We recently asked 1,000 Americans who they’d want to go on a road trip with, and 70 percent responded with their family. That’s not all we learned from our survey. Those family trips in a wood-paneled station wagon are long gone. Roomier than a wagon and nimbler than a minivan, it makes sense that 48 percent picked an SUV as the top pick for family vacations. Additionally, it seems the FM dial is still the most popular choice for on-road entertainment with 37 percent of respondents.
Since 64 percent of Americans want to have an “adventure” on their trip—and take their family for the ride— we are continuing our adventure series with trip ideas inspired by our poll that are more than just driving from point A to B. Below is America’s top-choices for family destinations. Buckle up!
Florida was one of the most popular destinations in our survey, but this state has more to offer than just mouse ears and magic. We found a place just as magical as mainstays like Miami and Orlando. Less than a five-hour drive from Orlando is Islamorada. The Village of Islands boasts world-class scuba, snorkeling, and incredible seafood. Feast on fresh-catch at Loreli Restaurant & Cabana Bar and take in sunsets from their deck. After you’ve explored this island a bit, make sure to take a chance to frolic with the ocean’s friendliest ambassadors with a visit to Theater of the Sea.
Tunes: 88.1 FM WRGP Variety; 91.5 FM WKWM Public Radio; 96.9 FM WKEZ Adult Contemporary
Tip: You’re on “island time” and that means life and traffic moves a little slower here.
2. Cambria, CA
California and its famous cities, like San Francisco, is usually on everyone’s road trip wish list, and this was true with 1 out of 10 of our respondents. While San Francisco is where people struck it rich, sea-side towns, like Cambria, are the real California gold. Moonstone Beach offers some of the best sunsets on the coast and Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery provides a chance to see these so-ugly-they’re-cute creatures up close. Less than a 20-minute drive away is the magnificent mansion Hearst Castle. With such breathtaking views, it’ll be clear why a man with all the money in the world built his kingdom here.
Tunes: 101.3 FM KERW Public Radio; 93.3 FM KZOZ Classic Rock; 102.1 FM KRKC Adult Contemporary
Tip: If you have time, take Highway 1 at least part of the way for the incredible scenery.
3. Gallup, NM
A consistent choice for the one and only road trip our respondents would take is the Grand Canyon. And while this natural wonder should be on the top of most families’ must-see lists, there is more to see in this part of the country than the canyon that launched a thousand postcards. If you are traveling from the east to see the Grand Canyon, make sure to stop in Gallup, New Mexico. Take the family cloud cruising with a hot-air balloon ride from X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures. Once both feet are on the ground, head to a Route 66 classic, the El Rancho Hotel, which serves up Southwest cuisine in an historic atmosphere.
Tunes: 91.7 FM KGLP Public Radio; 93.7 FM KXXI Classic Rock; 99.1 FM KGLX Country
Tip: Less than 2-hours from Gallup is the Painted Desert. Arrive close to sunrise or sunset to be greeted with saturated hues by this other worldly work of art.
A state we kept seeing again and again in our survey was Colorado. And while most people think of Denver as the go-to, we feel that a real adventure can be had outside the Mile-High city. Dillon may not get as much attention as nearby Breckenridge, but the plethora of year-round outdoor activities make it a must-stop. If it’s warm enough, rent a pontoon boat from Dillon Marina, and enjoy a rocky mountain backdrop as you cruise the lake. During the summer, you can check out local bands for free at the Dillon Amphitheater. Bring a couple folding chairs, sit back, and surround yourself with mountainous scenery and live music.
Tunes: 88.5 FM KGNU Public Radio; 103.5 FM KRFX Classic Rock; 93.5 FM KTND Alternative
Tip: Visiting in the winter? Make sure your rental car has tires with mud/snow (M+S) designation.
5. Kingman, AZ
It’s probably no surprise that Las Vegas was mentioned a few dozen times on our survey. And while we agree that the Entertainment Capital of the World has its pros, just outside of Las Vegas is where you hit the family-fun jackpot. Kingman is about two hours outside Las Vegas, and is the perfect pit stop for outdoor adventure. Alpacas are having their moment, and you can share it with them at Alpacas of the Southwest. Then, rent a cabin and be surrounded by pines, plants, and plenty of critters at Hualapai Mountain Park, which is a 27-minute drive from Kingman.
Tunes: 90.7 FM KJZK Public Radio; 94.7 FM KFLG Country; 100.7 FM KRRK Classic Rock
Tip: Rest stops can be few and far between. Make sure you have a jug or two of water and some toiletries if you need to make an unplanned pit stop.
6. Ithaca, NY
Our poll also asked respondents for their favorite road trip memories and their bucket-list destinations. Niagara Falls appeared more than a few times in the answers. If you’re headed to Niagara Falls, we suggest you chase even more waterfalls (about 150 of them) in Ithaca. Robert H. Treman State Park has easily accessible trails and plunge pools to take a dip in. Once you’ve dried off, stroll through Ithaca Commons where you’ll find hundreds of locally owned restaurants, shops, and stores. Ithaca is the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, and the Cornell Dairy Bar creates topped tasty towers and a whole lot more.
Tunes: 89.3 FM WSKG Public Radio; 91.7 FM WICB Variety; 92.3 FM WOGA Adult Contemporary
Tip: Take Route 96 if you’re heading up to Niagara Falls. It’ll save around a half hour verses NY 14A.
Blessed with both a dynamic landscape and tons of history, Virginia offers just about everything for the perfect family vacation, so it’s no wonder it appeared in our survey. If you travel to the eastern seaboard, be sure to head to Chincoteague Island. There aren’t many places where you can get sun, surf, and wild ponies, and Saltwater Pony Tours offers an up-close view of these sea horses. You may enjoy the sandy solitude of this Atlantic gem so much that wild horses will have to drag you away.
Tunes: 88.3 FM WRAU Public Radio; 96.5 FM WCTG Adult Album Alternative; 98.9 FM WSBY Urban AC
Tip: Bring insect repellent. The area is beautiful, but you’ll enjoy it more without gnats buzzing around your head.
One of the best things about driving on your family vacation is that you can easily sprinkle in some worthwhile stops along the way. We only touched on a fraction of what there is to do and see in-between some of America’s favorite destinations. With an open mind and a little planning, you can make your next family vacation an adventurous one.