Imagine- for a second- that you are planning a trip to a new destination. Where do you start? Do you google the top things to do in that area? Or do you rely on word of mouth to decide what activities and stops might interest your family? Perhaps, you don’t plan at all. Maybe you just wing it by deciding as you go.

There are definitely advantages to both styles of planning (or not planning!) However, I find the best combination to be somewhere in between. As the planner in our family, I try to put together a nice agenda of “places we can’t miss.” But, I also leave plenty of wiggle room for some spontaneous adventure that we find along the way.

I do have a very rough idea of stops that I try to see in every new area that we travel. Of course, we can’t always hit them all on every trip. But hopefully over the years of family travel, we’ll be able to hit most of them!

Here are 7 places to see in every state:

  1. Welcome Sign: This is likely one of the easiest places to see in every state- especially if you are traveling by car. But it can also be one of the most challenging to actually visit for a picture. In fact, I’ve written a whole post on how to take your picture at state welcome signs. Not only is this an inexpensive way to document your travel, it also makes a very fun family souvenir! 
  2. Major City(s): I have always loved big cities. Although some may laugh at this because I grew up in Atlanta and currently live in Charlotte- I have always viewed visiting big cities as a special treat. Life in the suburbs (even in what’s considered a big city) isn’t quite the same thing as walking the streets among skyscrapers! One of the best parts about visiting big cities when we travel is the mile long list of things to do. Most major cities offer tons of options for family activities. Here are just a few examples of major cities and what our family likes to do when we visit: Chicago, New York City, San Diego and Orlando.
  3. State Capital City: Very often the state capital is not actually located in one of the major cities. And, quite frankly, there isn’t always a ton to do in those smaller cities. But still, whenever possible we try to visit the State Capital and, if nothing else, visit the actual capitol building.

    Capitol in Richmond, VA

  4. Tourist Hot Spots: Perhaps this is the most obvious and doesn’t need a ton of explanation. Of course, we like to visit the places that make each state notable. You can find a great list of the top tourist destination in every state, here.

    A visit to Navy Pier- the top tourist destination in the state of Illinois!

  5. Historical Landmarks: Occasionally the top tourist destinations in the state are also historical landmarks- but not always. I often seek out destinations along our route, or in the area we’re staying to bring history to life for our kids. For example, this summer we’re planning to stop at a historic home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House on The Prairie series.)
  6. Ball Parks: Whenever I plan a trip to a new destination, on of the first things I do is check to see if there is a sporting event going on while we’re in town. It doesn’t necessarily matter the sport- from college football to professional baseball- our family loves to watch. And we really enjoy visiting new stadiums!

    Fenway Park- home of the Boston Red Sox!

  7. Zoos/Aquariums/Wildlife Preserves: Without a doubt, the activity my family collectively enjoys the most when we travel is getting to visit places with animals! Of course, most of the major zoos and aquariums fall into the “top tourist destination” category; however, some of the best animal experiences have come at smaller, off-the-beaten-path animal encounters. Not only do I research this ahead of time, but I also ask the hotel concierge or a waiter at a restaurant for any local recommendations. Often you can get great ideas for adventure by asking lots of questions!

    Feeding animals on a ranch is a WHOLE different experience!

     

Also, before setting out on your next adventure, be sure to order your Passport To Your National Parks book. If you aren’t sure why you need this, be sure to read my post on it!

What places does your family like to see when you travel?

You might also enjoy reading:

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The Most Interesting Place I’ve Ever Been

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