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

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

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

American side of Niagara falls, NY; Courtesy of turtix/Shutterstock

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.

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.

Champlain Bridge across Lake Champlain connecting New York and Vermont; Courtesy of jgorzynik/shutterstock

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

Summer mansion on the Cliff Walk, Cliffside Mansions of Newport Rhode Island; Courtesy of Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

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

View from Ridge Leading to Summit of Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine; Courtesy of MFlynn/Shutterstock

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 Trainwas 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 19thcentury 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.

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 TripStops 

  • 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).

Recommended Hotel: Big Meadows Lodge

Asheville, North Carolina Road Trip; Courtesy of Explore Asheville

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 TripStops 

  • 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

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