Road-trip: what can’t we miss seeing where you live?

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On the PlayaFor YEARS, my friend and I have joked about planning a full-on cross-country road trip. We’d have a hired RV, bobble heads, nodding dogs, and hula girls on the dashboard, and we’d visit loads of tourist sites across America — you know, the worlds largest pencil museum, the biggest ball of twine, pet cemeteries, shoe trees.

We need must-visit places — we hope they give us the fortitude to plan this trip. No more joking! I’d like the Homies to give us touristing recommendations in their area. What should I come see in your city or state? -Mich

My advice is this: If you visit Nebraska, don’t allow yourself to drive on I-80. That flat, ugly stretch of Interstate gives NE a bad name.

If you have a smartphone, you might also buy the app Roadside America for $2.99. It alerts you to nearby giant balls of twine and gives you information, links, and directions. It was the first app I bought (aww, I’m experiencing nostalgia!)

What have you got to offer, guys? Or rather, what has your state got to offer?

Comments on Road-trip: what can’t we miss seeing where you live?

  1. I can’t speak to any specific sites, but if you want some inspiration, check out http://atlasobscura.com. You can search by region and category and you can find some fun things you may want to check out.

  2. Alabama:
    Mobile has the USS Alabama Battleship, the Carnival Museum (all about Mardi Gras– complete with Queens’ gowns and floats), Fort Conde, a ridiculous amount of historic homes to tour, and the Exploreum Science Center, as well as easy access to beaches like Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island (where I grew up!).

    If you make it to Dauphin Island, they have Fort Gaines, Indian Burial Grounds with shellmounds, and the Sea Lab and Estuarium.

    Birmingham: the Vulcan (made for the 1904 World’s Fair), the McWane Science Center, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and the B’ham Zoo.

    Montgomery: Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and Civil Rights Museums and Memorial Centers.

  3. Knoxville, TN has a pretty good skate/bike park, but I’d head NW about an hour and hit up the Minister’s Treehouse. Photos don’t do it justice, and the man who built it is usually hanging around there and more than happy to talk with any visitors.

  4. Well Minooka, IL is pretty lame but if anyone is traveling down I80 and needs a break we can board ya for the night. We’ll order Fat Boyz pizza, climb on the roof and enjoy the creepy, peaceful glow of the power plant.

  5. Firstly, I would recommend checking out the City guides posted on Design Sponge. I don’t always agree with them, but they do have some interesting things.

    Secondly, I don’t want to advise on all of Washington, but I do love Seattle & Bellingham. In Seattle, of course visit Pike Place Market, but also do the Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. Please don’t skip visiting West Seattle – Alki beach is a lot of fun (esp Whale Tail Park, even if you don’t have kids). On California Ave & Alaska there is “the Junction” where you can find a lot of fairly priced eateries & free parking (almost unheard of in Seattle!). If you visit the Junction in W. Seattle, check out the ice cream at the family-owned Husky Deli; it’s made there in-store from their family recipes. If your sweet tooth prefers something baked to something cold, there is Cupcake Royale… but I would recommend Coffee to a Tea with Sugar over CR any day!! Better selection & fresher (and prettier) products.

    • I lived in West Seattle in the Junction for 3 years! I loved it down there! Every single morning my sister and I would walk to Uptown Espresso. The baristas there are great 🙂 My sister still lives there, but I moved. West Seattle Blog is really helpful on places to eat in the Junction or the Admiral district of West Seattle.

  6. Mississippi is chock full of awesome places to visit. The Natchez Trace is popular among tourists, but for my money the Blues Highway, Route 66, is where it’s at. Things you can’t miss are the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale and the Shack Up Inn (http://www.shackupinn.com/). I’m quite partial to our fair capitol, my current city, Jackson, and there’s lots to do and see here. If you’re in North Mississippi, stop by Borrum’s Drug Store and get some dough burgers (also known as slug burgers, although there are no slugs involved) (http://borroumsdrugstore.net/). Yum. I love my state!

  7. What a fun question! I skimmed through the comments, and no one has spoken of Northeast Ohio yet, so here are some highlights:

    In the Akron area (where I live; it’s about 30 minutes south of Cleveland): The Cuyahoga Valley Natural Park is GORGEOUS (especially pretty summer and fall) and will prove to you that Ohio is not all corn. It’s a great place for a hike, to see waterfalls, or to take a bike ride along the historic Ohio/Erie canal Towpath Trail. Within the park you can also get your Ohio corn fix and stop at Szalay’s family-owned corn farm/market… We Ohioans do love our corn, and you can buy it freshly picked raw or roasted and eat it off the cob. Nothing better!
    Cuy. Valley Park: http://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm
    Aforementioned waterfall: http://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm
    Towpath: http://www.nps.gov/cuva/ohio-and-erie-canal-towpath-trail.htm
    Szalay’s: http://dayinthevalley.com/attractDetail.php?attrId=8

    If you’re stopping in Cleveland, you must go to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you choose one “touristy” thing to do.
    R&R Hall of Fame: http://rockhall.com/

    This sounds like a wonderful trip!

  8. If you make it up to Alsaka, North Pole is a good stop if you like Christmas. There’s a 300 foot tall Santa, the Santa Claus House, with everything Christmas, and you can sit on Santa’s lap. Then a short drive north of there is Chena Hot Springs. When I say short I mean a 2 hour drive, Alaskans have a messed up sense of time when it comes to driving places. To the biggest city it a weekend trip for us, and it’s a 12 hour drive round trip. Haha!! And if you do make it to Alaska, come in the summer, -40 is not a good way to get people to visit 🙂 Hope you make it!!

    • My Alaska spots would be

      The Exit Glacier Trail near Seward. You get to the top and have a spectacular view of the Harding Ice Fields (over 100 square miles of ice feeding many glaciers). It is a strenuous hike.

      The Backcountry Lodge in Denali National Park. You get to go all the way to the end of the road and can hike and enjoy the scenery from there.

  9. Oregon!

    In Portland, take a Portland Walking Tours tour. Visit Powell’s Books!! Eat at Voodoo Doughnuts. Try to convince the guy who runs the Woodstock Mystery Hole to give you a tour. There are a gazillion more things to do in Portland; I can’t even begin to touch on them.

    Near Salem, stop by the truly weird Enchanated Forest.

    Go up to Astoria and look around at places where the Goonies was filmed, and then check out the Astoria Column.

    Have a touristy time seeing Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

    …and so much more!

  10. Hard to believe there’s no Californians in this thread yet! I’m in Santa Cruz, 70 miles south of San Francisco. The beach in general is beautiful, The Mystery Spot is a fun little tourist spot, and of course, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is legendary. If you’re a fan of 80’s vampire flicks, Lost Boys was filmed there. It also has the oldest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast.

    • I’m also from Santa Cruz so I’m piggy backing for organization’s sake.

      Between the beaches and the redwoods, definitely one of the most beautiful places in the world. The boardwalk is great, but after you see it, you’ll want to check out the karaoke bar across the street.

      I’m not a big mystery spot person, though it definitely is the type of thing you’re looking for, but I’ll tell you what I love: A little bit north of town, in Felton, is a bigfoot museum. At first it seems small and just like a big pile of Harry and the Hendersons VHS, but then you talk to the guy. He is great!

    • More on California (northern):
      The Bay Area surrounding San Francisco has soo many awesome things to see. And amazing food to eat. In Oakland, try Bakesale Betty’s for a delicious fried chicken sandwich. For truly California pizza, try Boot and Shoe Service. Check out redwoods, in a large metropolitan city, at Joaquin Miller Park or Redwood Regional Park. Tilden Park in Berkeley is also super cool. See a movie at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. Walk around Lake Merritt.

      Farther north is where the gorgeous natural scenery is. North of Richmond, you can take Highway 1 for ~150 miles of coastal scenery. Just pay close attention to road! There are lots of cool towns along the way. Mendocino is quaint and cute. I grew up farther north in Garberville, which is a small dot of nothing that is full of trees and hippies-surrounded by nature everywhere, including the Avenue of the Giants. Eat at the Woodrose Cafe. Then continue on to Arcata which someone else already mentioned.

      Okay that is all, even though there is so much more…

      • Few things to add to the post above. I live in Eureka but have lived all over the country and this area is by far one of my favorite places to live because it is so beautiful and quiet, and no traffic. There is an endless supply of nearly empty gorgeous beaches and trails. If you do come, come late July-September as that is when the weather is the nicest (mid 60s and sunny) unless you want rain then you can come any other time of year. And if you drive through Mendocino county don’t speed, the cops like to give out tickets.

  11. If you go through Colorado, I’d suggest taking I70 through Glenwood Canyon between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs. Gorgeous! And if there’s parking spots available, hike the 1.2 miles up to Hanging Lake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanging_Lake).

    And if you’re driving through Colorado in the summer, pay the fee to enter Rocky Mountain National Park and drive Highway 34 (Trail Ridge Road) over the continental divide. Can’t drive over in the winter, though, as it’s closed due to snow.

    I’ve thought it would be cool to see salvation mountain in SoCal (http://www.salvationmountain.us/).

    And Forevertron in Wisconsin (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2239) – which I first heard about through offbeaters!

    Oh, and please post photos / blog about this epic trip of epicness!

  12. If you’re going to go through Washington and traverse the state from West to East or East to West don’t take I-90. PLEASE. Take Highway 410. It’ll go through some of the most beautiful mountains you can ever imagine, has way less traffic and will give you nerves of steel if you’re used to driving on things that are flat with wide shoulders. But seriously, nobody’s ever died there and it’s some of the most beautiful mountain views – EVER. It’s not touristy, but it’s beautiful, and I think that is sometimes more important.

  13. I live in NYC, which kind of speaks for itself toursism-wise. You’ve got that big green lady out in NY Harbor, Ellis Island, Empire State Building (which I’ve never been to the top of, oddly), Time Square (which I avoid at all costs), Grand Central, Chinatown, Central Park, tons of museums, blah blah blah.

    That stuff is cool and all, but I’m going to be a stereotypical New Yorker and recommend my favorite pizza place, just outside the city in Yonkers: A&V Pizza on Morsemere Ave. It’s on the corner of one of my best friends’ grandparents’ block. So delicious and thin crusted with the perfect amount of sauce to cheese ratio and and and garlic knots that melt in your mouth… remind me why I moved from Yonkers to Manhattan again? Sigh. In my extensive travels outside of my home state it continually astounds me how unbelievably BAD pizza is pretty much everywhere else (no offense, guys). So it may be cliché, but if you really want to experience NY, a good slice of pizza is the only way to do it. And don’t go to Little Italy, it’s not the same anymore. Arthur Ave in the Bronx is the way to go for all manner of Italian cuisine (after you go to A&V, of course!). Now I’m hungry!

    • And don’t forget to get garlic knots, while you’re at it!

      (I’m only in central NJ, and they don’t make them here!!!)

  14. I haven’t seen much in the way of Minnesota suggestions. (may have missed them?)

    Lanesboro, MN: Canoe the Root River or rent a bicycle and take spin on the Root River Trail to Whalan, MN for some delicious pie.

    Harmony, MN: Niagra Cave. Loads of sinkholes around the area, and thus a cave carved into the limestone below the surface, and a waterfall (ahem, not even close to Niagra proportions, but still really cool.)

    Mantorville, MN: Tiny old Stagecoach town. Stop by The Hubbell House for a supper club style meal(many famous visitors over the years) and try to catch a Melodrama at the Opera House.

    Austin, MN: The SPAM museum. Self explanatory. AND awesome.

  15. Weird New Jersey! http://www.weirdnj.com/

    The Lambertville/New Hope/Doylestown area is always fun (artsy, pretty towns).

    Wildwood is THE classic cheap NJ vacation.

    And we have the world’s largest light bulb!

    • Ha! I was born in Lambertville, lived in New Hope as a kid, and spent middle and high school in Doylestown, and as someone who regularly has to defend my claim to be from PA (we left NJ when I was a baby) I just have to say… New Hope and Doylestown are NOT in NJ! 😉

      Glad to see the shout-out, though. The Bagel Barrel in D-town is excellent, and the Mercer Museum and Fonthill/the Tileworks are fun to tour and great places for a walk and picnic.

  16. I have lived in Oregon and Eastern Washington, so here goes:

    Eastern Washington
    – Hanford Nuclear Reservation: If you sign up in advance, you can tour the B Reactor which was in operation during WWII. One of my friends said that tour was the second coolest thing he had ever seen. (The first being the birth of his daughter)

    Oregon:
    -Portland has a TON of breweries and beer fests. Lots of neat pub crawls too. Also home to Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant that has the best chicken wings you have ever tasted. Powell’s is an awesome bookstore that takes up an entire city block.
    -Silverton is home to Silver Falls, a beautiful state park with 7 water falls.
    -Salem has a hand carved wooden carousel in its waterfront park.

  17. If you make it to Massachusetts, you have to stop at the Davis Farm Mega Maze. It is a very complex 3D corn maze which changes every year. https://www.davisfarmland.com/megamaze/index.html

    It’s so much fun, but, just to warn you, you need to set aside a whole afternoon, you will get terribly lost, and you will be sick of the sight of corn afterwards. It’s worth it though!

  18. I live in Paoli, PA. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s the “Main Line”. Blah. BUT you have to visit Valley Forge National Park and hike up Mount Joy and Mount Misery. Oh, also the Book Barn out in West Chester. Don’t miss the Mütter Museum in Philly, which is full of medical…artifacts…and oddities, like the soap lady, and skulls from victims of syphilis! Then there’s the millions of awesome bars around Philly.

  19. When people come visit us in Cincinnati, my wife and I joke that we’re giving them just an eating tour. From Skyline chili to Graeter’s ice cream, plus the crepes place downtown, and Busken bakery, and Melt in Northside (okay, everything in Northside)… Tons of parks, playgrounds, historical spots, shops, and a great zoo and a great aquarium. Last week we ate at a little place called the Rootbeer Stand aways up north (Sharonville) that’s been the same since 1957, and it was delicious. We’ve only lived here a year, too!

  20. I live in a small rural/suburban (depends on who you talk to) town called Newtown, located in Pennsylvania. We have a small historic district where Washington posted his men just after the Decemeber crossing on the Delaware. We also have many historic homes, a beautiful Main street with businesses restoring and keeping up with the historical look of our little town. We have quite a few old churches that date back to the 1700’s with really neat grave yards and our little town is surrounded by beautiful farms. If you want to see even more beautiful features, check out the local community college, part of the buildings once belonged to an estate which is now part of the college grounds where you can walk through the gardens. We have so much to offer being a small historical town. We have even built up a small downtown area to reflect the historic district, bricked walkways, old lamposts, beautiful gardening. If you pass through Bucks County, PA you need to slip through our little town. Once in history known as Penn’s New Green Town, which soon became shortened to just….Newtown. We are close to great shopping in New Hope, PA and historical areas like Washington Crossing. Dont forget us when traveling through!

  21. If you are in Kansas you should visit

    the Konza prairie (largest remnant of tall grass prairie in the US, it is beautiful)

    the Kansas Cosmosphere (a great aerospace museum. It has the backup sputnik satellite that didn’t fly and a lunar lander and every other piece of space history you can think of).

    For extra credit try Cow Town in Wichita, a living history museum of the early days of the town. Its pretty cool.

  22. Seattle visitors: Try Kubota Garden, a Japanese-style garden complete with red bridges and a manmade natural-looking waterfall. You can hike (a very little) or not, there are ADA-accessible trails too.

    Also, go to Theo Chocolate and tour the factory. YOU CAN SEE HOW CHOCOLATE IS MADE. It is awesome. I’ve heard it’s best on weekdays, when the machines are running. Haven’t tried it yet, but it was great on the weekend too. Also, free samples.

    If you’re venturing to Kitsap County, don’t miss Scenic Beach Park, where it looks like the Olympic Mountains are going to fall on you and gobble you up. Pretty cool.

    • Or if you’re in to more hiking/out in the middle of nowhere stuff, try Guillemot Cove – it’s a nature preserve with a lovely 1 mile hike in to a beach on the Hood Canal.

      Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics, Sunrise and Paradise in the Cascades – all worth going to. And Mt. St. Helens – that’s just astounding.

  23. I am from Cali 🙂 You have to stop at Columbia State Park in Sonora, CA, its a small 1860s town stuck in the past.

    Then there is the Winchester House.

    Though my favorite hole in the wall we found on a recent trip is just south of Banden, OR on Hwy 101. Its called West Coast Game Park, and if they have cubs, they have daily shows that you can play with them. While we were there we got to pet and visit a baby leopard and play with 2 adorable baby tigers. BEST EXPERIANCE EVER-for animal lovers:)

    • Winchester Mystery House!! It’s even better to visit during October evenings for the Flashlight Guided Tours! It is sooo much more fun this way!

      Another NorCal place I’ve been DYING to visit is the City of Colma – a true, honest to goodness NECROPOLIS!! Home to 16 cemeteries (including a pet cemetery!), the first was established in 1887! You could walk from one area that is the Italian cemetery and then walk across the street and be in the Japanese cemetery. Tina Turner’s dog is buried there; you’ll also find William Randolph Hearst, Alcatraz inmates and Wyatt Earp! Beautiful grave markers, mausoleums & tombstones!

      If you have tons of time, and are going from San Fran to San Diego(or Southern Cali), take the 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), and stop in Big Sur!! So beautiful!!! there’s a place to eat right on the side of the highway and I can’t remember the name of it, darn! But it has beautiful views of the ocean!

      If you ever find yourself behind the Orange Curtain in Orange County, you need to go to one of the best pizza joints in all of the OC: Haus of Pizza in Costa Mesa! It’s a thicker crust, but man they don’t mess around with the cheese and toppings!! and 32oz beer steins!! woohoo!

      Oooh and if you happen to stop in Laguna Beach on your way south, you must eat at the vegan friendly Taco Loco!!! Mmmmmmm, I’m totally salivating just thinking about it!!

      And don’t forget about the many wineries(Napa Valley & Temecula) and breweries(Stone Brewery, Karl Strauss!!), too!

      ha ha- all of my destinations are food/beer/wine driven 🙂

      • I’m a Southern California girl – raised in Long Beach and now live in an agricultural community right outside of LA. Along with all the other stuff above, some great places around here are the Ojia hot springs, there are great hiking spots in the Santa Monica Mountains.

        For kitsch factor, visiting the Madonna Inn off the 101!

        The Belmont Brewing Company in Long Beach is an awesome local place for yummy beer and right near Shoreline Village – a very cute, old timey area on the water with little shops and places to eat.

        I’m sure I’ll think of more and be back to post!

        To second, driving on the One is just awesome! Going South from northern California means you’ll see lots of beautiful coast and end up running into the Santa Monica Pier after driving through some iconic spots in Malibu (eat at Neptune’s Net or Malibu Seafood Co. on the side of the road and check out all the bikers!).

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