5 Quirky Roadside Attractions for Your Next Family Road Trip
5 Quirky Roadside Attractions for Your Next Family Road Trip
Unexpected places to stop in the U.S. that kids will love!
By: Nic & Jess Farish
When taking family road trips, you know being asked “Are we there yet” over and over can drive you absolutely bonkers! Siblings are fighting over whose turn it is to pick the next movie, they’re hungry, they need to use the bathroom, or they just feel the holy spirit telling them to scream at the top of their lungs for NO REASON WHATSOEVER! Traveling with kiddos tests your patience like nothing else. Sometimes there are only so many snacks you can offer before you just HAVE to get out and stretch your legs a bit and pray (we say lots of prayers during travel days).
It’s in these very moments that you thank your lucky stars for the many roadside attractions. These can truly be the saving grace of road trips with children. As a parent, you know that your kids can only last so long before they have to get out and run off some energy. Thanks to these reasons to pull over, travel days can be some of the BEST when it comes to road trips!
Now, not all roadside attractions are equal. We’ve seen very persuasive signs to exit for something seemingly incredible only to find a medium-sized rock. But there are also hidden attractions that turned out to be our kids’ favorite part of the trip! Roadside attractions can be a huge hit or a total dud. To better assist you in planning your next road trip, I put together our top five favorite roadside attractions to add to your next family road trip!
Our Favorite Roadside Attractions in the U.S.
5. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
We were driving down Route 66 headed home to Dallas, TX, from New Mexico when we suddenly saw tons of cars pulled over on the side of the road. Naturally, we HAD to pull over ourselves to see what all the fuss was about. That’s when we saw, off in the distance, a row of Cadillacs buried nose down in the dirt. Of course, we got out of our Winnebago and began moving towards this incredible display of art!
As we got closer, the smell of spray paint took over! Crowds of people were gathered around each Cadillac, using cans of spray paint to add their name, a drawing, really anything they wanted! As a parent, you have spent your child’s entire life enforcing a stern rule of drawing on paper only. So, you can imagine the looks on our kids’ faces when they were offered a can of spray paint, and an approval from Mommy and Daddy to go crazy on the cars. The kids had a blast drawing their favorite characters, writing their name, and just marking all over the cars! It was such an awesome stop, and one the boys will never forget!
4. Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita, Kansas
When a friend of ours heard that we were traveling North on 35W from Texas, he told us that the Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita was a MUST-STOP destination for our kids! When I tell you that our kids didn’t want to leave, I mean they LITERALLY threw a fit when it was time to go! The museum has thought of everything and truly puts kids first in their thought process.
From the moment you pull up, you see massive airplanes on the runways displayed for your viewing pleasure! These airplanes range from a wide variety of Military Jets to large commercial aircrafts. The boys could not believe how large these planes were! Inside the museum, there were even more aircrafts on display, many from the early 1900s! Our boys loved being able to touch and feel all of these aircrafts while learning about the process behind building and even flying some of these.
In this multi-level museum, there was an entire level dedicated just for kids! Here you could ride in miniature prop planes, fly actual simulators, draw planes, or even build your very own Lego plane! We made sure to grab a few souvenirs before continuing our trip up north.
3. Story City in Story City, Iowa
This incredible City was an accidental stop for us that turned out to be something out of a storybook! We had pulled over to get gas when we discovered the city we were in was named Story City. Being the super imaginative adventurous family that we are, we decided to go on an adventure through this city! The moment we entered Story City, the homes transformed into something out of a Nicholas Sparks book! White picket fences, families riding their bikes together, and kids walking with beach towels to their neighborhood pool.
Located in the center of Story City was a beautifully constructed park with large shaded trees, perfectly placed benches, and a playground every child could fall in love with! But the thing that made Story City such an incredible stop for us (apart from the wonderful people) was the old-fashioned working carousel in the middle of the park!
A local student - who was SO sweet to our boys - was operating it and gave our boys as many rides as they wanted. We made sure to grab some popcorn from the old-fashioned popcorn machine and just watched our boys have the time of their lives! After the carousel rides, we played in the park for another hour, had lunch, and made our way back on the road! We will definitely be returning to Story City in the future.
2. Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon, California
Another accidental roadside attraction for us was a visit to the Cabazon Dinosaurs. We again were stopping for gas when all of a sudden, our five-year-old noticed a HUGE dinosaur behind the gas station! We thought he was using his imagination and seeing things in the clouds until we turned around and saw the massive brontosaurus ourselves! This incredible attraction is literally hidden behind a gas station and a fast-food restaurant, but can be easily seen if you just look in the right direction with the 150-foot brontosaurus on display.
We spent hours here walking through a dino safari, excavating dinosaur fossils, and even panning for gemstones. Inside, we found even more thrilling things to do - like ride on a Velociraptor! It was amazing and the kids left with a story of a lifetime now after braving a ride from an “ACTUAL” dinosaur.
1. Hallmark’s “Kaleidoscope” in Kansas City--
This stop started out as one for Mommy and Daddy. We LOVE Hallmark! During the holidays, you will absolutely find us wrapping presents while watching every single Hallmark Christmas movie ever created! I mean, it’s not Christmas without Hallmark, right?! So, while driving through Kansas City, we knew we HAD to make a stop at Hallmark. Well, as soon as we did, we noticed the most whimsical sign marked, “Kaleidoscope” in front of the doors to enter one of their buildings. Obviously, we had to check it out, and are SO happy we did!
Kaleidoscope is a whimsical, upbeat center that offers creative arts and crafts for kids! This 100% FREE attraction has so many hands-on experiments and crafts for kids to do. We created hats, drew pictures, painted, and performed kid-friendly science experiments. They offer this event in 50-minute sessions, which was the perfect amount of time for our boys! They even let us take a handful of crafts with us for the road! The boys were in absolute HEAVEN. And so were we, since they continued to entertain themselves with drawing and creating the rest of the day on the road.
So, there you have it, our top five favorite roadside attractions to add to your next family road trip! Taking breaks often is key for traveling with the kiddos, especially on long travel days, so having plenty of roadside attractions to choose from has been such a life saver for our family.
Do you have any MUST-SEE roadside attractions that you’ve experienced while on the road? We’d love to hear about them! Let us know!