Road trips rank among the most memorable moments of childhood for most people. Maybe it’s the close quarters, family bonding or the adventure (or occasional misadventure) of it all, but these moments are likely to become etched in your permanent memory files for a lifetime.
So, if you’re planning a family road trip with the kids, remember it’s not only about the destination, but the journey along the way, so make sure you’re creating amazingly magical memories for them. Bonus tip: The trip will go much smoother when the kids are engaged and entertained.
Regardless of where in the country you’re starting out, you can plan an epic road trip to keep the kids happy on those long days of driving.
Here are 6 ideas for road trips your kids will remember forever.
Start out early in Billings and drive along I-90 towards Big Timber, where you can make a pit stop at the Crazy Mountain Museum, if the kids are in need of a break. (Or if you got off to a slow start, then swing into The Frosty Freez for lunch!) Head back on the road for a bit before you stop to stretch your legs in Bozeman. Here, the kids will enjoy the Living History Museum while the parents enjoy its admission price (free). From Bozeman, you’ll head towards Big Sky, from there, head towards West Yellowstone. Once there, go through Island Park, which sits nestled in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and onward to driver’s choice of either Idaho Falls or Pocatello, Idaho, where you’ll rest your heads for the night.
You’ll drive a little while before you reach Bozeman, but this time, you’re not here for Yellowstone. That’s a road trip unto itself. For a pit stop, you may want to check out Bogert City Park, where the kids can ice skate (during the winter months) or swim (during summer months), and the entire family can enjoy a barbecue. Drive down the road some to get to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park where you’re close to your destination.
Yellowstone National Park
The trip to Yellowstone isn’t a long one, but your kids might appreciate a pit stop or two along the way. Your best bet is to have a picnic lunch and do some sight-seeing before you embark on a day of exploring Yellowstone from the northern gateway in Gardiner, Montana.
The drive from Billings to Thermopolis (where you can explore the hot springs) is a bit of a jaunt, so if you’ve got littles in the back seat, you might want to plan a stop at the Draper National History Museum in Cody, Wyoming. It’s about an hour and a half from your destination.
If you’re traveling from Billings to Denver, consider stopping at Bighorn National Forest before you rest for the night in Casper. Along the way from Casper to Denver, the kids may enjoy stopping at Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, Cool Beans Playhouse and Café or Zippity Zoo Barnyard.
Northern Pacific Coast
For a bit of a longer trip, head west towards Washington to take a drive along the Northern Pacific coast. On day one, you can stop for the sights in Butte before resting your head in Missoula. The next day, be sure to have lunch in Spokane and stop at the Gorge Amphitheater before you make it to Seattle.
Once you’ve made it to the Pacific Coast, you’ll find many unexpected places to stop for an adventure or two. If the kids are interested in wildlife, you can take them to watch the whales at virtually any time of year along the coast from Oregon to Washington. On the way from Seattle and the famous Pike Place Market, where the kids will stop for a photo op on Rachel the Pig, you’ll definitely want to make a pit stop at the Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon. It’s a small attraction, but it’s filled with wondrous and interactive exhibits, like Alice’s rabbit hole and slide down a giant shoe. You could easily spend a week or more just exploring all the kid-friendly places along the Northern Pacific.
Just think of all the fun memories you’ll have after just one of these amazing road trips from Billings. As you pop around from place to place, remember to keep the kids entertained in the car too. There will be a few long stretches without a break (you are traveling across Montana, after all), so bring lots of games and snacks and don’t forget to employ your best vehicle organization techniques. After a quick planning session, you’ll be ready for the most epic family road trip ever!
about the author…Rachel is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic” currently writing for Audi Atlanta. She enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing her experiences with the world. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, running with her dogs, or heading to the closest farmers’ market.