Mount Rushmore. Joshua Tree. Wall Drug.
When embarking on the star-spangled rite of passage that is the cross-country road trip, there are a few places you’re obligated to stop. But almost a century after Route 66 was established, you’ve probably seen all the classics (and the throngs of tourists that tend to come with them).
So we built a road-trip itinerary that weds 50 classic American waypoints with 100 lesser-known (but equally worthwhile) destinations. That’s two in each state — one for family-friendly trips, one for your friends — along with 50 standards, for a grand total of 150 stops.
A couple caveats before you embark. To help us narrow down the picks, we got in touch with the tourism department in all 50 states (well, we tried, and had varying levels of success), and asked them to offer up recommendations for both the classic and contemporary destinations. But we’ve also included some from our own travels.
If you come across a distillery, brewery or other establishment offering alcoholic beverages, we are also recommending you settle down for the night (or choose a designated driver). And lastly, we’re only picking places to turn off your engine and actually stop, rather than dedicated road-trip routes.
Clear out your camera roll and hit the road.
You can climb down into this 16-story pit — just make sure to request a permit ahead of time.
Spectre Set Ruins
The halcyon town from the 2003 movie Big Fish still stands on an island in the Alabama River.
Edmund Pettus Bridge
The site where peaceful civil rights demonstrators were attacked by police attempting to march from Selma to the capital of Montgomery on March 7, 1965.
An igloo that never melts, because it’s an abandoned 1970s hotel that never finished construction.
Dr. Seuss House
Also known as the Goose Creek Tower, if you stand at the top on a clear day you’ll be able to see Denali, the Homer Spit and the start of the Aleutian Range.
Maybe you visited back when it was called Mount McKinley. Either way, it’s the highest mountain in North America (and thus part of the Seven Summits).
If you don’t take a selfie at this Instagrammable bend in the Colorado River, you may as well never have gone.
The self-proclaimed “best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth.”
How is it that a 277-mile long canyon can still feel overrun with tourists? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on hidden gems, too.
Hot Springs National Park
Nicknamed “The American Spa” and the former titleholder of “Smallest National Park in America” (before the Gateway Arch became one in early 2018).
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
A quick stop off the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, the visitors center offers traditional tourist fare, but the Man in Black’s home is worth the schmaltz.
Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro
You can dig for diamonds at this volcanic crater. Yes, real diamonds (and other rocks, minerals and gemstones). Will you find ones worth anything? Probably not.
Take a sound bath in a dome built by a “ufologist” (yes, that’s a thing).
You probably remember the painted hillside from 2007’s Into the Wild — the landmark’s creator Leonard Knight actually played himself in the movie. He has since passed, but other Slab City residents keep applying fresh paint.
Yes, the trees are worth the drive. No, you don’t have to like the Eagles or U2 to visit. And no, you don’t have to camp.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
You may find better dunes, but you will not find taller dunes between the coasts. Plus, they’re open 24/7/365.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
A 10,000-acre refuge for lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals that have been mistreated. You can view them in their much happier homes from elevated walkways.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The third most-visited national park at the moment, but it may climb even further, as it reached its highest annual visitation ever in 2018.
The Glass House
The eponymous building designed by architect Philip Johnson, plus 49 acres full of more picturesque art.
Dinosaur State Park
One of the largest dinosaur track sites in the country. The star of the show: the carnivorous Dilophosaurus from the early Jurassic period.
Gillette Castle State Park
William Gillette was known for playing Sherlock Holmes. But his legacy resides in this castle, which is now owned by the State of Connecticut because he didn’t want it to pass to “some blithering saphead who had no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”
Dogfish Head Brewery (and Distillery and Inn)
Dogfish Head has never been afraid of innovation. After dominating the craft beer scene, they’ve moved onto the whiskey and innkeeping industries.
Miles the Monster
If the titans from Hercules suddenly sprang up from the ground beneath Dover International Speedway.
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
Nicknamed the “Nation’s Summer Capital” and featuring an amusement park called Funland, because you need to be told you’re having fun.
Devil’s Den Spring
The karst fenster, a geomorphic window over an underground river, has made this quite possibly the best scuba diving facility in the world.
Pegasus and Dragon
Go ahead and skip the adjacent Gulfstream Park casino and racetrack, but make a pit stop at the third largest statue in the United States (just 41 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty).
Walt Disney World
Love it or hate it, your kids are going to beg you to go. Might as well pretend to love it.
Jekyll Island Club
Since its founding in 1886, members of this club have included the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Morgans.
While many Native American sites have been destroyed, this National Historic Park lays claim to “17,000 years of continuous human habitation.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park
You could visit many sites documenting MLK’s life and work, but this area includes his boyhood home and the church where both he and his father were pastors.
A .4 mile hike to stretch your legs (but not waste too much time) passing a 100-foot and a 442-foot waterfall that fish climb with their mouths.
Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach
Pack a picnic or do some yoga on the unforgettable black sand, just make sure the kids don’t pocket any.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Pull over at any of the 10 stops along the Chain of Craters Road and you’ll find killer views of Kīlauea volcano’s active geology. No, really. In 2003 lava flows blocked the path.
Ernest Hemingway’s Grave
You may know about Hemingway’s house in Florida, but did you know he was buried in Idaho?
Dog Bark Park Inn
It’s a bed and breakfast shaped like a beagle. Go ahead, get the jokes out of your system. They even start it for you: “At Dog Bark Park Inn sleeping in the doghouse is a good thing!”
Craters of the Moon
An exquisitely preserved flood basalt (aka ginormous lava explosion) area established in 1924, expanded in 2000. A solid place to test out what your future moon colony home will feel like.
The Old State Capitol
You could rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, but if you’re interested in more than a selfie, head to a reconstruction of where Lincoln famously declaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue
Why is this 19-foot giant holding a hot dog like a baby?
The Start of Route 66
The most famous road in the entire country begins at an inconspicuous road sign located on the northwest corner of S. Michigan Ave. and E. Adams St., just across the street from The Art Institute of Chicago.
Levi Coffin House
Colloquially known as the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” because three main escape routes converged here.
French Lick and West Baden
Two old world resorts that date back to 1901 and, unlike many of their counterparts, haven’t lost the grandeur. Look out for the dome on West Baden peeking out from the trees — from 1902 to 1913 it was the largest free-spanning dome in the world.
Indiana Dunes National Park and State Park
New National Parks don’t come around often, but Indiana Dunes became the 61st in February 2019, making it the first since 2013 and only the fifth this century.
High Trestle Trail Bridge
If you happen to pass by during the day, the 13-story bridge across the Des Moines River valley will be impressive enough. But go ahead and stay the night — the rotating square-frame sculptures light up blue when the sun goes down, and if you bike fast enough it’ll feel you’re Han Solo just jumping to Lightspeed.
Field of Dreams Movie Site
Sorry, Wrigley. This is the most iconic ballfield in American (and they’ll actually let you run the bases here).
Iowa 80 Truckstop
What does the “World’s Largest Truckstop” have that your average bathroom break doesn’t? A dentist office and barbershop, in case you’re getty shaggy around mile 10,000.
On many road trip guides, you’ll see the highest point in the state listed as a top attraction, and for the most part they’re on a Tolkien-esque mountain or a picturesque rolling hillside. In Kansas, you may not even be able to notice a rise in the dusty field.
The Big Well
If you were bummed you didn’t have the skills (or permit) to rappel into Alabama’s Neversink Pit, the “world’s largest hand dug well” takes you down 109 feet by a very reasonable spiral staircase.
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
First it was a novelty. Then it was a cliche. Now it’s circled back to being unmissable.
The Wild Turkey Distillery
Part of the larger Kentucky Bourbon Trail, this is the one HQ you can’t miss, both for the new Visitors Center and chance you’ll run into the father-son team behind the whiskey.
Forest Giants in a Giant Forest
Three fantastical sculptures by Danish artist Thomas Dambo located within the Bernheim Arboretum.
Mammoth Cave National Park
The world’s longest natural cave system.
Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb
No, you didn’t miss anything. He’s still alive (at least at the time of writing).
Avery Island Tabasco Factory & Museum
Long after Sriracha has been lost to the sands of time, Louisiana’s own Tabasco will still be kicking (you in the taste buds). Despite being founded over 150 years ago on this site, the company is still in the family.
The French Quarter
The only thing you absolutely must do while passing through NOLA’s historic district is plan your own parade.
Stephen King’s House
Think of it like the Carrie Bradshaw West Village Apartment of Maine.
Portland Head Light
The consummate lighthouse in the U.S., located in Fort Williams Park and featuring a museum in the former Keepers’ Quarters.
L.L. Bean Flagship (and Giant Boot)
Not only do the brand’s iconic duck boots hold up 100 years later, but so does the 10-foot-tall boot outside the store.
Is it an oxymoron to put an island on a road trip list? Not when wild horses are involved.
Ouija Board Grave
If you’re going to attempt to contact Elijah Jefferson Bond, inventor of the Ouija Board, please bring your own. Do not use the board on his gravestone.
The original vacationers arrived by stagecoach, ferry and train, with the official name “Ocean City” going back to 1875.
The House of the Seven Gables
Also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, the colonial home has since become a museum thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name.
The Witch House
Kids haven’t read any Hawthorne? Then take them to what’s also known as the Jonathan Corwin House, named for its former owner who was a judge during the Salem witch trials.
Come for the Plymouth Colony cosplay, stay for the history lesson someone in your family desperately needs.
You don’t have to go all the way to Hell, Michigan, you just have to get a picture with a road sign.
Saint Ignace Mystery Spot
When surveyors ventured to this area in the ‘50s, their equipment stopped working, then they became light-headed, and eventually they pinpointed a “mystery spot” where the world worked differently. (Hopefully it works on the Nintendo Switch, too.)
The Henry Ford
Named after the automotive titan, Ford said of the museum, “I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.”
Years ago, the Brule River swirled, churned and disappeared into this rock formation. Scientists have since sussed it out, but let’s just pretend it still goes to the center of the earth. (Also featured in the movie Jennifer’s Body.)
Big Stone Mini Golf
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry is iconic. Artist Bruce Stillman’s mini golf, sculpture park and farm haven features the bizarro version.
Mall of America
It’s no longer the largest mall in America, but they keep expanding so it’s not for lack of trying. Yes, the Nickelodeon Universe indoor amusement park is still worth it, but Camp Snoopy was better.
William Faulkner’s home for over 40 years, but predating the author by about 50 years.
Birthplace of Kermit the Frog
A quaint Muppet museum near the birthplace of Jim Henson (and the swamps that inspired the lil’ green guy).
Vicksburg National Military Park
The preserved site of the decisive American Civil War battle where the Union Army won out after a 47-day siege.
Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail
Once it was the country’s largest explosives factory. Next it was a uranium refinement plant for Cold War nuclear bombs. Now it’s an “adventure trail!”
Silver Dollar City
An award-winning 1860s theme park that most assuredly costs more than its namesake.
The Gateway Arch
The actual arch may be astonishingly large (630 feet, to be exact) but the site became the smallest National Park in 2018.
The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge
Real live mermaids in a live-piano accompanied tiki bar. Need we say more?
Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
A public park, botanical garden, Buddhist center and showcase for one thousand images of the Buddha arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel.
Glacier National Park
One million acres, two mountain ranges and, at its heart, the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.”
First recorded in 1827 by fur trader and Native American agent Joshua Pilcher, it was a landmark for travelers across the West.
No, that’s not a typo. The town of Monowi has an official population of one.
The second most visited location, below Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, you can thank the Kingsley Dam for the much needed oasis.
International Car Forest of the Last Church
What looks like a bad omen for your vacation is actually an intentional installation of about 40 half-buried cars. Normally we’d advise leaving no trace, but here it’s recommended.
California Trail Interpretive Center
Learn about the 250K people who traveled west during the Gold Rush, from 1841 to 1869. Then, travel west yourself and feel much better about your own choices.
Lake Mead and Hoover Dam
The largest reservoir in the country and only half an hour away from the Strip.
The locals didn’t immediately take to a Cold War missile, even one developed by Werner von Braun, sitting in the middle of their quaint town. But you can’t go back on it now!
Choose your own adventure: simply take in the natural 800-foot gorge and stretch out a bit on a two-mile loop around the park.
The mountain still holds the world record for highest wind speed that doesn’t involve a tornado or cyclone.
Hamilton/Burr Dueling Site
A site to help you remember simpler American times, when the sitting Vice President and an ex-Secretary of the Treasury would settle their differences by literally firing pistols at one another in a highly public spectacle.
Lucy The Elephant
“The World’s Greatest Elephant” is actually a Trojan Horse-esque wooden statue on the Jersey Shore. Step inside and climb her intestinal spiral staircase to a crow’s nest up top for 360-degree views of the Jersey Shore.
Atlantic City Boardwalk
There are many boardwalks, but this is the boardwalk. It opened in 1870, making it the nation’s first, and will forever be memorialized as the most expensive property on a Monopoly board.
White Sands National Monument
Currently bidding to be the next U.S. National Park, White Sands is the world’s largest “gypsum dune field.” It’s popular for hot-air balloon rides and dune-sledding, which is self-explanatory and very fun.
House of Eternal Return
Bathed in fluorescent light, this interactive art exhibit is something like a haunted house meets an EDM festival.
Aztec Ruins National Monument
The name is a misnomer: this is the best-preserved archeological site of the Pueblo people of the American Southwest, which westward settlers incorrectly identified as an Aztec settlement. How Columbus of them.
About 90 minutes north of the MoMA and the Guggenheim lies a modern art museum that is nearly their equal. Dia:Beacon houses some of the most important pieces of installation art of the late 20th century, including a 350-foot Andy Warhol panel piece called Shadows.
The Wild Center
Home to an elevated trail through the canopy of the Adirondacks with lookout towers, a 54,000-square-foot visitor’s center and paddle trips.
North America’s greatest cascade actually comprises three distinct waterfalls — Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil. Ride the “Maid of the Mist” if you’re looking to get wet. Go at night for smaller crowds and better photos.
Clingmans Dome is the mountain, but it’s the modern concrete observation tower that you’re looking for here. You can’t miss it.
Land of Oz Theme Park
If you Google this semi-creepy, semi-intriguing attraction based on The Wizard of Oz, you might find places that say it’s closed or abandoned. Ignore the man behind the computer — it’s back in business.
The most famous Gilded Age mansion was built for George Washington Vanderbilt II in 1895 and remains in the family.
The Oldest Mosque in America
Technically, it’s the oldest existing mosque, but it’s a little contentious as the current building was erected in the aughts after the original fell into ruin and was removed in 1979.
The Enchanted Highway
A 32-mile stretch of scrap metal sculptures made, and still maintained, by artist Gary Greff.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The Elkhorn Ranch Unit within the park is an undeveloped area where President Roosevelt had planned to build his home ranch.
The Great Serpent Mound
No one knows exactly how this 1,330-foot-long serpentine effigy mound came to be, but they’re more than happy to offer up every theory they can think of.
A Christmas Story House
What’s that in the window? Can it be? Yes! It’s a major award!
“The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” may not be on the cutting edge of nausea-inducing amusement park tech, but when you’ve got a couple hundred miles to drive afterwards, that’s for the best.
Shattuck Windmill Museum
Channel your inner Don Quixote and make a beeline for this four-acre collection of 51 vintage windmills.
Do you need 700 different kinds of soda, sparkling water and other beverages when you’re not sure when the next rest stop will be? Probably not. Do you need a photo with the giant neon pop bottle? Yessir.
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Now that cowboys are back in style (looking at you, Lil Nas X) go learn a thing or two about the people who wore the hats and boots because they served a purpose.
Bagby Hot Springs
There are plenty of hot springs across this great land where you can dip your weary bones. These just happen to be nestled amongst gargantuan fir trees.
Yup, that’s the lodge from The Shining. Don’t worry, it’s still family friendly because they only used it for exterior shots.
You’ve seen the photos. You’ve heard tell of the bluest water you’ve ever laid your eyes on. It’s better than everything you think you know.
Abandoned Turnpike Tunnels
In 1968, tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike were bypassed by a new highway. Now, you can explore at your own risk (they were featured in film adaptation of The Road).
The most famous work by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Sure, it’s in the middle of Philadelphia, but it’s also four and a half blocks from the interstate. And it’s the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The White Horse Tavern
The First State takes a lot of pride in having the “oldest” version of everything, and the White Horse, which was built in 1673, takes the title for taverns, and it serves exceptional, locally foraged cuisine to this day.
Flying Horse Carousel
America’s oldest continuously operating carousel was built in 1867; it is still open for business during certain periods throughout the spring and summer, though it does close for routine maintenance. Check the schedule before you go.
Rhode Island’s most famous “summer cottage” is a 70-room mansion that used to belong to the Vanderbilts, erstwhile kings of American opulence. You can’t stay, but you can visit.
A water tower designed to look like a peach, or as the kids would say today, the butt emoji.
Longtime BBQ joint offering pit-roasted pork, chicken, and boiled peanuts all located inside an old rustic house. Guy Fieri was probably here at some point.
Home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America.
Crazy Horse Memorial
A mountain monument currently under construction that, when finished, will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing into the distance.
Not a wall of drugs sadly, but a shopping mall that offers dining, activities, souvenirs, and free water ice.
This state really loves carving faces into rocks.
Go glamping near the Great Smoky Mountains — like our great ancestors would have done.
The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. And of course there’s a glass bottom at the highest point.
Home of the King. The Jungle-themed room a must see.
A Prada store in the West Texas desert that is never open for business. Also the #1 Instagrammable landmark in the U.S.
Superconducting Super Collider
A massive particle physics installation that took 10 years to make and could have been record breaking if it hadn’t been abandoned halfway through construction.
You won’t forget it.
“The End of the World” at Bennington College
Live out your best Donna Tartt and Bret Easton Ellis fantasy.
Sunset Lake Floating Bridge
A bridge that floats on water. Not much else you need to know.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory
Tours include optional visits to the “Flavor Graveyard.” R.I.P. Schweddy Balls.
46 creepy U.S. Presidential busts, about 20 feet high, sit in a privately owned field in Croaker, Virginia. Members of the public cannot access the site without being on an official tour, to book, visit John Paschal’s Facebook page.
The Great Stalacpipe Organ
Take a guided tour through the largest and most popular caverns in Eastern America. See towering stone formations in cathedral sized rooms with 10-story high ceilings. Some call it the Geologist Hall of Fame.
George Washington’s estate. Tour everything from president numero uno’s two-floor mansion, gardens, whiskey distillery and gristmill. And if you’re so inclined to learn even more history, you can at the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.
Located in a forest along the Raging River thirty minutes from Seattle, TreeHouse Point offers guided treehouse tours, lodging, weddings and elopements, and even accommodations for meetings (if you have a strong desire to do so).
One Square Inch of Silence
Possibly the quietest place in the U.S., One Square Inch of Silence is a noise control project in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park started by author and sound recording specialist Gordon Hempton. The purpose is to preserve and protect natural quiet, which may be non-existent in our world in the next 10 years.
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the state of Washington, an active volcano, and the most glaciated peak in the U.S.
Cold War Congressional Fallout Bunker
Carved deep beneath a mountainside is an emergency Cold War fallout shelter, once used as a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress, now open to the public for tours.
Check out the largest collection of props and memorabilia from the movie “The Mothman Prophecies” in the town where the Mothman sightings and encounters actually occurred. And don’t forget to snap a pic with the Mothman Statue — if you dare.
New River Gorge Bridge
One of the most photographed places in West Virginia, the New River Gorge Bridge is the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.
World’s Largest Six Pack
A landmark around south Third Street that made its debut in 1969, six giant tanks, painted to look like beer cans, are filled with fully-kraeusened beer made from pure artesian well water. The tanks can hold 22,220 barrels of beer, equaling 688,200 gallons or 7.3 million cans. Start chugging.
Suncrest Gardens Pizza Farm
Relax in Yaeger Valley and enjoy a casual dining experience in Suncrest’s backyard gardens. Kids can explore the playground, run around, and are encouraged to make a total mess.
The House on the Rock
In 1960, Alex Jordan opened his dream home built atop a chimney of rock to the public. Now not only can you visit his home, but stay and relax at the Inn, and play a round of golf at the House on the Rock Resort.
Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport
In 1994 the Green River city council designated this small public use landstrip for inhabitants of Jupiter who, if they wish, could take sanctuary in Green River in the event their planet is threatened by collisions from comets or meteors. And who says we’re hostile to foreigners?
Bighorn Medicine Wheel
On top of Bighorn Range, 9,642 feet high and only reachable during the summer months, sits an ancient Native American construction — an 80’ diameter wheel-like pattern made of stones.
The first National Park in the United States. Famous for its wildlife and geothermal features, especially the Old Faithful geyser. Just don’t stand too close.