20 Weird and Wacky Destinations for a Family Road Trip

There’s nothing more American than a road trip. So this summer, why not pack up the car and veer off the beaten track to explore something a little bit different? This list of destinations, from an African-style safari to a dinosaur park, provides plenty of inspiration and enough surprises for the whole family. Be prepared for stunning wildlife, mind-blowing history, and a few ghosts along the way.

  1. Safari West in Santa Rosa, California

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    Safari west santa rosa

    flickr.com via Donna Sutton

    Nestled in the evergreen Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County, this African wildlife preserve hides in plain sight. Safari West's wide open spaces and highly trained guides encourage visitors to fall in love with the creatures, large and small, who call the preserve home. Make yours a day trip, or spend the night in a luxury tent imported from Botswana.

    Related: 20 American Treasures to See Now Before They Disappear

  2. Calico Ghost Town in San Bernardino County, California

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    istockphoto.com

    Journey back to the Old West with a visit to the ghost town of Calico. Among the traditional wooden facades, you’ll find a retired silver mine (now a museum), an old-fashioned working railroad, and a gold-panning adventure sure to delight the entire family.

    Related: 18 Small Towns That Changed America

  3. Frankenmuth, Michigan

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    istockphoto.com

    The German state of Bavaria is famous for its folk traditions like Oktoberfest, craft beers, and sausages. If this sounds tempting to you, plan a stop in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where you can enjoy an authentic Bavarian-American experience. Indulge in homemade treats and a wide range of entertainments at the annual Food Truck Festival, toast your friends at the “Laughs and Lagers” comedy series, or browse through folksy wares at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.

    Related: 13 Homes from the Original Colonies That Still Stand Today

  4. City Museum in St. Louis

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    flickr.com via Texas Tongs

    Climb a Slinky! Explore the Enchanted Caves! The City Museum in St. Louis is an immersive, kid-friendly experience that even grown-ups will love. Once a 10-story shoe factory, the building has been entirely reimagined by artists and sculptors who are adding features on an ongoing basis, so there's something new to see every time you visit.

    Related: The 20 Friendliest Cities in America

  5. Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

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    istockphoto.com

    Step out of your car and into a natural wonderland. The vibrant colors of the Petrified Forest will keep your eyes engaged, while these fascinating ancient fossils will engross your mind. Check out the Rainbow Forest Museum first, so you can orient yourself and determine your trail route.

    Related: 20 Destinations for Plant Lovers Across America

  6. Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

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    Mammoth cave national park

    istockphoto.com

    Take a break from being a road warrior and go caving instead. There are almost a dozen tours available, including the Gothic Avenue tour, which takes you past jaw-dropping natural formations that resemble an underground cathedral. Tour guides share Native American legends and stories of Civil War soldiers, while ancient cave art connects you with those who came long before.

    Related: From Bridges to Stadiums: 13 U.S. Icons That Are Falling Apart

  7. Amish Farm Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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    istockphoto.com

    If you’re determined to unplug and unwind, find your way to Lancaster County for a truly old-fashioned time. From buggy rides to dinner theater, there's plenty to see and do—including traditional “mud sales," or outdoor auctions, that specialize in handcrafted products and support the local fire department.

    Related: 25 Tiny Towns for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live

  8. Out ‘n' About Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon

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    Out and about treesort

    flickr.com via Nicolás Boullosa

    Pull off the road and into the treetops. After a day of zip-lining, rafting, and horseback riding, fall asleep in your own private "nest" at Oregon’s famous Treesort near the Siskiyou National Forest. After your visit, you can call yourself a “Tree Musketeer”— a proud defender of America’s wild places.

    Related: Such Great Heights: 15 Homes Built on the Top of the World

  9. Roswell, New Mexico

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    istockphoto.com

    If UFOs and cosmic mysteries intrigue you, plan a pit stop in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell's rise to fame began in 1947, when a local rancher claimed to have found debris from a flying saucer. The myths and facts have become stranger over the years, cementing this town's place in national history. Today, you can also enjoy fine cuisine, art museums, and Bottomless Lakes State Park, which is perfect for camping and hiking.

    Related: 15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once

  10. Minnesota Museum of Mining in Chisholm

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    mininghistoryassociation.org

    After you gas up your car, head toward the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. There, at the Museum of Mining, you’ll explore the technology, culture, and work of mining, the industry that defined this region for years. There’s plenty to discover outside, too, including bike trails, golfing, ATV adventures, fishing, and scuba diving.

    Related: 15 Classic Roadside Motels You Can Visit Along America's Highways

  11. Coronado Heights near Lindsborg, Kansas

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    istockphoto.com

    Coronado Heights is rumored to be the very spot where 16th-century Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado gave up his search for gold. Now home to a very small and peculiar Depression-era stone castle, a Works Progress Administration project, the pleasant overlook lets you soak in the views of rolling farmland and spectacular sunsets.

    Related: 11 Incredible Mansions That No One Wants to Buy

  12. Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Historic Site in Cooperstown, North Dakota

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    istockphoto.com

    Rediscover the Cold War, right in the heart of our country. This nuclear control center was responsible for the oversight and potential detonation of 10 nuclear missiles, from the 1960s until 1991. Now the site is a treasure trove of history that should never be forgotten.

    Related: 11 Homes Built to Survive the End of the World

  13. Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia

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    Wikimedia Commons

    America’s home of the Hare Krishna movement, this temple dazzles with rainbow stained glass, golden sculptures, crystal chandeliers, and an unusual backstory. Delve deeper into West Virginia’s melting pot with a stop in nearby New Vrindaban, where Indian food and religious customs blend with local flavors.

    Related: Weird or Wonderful? 22 Homes That Are Anything But Ordinary

  14. Old Car City in White, Georgia

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    flickr.com via Wayne Stadler

    Whether it's your brand-new hatchback or a much-loved lemon, if automobiles have a special place in your heart, plan a stop at Old Car City. Here, outdated vehicles mix with plant life to produce an unlikely outdoor art exhibit. Stroll the gentle paths and photograph the local "wildlife"—well, Chevies and Fords—sleeping under a blanket of leaves.

    Related: Yes, These 20 Weird and Wacky Museums Actually Exist

  15. National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas

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    Cowgirl museum

    flickr.com via BFS Man

    This museum's tagline is “kick off your spurs and stay awhile,” and with its interactive exhibits, two theaters, a research library, and gift shop, you may do just that. The Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame is a destination for inspiration, with honorees including Sacagawea, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Sandra Day O’Connor. Treat your sons and daughters—and yourself!—to a wild ride through the best of American history.

    Related: Our 12 Favorite Farmhouses Across America

  16. Raven's Grin Inn in Mount Carroll, Illinois

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    YouTube via miproductions

    Be prepared for creepy, campy fun at the Raven’s Grin Inn. A steampunk vibe pervades the property, with buttons and levers that open secret passages and reveal grisly scenes. Originally a Victorian-era mansion, the inn is now said to be inhabited by restless spirits—just the ticket for the murder-mystery buff.

    Related: America's 50 Most Infamous Homes

  17. Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska

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    Wikimedia Commons

    Constructed out of rescued junkers in 1987, this monument was created by Jim Reinders, who dedicated it to his dad. Visitors to Carhenge, which was modeled on the ancient monument Stonehenge in England, rave about this quirky piece of Americana.

    Related: The 12 Most Infamous Goofs in Architecture History

  18. Laurel Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland

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    flickr.com via Paul

    At Dinosaur Park, an attraction nestled in the Maryland countryside, you and your family will travel back eons to the Cretaceous Period and learn about the Maryland state dinosaur, Astrodon johnstoni. Join a real fossil dig, and explore the natural beauty of this stunning preserve.

    Related: 18 Small Towns with Strange Claims to Fame

  19. Vista House at Crown Point in Corbett, Oregon

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    istockphoto.com

    The Columbia River Gorge is a wonderland of rivers, waterfalls, and sheer cliffs. If you visit, be sure to include a stop at Vista House, built 100 years ago as a rest stop for travelers. The name is apt: The site is situated on a dramatic promontory overlooking the Columbia River. The house also features a museum and a monument to early pioneers.

    Related: 12 Stunning Homes in the Middle of Nowhere

  20. French Azilum in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania

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    French asylum township

    Wikimedia Commons 

    Journey back to Revolutionary times and find out what life would have been like as a French royalist and refugee. French Azilum was built to house French exiles fleeing the bloodbaths of 1793. Today, the grounds are peaceful and beautifully kept—except when they host mock skirmishes between English, Prussian, and Russian troops. This is a must-see destination along the scenic Susquehanna.

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  21. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!