Best Road Trips, Coast to Coast

By on April 1, 2014
car on country road

By Christina Vercelletto for Ideas That Spark

Too late to book affordable airline tickets? No need to disappoint the kids. A road trip is the classic summertime escape. Pack up and take your pick of these primo family-friendly routes.

fall scents for your home

Get Your Kicks …

Route 66 is legendary for a reason: It’s the perfect mix of kitsch and natural beauty. And arguably the most impressive stretch of it for kids is through northern Arizona.

1. Start in Holbrook, and head through the coral- and coffee-colored badlands of the Painted Desert, before arriving at the Petrified Forest, the stony graveyard of ancient towering trees.

2. A little farther to the west you’ll find Meteor Crater. You’ve probably seen the 570-foot-deep bowl-shaped mark of an asteroid on TV at least once.

3. Your ride will continue west to Flagstaff. Don’t pass up the Galaxy Diner, a retro eatery. When you’ve had your fill of their famous giant banana splits, transition from Route 66 to Highway 89A, where the terracotta landscape will have kids agog.

4. When you get to Sedona, that notorious hotbed of UFO activity, there’s plenty to do besides keeping an eye on the skies. Try a nature walk at the Crescent Moon Ranch in the Coconino National Forest or an off-road jeep ride.

5. Take I-17 South. Near Camp Verde you’ll see signs for Montezuma’s Castle. Pull over. The walk-through tour of pre-historic Native American captivate kids, but is short enough, well, to keep kids captivated.

6. End your journey in Scottsdale in grand style with a family hot-air balloon adventure.

90 Miles to Cuba

Thinking tropical? Postcard-perfect views and a year-round balmy climate begin on Highway 1, starting in Miami.

1. Flit past Barnes Sound (quickly, if you don’t want them to beg for a stop at the Miami Seaquarium) and land in the famed Key Largo. Stay overnight here so you can take your time and enjoy John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where kids and adults can snorkel with rainbow-hued sea critters.

2. From Key Largo, it’s a short hop to Islamorada, and Ma’s Fish Camp. Never mind the name: They serve up the area’s namesake dessert, key lime pie, made with fresh limes, from a traditional recipe.

3. The Keys get more low-key the farther down you go. Duck Key consists entirely of Hawks Cay Resort, a good place to spend a night if you like a spacious townhouse to spread out in.

4. Finally, arrive at the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West. Snap a photo of your crew at the famed sign post, then go dolphin watching on a glass-bottom boat at Glass Reef Key West.

How Sweet it Is

Pennsylvania may not be the first place to pop to mind when you think of cool vacation, but trust us, it’s underrated. Where else can you combine history, a 100-foot Ferris wheel, and chocolate?

1. Start your adventure in Philly, taking in the must-sees: the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and if you’re feeling ambitious, Betsy Ross’ house too.

2. With your bellies filled with cheese steaks, head west on Highway 30 towards Lancaster County. In Amish Country, you can stock up on incredible handmade crafts and load up on down home cooking (think crispy chicken pot pie, just-mashed potatoes piled high in buttered bowls, and hot peach pie). A buggy ride is mandatory. We recommend Abe, who’s been showing folks the pretty views for decades.

3. Continue on to Hershey Park. It’s a can’t-fail theme park: clean and beautifully landscaped, with just the right mix of kiddie rides and thrills for teens. But the big draw is the nearby Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can take a factory tour and create your own custom bar. Make two — one will never make it home.

4. The Pennsylvania Turnpike turns east, which will lead you into Langhorne, home of Sesame Place. Splash the day away in the lazy river and wading pools with Big Bird and the gang. Don’t miss the parade!

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Best Road Trips, Coast to Coast