Summers were built for road trips, and the best spots are ones that are not expected. This epic road trip guide is off the beaten path must-sees. This guide takes you across the northern US and back in time to the Wild Wild West. Follow along with this guide, or let me help plan your cross-country adventure.
This epic adventure starts with a flight into Chicago and the must-dos there, the Bean, the Miracle Mile, the Navy Pier. After exploring Chicago, it's time to pick up your car rental and head to Milwaukee, WI.
A town that was never on my list of must-sees, but only an hour from Chicago, this is a quintessential Mid-Western town. The Milwaukee Public Museum is four floors of history throughout the world. Be sure to give yourself several hours to make it through the entire exhibit. After the Public Museum, head over to the Public Market to pick up some local spices, sweet treats, and Milwaukee favorites.
From Milwaukee, head towards the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. These cities are full of activities that are great for the young and young at heart. The Minneapolis Science Museum greets you with a giant astronaut when you walk into the exhibit. The museum is the perfect place to design experiments, finish electrical circuits, and test your physical fitness against Olympians. If science isn't your style, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a beautiful outdoor art exhibit. Their newest installation was a shadows exhibit. My favorite way to wrap an evening is the best prison break escape room that I've ever been to.
The so-called "fly-over states" have way more to offer than meets the eye. As you are fighting the wind through South Dakota, you'll stumble across the Badlands National Park. The park pops out of the ground into these unique windswept formations that were once part of the ocean floor, a battleground for Native Americans.
After you spend the day exploring the Badlands, be sure to stop into the small town of Wall, SD. The most famous, family-owned drug store in South Dakota became a staple by offering free ice and 5 cent coffee to anyone passing through. This tradition still stands along with new additions of a dining area, trinket shops, western goods, and many more.
After Wall, your next destination is Rapid City, known for being the last city before Mount Rushmore. When you're ready to pop in to see the faces of our past presidents, I highly recommend getting there before 7 am to beat the crowds and see the monument in the morning light. If you're looking for a more organized hike, a Private Mount Rushmore and Flue Trail Hiking Tour is a great way to spend the day. After your trip to the Black Hills, stop by the Depression Era Dinosaur Park to hike, climb, and see giant statues designed as an oasis during tough times.
Crossing into Wyoming, you'll be transported back into the old West. The Buffalo Bill Center of The West creates an unforgettable experience. You have the opportunity to eat off on old Chuck Wagon, Trail Ride through a river bed, visit a leather and saddle shop. This pit stop is on the way to the Grand Tetons and Jackson, WY.
Jackson Hole, the valley that is home to Jackson WY, is full of cowboy culture. This is the perfect place to watch the legendary rodeo held every Wednesday and Saturday night or witness the Jackson Hole Shoot-out Gang's most authentic reenactments.
After you've had your fill in the city, venture into the Grand Tetons National Park. Here you'll see the fantastic Teton Mountain range and be able to walk through an abandoned Mormon village. Just up the road, you'll find the original homestead of the Jackson Hole valley.
To stretch your legs in the Tetons, take a hike up to Inspiration Point. From Inspiration Point, you’ll witness a breathtaking perspective of Jenny Lake and the 100ft cascading waterfalls. After your hike, take a seven-mile float down the scenic Snake River to relax and enjoy panoramic views.
The next stop on this epic road trip is in Northern Montana. Head North through Bozeman and Helena to travel the same land explored in the 180l. Take time to explore Lewis and Clark Caverns, shop at the Sage & Oak Trading Post, or travel back in time to an old mining town at Elkhorn State Park.
After spending some time in Helena, head North to St. Mary's to enter Glacier National Park from the East. You'll find the best sights on the Going to the Sun Road, from Heaven's Peak to Jackson Glacier (one of 25 Glaciers remaining in Glacier National Park). It is best to start early in the day and take in the park's beauty. In 2021, the park has added an entry ticket to better handle crowds and purchase your tickets before heading into the park.
Once you've seen Heaven's Peak and swam in the freezing Glacier waters, you exit the park into the best-kept secret of Montana. The small town of Kalispell offers a colorful downtown, delicious food at the Outlaw Café and Sweet Peaks ice cream shop. Kalispell's motto is the place you never knew you needed to visit, and that couldn't be closer to the truth.
Traveling further West, you'll continue into Oregon. The experience in Portland is unlike any other, so much so that the unofficial motto is "Keep Portland Weird." This city is full of quirky traditions, from Zoobomb, where every Sunday adults ride pint-sized bikes down the hill starting at the zoo, to the World Naked Bike Ride that began in 2004 at the end of every June has grown and spread to other cities.
There is more Portland than bicycles. The region is the foodie capital of the Pacific North West. The downtown coffee and donut tour is a great way to use all five senses and try the world's most unique donuts. After donuts and coffee, check out "Cartlandia," the Food Cart pod in Southeast Portland with something for all pallets.
Congratulations! It's time to turn in your rental car and fly home to tell the story of your epic cross-country road trip. I hope that it was an experience that you'll never forget, it sure was for me!
Are you ready to hit the road? Everyone's must-see epic road trip is different, and Rainbow Getaways will plan the perfect epic road trip. We'll ensure you stay at the best hotels, plan the activities that you want to do most, and ensure you have the time of your life. Schedule an Initial Consultation to start planning today.
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