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4 Great Family Road Trips

  • Trip 1: Highway 1

    Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara

    First Stop: Costanoa Resort

    This eco resort nestled right into the protected California coastline (just outside of Santa Cruz) will make even a nature-loathing kid be taken back in awe. You can camp with your own gear, the cheapest option, or post up in a waterproof canvas tent bungalow and the work is done for you. Even though you're "camping," you can still hit the spa to relax and go to the grill when you get hungry. www.costanoa.com

  • Next: Hearst Castle

    This Mediteranean-style estate can rightly be called a castle. Perched above Highway 1 in San Simeon, it is definitely worth the stop. They offer guided tours of the grounds -- learn about the colorful life of William Randolph Hearst, and check out the mosaic-tiled Roman pool and plush interiors. www.hearstcastle.com

    Photo by Jill Clardy, Creative Commons)

  • Next: Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

    A very short jaunt from Hearst Castle in the San Luis Obispo State Park, you'll find a colony of 7,500 wondrous elephant seals. Despite those big, drooping schnauzes, they're quite photogenic. www.slostateparks.com

    Photo by nogwater, Creative Commons)

  • Next: San Luis Obispo's ABC Bubble Gum Alley

    A slightly gross participatory art project, your kids will appreciate the eww factor here. It's an entire alley is full of Already Been Chewed gum! Is it possible to add a piece without touching anything? Let us know! www.downtownslo.com

  • Next: Ostrich Land U.S.A.

    Between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, you'll find this (real) Big Bird headquarters. For a perfectly kitsch break from the open road, everyone can have a blast feeding wacky ostriches and emu as they roam the open land. www.ostrichlandusa.com

  • Trip 2: Route 66

    Chicago to Memphis

    Along the way: '20s and '30s Filling Stations

    Route 66 connected America's rural communities to the promise land of the West in its heyday. An important component of getting people there: filling up their tanks. Take note of the wonderful old-fashioned gas stations along the way, including this one in Farmersville, Illinois. Click here for more Illinois landmarks.

  • Next: Ariston Cafe

    Just south of Farmersville, in Litchfield, this homey family cafe is believed to be one of the oldest on Route 66. Don't miss the even homier food; you'll be elbow-to-elbow with other '66ers living the dream!

  • Next: Graceland and the Heartbreak Hotel

    What's a trip to Memphis without a peek at the home of the original king of Rock n' Roll? It's also a museum, home to those famous Vegas jumpsuits, gold records, Elvis's car collection -- and don't forget to pay your graveside respects in the Meditation Gardens. Then, if you feel like spending the night, take a slight detour to the Heartbreak Hotel, just next to Graceland. The "Elvis-accented" rooms are a riot but you can also splurge on one of four themed suites, sure to send you back in time.

  • Trip 3: The Rockies Romp

    Denver and points West

    Davies' Chuck Wagon Diner

    This '50s greasy spoon in Lakewood, just outside of Denver, is listed on the National Historic Registry. The funky Americana tabletop jukeboxes and western decor scream "Road Trip" and the cheap n' hearty fare is just right, too. www.davieschuckwagon.com

    Photo by kham, Creative Commons)

  • Next: Breckenridge, CO

    This former gold rush base camp is now a charming mountain town, with a quaint laid back feel -- especially in the summertime. Stay a while for hiking, rafting, cycling, and more outdoor fun! www.gobreck.com

  • Next: The Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gultch

    Heading west, this breathtaking mountain ski base camp in Beaver Creek is usually a splurge, but it's actually pretty affordable during the summer months when there's still plenty to do -- like roasting marshmallows around a campfire and playing in the cool mountain air. www.ritzcarlton.com

  • Next: Glenwood Springs

    This natural mineral hot spring complex, including a two-city-block-long pool, is framed by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. As if that weren't awesome enough, check out their waterslide park! www.hotspringspool.com

  • Next: Dinosaur National Monument

    Northwest of Glenwood Springs, you'll find a dino-loving kid's dream come true. Hike a half-mile into Dinosaur National Monument Park to check out some dinosaur fossils, ancient Indian rock art, and gnarly whitewater rafting. nps.gov/dino

    Photo by s_mestdagh, Creative Commons)

  • Trip 4: The Historic Northeast Trail

    First Stop: Richmond, VA

    The second English settlement in the country, 400-year-old Richmond oozes both History and a deep charm. Visit plantations, churches, and countless other National Registry sites. In the summer months, Richmond vibrates with free outdoor concerts, grower's markets, walking tours, and more. www.visitrichmondva.com

  • Next: Civil War reenactments at Manassas

    Just being at the site of the first major land battle of the war is interesting -- the surrounding parkland is surprisingly beautiful and tranquil. And there's something kind of funny about people who take civil war reenactments really seriously. www.nps.gov/mana

    Photo by Silver Wolf Graphics, Creative Commons)

  • Next: Washington, D.C. and The Smithsonian Institute

    Did you know that there are 15 museum branches of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and they are all free, all the time? There's something for everyone -- the African Art museum, the Air and Space museum, the American Indian museum, the Natural History Museum, and more. But if it's a glorious day and you can't be cooped up indoors, check out the free National Zoo! (That's Tian Tian on the left and Mei Xiang on the right.) www.si.edu

  • Next: Society Hill, Philadelphia, PA

    Stroll down narrow cobblestone streets and the see buildings dating back to the Revolution, all in a green waterfront setting. Society Hill -- historic and trendy -- is also home to sidewalk bistros and small galleries. www.philadelphiausa.travel

    Plus:
    Tips for a Stress Free Car Trip
    43 Insider Travel Tips
    Moms' Best Travel Secrets

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