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As we plan our full-time RV journey, one of the things that we have had to discuss as a family is where we want to go. Sure, we’ll be traveling full-time but let’s be real here; no one wants to just wander the country aimlessly. Okay, maybe some do, but I don’t. I don’t need to have a strict schedule of where we will be headed each week or month, but I at least want to have a final destination in mind. It was that need to know where we’re going to end up that got us discussing what the best road trip stops in the US would be. And it was that discussion that brought us to this post.
Let it never be said that I do anything half heartedly because this post started out with only 7 road trip stops written down. It was about halfway through writing it that I realized that this post simply needed more. I personally hate when I’m reading a blog or website and an article leaves me with feeling like I’ve only gotten half of the story. Since I want my blog readers to always feel like they have had the best experiences when visiting my blogs, this post ended up at 30 different road trip stops in the US.
Top 30 Family Road Trip Stops in the US
Obviously when you set out to visit these family road trip stops, you’ll want to do everything that you can to save money. I highly recommend that you pick up CityPasses if there are any available for where you will be traveling. If there is one available, you could save up to 55% off of admission prices. You’ll also want to check into Entertainment Books as well since these can help you save money on eating out, on local attractions and more. Another great way to save money on family road trip stops is by getting a National Parks pass. It will save you admission for National Parks in the US which can be a considerable sum depending on how many you visit. The “America the Beautiful” pass costs around $80 and will save you money at
Just because you’re on a road trip doesn’t mean that you have to blow through all of the money in your savings account, right?
The Grand Canyon National Park – Obviously the Grand Canyon National Park had to make this list. The Grand Canyon, a 1 mile deep, 277 mile long crater in the earth draws millions of visitors each year and is the perfect destination for a family road trip. There are three different places that you can view the canyon from however most people view it from the South Rim. Your admission pass is good for 7 days total. Keep in mind that you will also have to purchase a parking pass.
The White House – 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is a great stop for anyone on a family road trip. While you can’t just walk up and pay an admission fee, you absolutely can request a public tour of the White House. I can’t think of a better way to teach your children the history of the United States than by having them walk through the White House. Keep in mind that not all tour requests will be granted and that security will be very high. I would hope the reasons why would be obvious.
Niagara Falls State Park – While it might seem silly and cliche’, visiting Niagara Falls State Park is an experience that everyone should have. Whether you’re visiting only the US side, the Canadian side or both, your kids (and likely you too) will marvel at the rush of the falls and just how powerful they really are. Niagara Falls really is one of those things that you have to see to truly understand the magnitude of. If your family has valid passports, you’ll also want to consider hopping over to the Canadian side of the falls. The view from there is drastically different and well worth it. The Niagara Falls Visitor Center is full of great info on the falls too so I highly recommend you give it a quick visit while you’re there as well.
Times Square – Headed to NYC? Make sure that you visit Times Square. If you’re traveling with kids, it may be best to visit during the day. The kids will get a kick out of seeing the different types of people, costumes and of course, all of the big skyscrapers. While it is mostly adult themed restaurants and shops here are several kid-friendly attractions in Times Square that your entire family will enjoy. You can start the day at Toys R Us and finish with a Broadway show! While you’re in NYC, make sure to check out the other awesome road trip stops too!
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California – If your family loves the water, you’ll want to consider visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. The bridge’s visitor center is full of history and stories on the bridge, exhibits and even houses the original “test tower” that they used before the bridge was put up. Even cooler is that the exhibits are all houses inside of an old bunker! You don’t get to walk down inside a bunker everyday! If you’re visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday, you can even take a free guided walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge with the San Francisco Public Library.
Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island – Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is something that every family should do at least once. There is so much history in this one area that for a roadschooling family, it can’t be missed. Lady Liberty herself is home to several exhibits including her original torch and the story of how it was updated or changed. On the 2nd floor, you can view exhibits that tell the story of her history. When you visit Liberty Island, you’ll get a ticket for free self-guided audio tour with your ferry ticket to help your family learn or you can opt to take a tour with a park ranger instead. Visiting Ellis Island will get you a tour of the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration which can be a fantastic way to teach your family about how our ancestors immigrated here looking for a better life. It’s also fantastic if you’re working on your genealogy since it houses immigration records for those who immigrated to America by way of Ellis Island.
Mount Rushmore – My daughter can’t wait until we officially become a full-time RV family and Mount Rushmore is #1 on her places to see. She has been talking about wanting to see it for well over a year now so needless to say, after we head to see family for a couple of weeks, we’ll be off to Rushmore. If you’re planning to visit Mount Rushmore with your own family try to schedule your visit in May, September or October since those are the least busiest months. Make sure that you visit the visitors center or if you’re up for a walk, you can walk the .6 mile trail to get up close and personal with the mountain. If you have extra time, be sure to take in one of the ranger talks. They hold them on subjects such as the history of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes or the history of how and why the mountain was carved.
The Smithsonian Museum – Love museums? You won’t find a more amazing one that The Smithsonian Museum in D.C.. Current exhibits change but you’ll find everything from modern art to history and more being displayed. In addition to the exhibits, you can often watch an Imax movie or take in the show at the Albert Einstein Planetarium. It’s the perfect learning situation for any homeschool family or roadschooling family. What most people don’t realize is that there are actually several different locations that make up the Smithsonian museum family including the National Zoo. All of them are open every day except Christmas although they may close for renovations and such so you’ll always want to check their current hours before visiting.
Yellowstone National Park – One of my favorite family road trip spots in the US is Yellowstone National Park for a lot of reasons. There are very few places in this country where you can see everything that Yellowstone has to offer in one spot. There’s so much to do when you visit Yellowstone National Park that your family won’t even have the chance to get bored. From the Old Faithful erupt to seeing the American Bison to the numerous waterfalls and even learning about the super volcano that is under Yellowstone, it’s the perfect place to spend a week or even two! If you want to spend a little time on the water, you can take a self-guided tour of Lake Yellowstone after you rent a boat. And if you’re up for a short hike, booking the Wake Up to Wildlife tour is a great idea!
Lincoln Memorial – Another great family road trip stop in the US, the Lincoln Memorial is perfect for a quick day outing. The memorial is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has no admission fees or other costs. If you have a question, rangers are on site from 9:30 am until 10:00 pm to answer any questions and to speak at different programs such as Lincoln’s Inaugurations. While you’re there and you’re studying Abraham Lincoln, you should also consider visiting Ford’s Theater. The theater is full of memorabilia from Lincoln’s life and assassination including the box office and chair that Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot and the bed they laid him on after. It is still a working theater so you will need tickets to enter. You can either choose to pick up same day tickets at the box office for free or reserve them online for $3.00 per ticket.
The Alamo – “Remember the Alamo” is much more than a saying to those of us in Texas. It is an integral part of our history. The Alamo is also one of the top family road trip stops in the US. Don’t believe me? It is the most visited historic landmark in the State of Texas and take my word for it. That’s a lot of historical landmarks to beat out. Admission to the Alamo is free but you will likely need to pay for parking. You can also purchase an audio tour with headphones and an audio wand for $7.00 each. When you visit The Alamo, you’ll be able to visit any current exhibits that are available as well as the Living History Encampment and the film “The Alamo: Crossroads of History.” These exhibits will teach the history of the Texas Revolution, the courageous stand made by 200 Texian soldiers in March of 1836, General Sam Houston, former Congressman David Crockett and finally, the Republic of Texas.
One final thing: The Alamo has the status of the Shrine of Texas Liberty and considered hallowed ground. It is a memorial to the men who died there in 1836 and as such there are certain rules of reverence that visitors are asked to follow. Please respect these rules.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – Need some sun in your life? Head to Myrtle Beach! Aside from the beach itself, you can find a whole ton of fun for the whole family! You could visit the Hollywood Wax Museum or visit Broadway at the Beach to ride traditional carnival rides. Ripley’s Aquarium is also a fantastic option for those traveling with kids. You could rent a boat or go hunting for shells, shark teeth and more at Myrtle Beach State Park. You can even take a helicopter ride over the beach! Myrtle Beach also has quite a few historic attractions that should appeal to any parent. After all, what’s better than fun and learning together?
Gateway Arch in Saint Louis MO – If you’re planning a trip to the midwest, be sure to swing by and visit the Gateway Arch, Gateway Arch Riverboats and Old Courthouse. Officially the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the entire property is around 91 acres. While you’re there, take a tram to the top (closed until March 2017) or visit the Old Courthouse to see exhibits about the memorial’s history. Once you’ve done that, head into the Arch Store and watch the award winning documentary “Monument to the Dream” for free! If your kids participate in the Junior Ranger program, make sure to stop by the Old Courthouse to get their badge!
Cedar Point – If you’re planning on visiting Northern Ohio anytime soon, why not stop by Cedar Point for a day of fun? Not only do you get to spend the day on amazing theme park rides, but they also often have special and themed events that are great too! Admission fees vary by year and can be quite expensive so make sure that you save a bit of money for this one.
North Padre Island – Have you ever went beach camping? If not, you’re missing out! Not only is beach camping cheap, but it can be incredibly fun too! Beach camping is one of my favorite things to do and North Padre Island, Texas is one of my favorite places to do so. Don’t confuse North Padre with it’s more expensive counterpart South Padre. Camping at North Padre will only cost you the admission fee to the park. South Padre is much more expensive. When you’re camping on North Padre, just make certain that you set your tent or travel trailer far enough off of the beach itself so that you won’t be affected by the incoming tide.
Los Angeles Zoo – If you’re headed to California, make sure to plan a visit to the LA Zoo. The zoo is rather large so you might want to plan to take a couple of days to move through it. While you’re there, make sure to see the California Condor display. The LA Zoo is one of the only places you can see them. Admission fees will run you around $20 per adult or $15 for kids 2-12. We did the Los Angeles Zoo back in 2008 and can’t wait to go back once we get launched on our full-time RV journey!
Sixth Floor Museum – History buffs will love visiting Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. Walk through the museum on your own or for a few dollars more than the admission price, get the audio tour. As you walk through the museum, you’ll see things based around JFK’s presidency and assassination. You an even see the actual scale model that the FBI used in solving the crime and the window that the shot was fired from.
The Sixth Floor museum is incredibly busy so make sure that you account for that. It can be easier to buy your admission tickets online rather than buy them at the door. We bought at the door and ended up having to wait 2 hours to get into the museum. If you’re looking to save a little money, the Dallas CityPass includes the Sixth Floor Museum and is a great way to save money on Dallas attractions.
Seattle Space Needle – The Seattle Space Needle towers an impressive 605 feet above Seattle and when you travel the 520 feet upwards in the Observation Deck, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area like no other. Take in the sights from the deck and then have lunch or dinner at the Skycity Restaurant. The Space Needle is open 365 days a year, but you’ll want to double check their hours before you visit. They occasionally do shut down for special events. Parking can be expensive no matter whether you choose valet or a garage.
Roswell, New Mexico – The truth is out there and that has never been more evident than in Roswell, New Mexico. Stroll the streets and view all of the shops, pick up some alien memorabilia or just take in the story of the Roswell crash of 1947. If you want to visit the actual “UFO” crash site, you’ll have to take a private guided tour since it is not accessible (legally) without one. Most tours also include a tour of the city and more making it worth the price tag if you really want to dig into Roswell. Just make sure to book your tour well ahead of time since they are pretty popular.
Mammoth Cave National Park – The history behind Mammoth Cave National Park is fascinating and so are the caves. The caves, once thought to be small, actually wind in different systems and caverns underneath the Kentucky ground for over 400 miles making it the longest cave system in the world. To this day, they still don’t know exactly how deep the caves go. Since Mammoth Cave is the 2nd most popular tourist attraction in the US, make sure that you plan very well for your visit. Otherwise, you could find yourself not able to get a hotel room or a camping spot.
Houston Space Center – “Houston, we have a problem.” Yes, you can tour that Houston when you visit the Houston Space Center. With over 400 things for you to do, it’s a great way to spend the day with the family or take off toward your next family road-trip stop. Take the NASA tram tour, visit Historic Mission Control, have lunch with an astronaut and more. This one is perfect for those that are trying to teach space or for kids (and adults!) who enjoy all things space.
For those looking to save as much money as possible, the Houston CityPass does include the Houston Space Center plus several other Houston attractions.
Schlitterbahn Water Park – If the weather is nice, why not visit an amazing waterpark while you’re in Texas? Schlitterbahn Water Park and Resorts are huge water parks with loads of fun. In fact, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels is the third largest water park in the US. Park rates will depend on when you visit and tend to change every year. Book your hotel or campground stays early since these are very popular parks to visit.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Another one of the most majestic National Parks in the US, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fantastic if you’re looking for a few great family road trip stops in the US. While you’re there, take the time to walk a nature trail, go biking, visit the historic cemetery, see the waterfalls or take in a Ranger-led program. Junior Rangers will also want to make sure that they get their badge while you’re here too.
Due to recent wildfires in Tennessee, make sure that you double check the trails you want to hike. A large portion of them are closed currently due to damage.
Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, CA – If you’re in the kitchy road trip spots, take a day and visit the Mystery Spot in California. Described as a “gravitational anomaly,” it’s a fantastic way to help your kids understand the concept of gravity or to simply see something strange. See balls roll up hill, compasses read incorrectly and even short people appear taller (or vice versa)! All tours are guided, however you are able to hike the trails without a guide. They do have seasonal hours so be sure that you check what their current hours are before you visit.
National September 11 Memorial and Museum/One World Trade Center – This is probably the most important on my list of family road trip stops in the US. If you’re trying to teach your kids about the events of September 11, 2001, there is no better way than to do so with a visit to Ground Zero. One World Trade Center is part of the memorial that was built at the site to replace the Twin Towers. Start your visit at the welcome center then follow on to hear the stories of the people who built it. Then, take the elevator up 500 feet to check out the See Forever Theater and the Observation Deck. Once You’re up there, make sure to check out the Sky Portal, a 14 foot glass disc in the floor that looks directly down on the streets below. Tickets start at $28 each for kids and $34 for adults, but you can save a bit of money by purchasing a ticket package.
While you’re there, make sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The two twin memorial pools are almost an acre in size and sit where the original towers once stood. As you teach your family of the tragedy that happened that day and in 1993 when it WTC was bombed, take them around the pool to view the names of those lost which are etched in bronze around the pools. Tickets to the museum start at $15 for kids and $24 for adults, but you can save a bit by purchasing the NYC CityPass. The 9/11 Memorial (separate from the museum) is free of charge for all ages and open 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily.
Dollywood – Ya’ll I really love Dolly Parton so it makes sense that I would choose to include her theme park Dollywood on my list of top family road trip stops in the US. The theme park spans over 150 acres near Pigeon Forge, TN and has over 40 rides that the whole family will enjoy. Not only that, but there are over 15 different shows for the family and several different festivals that are held each year including their Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. While you’re there, make sure to cool off at the water park, Dollywood’s Splash Country. The theme park portion opens for the year usually in mid-March and the water park opens near the end of May.
Empire State Building – The Empire State building, one the tallest building in the world, stands an impressive 1,454 feet from the ground to the tip and is a fantastic family road trip stop. Take the tour of the building and head up to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor or take the manually operated elevator up to the top deck on the 102nd floor. Learn the history of the building by taking in the “Dare to Dream” exhibit. Tickets for the Empire State Building are only available online so be sure that you buy yours before you head out. Prices start at $27 for kids and $34 for adults. The Empire State Building is also included when you buy the NYC CityPass which can save you 40% on 4 NYC attractions.
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum – April 19, 1995, the US was stunned as the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed. 168 people were killed. Today, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum stands in it’s place and is a great family road trip stop for those who are wanting to honor the victims or to teach their children. While you’re there, take a walk through The Memorial Museum to see a chronological timeline of the events of that day plus events leading up to and after. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is 168 empty chairs that sit on the spot where the Murrah Federal Building once stood. The Survivors Wall includes over 600 names of people who were there that day and survived. The Survivors Tree is an American Elm that stood on the grounds that day and withstood the blast. The other areas of the memorial honor the rescuers, the children killed that day and the spirit of hope that the city of OKC and the nation showed in the aftermath.
While you’re there, you can take a self-guided tour or download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play for a self-guided audio tour. Tickets to the museum begin at $12.00 for kids and $15.00 for adults.
Your State Capital Building – Visiting your state capitol building is a great road trip stop for families! Most are free to visit and will offer both the history of your state and current events. Each one will have different rules and regulations for visits so make sure that you check their website before you go. This can be a great addition if you’re teaching your state history, US government and more. Make sure that when you visit that you plan enough time to really spend time learning. You’ll also want to check if there is any place to have a picnic lunch on the grounds since this will save you money.
Acadia National Park – Acadia National Park is one of the hidden treasures of the US and the last (but certainly not least) on our list of top family road trip stops in the US. While you’re there, do a bit of camping, walk the Sand Beach, hike the trails and more. Make sure the kids get their Junior Ranger badge then take in a guided tour with a park ranger. For admission fees, you’ll pay around $25.00 per car.
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