Want to take a family road trip but not sure where to go or how to plan? In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, I’ve pulled together road trips highlights from familyTravelsUSA, including visits to many national parks. There are plenty of options no matter where you live. We’ve taken several “fly/drive” road trips, flying to our initial destination, then renting a car to explore. These trips have focused on different regions of the US, such as the 4 Corners area of the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest. You might also consider mapping out a trip that covers destinations within a 3 or 4 hour drive from your home. As our kids got older, we started including more urban activities, visiting cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Looking back on our trips, it’s hard to pick a favorite, as they all hold special memories. Here are highlights of 6 trips, running in length from 4 days to 3 weeks, with links to the detailed posts containing suggested routes and activities. You can also visit the familyTravelsUSA Pinterest boards, filled with ideas and suggestions for topics including road trips, national parks, road food and much more. Summer is almost here, so start planning!
Four Corners Southwest Road Trip. This was our first big national park trip, beginning and ending in Albuquerque New Mexico. The nice thing about this area of the country is that many of the parks are close together, so you can easily plan a route that covers most or all of these iconic places. We traveled over 2200 miles, from New Mexico, to Colorado, into Utah and Arizona, and then back to Albuquerque. Along the way, we visited many national parks, rode a narrow gauge train, went horseback riding, took a float trip along the Colorado River and a boat tour on the Lake Powell. I must admit I did make one mistake planning, and that is not including a visit to Canyonlands (back in 2008 I wasn’t as trip savvy as I am now!). But we made up for that by visiting Mesa Verde, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Lake Powell (part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), the Grand Canyon (both the North and South Rims) and the Petrified Forest. The amazing thing is that each of these parks has something different to offer in the way of scenery, hiking, and general park accessibility. Read more.
The Pacific Northwest Road Trip. When you live on the east coast, the Pacific Northwest may seem too far to visit. But having family in Seattle inspired us to plan a trip to this scenic part of the country. Like most of our trips, this one offered an awesome mix of urban activities along with gorgeous national parks and stunning coastal scenery. The trip begins and ends in Seattle, covering about 1800 miles in about 19 days. Along the way, we spent plenty of time outdoors exploring the rugged coastlines of Washington and Oregon, and visiting Olympic, Crater Lake, Mount Rainer and Mount. St. Helens National Parks, (where we walked through a rain forest, swam in a collapsed volcano, and spent time exploring colorful tide pools). The trip is filled with activities perfect for teens, such as visiting the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, a jet boat ride on the Rogue River, a sand adventure dune buggy ride in Oregon and for fans of the movie Twilight, visiting movie scene locations in the famous town of Forks and other nearby towns. We also saw plenty of amazing waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge area and rode on a Sternwheeler. Read more.
California Road Trip. This memorable trip starts and ends in Los Angeles. We spent 17 days, exploring the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with smaller towns like Manhattan Beach, Solvang, Monterey and Santa Barbara. National park highlights include hiking in popular Yosemite, along with visiting Point Reyes National Seashore, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and a ferry ride to the unique Channel Islands (where we went snorkeling). It’s another great trip for kids of all ages, who will enjoy hanging out in Hollywood, taking the Universal Studios Tour, beach horseback riding, visiting Alcatraz, riding cable cars, walking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, staring at giant trees in Muir Woods, and strolling the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. Of course, any trip to California would not be complete without driving the Pacific Coast Highway, so we experienced that on our drive south from the San Francisco Bay area (heading south you get to hug the coast!) Read more.
Boston & Coastal Maine Road Trip. Boston is one of my favorite cities, and from there, it’s a scenic drive north to Maine and the quaint town of Bar Harbor and beautiful Acadia National Park. With so much history in Boston, along with free street performers, local festivals, and delicious Italian food in the North End, summer in Boston is perfect for a family vacation. Kids will love following the red brick Freedom Trail, or taking a ride on the Swan boats. Then head up the coast to Bar Harbor and family-friendly Acadia National Park. Along the way, spend time at any of the quaint New England towns like Kennebunkport or Boothbay Harbor. Don’t forget to get up early to see the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia. You won’t regret it. Read more.
Florida’s Gulf Coast. If you live on the east coast, you most likely will drive to Florida at some point in your life. So why not do a little touring around the state while you are there. Several years ago we combined a few college tours with a trip to Florida. After visiting Universal Studios in Orlando, we headed west to spend a few days exploring the beautiful west coast. It’s less than 3 hours to the highly rated Siesta Key, where you can spend a few days enjoying this laid back beach town. Then head up the coast to Crystal River, where you can learn all about the local manatees and try a snorkeling or kayak adventure. Finally, spend some time exploring more than a dozen fresh water spring state parks. We enjoyed swimming in Rainbow Springs State Park. Read more.
Farm to City Road Trip. A road trip doesn’t always have to be weeks long with miles of travel. If you live near the DC area, here’s a great 4 day trip that my daughter and I took last summer. The trip includes an overnight farm stay in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a day in Philadelphia, and a day in New York City. Highlights were milking cows and hanging out with baby goats, taking an Urban Adventure Tour and visiting Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly, and eating lunch at the urban street market and shopping in NYC. Read more.