When I was younger my family went on some epic family vacations. Not only did we learn how to rough it by traveling in an RV but we also got to see some amazing things along the way. Of course we did the typical family vacation to Disney, however, the vacations that have stuck with me throughout the years are the ones where we were traveling the entire time. Now that I have a family I am hoping to someday be able to do the same and take my kids to some of these amazing places. Taking a trip in an RV with a family of five is no joke but we did it. We learned how to get along with each other in a confined space. I have been in 49 out of the 50 states all before I turned twenty. The only state I have yet to visit is Alaska.
Now, we did not go to all these places in one summer but every couple of years we would take about a month trip and just drive the country. Usually we would figure out which states we wanted to hit and what all we would really like to see. Then we would pack up and go. I recommend seeing some of these places with your kids before they are grown up because there is so much to learn and so much to see out there. We were able to be exposed to all sorts of different things when we were traveling. We learned about history (my dad loved anything dealing with history so we got plenty of it on vacation), we learned about different cultures, we even learned how to navigate and read an atlas. (Remember we traveled before anyone had a GPS!)
1. Red Wood National Park (Crescent City, CA)
These amazing trees are something to see. Especially for children since everything appears even larger and more amazing. We were able to see cars drive through some of the trees and carvings that were made from them as well. I even remember a playhouse being carved out of a piece of one of the trees that was amazing. To think that these forest have been here for thousands of years is amazing and a must see!
2. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA)
Going to see the Golden Gate Bridge was also a highlight from one of our vacations. Seeing the winding, up-hill streets and trolly cars really made us realize that people lived differently than we did back home. The bridge was definitely something that we always saw pictures of so it was really amazing to see it in person.
3. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (Keystone, SD)
There is something amazing about seeing past presidents faces carved into a mountain. As a child knowing that people took the time to do this is amazing. It makes you realize that if you want to do something bad enough there will always be a way.
4. The Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
Driving through the bad lands is an amazing sight. Taking the Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road will take you through the north side of these geologic fossil beds. There are lots of animals that are also roaming around and are pretty cool for kids to see. With the wide open spaces while traveling in an RV seeing something like this is better than just looking at fields.
5. Yellow Stone National Park (Wyoming)
This national park provides lots of things to do and see. From Old Faithful geyser to hot springs. They offer a variety of different programs that you can do in order to see the most of the park or you can travel through and see the things you want on your own schedule.
6. Devils Tower National Monument (Crook County, WY)
This geologic feature is just amazing to see in person. There is so much that is known about this rock formation and it is considered to be sacred by different tribes in the area. It is also a mountain climbers dream. I remember seeing people hanging off the side of this tower as they were climbing it. It is not something that is a must on people’s list of things to see but for kids it is an amazing sight.
7. Four Corners Monument (Teec Nos Pos, AZ)
The unique landmarks where four states meet. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Get your picture taken while being in four states at once. This isn’t anything all that amazing but I do remember it clearly. I thought that it was so cool since no other states meet up like this. On your way to the four corners take time to visit the small city of Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation.
8. Hoover Dam (Clarke County, NV)
I remember the Hoover Dam being just like in the movie Chevy Chase Vegas Vacation. Not only is the actual structure of the dam amazing to see the history behind when and how they built it is something else. Built during the depression it provides hydroelectric power and is considered a National Historic Landmark.
9. Grand Canyon (Arizona)
From photography and yoga classes to day hikes there is something for everyone to do. The views alone with make your kids realize that there is much more out there than just them. With so much to do and see there is something for all ages.
10. The Battle of Little Big Horn National Monument (Crow Agency, MT)
“Custers Last Stand” Learn all about the history of this battle and see the 7th cavalry Monument on top of Last Stand Hill and the Indian Memorial. Go to the museum and walk the self guided walking trail that takes you through the National Cemetery. Not many people get to see this National Monument and I remember learning about this battle in my history books after seeing this over the summer.
11. Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial (Oklahoma City, OK)
Located in downtown Oklahoma City visit the historic museum first then step out into the outdoor symbolic museum. This memorial is really something to see and to learn more about what happened on that day. The outdoor symbolic is one that has stuck in my memory ever since we went.
12. The Gateway Arch (St Louis, MO)
The tallest man-made monument in the United States it served as the gateway to the west for settlers. You can ride up to the observation deck and look out at the city of St. Louis. Even if you just want to take a look at it from the grounds it is a magnificent sight to see and the history behind building it is astounding.
13. Bathhouse Row (Hot Springs, AR)
I remember going to bathhouse row and thinking that it was such a weird thing. However, the architecture and the history behind the bathhouses is incredible. Also being able to feel the natural hot springs is something I will never forget. It is definitely a place that is not talked about much but is really neat to check out.
14. Cities of the Dead (New Orleans, LA)
Not only is the creepy to walk around but eerie as well. Taking a tour of the city is one thing but this part of the tour is one for the books. It is definitely the part of the city that I remember the most. New Orleans is a city full of culture and customs. They are also really into voodoo and seeing it up close is something I will always remember.
15. Mackinac Island (Mackinac Island, MI)
This is an amazing island that is full of lots to do. With lots of shopping and sites to see. Everyone still gets around by horse and carriage or bicycle since no cars have been allowed on the island ever. Tour the historic forts that were taken over by the British during the War of 1812. And don’t forget to get some of the fudge from the local shops before you leave.
16. Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls, NY)
Go as close to the water fall as possible with a tour in the Cave of the Winds. I remember wearing the ponchos and getting super close to the water. Definitely have a good camera to take the obligatory poncho family picture!
17. Mammoth Cave (Carter County, KY)
Carter Caves State Park provides walking tours through the underground caves. The way the caves form is really something to see. The walking tours are great for kids that are not too young. It was also great when learning about this stuff in school that we were able to see it up close and know exactly what our teachers were talking about.
18. Whale Watching (Bar Harbor, ME)
When we went to Maine the only major thing that we did was go whale watching. It was so much fun and amazing to see these giant creatures. The whales are usually only around certain times of the year so make sure you plan your trip accordingly. We also found out that all three of us kids were prone to sea sickness so beware!
19. US Mint Tours (Philadelphia, PA)
For any kids that are all about making money this is a great way for them to learn how money is actually made. These free and self-guided tours are a great way to see how this is done. We had a blast when we went on the tour and I would definitely go again. Also while in Philadelphia taking your kids to see the Liberty Bell is a must.
20. Freedom Trail (Boston, MA)
Walk all the historic sites throughout Boston by following the red line 2.5 mile trail. I remember taking a whole day and walking the whole trail. This is definitely not something to do with young kids if you expect them to walk the whole way. End the “tour” by climbing Bunker Hill. Also, depending on when you go, you can also tour the ship the USS Constitution. (After we toured this boat I learned about it in my history class that fall.)
21. Statue of Liberty (New York, NY)
Tour the most symbolic symbol of the United States. If you ever go to New York, don’t forget to be the ultimate tourist and visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I remember taking the tours and trying to find our families name. The photographs of all the people coming to this country years ago is really something to see. It is also fun for kids if you try to find out more about your own families history.
22. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC)
When I was in high school I got really into learning about the holocaust. Being able to go to this museum while on a family vacation was so important to me. Getting to see everything up close is really crazy. Also, if you are on vacation in DC don’t forget to visit all the other museums and memorials. Especially the Changing of the Guard in Arlington National Cemetery. (As long as your kids can stay quite and respectful this is really something to see.)
23. Diamond Head State Monument (Honolulu, HI)
The well know crater on the Hawaiian Islands. Hike up the side of the mountain through historic locations to the summit. This is one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever went on during a family vacation. Once you are at the top look out over the island and the ocean.
24. Pearl Harbor (Honolulu, HI)
Tour Pearl Harbor and let your kids experience the history that lead us into WWII. The history of the attack and seeing the ships still under water is something I will never forget.
25. Maui Waveriders Surf Lessons (Kihei, HI)
Nobody can go to Hawaii without learning how to surf or at least giving it a try. This is the company that I learned how to surf from when we went years ago. (This was the best birthday present ever!) Getting to experience the waves and be able to come home and say that you surfed is awesome. This is something your kids will never forget especially if you do it as a family.
What are some of your favorite places to go when on vacation?
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