2.8 mile hike to a breathtaking summit with mountain views. When you’re done hiking, snack on some apple cider donuts or indulge in a Vermont Maple Sugar Body Scrub at the Snowflake Spa .

Stowe also boasts a romantic and picture perfect downtown. Its white steepled church is the focal point. The tiny Main Street is filled with boutiques, art galleries, crafts stores, and antique shops.

Sample some of the finest cheddar cheese and maple syrup in Vermont. There are also libraries, museums, theaters, and cultural organizations to keep your entertained.

Where to stay in Stowe: Stowe Mountain Resort, Trapp Family Lodge. Topnotch Resort

Where to eat in Stowe: Plate, Cliff House, Bistro at Ten Acres

Montpelier, Vermont's beautiful capital city

Extra Time On Your Vermont Road Trip?

If you have more than 7 days to spend in Vermont, there are plenty of other places to add to your Vermont itinerary.

1. Montpelier

Add a day in pretty Montpelier, just 38 miles south of Burlington in northern Vermont. Montpelier is the country’s smallest capital, though it feels like a village. Its quirky spirit has earned it the nickname of “Montpeculier.”

Montpelier has a historic little downtown center and vibrant cultural scene, with shops, cinemas, art galleries, etc. But its main claim to fame is as a base for outdoor activities. Hubbard Park offers miles and miles of hiking trails. On its highest peak, a romantic stone tower offers 360 mountain views.

You can also tour the Vermont State House , visit the Vermont History Museum , browse in Kellogg Library, and sample a maple “creemee” at the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks .

Where to stay in Montpelier : Inn at Montpelier, High Hill Inn

Where to eat in Montpelier : NECI on Main, Sarducci’s, Kismet

main street of Manchester Vermont in fall

2. Manchester

Or, if you’d prefer to hang out in southern Vermont, you can add Manchester to the beginning of your Vermont road trip itinerary. It’s only 1:30 from Brattleboro. Seated at the base of Mt. Equinox, Manchester has been a popular summer resort since the 19th century.

Manchester boasts stately homes and marble sidewalks. Its Main Street could hardly be more picturesque. The town is also a bastion of outlet shopping, with famed upscale factory outlets doing business in cute Colonial buildings.

One must see site in Manchester is Hildene , the summer home of Abraham Lincoln’s son. Hildene is a beautiful Georgian Revival style mansion, which holds some of the Lincoln’s family’s most precious possessions. The property also features beautiful gardens.

Hildene, the Lincoln family home in Manchester

For hiking in Manchester, hit the Mt. Equinox Trail . It’s a 6.8 mile loop that’s both steep and challenging. The views from the summit are worth the arduous climb. But you can also access the summit by car at the entrance to Skyline Drive.

Where to stay in Manchester : Equinox, Taconic Hotel, Wilburton Inn

Where to eat in Manchester : Bistro Henry, Mistral’s at Toll Gate, Mystic Cafe & Wine Bar, Ponce Bistro, The Silver Fork

covered bridge in Vermont

I hope you’ve enjoyed my one week itinerary for Vermont. You may enjoy these other United States travel guides and itineraries:

  • 10 Day Itinerary for New Hampshire
  • 25 Most Beautiful Town in New England
  • 10 Day Itinerary for Coastal Maine
  • Fall Foliage Road Trip in New England
  • 3 Day Itinerary for Boston
  • 10-14 Day Itinerary for Southwest US
  • 10 Day Southern California Itinerary
  • 21 Less Touristy Towns on the East Coast
  • Best Art Towns on the East Coast
  • Best Art Towns in California

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Last Updated on July 9, 2023 by Leslie Livingston

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12 Essential Idaho Road Trip Experiences

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With such wide diversity in landscapes and outdoor recreation opportunities, Idaho is one of the most underrated states in the West. From the high desert plains to jagged mountain peaks to pristine rivers and streams, no matter what part of the state you find yourself in, we guarantee there’s someplace beautiful to explore nearby.

mountains with field in foreground

One of the best ways to get the full Idaho experience is to road trip through the state. With so many gorgeous scenic byways and charming rural towns to stop in along the way, the journey can be as much of a draw as the destinations themselves.

We compiled a road trip itinerary that features some of the best outdoor recreation activities the state has to offer. Whether you’re into kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, biking, hiking, or fly fishing, we’ve got something for you.

Located along the dramatic cliffs of the Snake River Canyon, the city of Twin Falls has a high desert climate but tons of outdoor water recreation.

What to Do: Snake River Canyon Rim Trail

wide shot of snake river with bridge stretching over the water and kayakers below the bridge

Walk, run, or bike along the spectacularly scenic Snake River Canyon Rim Trail. The rim trail can be picked up from the northern terminus of Washington Street, next to the Visitor Center, or in Shoshone Park. Venture out to the famed Evil Knievel jump site, watch BASE jumpers leap from Perrine Bridge, or grab a drink at Elevation 486 and watch the sun set over the canyon.

Perrine-Coulee Falls  – This waterfall drops nearly 200 feet down into the Snake River Canyon, creating a continuous ribbon of water as it falls. Unlike most waterfalls, Perrine-Coulee Falls actually increases in strength during the summer because water used for irrigation spills over into the Coulee River. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, there’s even trail that leads behind the falls.

man standing near waterfall coming off of cliff edge

Where to Stay: Blue Lakes Inn – While the outside looks like an unassuming roadside motel, on the inside the rooms have all had a classy modern makeover. Don’t pass up this hidden gem. (Note: the complimentary breakfast here is legit!)

Where to Eat: The Buffalo Cafe – Light on amenities, heavy on character, this old fashioned hole-in-the-wall diner is where the town’s old guard gathers for breakfast.

KB’s – With five locations throughout Idaho, KB is quickly becoming the premiere burrito stop in the whole state (Recommendation: get the Jordan’s Burrito – It’s loaded with slow cooked pork, black beans, and yams!)

Slice Pizza – Delicious brick oven pizza right in downtown Twin Falls. Grab an order to go or hang out on their front patio.

From Twin Falls to Boise, take Interstate 84 heading west.

As one of the fastest growing urban centers in America, Boise is quickly becoming the new darling city of the West. With a charming downtown, new restaurants and breweries, and an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities nearby, it’s easy to see why people are flocking to Boise. What to Do:

woman riding bike on greenbelt path

Boise Greenbelt  – Running through the heart of the city, the Greenbelt is a 25-mile pathway that runs along the Boise River. This tree-lined river corridor is both a recreation destination and means of access for pedestrians and cyclists. Take a sunset stroll, rent a bike from one of the many Green Bike stations , or grab an inner tube and float down the Boise River during the warm summer months.

Payette Brewing Tour – Feeling thirsty while pedaling down the Greenbelt? Stop by the Payette Brewery and take a brewery tour. With a brand new building, plenty of outdoor space, and tons of amazing craft brews on tap, Payette Brewing is a great place to spend the afternoon.

small flight of beers from payette brewing

Old Idaho Penitentiary – While today Boise is a very modern city, you can still connect with its western roots at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Operated as a prison from 1872 to 1973, this historical site is open to the public. While a sobering place to visit, it offers a glimpse into what life behind bars looked like in the old American West.

woman looking into old prison cells

Raft the Payette River with Cascade Raft & Kayak – While the city of Boise is a great place to visit on its own, its access to outdoor recreation opportunities is what truly makes it incredible. Case in point: only 45 minutes outside of town and you have access to world class whitewater. Sign up with Cascade Raft & Kayak and get an introduction to the class III & IV rapids on the South Fork of the Payette River or check out the all-ages option for the whole family. This is a must do experience!

rafters going through rapids on the river

Where to Stay: Hotel 43 – Sitting on the 43rd parallel in the 43rd state, Hotel 43 is a uniquely styled boutique hotel right in the heart of downtown Boise. (Note: Coffee drinkers rejoice. Each room comes with a Keurig coffee maker!)Where to Eat: Bacon – This breakfast and lunch bistro joint takes its bacon seriously. In addition to the standard menu, there is also a separate bacon menu with five different kinds of bacon. Bacon also makes an incredible bacon Bloody Mary.

High Note – Exceptional breakfast and lunch menu with a slight dive bar feel, the High Note is a favorite locals hangout in the middle of downtown Boise.

Bittercreek Alehouse – Casual, mindful, and often pretty busy, the Bittercreek Alehouse serves a wide range of draft microbrews alongside locally sourced pub fare. (If you like fries, cheese, and gravy, then definitely check out their poutine!)

From Boise to Stanley, take Highway 21 going north.

At the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains, the tiny town of Stanley (population 63) is one of the last remaining holdouts of the Idaho frontier. Scenically located, pristinely untouched, this town feels a little like stepping into the past. With access to nearly any type of outdoor recreation you can possibly imagine, Stanley serves as a gateway to an entire world of Idaho adventures.

What to Do: Hike in the Sawtooths Mountains – While this stunning mountain range rivals the Sierra Nevadas and the Canadian Rockies in beauty, they are very lacking in one department: crowds. Their relatively remote location makes them a haven for those looking for a more intimate connection with the natural environment. There over 700 miles of trails, 300 high mountain lakes, and 40 peaks that rise above 10,000 feet. Out here, there’s plenty of wilderness to explore.

woman hiking on path along aspen trees

Horseback riding with Redfish Lake Corrals –   If you want to experience the Sawtooths like the early settlers, then you’ve got to ride out on horseback. Redfish Lake Corrals can take you on an early morning tour where you can watch the sunrise illuminate the jagged mountain cliffs, or lead you on a day ride out to one of the many gorgeous alpine lakes. It’s an experience that won’t easily be forgotten. (If possible, ask for Kagan to be your guide! An Idaho native, he’s full of fun facts and interesting history about the area.)

people on horseback looking out over stanley area

Land of Yankee Fork State Park – Take a glimpse into Idaho’s rich mining history with a visit to Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. Explore the old mining boom towns of Custer, Bayhorse, and Bonanza or take a guided tour of one of best preserved floating gold dredges in the world. (Not all visitor center movies are worth it, but the one at Yankee Fork definitely is.)

old mining building

Where to Stay: Sunny Gulch Campground – While there is traditional lodging to be found in Stanley, there is also an abundant amount of camping. Sunny Gulch is located to the south of town, but offers spectacular views of the Sawtooths at dawn. (Try to get campsite #5 and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view of sunrise on the Sawtooths with your morning coffee.)

Where to Eat: Stanley Baking Company & Cafe – A charming breakfast and lunch spot with legendary baked goods and a friendly atmosphere. Order coffee and baked goods to go or sit down on the front porch and enjoy a full country breakfast. (Recommendation: their sourdough pancakes!)

From Stanley to Salmon, take State Highway 75 north to US 93 and continue north.

Nestled in the Bitterroot Mountains of central Idaho, Salmon is a small rural community with some serious small town vibes. Located along the Salmon River – otherwise known as “The River of No Return” – this town balloons in size during the annual steelhead run.

What to Do: Fly Fishing the Salmon River

man fly fishing

Idaho has some of the best fly fishing in the entire country and has serious anglers planning their vacations to Salmon during peak times of the year. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or just looking to get into the sport, stop by The Flybox – the only full service fly fishing shop in the area. (Note: Try to speak with the owner Steve. He’s a very humble, down to earth guy and an absolute wealth of knowledge.)

Goldbug Hot Springs   – Widely considered to be one of the most “epic” hot springs in the entire country, Goldbug has a combination of attributes that make it a truly incredible experience. Its remote location and steep two miles hike tends to deter some but its terraced pools offer both seclusion and stunning views while the water is crystal clear. The bottom is stony gravel and there’s a hot water waterfall. It pretty much doesn’t get any better than that.

woman sitting in mountain hot pool

Where to stay: Stagecoach Inn – A classic roadside motel right in downtown Salmon. Enjoy views of the Salmon River that runs directly behind the property or take a short walk into town.

Where to Eat: Rise and Shine Espresso – Small funky coffee shop with an eclectic breakfast & lunch menu. Eat in or stop by their drive-thru window for an order to go.

Oddfellows Bakery – A must stop destination for anyone visiting Salmon. Great coffee, nice atmosphere, and out of this world bread!

Junkyard Bistro – A funky small town bistro and bar with a surprising amount of vegetarian and gluten free options.

All photos, including feature image, are credited to Fresh Off the Grid.

Fresh Off the Grid is an outdoor travel blog and camp cooking resource written by Michael van Vliet & Megan McDuffie, where they share stories of their adventures and the food that fuels them.

Published on September 22, 2016

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IMAGES

  1. Family Road Trip Ideas For The Perfect Summer Vacation

    road trips with family

  2. 10 Tips For Surviving a Family Road Trip

    road trips with family

  3. 10 Tips to Make Family Road Trips More Fun

    road trips with family

  4. Family Road Trip: 10 Tips And Tricks For A Memorable Journey With Kids

    road trips with family

  5. Best family road trips in the USA

    road trips with family

  6. Family Road Trip Hacks

    road trips with family

VIDEO

  1. Family road trip experience from JEDDAH TO RIYADH on CAR

  2. We Took A Family Road Trip to the Beach! *Dad's Birthday Surprise*

  3. VLOG

  4. Trip to Devraha Baba Ashram with family...✨🩵

  5. INDIA🇮🇳 દૂધસાગર ઝરણું / waterfall / nechar #sorts

  6. SPRING BREAK| DAY 1| THE LOCAL MALL| I AM ALLISON ALANNA

COMMENTS

  1. 11 Family Road Trip Ideas Every Kid Will Love

    A waterfall-spotting road trip will get the whole family excited about the Finger Lakes (Photo: Shutterstock) Beginning in Ithaca, a gorge-ous New York vacation destination that's home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and the world-famous Moosewood restaurant, this Finger Lakes waterfall road trip is perfect for a long weekend drive.At the southern end of Cayuga Lake is Taughannock ...

  2. The ultimate guide to family road trips

    The ultimate guide to family road trips. These travel tips will help you map out an epic road trip adventure that's fun for everyone—from toddlers to teens and parents. Hitting the open road with kids in tow can feel daunting at times—from your packing list and entertainment options to choosing a kid-worthy destination.

  3. Fantastic family road trips we loved (and how you can plan them too

    Utah and Arizona road trip for families. Utah and Arizona are two perfect states for a family road trips thanks to large beautiful roads, plenty of opportunities for kid-friendly stops and well equipped National Parks, offering endless entertainment opportunities for kids of all ages and scenic drives. Zion Valley, Utah.

  4. 11 Best Family Road Trips In Europe: Kid-Friendly Itineraries

    Nafplio. The whole family will love the charming seaside town of Nafplio, the quiet beaches without any foreign tourists and the seaside restaurants serving the freshest seafood. Finish your road trip by looping around to Delphi, the famous site of the Oracle and the prophecies of the god Apollo.

  5. Road Trip Planner

    Keep exploring with the Roadtrippers mobile apps. Anything you plan or save automagically syncs with the apps, ready for you when you hit the road! Plan your next trip, find amazing places, and take fascinating detours with the #1 trip planner. Every trip is a road trip.

  6. The Best Family Road Trips for Every Age

    Engaging, hands-on museums like the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, or The Exploratorium in San Francisco, are good for this age group. Consider an island-to-island road trip among Washington State's San Juans, or go from beach to beach along the Maine coast. Kids in this age group continue to ...

  7. 15 of the Best Family Road Trips in the US

    If your family is an avid road trip family, you may be running out of family road trip ideas. If this is the case, there is no need to worry as we have compiled a list of 15 of the best family road trips in the US. Table of Contents: The Best Road Trips in the US for Families. Branson, Missouri. Route 66.

  8. 15 BEST Family Road Trips in the USA

    Best Family Road Trip #11: Estes Park, Colorado. Whether Estes Park is the destination, or you happen to be passing through on your way to the Rocky Mountain National Park, this is a must-stop place for a Colorado road trip. The views seem like they come straight from a postcard or a nature photography book.

  9. 48 Best Road Trip Destinations with Kids

    48 of the Best Road Trip Destinations in the U.S. for Families. There's a little something for everyone in these top spots across the country. There's no better, and may we say, affordable, way to see the wonders of America than by a good old road trip. With much to do before a cross-country expedition, we're here to take away one stressful ...

  10. 10 Best Family Road Trips Around the United States

    A road trip is a classic American vacation, but it takes planning to make it great. Here are 10 of the best family road trips around the United States.

  11. 30 Family Road Trip Hacks: Make Travelling More Fun

    5. Build A Playlist. Road trips and tunes go hand-in-hand, but listening to kids' music for too long can drive the best of us to distraction. Nothing ruins a road trip like the 20th rendition of Old McDonald. Ensure everyone has a good time by building a playlist with music for every member of the family. 6.

  12. These are the best scenic family road trips for families, from a parent

    Road trips are the ultimate symbol of freedom, discovery, and the boundless beauty of the US. On many such trips with my family, it has not been just the destinations but also the journey that ...

  13. 20+ U.S. Road Trip Destinations with Kids You Don't Want to Miss

    Where to Visit: Lazy 5 Ranch. Just down the highway from Charlotte is Mooresville, aka Race City USA. Here you can continue the race theme's road trip with stops at NASCAR team shops and downtown walk of fame. Kids will enjoy the drive thru safari, Lazy 5 Ranch that is a favorite among visitors and locals.

  14. The 10 best road trips to take with your family this summer

    The great American road trip is a tried-and-true family tradition. Driving the country's scenic highways and stopping to explore anything that catches your eye — perhaps a stunning viewpoint, a side-of-the-road lobster shack or a historical marker — is a wonderful way to explore the U.S. with your family this summer.

  15. 14 Best Family-Friendly Road Trips on the East Coast

    Vermont Fall Foliage Road Trip. Start: Wilmington End: Newport. How many days: 3 to 7 days. Length: 216 miles. Best time: Fall. Route 100 in Vermont is one of the most picturesque roads on the East Coast, especially during the fall, when the trees' colors turn into intense shades of red and oranges.

  16. Love Life Abroad

    You can use the app to map out your road trip and even share it with friends. Use this link to get $5.00 off your Pro membership. Join our mailing list for insider tips, road trip itineraries & more. Family Road Trips Expert. Love Life Abroad is a family adventure blog filled with road trips, kid-friendly hikes and outdoor adventures.

  17. Best family road trips in the USA

    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 ...

  18. Road Trip Planner

    The Trippy road trip planner automatically calculates the optimal itinerary including stops recommended by Trippy members, favorite restaurants and hotels, local attractions and things to do based on what people who live in the area have suggested, and more. Once you have a quick trip planned, you can customize every detail, adding or removing ...

  19. 11 U.S. Road Trips Kids Should Experience Before They Grow Up

    These are our picks for the best road trips kids should experience before they grow up. 1. Pacific Coast Highway 101 Road Trip. Technically, the Pacific Coast Highway 101 (which becomes Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California) runs from Seattle all the way to San Diego for a total of 1,650 miles. You could do one ultimate family road trip and ...

  20. 25 Epic California Road Trip Ideas for Families

    This family-friendly metropolis a few hours south of Los Angeles has so many things to do with kids. There are breathtaking beaches, interesting museums, delicious restaurants, the famous San Diego Zoo, and much more. This is the perfect weekend California road trip from LA. California Road Trip Ideas: Desert Landscapes 18. Yuma, Arizona

  21. Educational Family Adventures and Travel

    Family Adventures Tours. We offer a catalog of more than 20 adventures designed for multiple generations. Some of our most popular trips include: 1. Under the Tuscan Sun. Enjoy the rolling hills and idyllic small towns of Tuscany with your family on Under the Tuscan Sun: Italian Adventures With Your Family.

  22. 50 Best Family Vacations & Affordable Destinations of 2024

    Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas. Atlantis. Winner of a 2024 Family Travel Award, Atlantis is a top choice for families of all ages looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. Its adrenaline ...

  23. 10 Scenic Road Trips from Seattle for the Ultimate Adventure

    The ferry ticket costs $20.40 (for the vehicle and the driver) and will take you over Elliott Bay, offering stunning views in Seattle of the water during one of the best Seattle road trips. Alternatively, you can also take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston (make sure to check out all the things to do in Edmonds first).

  24. 10 Best Campgrounds and RV Parks for Families

    LIFE ON THE ROAD: 10 Best RV Road Trip Vacations for Families. Best Campgrounds for Families and Kids. These picks for the best campgrounds in the U.S. are based on the factors that are most important to a successful family camping trip. For more family camping ideas near you, explore campgrounds at Go RVing, Recreation.gov, HipCamp, and KOA. 1.

  25. Family Travel Tips, Ideas, and Inspiration

    On Now. Family Travel. 18 Fantastic Family Vacation Destinations—and Where to Stay There. June 06, 2024 04:00 PM. ·. Tim Chester. Family Travel. This Fun, Jam-Packed Itinerary Will Have Your Family Saying " Ja " to Germany. Sponsored by Hilton and the German National Tourist Board.

  26. Perfect 1 Week Itinerary for a Vermont Road Trip

    This one week in Vermont road trip itinerary takes you from Brattleboro in southern Vermont to Stowe in northern Vermont. Distances between destinations are relatively short, so you won't feel rushed. To begin your trip to Vermont, fly into Bradley International Airport in Hartford. Brattleboro is a 1:15 drive from the airport.

  27. The Ultimate American Road Trip Guide

    Road trips are fun times with family, friends—or even yourself!—and it's important to release any expectations and be open to change. As any traveler knows, let go of any prior thoughts of ...

  28. 12 Essential Idaho Road Trip Experiences

    It's an experience that won't easily be forgotten. (If possible, ask for Kagan to be your guide! An Idaho native, he's full of fun facts and interesting history about the area.) Land of Yankee Fork State Park - Take a glimpse into Idaho's rich mining history with a visit to Land of the Yankee Fork State Park.

  29. 50 Easy Road Trip Snacks to Share with the Kids

    Hitting the road with the family is usually equal parts exciting and daunting. These 50 easy road trip snacks will help you pack and eat healthy meals and snacks that will nourish you and the kids. Road Trip Snacks. We've taken a few long trips as a family and boy oh boy, I know how unpredictable they can be when little kids are involved!

  30. Guy's All-American Road Trip

    Guy Fieri. Guy's always on the move with his hit shows: Guy's Big Bite, Guy's Grocery Games and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Guy's Website. Like Guy on Facebook. Follow @GuyFieri on Instagram ...