If you are anything like me, as a mom, you are always attempting to impart those core memories to your children.
While there are many fantastic trips, experiences, and vacations overall that are memorable, there is likely nothing more impactful, memory-making, and quintessentially American than a family road trip.
After all, spending hours together in the car as you make your way across our beautiful nation could not help but create memories of all types!
Therefore, if your goal is to make memories that will last a lifetime, you want to consider the following best family road trip destinations.
Here are a few of my favorite options.
1. The Oregon Trail Road Trip
When completing this classic family road trip, you will begin at Cape Cod and then eventually make your way to Portland, Oregon.
It is a journey across the northern part of America and consists of around 3,100 miles. The journey was one attempted and completed by pioneers of old, who often took an astounding four months to make the trek.
Thankfully, you can make the journey a little quicker with not near the danger as when pioneers attempted it. No dying of dysentery on this journey either!
There are several sites to see that will delight kids and adults as well along this path. This includes a few “wonders of the world” including Niagra Falls, Mt. Rushmore, and even Yellowstone National Park.
This is a trip made up of experiences every kid should enjoy before they leave home, or at least I think so!
The following is a breakdown of stops you will want to make on your road trip retracing the path of the Oregon Trail.
Obviously, if you want to skip a stop, that’s up to you, as you know your family best. I just wanted to give you a highlight list of where you “could” stop:
Cape Cod, MA
Begin at Cape Cod and partake in some relaxing beach time. Then, gather your family up for the journey west.
This location offers a variety of options for education and fun. Rochester contains a great deal of American history but also serves a role in the history of toys, which, let’s face it, might be a bit more entertaining.
The National Toy Hall of Fame makes its home here and is a must stop for families of all ages.
This is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. If your family isn’t into this scene, you can instead visit the Farmer’s Museum, where you and your kids can see what a working farm and historic village really looked like.
Niagara Falls, NY
As the last stop in New York, you have to stop and view Niagara at Niagara Falls State Park.
Interestingly enough, this state park is the oldest in the entire nation, so you can brag about that to your family and friends when you get back home!
Depending on your kids’ ages, this could be a welcome stop or one you pass on, but let’s be clear it was one the pioneers most certainly didn’t experience.
Fort Wayne, IN
This is a stop to make if the idea of finding out your own family history is interesting to you. You can visit the Allen County Public Library, which features the second-largest genealogy center in the world.
For no charge, you can search through more than 2.8 million online records and 1.2 million physical records to find out if your ancestors were some of the brave souls who journeyed the Oregon Trail originally.
The windy city is known for many things, and you can find a great deal to do when in the area. However, if you have an American Girl obsessed child, you want to visit the American Girl Place in Chicago, as it is the birthplace of the American Girl Dolls.
Des Moines, IA
If your trip is during August 10-20, you and your family can experience the famous Iowa State Fair.
Mount Rushmore, SD
Visit the four presidents carved into the mountain as a national memorial to the important roles they each played in American history. It is the place where American history is alive in stone.
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Here at Bend, you will find waterfalls, and hiking trails, and can even go tubing on the Deschutes River.
By the time you reach Portland, the end of your journey through the Oregon Trail, you will have seen so much of America and have made so many memories.
For one last stop, visit the Hood River Fruit Loop, which is a loop of farms spanning 35 miles where you can pick your own berries, apples, and more.
It makes a great way to resupply the wagons before heading back home!
2. Lake Champlain Byway Road Trip
This is a much shorter road trip overall, spanning only 80 miles. You can actually break this down into two or three days or make the trip in one day, in just two and 1 ⁄ 2 hours.
If you have little ones, this might be an ideal first road trip to try. It begins right at the Canadian border and then ends at Middlebury, Vermont.
It stays in the northeast and makes a nice New England sampling.
Again, add or take out any stops you don’t think appeal to your family. However, these are some great options for the Lake Champlain Byway Road Trip, known as a New England road trip.
Rouses Point, NY
Stop in at the Champlain Historical Society to learn more about the area and the Nork York village’s history.
Grand Isle County, VT
In Isle La Motte, make sure to stop by the Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve. Here, you and your kids can enjoy looking through the 85-acre preserve featuring 480-million-year-old fossils, all free of charge if you want to self-tour.
If looking for fossils in the dirt sounds like heaven to your family, make this a must-add stop.
At Burlington, VT, you can find the typical oddity that you find on a classic road trip.
As part of touring the quaint downtown Church Street Marketplace, and seeing the charm of Vermont’s largest city, you have to visit the world’s tallest filing cabinet, standing 38 feet tall.
As home to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, your kids can make their own special bear at this location.
Incidentally, the Shelburne Museum is also worth a visit.
Conclude your New England road trip with visits to the famous covered bridges of Vermont.
3. Florida Keys Road Trip
Take it way south to the Overseas Highway Route 1, and consider a trip through the southern parts of the state of Florida and explore the beauty awaiting you in the Florida Keys.
This trip spans 160 miles and begins at Miami and ends in breathtaking Key West. You can make this trip in a day or break it up into a few day trips in order to add a few overnight stops.
The main point of this trip is wildlife as there are many potential stops that will let you and your kids see all the wildlife that Florida has to offer and even some from other locations on the globe.
The Florida Keys Road Trip is all about experiencing natural beauty both in terms of the beauty of the landscape or seascapes and the animals that call this area home.
Here are a few options when planning your Florida Keys Road Trip:
If Florida wildlife sounds amazingly entertaining to your family, make sure you visit the Monkey Jungle in Miami.
Here, your family can walk the fenced-in trails where you can see 30 species of monkeys enjoying unique habitats.
Everglades National Park, FL
As you might imagine, the Everglades National Park offers your family the opportunity to experience the American crocodile and alligators that call the area home.
Visit this location and take a boat tour to see manatees, birds, alligators, and more.
Key Largo, FL
If you are like me, this location Key Largo calls to mind an old Beach Boys song. Anyway, to move on to the point, in Key Largo, you can interact with dolphins in their natural habitat, as there are many types of encounters you can plan.
If you didn’t get your dolphin fill in Key Largo, you can visit Islamorda’s Theater of the Seas, which is just 20 minutes south.
This is a marine mammal park and includes residents such as birds, alligators, stingrays, sea turtles, sea lions, dolphins, and more.
Are your kids or you yourself fascinated with sea turtles? If so, you will love this stop at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL.
Here, your family will learn all about the practical way turtles are rehabilitated and the reasons for such a location.
You can tour an operating room that has been used to save turtles and can enjoy a guided tour through the rehabilitation center. If you time it right, you are really in luck and can witness a turtle release!
Sugarloaf Key, FL
When stopping here, you can trade your four-wheel vehicle in for a boat charter and enjoy some fishing in the breathtaking Sugarloaf Key.
Key West, FL
When you reach this destination, you will be at the southernmost point of the continental United States. There is plenty to do in this area aside from marveling at this fact.
You can also take a conch train tour of the Key West streets, which kids will love.
4. Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
This 469-mile road trip takes your family through some of the most scenic roadside views in all of America.
When taking the Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip, you will travel from Virginia to Tennessee, ending your journey as well as beginning your adventure in two National Parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park.
In other words, your journey starts at a national park and ends at one too! This is a great way to get two national park visits into one incredible journey.
Of course, between the national parks, there are lots of fun possible stops as well.
This beautiful road trip will offer some of the most amazing views in the entire nation. You can make your own itinerary or instead opt to follow the path listed below with some interesting, beautiful, and entertaining stops.
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Your first stop on this road trip is also your first National Park visit of the trip. Begin at the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station to start your journey.
Just as a general overview, the Shenandoah National Park, when traveling with kids, offers plenty of fun activities, including easy hikes, swimming holes, and wild blackberries to pick.
Natural Bridge, VA
Situated inside the National Bridge State Park, be sure to visit the National Bridge, which is an amazing 215 feet tall.
This limestone gorge is carved out by Cedar Creek and is labeled a Virginia Historic Landmark.
Be sure to visit the Roanoke Pinball Museum on this leg of your journey. Here, there are 55 pinball machines that date back as far as the 1930s.
Blowing Rock, NC
This location is the home of a local legend, a love story of lore told of a Cherokee brave and the Chickasaw Chieftain’s daughter.
This rock formation, known as the Blowing Rock juts out from a cliff, which causes the wind to blow upward, which causes the snow to seemingly fall upside down.
There is a great deal to do in the picturesque town of Asheville. Perhaps the most notable is the Biltmore Estate, which is America’s largest home.
Young kids might not appreciate the architecture of the home itself or care for the traditional tour. However, there are guided tours that you can reserve that are more interesting and show a bit of behind the scenes views of the house.
In addition, the entire property is privately owned and includes two fabulous hotels, several delicious restaurants, shops, and other activities including horseback riding and even a falconry experience.
As you move to the southernmost part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you arrive in Cherokee, NC. Here, you can visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where there are artifacts, special effects, life-sized figures, and more that tell the story of 13,000 years of Cherokee history.
If you can fit it in, your entire family will love the renowned drama “Unto These Hills.” This outdoor theatrical drama tells the story of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians. Kids will be mesmerized and adults will be thoroughly entertained by this amazing drama.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Marking the tail end of your Blue Ridge Parkway, you arrive at your second National Park of the trip, the 800-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spanning from North Carolina through Tennessee.
Interestingly enough, this mountain range is one of the oldest mountains in the entire world.
Here, you will find countless activities including amusement parks, water parks, restaurants, museums, dinner shows, and much, much more.
Of course, you could also choose to stay in the park area and camp, hike or enjoy the views. It is truly a great finale to an epic family road trip.
5. Historic Route 66 Road Trip
When thinking of classic family road trips, your mind likely goes to this particular roadway, considered the Mother Road, Route 66.
If you have Disney, Pixar Cars fans—of the 2006 original movie— in your home, you will know all about this historic route which was bustling from the 1930s to the 1960s, before its shine was dimmed by Interstate 40 which relegated traffic away from the little towns that were situated along Route 66.
Stretching all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles, this particular route, with flashy neons and roadside kitsch, even has its own song.
A song, a movie, and an all-American historical significance make this route a must-do trip for any American family.
Unfortunately, the historic route cannot truly be experienced today as many of the attractions, towns, and businesses along the way closed permanently. However, today’s version is still a worthwhile trip.
There are many ways to embark on the Route 66 journey. Some are even purposefully themed to see some of the iconic stops from the Cars movie franchise.
However, if you want to simply make some interesting stops along the way, consider the following noteworthy stopping points.
There are plenty of neat things to do in Chicago as you begin your journey west. Check out the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier or the lakefront beaches.
Known as the Land of Lincoln, Springfield offers a great deal of historical features pertaining to President Abraham Lincoln.
While not in Tulsa, the Big Blue Whale of Catoosa is situated nearby, just 20 minutes away. It is known as one of the most recognizable attractions featured along Route 66, so if you can fit it in, it makes a great addition to this journey.
Historically, when it was built in the 1970s, it actually had a waterslide visitors could ride into a pond. Today, the slides are not in use, but the roadside attraction is still interesting enough to merit a visit.
Depending on when you are journeying through, you might be able to enjoy the International Balloon Fiesta, which is hosted in October.
If not, you can still enjoy checking out the Old Town, which showcases where Spanish families settled back in the 1700s.
This is a great place to get out of the car and stretch your legs, as there are plenty of hiking trails and even a few state parks in the area.
You can even hike an underground cave, but be sure to bring headlamps and flashlights.
Lowell Observatory is another stop that might be worth adding to the day if you have a young astronomer in the family. Here, there is a kids zone along with various telescopes allowing you to see stars up close.
Los Angeles, CA
There are several museums to explore once you make your way into Los Angeles. One notable one that is particularly interesting is the Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum, which showcases vintage and classic cars.
Santa Monica, CA
Thus ends your adventure on the beloved Route 66. Here, you can enjoy a trip finale by visiting the Santa Monica Pier.
This iconic location juts out into the Pacific Ocean and happens to be one of the most photographed locations in the entire world.
6. Arizona Road Trip: Phoenix to Grand Canyon
Perhaps it’s my memories of The Brady Bunch reruns growing up where they loaded up the station wagon and made their way to the Grand Canyon, but when I think of family road trip possibilities, there simply has to be a trip to the Grand Canyon in the mix.
While there are many routes you can take to get here, this 240-mile road trip highlights some of the state’s most iconic features, not least of which is the magnificent Grand Canyon.
Again, this itinerary is up to your own interpretation. I recommend researching the areas that you will be passing through and exploring possibilities that would be especially enjoyable for your family.
However, if you want a general overview to get you started, consider the following popular stops.
You begin your journey in Phoenix, AR. There are countless activities to enjoy as this is a booming metropolis with some 5 million residents.
There are museums, restaurants, and activities galore. A few of my favorites include the Phoenix Zoo, because what do kids love more than lions, tigers, and bears? Oh, my!
There is even a splash pad kids can cool off in during the hotter months (open from March through October).
If you want something indoors and out of the heat, consider adding a visit to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix to the itinerary.
Kids can play in a pretend grocery store, enjoy an art studio, block building, or fort building. There is also an indoor climbing center.
This is the perfect stop to get all that energy out before loading back up in the car and proceeding to your next stop.
Sedona also offers a great deal of options when it comes to activities and family entertainment overall. However, be sure to see landmarks like the Bell Rock, located just north of the Village of Oak Creek.
Also, Cathedral Rock is a grander version of Bell Rock and you can see it from Highway 179.
You could spend several days in Sedona when you combine the natural landscape features you will want to see and the many restaurants and towns in the area.
Grand Canyon South Rim
If you have stayed a few days in each location, this last stop will put you at the end of your trip, with just a few days more to explore the beauty of the amazing Grand Canyon.
You made it! Now, to see all this area has to offer.
There is plenty to choose from other than simply looking at the canyon itself, which is worthwhile on its own.
For small kids, you can rent a Burley trailer. Rent bikes at Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals.
Another fun activity to do is letting your kids become Junior Rangers as part of the Junior Ranger Program at Grand Canyon National Park.
Kids will earn an official badge and certificate after learning about the history, both naturally and culturally, of the canyon as well as getting to participate in several fun activities.
Due to the immense scope of the Grand Canyon, we feel you need to have a few more options to enjoy now that you have made your way to this iconic, breathtaking location.
As part of your ride, the engaging conductor will visit, and there is even a mock robbery by “bandits” from the Wild West that will be a memory-making experience, to be sure.
7. East Coast Road Trip: a Look at American History
Admittedly, traveling the entirety of the East Coast via a road trip can seem a bit formidable, especially if your kids are on the younger end.
However, if you break up your journey, this adventure through cities and beach towns with many historic stops on the way can be an interesting, fun, and educational trip your family won’t soon forget.
You can skip any of these locations by traveling through to the next, perhaps, only stopping to sleep, or do as much as you can in each location before moving to the next stop.
It’s all about the goal of your trip. Do you want to make it the entire way? Or do you not care to move slowly and enjoy everything the area has to offer?
Either way is fine, but here are some stops to consider:
This is the beginning of your road trip down the east coast of America.
Visit Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox for a behind-the-scenes guided tour while here.
Or check out the 40-foot milk bottle, the Hood Milk Bottle, weighing 15,000 pounds. This roadside stop is a quintessential road trip attraction.
This next stop gives you the opportunity to jump out and stretch your legs as you stroll the Cliff Walk. This 3.5-mile walk is ideal for seeing the beautiful beach coastline and the mansion.
If you are interested, you can tour The Breakers, which served as the Vanderbilt’s “summer cottage”. Oh, to be so wealthy to have a mansion as a summer cottage!
New York City, NY
The Big Apple is simply bursting at the seams with things to do when you arrive. You can, of course, enjoy the typical tourist locations like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and more.
You can also add a trip to the American Museum of Natural History, especially if your kids are fans of the movie Night at the Museum.
While your kids might not appreciate it or understand the reference, be sure to add a stop outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art and climb the “Rocky Steps.”
As another important location in America’s history, Baltimore is the spot where the story occurred that inspired the National Anthem.
No trip of America’s history would be complete without a stop at the capital, Washington, DC. There are countless stops you can add to your day or days in Washington, including many free museums.
To stick with the American historical theme, you can visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a guided tour of the former president’s gardens and home.
For an interesting look at the history of the United States Army, consider adding a visit to the Airborne Special Operations Museum to your time in Fayetteville.
This is a free museum created to honor the original paratroopers as well as many other special operations units, some of which are still active today.
Folklore alleges that when General Sherman was making his march to the sea through the south, burning virtually everything in his path, he spared the beautiful city of Savannah because it was simply too pretty to burn.
In reality, it provided a strategic advantage for the Union army, allowing them to cut off food supplies to the Confederate army and claim a stronghold on the Georgia coast.
However, once you look around Savannah a bit, you might be convinced the lore is right. The town of Savannah, GA, spans 22 town squares and features a historic district that is dedicated to honoring various Revolutionary War time heroes.
Aside from visiting the spectacular city, you can also explore the Savannah Children’s Museum. This features both outdoor and indoor activities with dozens of exhibits and a sensory garden.
Forsyth Park, which is an iconic Savannah site, is also worth a visit and features two playgrounds the kids will thoroughly enjoy.
8. San Diego to Las Vegas
Last, but most certainly not least, on the best family road trips you will want to try is the shorter trip beginning in San Diego, California, and ending in Las Vegas, NV.
While what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, you will want to take in all this trip has to offer and remember it for a long time as this trek is a perfect one for smaller kids as it can be completed fairly quickly.
Make this journey your own by adding stops or going through some to the next destination. You can turn this into a longer trip or cut it down short to make it more manageable for families with kids of all ages.
San Diego, CA
La Jolla Cove
Visit Calico Ghost Town in nearby Vermos. The location was formerly a silver mining town in San Bernardino County, founded in 1881.
It is now a county park situated off Interstate 15. Wear comfortable shoes and print out a map of the town to experience this unique vestige of the old west.
Palm Springs, CA
Located here in Cabazon is a larger-than-life roadside attraction. This attraction takes in more than 12 million visitors and also has its own museum on site.
The Cabazon Dinosaurs were constructed in 1964 and gained notoriety when they were featured in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
At this site, there are over 50 dinosaur-related activities, including fossil panning and a dino dig.
Las Vegas, NV
You have finally arrived in Sin City and have your pick of things to do to be sure, from shows and restaurants and other attractions right in the city to many surrounding attractions.
One that might be worth a slight detour is the Seven Magic Mountains, located 10 miles south of Vegas off Interstate 15.
This non-naturally formed display is the artistic offerings of Ugo Rondionone, a renowned Swiss artist. Here, you will see seven towers of colorful boulders, standing more than 30 feet high.
If you want to spend some time in the heart of Vegas, because it is called the entertainment capital of the world for a reason, then you can catch some kid-friendly shows. Yes, they have them!
There are a few options to try, so select the option that best appeals to your family. The Mystere by Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island is wonderful. However, Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings is also fun.
Another Treasure Island activity you will want to explore, especially if your family are Marvel fans, is the Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
Here, you begin a mission to look deeper into the science and history of some of the world’s most beloved heroes like Captain America, Thor, The Hulk and Iron Man. If you succeed, you will become qualified members of the Avenger’s team.
Aside from the many activities, shows, and other offers Vegas provides, there are also countless kid-friendly restaurants to enjoy on the Strip, which is located between New York-New York and Park MGM.