Being a kid at the tail end of summer vacation can be grim. Your lemonade stand’s gone belly-up, your sunburn is starting to peel, and (groan) school is just around the corner.
With the final bits of freedom slipping through their fingers, why not make those end-of-summer days count by giving your kids one last family getaway?
Check out these kid-friendly road trips and send them back to school with some amazing summer memories.
Summer road trip destination: Loon Mountain
Location: Lincoln, NH
What is it? The place that reverses the last 3 months of your kids’ couch potato-dom. At this mountain resort, you can get breathtaking views from gondola skyrides, hit the trails on a Segway tour, or enter the Logjam Maze in Paul Bunyan’s Backyard Fun Park. Of course, the biggest draw might well be zip-lining, especially since Mt. Loon has the lowest weight requirement (50 lb.) in the region.
Why your kids will love it: Zip-line calluses win show-and-tell. They just do.
Why you’ll love it: Trapped inside a giant maze, your kids are sure to stay active. (I mean … they have to!)
Cool roads to take on the way: Acadia National Park Loop Road, ME; Cape Cod Scenic Drive, MA; Cape May County Ocean Drive, NJ
Summer road trip destination: Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead
Location: Overland Park, KS
What is it? A zoo/park/museum that shows kids what it was like in a turn-of-the-century farmstead. You can see nearly 200 animals on the grounds (and even hand-feed some cows and miniature horses), go fishing with an old-fashioned cane pole, take a pony ride, or just run around the prairie playground.
Why your kids will love it: Angry birds are more impressive in 3-D.
Why you’ll love it: Any road trips for the kids that actually teach them the value of money — while making it seem like fun — are a dream for most parents.
Cool roads to take on the way: Route 66, OK/MO; Great River Road, MO
Summer road trip destination: New Orleans
Location: New Orleans, LA (duh)
What is it? A city as fun for kids as adults (seriously). Think about Mardi Gras itself: without the bead-begging debauchery, what you have are lively colors, parades, floats, and extravagant costumes — in other words, 98 percent of what’s on your child’s mind at any given moment. At Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, you can get kid-friendly enjoyment of this celebration any time of the year. New Orleans also has attractions like steamboat rides, bayou animals, and the famous Audubon Insectarium.
Why your kids will love it: Didn’t you hear me?! An insectarium!!!
Why you’ll love it: Po’boys, lobster, gumbo, crawfish … if you’re on a family road trip, you might as well spend it stuffed.
Cool roads to take on the way: State Road 30A, FL; Natchez Trace Parkway, TN/MS
Summer road trip destination: Circus Circus
Location: Las Vegas, NV
What is it? Perhaps the world’s largest carnival. The 70 acres of land are jammed-packed with live performances, over 200 arcade and festival games, and an indoor theme park.
Why your kids will love it: The chance to indulge every fun impulse in history before, you know, homework makes its ugly return.
Why you’ll love it: Vegas, baby!
Cool roads to take on the way: Cottonwood Pass, CO; Bicentennial Scenic Byway, UT
Summer road trip destination: Out‘n’About Treesort
Location: Takilma, OR
What is it? Unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This resort is comprised of luxury tree houses high in the Oregon forest. (You mean, like the Lost Boys’ home? Well, not to get you too excited … but yes! OH YES!!!) After climbing to your room, you can enjoy other activities like building a tree house, rafting, tackling ropes courses, and more.
Why your kids will love it: Nothing beats climbing a tree.
Why you’ll love it: … Nothing beats climbing a tree (admit it!).
Cool roads to take on the way: Pacific Coast Highway, CA; Hwy 101, British Columbia
So what are you waiting for? Pack up the car and get moving! And if you have any family-friendly destinations to recommend, share them in the comments below.
Other ideas for family road trips
Pass the time on your trip with these proven car games.
As you head to your final destination, treat your family to some of these 8 unusual roadside attractions along the way.