Ready for an epic road trip? While there are multiple ways to journey across the United States, many feel the northern route, following Interstate 90 is one of the best ways to go. With a few detours here and there, of course. If you’ll be making this cross-country road trip, pack your bags full of your road trip essentials and be sure to stop at these destinations during your adventure.
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Stockbridge is in the heart of the Berkshires, a little under three hours from Boston, making it an ideal stop for stretching your legs. Stroll the charming streets, lined with antique shops and museums, including the Norman Rockwell Museum. Stockbridge is famous as the birthplace of the 20th-century American author, painter and illustrator, and here you can view an impressive collection of his original works, personal memorabilia and his study as well as learn which area landmark inspired author Herman Melville to write the classic, Moby Dick. If you want to stick around for a while, the surrounding scenic countryside is ideal for hiking, biking and bird watching, as well as leaf-peeping in the fall.
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagra Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls on the planet, and as it can be accessed right off I-90, it’s a must-experience if you’ve never been. Marking the U.S. and Canada border, more than 750,000 gallons of water per second thunder down the 167-foot waterfall known as the most powerful on the continent. It’s made up of two sections, Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and American Falls on the American side, separated by an island. While some say Horseshoe is the more spectacular of the two, this landmark overall has held a special place in American history ever since 1901 when Michigan teacher Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over the falls, and survive, in a barrel.
There are so many things to do in Chicago, it’s definitely worth spending some time in the Windy City. The Navy Pier, which sits adjacent to Lake Michigan, offers enough attractions of its own to keep you busy for an entire day. It features a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel that lets riders take in the lake and skyline, and is jam-packed with all sorts of other attractions like a carousel, wave swinger, mini-golf, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, an outdoor stage and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Other options include walking the scenic Lakefront trail, enjoying the jaw-dropping views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline from the 360 Observation Deck at the John Hancock Building, and shopping the Magnificent Mile. In the historic Oak Park neighborhood, you can tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio on a guided walking tour, and visit Ernest Hemingway sites, including the author’s birthplace and museum.
The Badlands and the Black Hills, South Dakota
While much of the stretch between Chicago and South Dakota brings only views of endless corn and wheat fields, when you get to the Badlands, you’re in for a treat. This unique and stunning painted landscape boasts a labyrinth of canyons, buttes, spires and pinnacles. Here you can get out on the trails that range from flat stretches across prairie to steep ascents through spellbinding formations. After exploring it, head less than hour west to the Black Hills. If you have time, plan on spending at least a couple of days here to visit iconic sites like Mount Rushmore and the abundance of wildlife, rock formations and glistening lakes in Custer State Park, as well as to watch the Wild West shootouts and take the 1880 historic steam train in Hilly City. You can also venture north to Deadwood to see where Wild Bill Hickock was shot, tour the magnificent Queen Anne-style mansion, the Adams House, and pan for gold at the Lost Boot Mine.
Buffalo, founded in 1879, sits at the base of the breathtaking Big Horn Mountains and was once considered mostly a haven for rustlers and renegades. Many of the Old West’s best-known characters spent time here. Its main street has over a dozen historic buildings, like the Occidental Hotel where Owen Wister’s Virginian family “got his man.” Here, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill, Cody, Butch Cassidy and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Tom Horn and the young Teddy Roosevelt, and if you spend the night, you might even be sleeping in the very same room one of those legends slept in. Be sure to check out the Jim Gatchell Museum where you can browse more than 15,000 artifacts from the American Old West.
Located north of Yellowstone National Park on the banks of the Yellowstone River, Livingston is a picturesque ranch town, known as the former home of famous frontierswoman Calamity Jane as well as the site of the world’s best trout fishing. Here, you can visit regional history and art museums, browse art galleries, enjoy a drink at a western saloon and go shopping at a host of gift shops, sporting goods stores and western apparel emporiums. When it comes to outdoor adventures, the surrounding mountains offer the chance to enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding. If you pass through in the summer, check the town’s events schedule and see if you can catch the Summerfest music festival, the Gallery Associated Art Walk or the 4th of July Rodeo.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National park is about an hour’s drive off of the interstate, but when you’re this close, you just can’t miss it. This is one of the world’s most active areas of hydrothermal activity, famous for its hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, travertine terraces and geysers, including the most famous geyser on Earth, Old Faithful. It also boasts thundering waterfalls, lakes, rivers and all sorts of wildlife. You can see everything from bison, moose and bears to the wolves, elk and pelicans. While you’ll need to get out of your car to visit some of its beautiful sights, like the brilliant rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring, there are lots of sights that can be enjoyed on one of the park’s many scenic drives. Keep an eye out for the bison, bears and other wildlife as they don’t obey traffic laws – in fact, animals frequently get on or near the roads, slowing or stopping traffic to the halt.
The historic mining town of Wallace has long been famous as the Silver Capital of the World, with 1.2 billion ounces of silver coming from the region since 1884, and you don’t have go out of your way to explore it. Wallace is famous for its historic buildings, in fact, every building downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places. Located right off the interstate, halfway between two ski and recreation areas in northern Idaho’s stunning Silver Valley, while silver mining is still a big part of its economy, it’s the pristine mountain environment that attracts outdoor adventurers from across the globe. Many come during the summer months to enjoy the wide variety of trails as well as the peaceful solitude of alpine lakes, making this another ideal spot to get those legs moving.
Spokane makes a great stop before heading across Eastern Washington’s prairies, if only for lunch to dine at its most beloved eatery, the iconic Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle. This unusual diner is set within a two-story milk bottle, and its architecture will not only make you stop and look twice, but its menu of classic 1950s-style burgers, fries and creamy milkshakes using homemade ice cream will entice you to stay awhile. Its retro throwback feel also appeals to fans of film, pop culture and Johnny Depp as it was featured in a scene from the 1993 film, “Bonny & Joon,” when Depp’s character managed to make the rolls dance.
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest is famous for being the home of some the country’s most jaw-dropping waterfalls, and Snoqualmie Falls is one of the best. Just minutes from the interstate near the end of your journey on the west side of the Cascades, the fast-moving whitewater tumbles 286 feet from the Snoqualmie River into a 65-foot-deep pool below. The falls are surrounded by a beautiful park that includes a gift shop, small café and an observation deck as well as a large grassy area, perfect for a picnic. Film and television trivia buffs will probably recognize this area as the falls have appeared in the cult TV series, “Twin Peaks,” as well as the 1993 flick “The Vanishing.”