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On our fam­i­ly vaca­tions, we’ve found a key to mak­ing fam­i­ly road trips more fun. Trav­el­ing with kids on a road trip means stop­ping for food, snacks, and bath­room breaks fre­quent­ly. Instead of stress­ing about get­ting to your des­ti­na­tion, make your road trip stops more excit­ing by enter­ing the quirky, weird world of road­side attrac­tions. From dinosaurs and cas­tles to choco­late fac­to­ries and water­falls, check out these tips on find­ing bore­dom-bust­ing road trip attrac­tions of weird Amer­i­ca wher­ev­er you go.

 

 

 

 

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7 Best US Road Trip Attractions - all across the USA there are wonderful places to stop during your family road trip to see memorable road trip attractions!

 

 

Snap a Photo

 

The clas­sic road­side stop when you’re on a road trip across Amer­i­ca is the pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ty. Why vis­it Carhenge or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine unless you get a pic­ture? One of our fam­i­ly’s favorite pho­to stops is the Super­man stat­ue in Metrop­o­lis, Illi­nois (after tak­ing fam­i­ly pho­tos with the stat­ue, we ducked into the Super Muse­um’s gift shop to see comics, fig­urines, and more). You can take pho­tos to con­vince friends you’re in Paris if your route pass­es one of the many repli­ca Eif­fel tours in the U.S. (like in Paris, Ten­nessee; Paris, Texas; or Fayet­teville, North Car­oli­na). For me per­son­al­ly, the Cabazon dinosaurs off of Inter­state 10 have always been on my pho­to wish­list. Many of these stops offer near­by restau­rants and bath­rooms to ful­fill all of your road trip needs.

Pro-Tip: Pho­to-reluc­tant teens can sur­prise you at these road­side pho­to ses­sions. If you can catch them in a good mood, they may be up for an Insta­gram-wor­thy pose (or they may pre­tend giant dinosaurs are eat­ing them).

 

 

Discover Where the Locals Eat

 

Sure, you could head to the clos­est fast-food chain at lunchtime. But for a change of pace and scenery, find a favorite local restau­rant for your meal. Try a local din­er, like The Var­si­ty in Atlanta or Car­l’s Dri­ve-In off Route 66 in St. Louis. If you’re dri­ving through Ken­tucky and are in the mood for a fan­cy meal, stop at Cas­tle Farm at The Ken­tucky Cas­tle and have brunch. We love to stop at the Riv­er Mar­ket in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, on road trips–it’s a great way to see the city, and it gives us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about the area’s civ­il rights his­to­ry. Orchards and farms also make good lunchtime stops; call ahead to see if there’s a restau­rant on-site, and you may even be able to pick your own apples while you are there!

 

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Kentucky Castle - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

The Ken­tucky Cas­tle in Ver­sailles, Ken­tucky, offers a farm-to-table restau­rant that serves lunch and din­ner. Call ahead to snag a table. Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

Find a Quirky State Park

 

State parks have become one of my favorite places to stop for a pic­nic, bath­room break, or leg stretch. We vis­it­ed Ten­nessee’s Dun­bar Cave State Park on a recent road trip when we were search­ing for a place to have lunch. To our delight, we found that the park has an old cave sys­tem with Native Amer­i­can art drawn into the walls; it also has build­ings remain­ing from when it was a pop­u­lar dance spot in the 1930s and 1940s. In Texas, Dinosaur Val­ley State Park is just off a state high­way between Fort Worth and San Anto­nio, and you can see dinosaur foot­prints in the local creekbed. Anza-Bor­rego Desert State Park in Bor­rego Springs, Cal­i­for­nia, offers desert hikes, dark-sky view­ing, and the chance to spot bighorn sheep.

 

 

Dunbar Caves - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

A chance road­side stop led our fam­i­ly to dis­cov­er Dun­bar Cave State Park in Ten­nessee. Stone build­ings are still vis­i­ble from when the cave was a con­cert venue. Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

 

 

Hike to Waterfalls

 

If wig­gles and whines are tak­ing over the back­seat of your car, it may be time to stop for a water­fall hike. Don’t let visions of hours-long adven­tures and high peaks daunt you. With a lit­tle research, you can find easy water­fall treks tucked just a few min­utes off your route. In Ore­gon, Mun­son Creek Falls is a quick detour off the Ore­gon Coast High­way, with the falls acces­si­ble via a half-mile hike. If you’re up for a longer stop, find a water­fall with a swim­ming hole or creek and let the kids splash around. Turn­er Falls is locat­ed just off Inter­state 35 in Okla­homa, and the park has wad­ing areas, sandy beach­es, and easy access to restrooms and snacks.

 

Pro-Tip: Turn­er Falls Park also fea­tures the ruins of an old stone cas­tle built in the 1930s.

 

 

waterfall - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

My kids are more will­ing to try a hike if there’s a water­fall at the end. (Don’t wor­ry, we weren’t actu­al­ly THAT close to the edge, but the kids loved the opti­cal illu­sion.) Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

Explore a Museum

 

Muse­ums may not come to mind right away for a road­side attrac­tion. After all, you’re head­ed some­where spe­cif­ic, and spend­ing hours in a muse­um won’t get you there quick­ly. How­ev­er, some muse­ums like the Naval Avi­a­tion Muse­um in Pen­saco­la, Flori­da, or the USS Alaba­ma in Mobile, Alaba­ma, offer out­side dis­plays that you can view dur­ing a brief stop. Oth­er muse­ums are worth the small admis­sion cost for the enter­tain­ment they bring to your road trip breaks. For instance, the Casey Jones Muse­um off of Inter­state 40 in Ten­nessee offers free admis­sion for chil­dren under 5 and will be pop­u­lar with train-crazy kid­dos. Old­er kids might enjoy the Dr. Pep­per Muse­um near I‑35 in Waco, Texas, where you can cre­ate and bot­tle your own soda. Any Star Trek fans who hap­pen to be dri­ving through Iowa will want to pay trib­ute to the future birth­place of James T. Kirk and stop in at the free Voy­age Home Muse­um in River­side, about 20 min­utes south of Iowa City.

 

 

battleship - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

The USS Alaba­ma Bat­tle­ship Memo­r­i­al Park offers the abil­i­ty to pic­nic on park grounds for just a $4 entry fee, which allows vis­i­tors to get glimpses of the USS Alaba­ma bat­tle­ship and the USS Drum sub­ma­rine. Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

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Go Shopping

 

Men­tion shop­ping to your kids, and you’ll prob­a­bly get an eye roll. How­ev­er, these shop­ping des­ti­na­tions are worth a quick road­side stop. If you’re dri­ving between New York and Pitts­burgh, take a detour to the town of Her­shey and stop into Her­shey’s Choco­late World for can­dy and sou­venirs (don’t wor­ry, there’s also a food hall near­by in case you want to skip the sug­ar rush). You can take a free 30-minute choco­late-mak­ing tour–and be sure to check out the town’s dis­tinc­tive street lights before you leave! Fix­er Upper fans who hap­pen to be dri­ving through Texas on I‑35 will want to stop at Mag­no­lia Mar­ket at the Silos for home decor, gar­den kits, and tons of food options. And if you’re dri­ving through Mem­phis, make a quick stop off of I‑40 to vis­it the Mem­phis Pyra­mid–it’s a Bass Pro Shop that includes restau­rants, a bowl­ing alley, an obser­va­tion deck, and an archery range.

 

 

gate - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

Mag­no­lia Mar­ket at the Silos is a beau­ti­ful stop for trav­el­ers on I‑35 in Texas. Pho­to by Annie Shelmer­dine on Unsplash.

 

 

Experience Home

 

Final­ly, I’d like to share one of my very favorite types of road­side attractions–the ones clos­est to home. Find­ing those spe­cial places is a great way to get to know your own city and state even bet­ter. Dri­ve west from L.A. to San­ta Mon­i­ca to vis­it the very end of Route 66, go take a pic­ture with the fer­ris wheel at Long Beach, or even stand in front of the Hol­ly­wood sign like a tourist. These quick stops can add fun when you’re out run­ning errands from day to day.

 

 

pier burger shop - 7 Best US Road Trip Attractions

Try vis­it­ing some of the road­side attrac­tions close to home. (Light­ning McQueen fans will love this Route 66 sign.) Pho­to by Paul Nichol­son.

 

 

Remem­ber, some of the best road­side attrac­tions are the ones you don’t have to plan around. If you see a sign that looks inter­est­ing, con­sid­er stop­ping to dis­cov­er some­thing new. On our fam­i­ly trips, we’ve found that our will­ing­ness to look for the unex­pect­ed makes our kids more obser­vant trav­el­ers. They’ll watch out the win­dow and tell us what sur­pris­es they find along the way. Thanks to road­side attrac­tions and a will­ing­ness to stop and explore, our trips are more mem­o­rable than ever before.

 

Christy Nichol­son is a writer, edi­tor, and recov­er­ing per­fec­tion­ist from Nashville, Ten­nessee. When not trav­el­ing with fam­i­ly, she enjoys cozy days at home read­ing, gar­den­ing, mak­ing music, and wran­gling two awe­some kids. Christy writes at Any-Worth.com about trav­el and sus­tain­able living. 

 

 

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7 Best US Road Trip Attractions - all across the USA there are wonderful places to stop during your family road trip to see memorable road trip attractions!