25 Things You Must Do On a Cross-Country Road Trip

road trip roadIf you’re thinking about a road trip, whether a cross-country road trip or one that lasts a week or two that takes you to new places, there’s a lot you can do to make the vacation into an adventure. I put together 25 must-do’s to help make your next road trip a massive success. Let me know what you’d add to this list.

1. Ride on an Observation Wheel. Yes, a Ferris wheel. We’re eager for a spin high above the city on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in Pigeon Forge and the High Roller in Las Vegas.

2. Collect Junior Ranger Patches. Pick up and complete the Junior Ranger activity booklet at every national park and monument you visit to earn patches. Attach each patch to a floppy hat for each child.

3. Go for a Helicopter Ride. Get even higher above a city by taking a helicopter ride for scenic bird’s eye views. At the Grand Canyon, I’m hoping for a 30-minute narrated ride from the South Rim.

grand canyon helicopter tour

4. Stay at a Hotel with a Fun Pool. Hotel pools are a must for family fun, but when you can, splurge and go for hotels boasting lazy rivers and water slides, like the Music Road Resort in Pigeon Forge.

5. Try New Foods in Every State. As I noted last month, it’s a must to try the signature food in every state you visit, whether key lime pie in Florida or fish tacos in California.

6. Stop at a Wacky Museum. We’re stopping at the Idaho Potato Museum on our way from Boise to Yellowstone National Park. I’d say it’s worth a quick stop to pose in front of a giant baked potato.

idaho potato museum

7. Pose for Selfies. Whether in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, at Four Corners Monument or with one of the wax celebrities at Madame Tussauds, take time out for a few selfies to capture the moment.

8. Get Up Close with Animals. Wherever you are, learn more about the animals of the region. In Beaumont, Texas, we’re gearing up to wade in the water with baby alligators at Gator Country.

9. Go Camping. Or, at the very least, stay in a cabin with an en-suite bathroom. That’s what we’re doing when we stay at Carlsbad KOA in New Mexico and Yellowstone Park / West Entrance KOA in Montana.

yellowstone koa

10. Get Your Passport Booklet Stamped. Get as many passports stamps as possible at national parks and monuments across the country through the Passport to Your National Parks program.

11. Fly Along on a Zipline Course. This is a fun way to be active as a family. We did this in Orlando at Forever Florida and I’d love to get the kids zooming down the ziplines from high up in the trees again.

12. Take a Break for Waterfalls. Once we leave Boise, our first stop is Shoshone Falls, the Niagara Falls of the West. I’m also keen to see Yosemite Falls at Yosemite National Park.

shoshone falls

13. Go On, Get Wet. Whether at a waterpark, at the base of a waterfall or on a rafting adventure, do something where you get wet as a family. We’re taking a half-day rafting trip along the Colorado River. 

14. Visit an Amusement Park. Take time out from museums and historical monuments for a trip to a theme park. We’re excited about the Dine with Shamu lunch program at SeaWorld San Antonio.

15. Learn Something New. Take a lesson and learn something new, whether surfing lessons in Santa Monica or stand-up paddleboarding lessons in Lake Placid.

clare on paddleboard lake placid

16. Have a Picnic. We definitely don’t eat outside enough, so we’ll be stopping at picnic tables all across national parks to eat our lunches and enjoy the scenery around us.

17. Get Out of Your Car. Yes, get out of your car. Try out a new mode of transportation, whether a streetcar around New Orleans or a cable car in San Francisco.

18. Explore What Makes a City Unique. New Orleans, home to Mardi Gras, is also home to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. We’re eager to take a tour, see parade floats being made and learn the history of the celebration.

mardi gras world

19. Go for a Hike. At every state or national park you visit, go for a hike. We’re planning a hike at each of the five most-visited national parks this summer. So excited.

20. Take a Train Ride. You’ll find trains all over the country, like the Alaska Railroad, where you can pair a train ride with an iceberg hike. Or, try the popular Durango & Silverton in Colorado.

21. Visit a State Capitol Building. Take time to visit the seat of government in states you visit along your journey. In Baton Rouge, you’ll find all 50 state names etched into the old capitol building’s steps.

baton rouge capitol steps

22. Eat at a “Famous” Restaurant. You decide what constitutes a “famous” restaurant, but pick some colorful cafes and restaurants to stop at along the way. I’m excited about the Roadkill Café in Arizona.

23. Go to a State Fair. If you time your travels right, you may be able to spend time at a state fair or two. At the Iowa State Fair, you can take selfies with a Butter Cow over 11 days in August.

24. Do a Nighttime Activity. Whether going on a full moon bike ride at Yosemite National Park or enjoying the lighted fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, do something best enjoyed at night.

bellagio fountains

25. Do Something Unplanned. I’m such a planner, so this one kind of scares me, but given unplanned adventures can often be the most fun, this one is definitely a must-do on any road trip.

What are some of your favorite things to see and do while on a road trip? Let me know in the comments section below.