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Road trip season is here and you know what that means; lots of families looking for the best road trip stops in the US! I absolutely love a good road trip and so do my husband Steve and our girls. We spend a lot of time on the road visiting the top road trip destinations when Steve is on home time and when the girls don’t have school which is where this post came from.
We had gotten to talking recently about places we want to visit when we take our next road trip. What we ended up with was this list of the 30 best road trip stops in the US.
I can’t wait until we get to visit them all and I know you won’t be able to wait either!
30 Top Road Trip Destinations
Let it never be said that I do anything halfheartedly, because this post started out with only seven best 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.
Best Road Trip Destinations in the US
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 these 30 top road trip destinations. They’re great for families, couples or even solo travelers!
Obviously when you set out to visit these best road trip stops, you’ll want to do everything that you can to save money.
How to Save Money on Road Trips
I highly recommend that you pick up a CityPASS if there are any available for where you will be traveling. If there is one available, you could save up to 50% off of admission prices to the top road trip destinations in the cities they offer for.
There are CityPASS vouchers available for:
- Dallas, TX
- Houston, TX
- NYC, NY
- San Francisco, CA
- Atlanta , GA
- Boston , MA
- Chicago, IL
- Orlando, FL
- Denver, CO
- Philadelphia, PA
- Seattle , WA
- Southern CA
- Tampa Bay, FL
- Toronto, Canda
How to Use CityPASS to save on top road trip destinations
CityPASS sounds a bit complicated, but it is actually quite easy to both use and understand. Each city offers 4-6 different attractions via CityPASS.
Instead of paying separate entrance fees at those attractions, you pay one fee via the CityPASS website for your vouchers. Since the CityPASS price is usually really low for what they offer, you’ll save up to 50%!
Use your vouchers as you would “regular” tickets.
Best road trip ideas for families
You’ll also want to check Groupon as well as well since these can help you save money on eating out, on local attractions and more. Groupon Vouchers have helped my own family save hundreds on vacations before!
Another great way to save money on the absolute best 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 each year.
The “America the Beautiful” pass costs around $80 and will save you money whenever you visit a National Park. They also offer passes for seniors and disabled veterans as well.
Best Road Trip Stops
I used them both to travel to NYC for under $500 out of pocket a few years ago!
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 the top of a list of the best road trip ideas. 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.
You will also need to purchase a parking pass when you visit.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave is a great stop for anyone on a family road trip or looking for one of my favorites from this list of best road trip stops.
While you can’t just walk up and pay an admission fee, you 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.
Even if you can’t tour, the building itself is absolutely stunning as is most D.C. monuments – such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, the Capital building and more.
The whole city is a fantastic road trip idea!
Niagara Falls State Park
While it might seem silly and cliche’, visiting Niagara Falls State Park is an experience that everyone should have. In fact, it has always been one of the top road trip stops for families.
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 & Theater District
Visiting NYC as one of your top road trip destinations? Make sure that you visit Times Square and the Theater District!
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 there are several kid-friendly attractions in Times Square that your entire family will enjoy.
You can start the day at The Empire State Building and finish with a Broadway show! While you’re in NYC, make sure to check out the other best road trip ideas in the city too!
Side Note: If you are headed to NYC, make sure you pick up the NYC CityPASS HERE. It will save you 43% or more on the top 6 tourist attractions in NYC.
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.
Side Note: San Francisco also offers a CityPass option HERE. It will save you 42% on 4 different attractions across San Francisco.
Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”
Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is something that every family should do at least once which makes it one of the best road trip destinations hands down.There is so much history and symbolism in this one area that for I truly believe everyone should see it at least once.
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.
Side Note: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are included in the NYC CityPASS found HERE if you’re looking to save money on admission costs.
My daughter Emma cannot wait until we head north for a road trip. Mount Rushmore is #1 on her personal list of best road trip destinations. She has been talking about wanting to see it for well over a year now so the next time we head north to see family, we will probably detour to Rushmore.
Visiting Mount 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 making it truly one of the best road trip stops in the US.
The Smithsonian Museum
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!
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 favorites on this list of top road trip destinations 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.
While you’re visiting Yellowstone, you can watch Old Faithful erupt, see American bison, or take in the many waterfalls. 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.
If you’re up for a short hike, booking the Wake Up to Wildlife tour is a great idea! And of course, you should also be sure to take the time to learn about the Yellowstone Super Volcano. You would be surprised at how many people don’t know the caldera exists!
Another great one on my list of best road trip ideas 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.
You’ll also see the bed they laid him in and where he ultimately died. I remember visiting this when I was a child and one of my most vivid memories of the bed was how stained his pillow still was even though it had been more than 125 years at the time
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.
“Remember the Alamo” is much more than a saying to those of us in Texas.
It is an integral part of our history and as such, the Alamo is also one of the most visited road trip destinations 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. Parking can run as much as $20 for the day. You can also purchase an audio tour with headphones and an audio wand for $7.00 each, but it really isn’t needed.
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. Ask Ozzy Osborne what happens when you don’t 😉
Side Note: While you’re visiting the Alamo, why not take the time to check out the San Antonio Missions? They are totally free to visit and absolutely stunning architecture. The history behind them is amazing too. You can take a look at our visit to Mission San Jose to get you started.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Need some sun in your life? Who doesn’t, right?
Why not head to Myrtle Beach? Aside from the beach itself, you can find a whole ton of fun for the whole family!
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? Nothing and that’s why it’s one of the best road trip destinations in the US!
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 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, Sandusky, Ohio
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.
As an Ohio born girl, Cedar Point has a special place in my childhood memories and I believe every kid should visit at least once.
Padre Island National Seashore/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!
Camping at North Padre will only cost you the admission fee to the Padre Island National Seashore park and the cost of buying camping gear if you’re trying to do it on the cheap. 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 & Botanical Gardens
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.
Its size and the variety of animals make it one of the best road trip destinations you can plan on. While you’re there, make sure to see the California Condor display if they still have it.
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 visited the Los Angeles Zoo back in 2008 and can’t wait to go back soon!
Sixth Floor Museum/Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas
History buffs and fans of JFK 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. When my own family visited, we waited to buy them at the door and ended up having to wait 2 hours to get into the museum.
Side Note: The Sixth Floor Museum is a Dallas CityPASS location. Purchasing this pass can save you up to 40% on several Dallas attractions. You’ll get to visit 4 different Dallas attractions for just $51.00. You can check out the Dallas CityPASS on the CityPASS website.
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. If you’re going to be in Seattle for a few days, consider picking up the Seattle CityPASS HERE. It will save you up to 49% on 5 different Seattle attractions – including the Space Needle.
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
If you’re the outdoor type, visiting Mammoth Cave National Park is a great road trip idea for you! 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 330 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 and one of the top 10 best road trip destinations 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.
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
It is usually ridiculously hot during Texas summers, so if you’re visiting us, why not take a trip to a water park to help cool yourself down?
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.
If you’re down near Corpus Christi, there is also a Schlitterbahn down that way you could visit as well.
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.
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 best 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.
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 one of the top road trip destinations for families on this list.
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.
Side Note: The Empire State Building is also included when you buy the NYC CityPass which can save you 43% 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 one of the top road trip destinations 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 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.
So there you have it. My top road trip destinations for families. Will you be visiting any of these soon? Or do you have other ideas to add that I missed?