By Meredith Schneider
America is beautiful. With its many cultures, fine dining options, breathtaking landscapes, and many methods of entertainment, there is always something to be done in every part of this country. So here comes the fun part.
You are going on a road trip and there are expanses of this beautiful land between you and your destination. Where do you stop to take a breather and stretch your legs? Are there actually quality places along the interstate to make yourself comfortable other than a booth at a McDonald’s with some watered-down coffee? Our staff has been all over the place, and we have a few pit stop selections for you that will leave you satisfied (and your Instagram full). You can thank us later.
The Agawam Diner in Rowley, Mass. Photo courtesy of Open Roads.
Head a little north of Boston and you’ll find a fun little old-fashioned diner to suit your taste buds on a long trek. Known best for its coffee and desserts, we are still big fans of the “Franks and Potato Salad.” It is a ’50s diner, so make sure to bring some cash with you and be ready to enjoy a laid-back experience from the past!
Butano State Park in San Mateo Counta, Ca. Photo courtesy of Ray Bouknight.
Have you decided to make the trek from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Highway 1? Sure, the trip is filled with gorgeous coastal views and amazing food, but if you want to stretch those legs we would check out the redwood forests a bit inland. One of our favorites is Pescadero. Slide on in to check out the elephant seals, but then head east to enjoy the views of Butano State Park. The redwoods make you feel like you are in an enchanted forest, and a small hike is great for people of all ages.
The Four Corners. Photo courtesy of Ken Lund.
This is a staple in American cross-country road trips. Everyone who is anyone will get their photo taken with a limb in each of the four states this little pit stop falls on. If you want a chance to be in four places at once, check out the border of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. It is known as a monument and is run by the Navajo tribe and the area even has some fun shops to buy dream catchers and other beautiful handmade goods.
The Seattle Public Library. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
If your road trip centers on the Pacific Northwest, then you might want to get some reading in on your excursion. Look no further than Seattle’s downtown public library, one of the city’s famous landmark buildings. Take a second to unwind with a book, magazine, or a map to check out your next adventure. And make sure to hang out in the gorgeous entryway of the building, which could make anyone feel like they’re in a sci-fi movie.
Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Making your way along Old Route 66 for fun? There’s an amazing art experience in Amarillo, Texas at Cadillac Ranch. Cadillacs have been sticking out of the ground since the ’70s, covered in spray paint against the backdrop of a vast Amarillo sky. Stop on by to take photos of or with the cars. There are also spray paint cans available on-site, so you can really release your road trip demons by making your own addition to the decades-old art installment.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Mo. Photo courtesy of Piwo Jasne.
Another (foodie) stop along Old Route 66 that we’ve always enjoyed is Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Mo. It might not look like much, but it is a cool haven in the hot, hot heat of summer. Our favorite? The “All Shook Up” concrete, which is a fun spin on Elvis’ favorites: peanut butter and bananas.
Maytag Dairy Farms. Photo courtesy of Carl Wycoff.
Do you love cheese more than you enjoy breathing? You don’t have to enjoy it that much, but if you find yourself driving through the lovely state of Iowa, it’s fun to experience a little bit of cheesy heaven at the Maytag Dairy Farms. See where some of your favorite dairy products come from, take a tour, and eat your little heart out.
The OZ Museum in Wmaego, Kan. Photo courtesy of Out.of.Focus.
If you’ve done the drive through Kansas to get to anywhere else, you know how painstakingly long it takes. The countryside is beautiful but, let’s face it, it’s flat. There aren’t enough of landmarks along the highway to get a person through a drive like that, but there are some hidden gems just off the beaten path that might be well worth your time.
One of our favorites? The OZ Museum in Wamego, Kan. If you’re traveling 24 Highway, you dip just south and if you’re on 70, you head slightly north to get to this cozy town. The museum houses so many The Wizard of Oz artifacts and memorabilia, it will make your head spin.
So what makes a place a great pit stop? Don’t always judge a place by what it looks like. Some of the most fun photo opportunities are just off the beaten path. Some of the best eating experiences happen in hole-in-the-wall diners and dives. Was there a super awesome place featured on a Food Network television show that you just have to try?
Check out this map to find places along your road trip route or even right in your own backyard! Don’t rule out random stops on your trip. Sometimes just pulling off the highway and stopping at the first mom and pop diner can lead to the most memorable experience. And don’t forget to document it with photos galore. Most enjoy those more than they enjoy gifts from the trip—but don’t rule out tacky navy blue wallets decorated with bass for your best friend.