The Best Family Road Trips in America

We’ve talked a lot about getting away on a Hawaiian vacation, but that’s not to say the continental U.S. can’t be just as exciting. In fact, I think everyone should experience the classic American road trip at least once.

If you live near a road and own a car (chances are good that you do), it’s all a matter of choosing which route to take—north, south, east or west? The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Here are two ideas for American road trip routes to help you make the most of the mainland.

New Mexico to Los Angeles: Weird and Wonderful

This route usually takes two and a half weeks at a minimum and tracks about 1,600 miles, or about 30 hours of driving.

Fly into Albuquerque, New Mexico to check out the unique jewelry and art and to stay in a fabulous bed and breakfast. The backdrop of palm trees, desert terrain and Native American folk art pleases many visitors.

Drive to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, and see the bizarre museums and diners. Visit Farmington to learn about Native American tribes like the Navajo, Jicarilla Apache, Southern Ute and Hopi, and even see some cool Aztec ruins. Don’t forget to experience the hot springs at a spa resort!

Then drive north to Utah to check out the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; the multicolored rocks and canyons will amaze kids! Afterwards, you’ll need to visit Zion National Park to hike the terrifying Angels Landing, then Bryce Canyon to see the cool hoodoo rock formations.

Then it’s off to Arizona, where you’ll visit the famous Grand Canyon and have the opportunity to stay in a cabin for a rustic American experience. There’s also the Wupatki National Monument, the Museum of Northern Arizona and Joshua Tree National Park.

For those interested in the famous Route 66, there’s a pit stop for that at Kingman! There’s a museum dedicated to Route 66, and you can visit the Mojave National Preserve as a detour from there.

Drive north to see sunny Palm Springs in California, the sleepy desert city popularized on television and in the movies. There are also neat mid-century modern architecture tours that will teach you about an iconic period of design in American history, and kids can enjoy art tours.

End your trip in Los Angeles, where you’ll be able to eat and shop to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to drive by the famous Hollywood sign!

Pacific Coast Highway

This route takes you along the famed Pacific Coast Highway, and it’ll usually take about one week to see most of the sights. The highway stretches 1,500 miles and takes you from temperate rainforest to near-desert landscapes.

You’ll start up north in Seattle, Washington, where you’ll want to visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Flight, Kerry Park and Green Lake Park. While you’re at it, take in a performance by the Seattle symphony orchestra.

Next, head to Washington’s Olympic National Park, home to one of the most astonishingly beautiful forests in the world. Experience the magnificent wildlife, dense woodlands and lush landscape of this great national treasure.

Drive south, crossing the mouth of the Columbia River, and follow the peaceful and quiet Oregon coastline. You can make a pit stop in Portland or Eugene and check out the quirky neighborhoods. At least plan to enjoy the incredible eats, even if it’s just at one of many food carts lining the streets.

As you drive even farther south, you’ll pass by the great redwood forests of Northern California, where the tallest and most majestic living trees comprise the “Avenue of the Giants.”

Keep San Francisco in your sights as you’ll definitely want to see this vibrant city in California. Great family activities include riding the cable cars, visiting the Embarcadero pier area, eating in historic Chinatown, and shopping in the Union Square neighborhood.

The shoreline along this route will take you to the incredible coast of Big Sur, which boasts some of the best beachfront of California. The kids will love the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean and the coast’s white sand beaches. You can even try your hand at surfing!

This route also has some of the most well-preserved historic sites in America. You can see Spanish colonial missions, Russian and English fur trading outposts, and the place where Lewis and Clark first sighted the Pacific. Don’t miss the rolling vineyards or the charming town of San Luis Obispo midway down California.

Keep going all the way to San Diego, California, where you’ll want to take the kids to the USS Midway Museum, Balboa Park, the Torrey Pines State Reserve, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, Old Point Loma Lighthouse and, of course, the famed San Diego Zoo.

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If you keep the hotels and meals at a reasonable price, you’ll be able to make these road trips on a much smaller budget than a trip overseas, and you’ll see just as many beautiful and exciting things. Don’t miss out on the best America has to offer!