Taking a family road trip, a traditional American summer holiday is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. The right itinerary for your kids’ age range can distinguish between a memorable trip and one you’d rather forget. You and your family will have a great experience if you plan these travels correctly.
The Pan-American Highway
We’ve got one for you, tired parents. Road trips up and down Highway 1 in California’s coastal region are quite popular. For a good reason: the stunning scenery is perfect for rejuvenating your weary self as your children nap in the back seat. Take on as much or as little as you can, keeping in mind that this is a challenging time to travel with children. Take advantage of the car-accessible beaches and dune areas like Pismo Beach or Big Sur to put your baby down for a nap in the middle of the day. More than 10,000 monarch butterflies pass through Pismo Beach’s Eucalyptus Tree Grove each year, open to the public from the end of October through the beginning of February. Visit the Elephant Seal Rookery at San Piedras Beach in San Simeon with your kid during migration season and see up to 17,000 cute, big-nosed creatures. If you’re willing to risk the 656-mile journey from north to south with a young child, reward them with a vacation to Disneyland or Legoland.
Mount Washington’s Self-Guided Driving Tour
Fall road trips across New England are a great option for families with young children because of the simple pleasures of leaf-peeping. Plan a side excursion to this picturesque drive/thrill ride in New Hampshire for the adults to spice things up a bit. While the road is only eight miles long, it rises 4,600 feet above sea level through several small, winding mountain lanes. Estimate 30 to 45 minutes one way.
The “Goonies” Tour of the Oregon Coast
The lush Oregon Coast is a great place for ’80s kids to relive their favorite Steven Spielberg picture, “The Goonies,” released in 1985. In Astoria, you may marvel at the jail and the “Goonies House,” both of which were in the movie. Cannon Beach, with its 235-foot Haystack Rock and its resident puffins, starfish, and other species easily observed from tide pools, is a favorite from the movie and is included in the seven-hour coastal journey along Highway 101. Also featured heavily in the film, the Ecola State Park is a great place to catch a glimpse of whales in the wild. In addition to the Columbia River Gorge, just 30 minutes from Portland, there are several easy-to-access hiking trails to big waterfalls and the “Fruit Loop,” a 35-mile trip through an area full of orchards lavender and strawberry farms, alpaca ranches, and more.
In the Blue Ridge Parkway & Tail of the Dragon.
Explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park on this 470-mile journey from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee via North Carolina. It’s a mountainous road with a 45mph speed limit and no commercial vehicles allowed (save tour buses). Kids in this age range will enjoy the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program, which includes online elements ideal for lengthy vehicle rides and requires them to complete a series of activities in each park to receive a patch or certificate. Visit the Roanoke Pinball Museum, which has 60 working arcade machines, the 60-foot-long Sliding Rock Swimming Hole near Brevard, North Carolina, and the Bristol Caverns, an underground cave in Bristol, Tennessee, where you can witness gigantic stalagmites and stalactites. While driving through Pigeon Forge, consider stopping at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park in Pigeon Forge.