60 Social distance-friendly road trip hidden gems

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Along with your comfortable walking shoes and attire, bring along a good dose of post-pandemic patience when you venture out on the road with family and friends this summer. Destinations are opening up, but you could still experience some challenges as hosts work to staff up and brush up on customer service skills.

While the most popular venues may be crowded due to partial openings, the summer also brings an exciting opportunity to visit some lesser-known but intriguing locations that detour a bit from the beaten track. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has reviewed a wide variety of these locations, along with some of the tried and true destinations.

Creative ways to roadtrip in 2021

The range of destinations we have selected reflects America itself — they are diverse, historical, fun, eclectic and in some cases just plain bizarre. Each location will provide something for every family member, whether you stay for a week or simply a few hours.

From the most iconic locations like Yellowstone to the truly local gems like the Kool-Aid exhibit in Nebraska, the giant beagle “dog house” in Cottonwood, Idaho, or the daily Duck March in the Memphis Peacock Hotel, we have researched some roadtrip options that can create lifelong vacation memories.

There are a wide variety of attractions to choose from. We have included several museums that reflect our country’s history, farm stay locations where you can live the life of a cowboy or farmer and natural wonders, parks and trails that provide stunning scenery.

Take in America this summer, as the country opens its doors again to your family.

Plan before you go

Planning is particularly important this year. While everyone is excited about getting back to our lives, there are bound to be “reentry growing pains” for travelers and hosts alike as we return to normalcy.

In addition to the planning that you always do before a road trip — clothes for unexpected weather, sunscreen, extra food and water — take the time to check your home and auto insurance policies and assure they cover unforeseen events on the road. Expect provider shortages and call ahead to confirm that anything you may have rented or requested — like a rental car, wheelchair or extra cot bed — is still available.

The destinations we have reviewed here are open after making a variety of pandemic-related adjustments in 2020. While some are fully open, others may be only partially operational. Importantly, certain restrictions may still be in place, and there might be further changes as the year progresses, so call ahead to understand any special requirements in place during your visit.

60 Distance-Friendly Road Trip Destinations

Pacific regional road trip destinations

Alyeska Resort
Hotel
Girdwood, AK

This beautiful 300-room, chateau-style hotel is only 40 miles from Anchorage and is an ideal home base for exploring Alaska. Set at the base of the spectacular Chugach Mountain range, the resort offers a convenient way to experience Alaska’s pristine natural environment.

Anchorage Museum
Museum
Anchorage, AK

Housed in a beautiful modern building, this museum contains a treasure trove of historical artifacts and art depicting Alaska and its rich history. This site is an entertaining and informative way for the entire family to experience Alaska.

Peace and Plenty Farm
Farmstay
Kelseyville, CA

The only commercial organic saffron farm in North America, this beautiful setting with spectacular vistas is a four-year-old Airbnb destination. The owners have created a wonderful way to experience a unique farming lifestyle.

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers
Garden
San Francisco, CA

This conservatory houses a greenhouse and botanical garden known worldwide for displays of rare plants. The local, state and national landmark was established in 1879 and is located in beautiful and historic Golden Gate Park.

Bishop Museum
Museum
Honolulu, HI

This museum was founded in 1889 to gather and display the royal Kamehameha family heirlooms. The museum also houses a fascinating collection of photographs and artifacts from Hawaiian and other Pacific Island cultures.

Gingerhill Farm Retreat
Farmstay
Kealakekua, HI

This eco-farm resort is designed for those who want to unwind and explore the daily cycles and wonderful food of regenerative and sustainable farming. You can stay in the beautiful accommodations or simply enjoy a day’s experience in Hawaiian nature.

Dee Wright Observatory
Observatory
Lane County, OR

A mile high in Oregon’s Cascade Range, this observatory provides stunning panoramic views of 65 square miles of black lava rock. Due to similarities with the moon’s surface, NASA trained astronauts here in 1964.

Wilson Ranches Retreat
Farmstay
Fossils, OR

This bed-and-breakfast in eastern Oregon offers an authentic ranch experience and great accommodations. Set in the picturesque Butte Creek Valley, the retreat provides a wonderful look at a working 9,000-acre hay and cattle ranch.

Museum of Pop Culture
Museum
Seattle, WA

This stunning Frank Gehry-designed museum captures the energy of rock ‘n’ roll. Interactive exhibits provide fascinating pop culture examples, including a unique collection of musical artifacts, an active sound stage and one of the largest indoor LED screens.

Rocky mountain regional road trip destinations

The Stanley Hotel
Hotel
Estes Park, CO

Opened on July 4, 1909 as a retreat for tuberculosis sufferers, this iconic hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel was the location and inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s bestselling book “The Shining.”

Old Idaho State Penitentiary
Historical Site
Boise, ID

Another landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this penitentiary was opened in 1872 and imprisoned some of the West’s most dangerous criminals until closing in 1979. You can step into the original cells and enjoy numerous exhibits, including a collection of historic weapons.

Willy, The World’s Largest Beagle
Roadside Attraction
Cottonwood, ID

Built to attract visitors to a gallery and studio featuring chainsaw carvings, this 30-foot oddity is now a bed-and-breakfast. Just to see Willy is worth a visit, if only to say you have really “been in the dog house.”

Create Art Bar
Entertainment
Missoula, MT

Located in Missoula’s Mercantile Hotel, the Art Bar is a do-it-yourself workshop with some Montana flair. Create western-inspired art and crafts with tools and designs provided. And, if all else fails, there is a full bar.

Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch
Farmstay
Livingston, MT

Enjoy an authentic Montana experience at a working cattle ranch. You can participate in cattle drives, rodeos and four-wheeling trips. Less strenuous activities include bird watching, fishing or just taking in the scenery.

Seven Magic Mountains
Roadside Attraction
Sloan, NV

This thirty-foot-high work of art consists of seven towers of thirty-three fluorescently painted and stacked limestone boulders, each weighing 10 to 25 tons, that stand out in the Nevada desert. The work was completed by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
National Monument
Kane, UT

The remote location adds to the beauty and mystery of this monument. Bordered by Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, the area is packed with waterfalls, canyons, red rock formations, thick evergreen forests and serene meadows.

This is the Place
Historical Site
Salt Lake City, UT

This 450-acre site provides an intimate view of 19th-century life from the arrival of Mormans in 1847 to Utah gaining statehood in 1896. Experience pioneer life at Heritage Village and learn about Utah’s first citizens at the Native American Village.

The Crow’s Nest at the Old Faithful Inn
Hotel
Yellowstone National Park, WY

The Crow’s Nest winds 76 feet up stairs from the third floor of the iconic Old Faithful Inn to a treehouse and beyond to a roof deck and spectacular views of Yellowstone. It is only open to the public if you make reservations in advance.

Midwest regional road trip destinations

High Trestle Trail Bridge
Bridge
Madrid, IA

Designated by the BBC as one of the most amazing footbridges in the world, this 13-story half-mile-long trestle bridge spans the scenic Des Moines River. The unique design honors immigrant families by replicating a view through the mine shafts they worked.

International Museum of Surgical Science
Museum
Chicago, IL

This museum, set in a 1917 mansion replicating Versailles, contains exhibits that explore both Eastern and Western medicine with skeletons, photographs, paintings, drawings, sculpture and other historic artifacts. A library houses over 5,000 rare medical texts.

Heritage Farms
Farmstay
Flora, IN

This 120-acre homestead is an active alpaca farm that provides an opportunity for the whole family to learn about farm life. Spend time collecting eggs and feeding the various farm animals and gain an education about the alpaca.

Levi Coffin House
Historical Site
Fountain City, IN

Known as the “Grand Central Station” for the Underground Railroad, this National Historic Landmark was located at the convergence of several slave escape routes and helped over 1,000 slaves escape. The restored home reveals priceless history and secret rooms used to hide escapees.

Mackinac Island
Destination
Mackinac Island, MI

This isolated island in Lake Huron between the upper and lower Michigan peninsulas remains immune to modern progress. Island transportation is restricted to buggies, bicycles and foot traffic. Enjoy returning to the past and the island’s untamed natural beauty.

City Market
Shopping
Kansas City. MO

Since 1857, this market has thrived with local produce, fruits, baked goods and foods from around the globe. Visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum and its ancient artifacts, peruse a multitude of shops and feast at the many restaurants.

City Museum
Museum
St. Louis, MO

A hundred-year-old warehouse has been retrofitted by artists using a variety of relics and materials from old cities. Follow miles of tunnels, bridges and even some slides to explore galleries and secret passages of fun and mystery.

The Hastings Museum Kool-Aid Exhibit
Museum
Hastings, NE

Kool-Aid, invented here in 1927, is Nebraska’s official soft drink and deserves its own exhibit. View the fascinating story of the iconic drink’s development, as Edwin Perkins looked for something as popular as the new powdered dessert, Jell-O!

At Boulders Edge
Farmstay
Rockbridge, OH

This retreat is nestled in Rockbridge State Nature Preserve in a white pine forest and is home to abundant wildlife. Stay in a log cabin or teepee and take the trail to the country’s third-largest natural rock bridge and waterfall.

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron
Roadside Attraction
North Freedom, WI

The Forevertron is the “World’s Largest Sculpture” according to Guinness, a 320-ton, 160-foot long and 50-foot tall stunning mass of historic industrial components including Edison’s electrical dynamos and pieces of train engines and cargo ships.

Olde Main Street
Shopping
Green Bay, WI

The Olde Main Street Arts District takes art out of the gallery and into the streets of Green Bay. The Olde Main Street is a popular and exciting venue where you can enjoy art, exhibits and studios blended with new businesses, restaurants and worldly shops.

Southwest regional road trip destinations

Her Secret is Patience
Sculpture
Phoenix, AZ

This 145-foot steel sculpture is suspended 100 feet in the air and brightly lit at night. When it swings, it creates stunning shadows and light effects. The name comes from Ralph W. Emerson’s quote, “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Co.
Entertainment
Phoenix, AZ

Check a balloon ride off your bucket list with Rainbow Riders, the premier company offering hot air balloon flights in the Southwest since 1983. Rainbow is the official operator for notable events including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farms
Farmstay
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM

An agritourism experience, this farm is nestled in 25 acres of lavender fields, cottonwood trees and gardens. Take classes on cooking and raising farm animals, or you can feed alpacas and later cool off in a saltwater pool.

Spaceport America
Entertainment
Truth or Consequence, NM

This is the first “purpose-built commercial spaceport” on the planet and an active test facility. You can learn about space exploration at the visitor center’s many interactive exhibits. You can even experience the G-forces of a launch in the G-Shock Simulator.

Tinkertown
Roadside Attraction
Sandia Park, NM

This unique structure is built from concrete and 55,000 embedded bottles. It is home to over 20,000 miniature wood-carved figures, including an 1880s western town and a three-ring circus, created by folk artist Ross Ward.

Factory Obscura Mix-Tape
Entertainment
Oklahoma City, OK

Mix-Tape is a collection of interactive art that must be seen to be believed. The art covers 6,000 creatively-lighted square feet. Climb, relax,watch, photograph it all and leave with memories that will last a lifetime.

Orr Family Farm & RR, LLC
Farmstay
Oklahoma City, OK

The farm offers a wonderful variety of rides, activities for all ages, learning opportunities about farm life and delicious homegrown food and treats. Choose unique camping accommodations — a teepee or a 19th-century Conestoga wagon.

Blisswood Bed and Breakfast Ranch
Farmstay
Fort Worth, TX

Open ranges, live oaks and American bison greet you as you select from a wide range of lodgings designed to capture various aspects of Texas ranch life. Participate as you choose or simply relax on this beautiful 350-acre ranch.

Fort Worth Water Gardens
Natural Feature
Fort Worth, TX

This urban park in downtown Fort Worth is called a “cooling oasis in the concrete jungle.” Three modern pools engineered to create cascades, waterfalls and fountains converge to create a spectacular and futuristic landscape spraying thousands of gallons of water.

Northeast regional road trip destinations

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Library
New Haven, CT

The Yale University library is home to a massive collection of rare books and manuscripts. Experience centuries of written history from ancient papyrus fragments to the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters.

The Maritime Aquarium
Aquarium
Norwalk, CT

This unique aquarium, 4-D theater and maritime museum features an exciting aquatic journey from inland freshwater tributaries to salt marsh shallows to the depths of Long Island Sound. The exhibits contain over 7,000 marine animals and over 300 species that populate these environments.

Winterthur
Museum
Wilmington, DE

Henry Francis du Pont transformed his 175-room palatial childhood home into a showcase displaying over 90,000 artifacts depicting American art and life over centuries. The manicured gardens and detailed rooms are carefully arranged to convey the beauty and history of the U.S.

The Freedom Trail
Historical Site
Boston, MA

Take this 2.5-mile walk and experience 250 years of our country’s history. See the homes where the American Revolution was hatched, iconic churches and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship, which was launched in 1797.

Daniels
Destination
Ellicott City, MD

Proving that ghost towns can develop anywhere, this once-booming mill town has seen more productive days. But the ghosts of better days survive in a mysterious and eerie old mill, church ruins and abandoned buildings and cars.

The Tusculum Farm
Farmstay
Laytonsville, MD

The farm is listed on Maryland’s Inventory of Historic Properties and located on 500 beautiful acres. You can stay in the main house built in 1747 or several adjacent historic buildings. The many activities include horseback riding and walks in the art garden.

The Keeper’s House
Historical Site
Isle Au Haut, ME

Built in 1907 and isolated on a remote island, the Keeper’s House provides accommodations and a unique opportunity to experience Maine’s beauty. The house and landscape are spectacular at night, when the sole sounds are the wind and waves, accentuated only by blinking light from the tower.

Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital
Historical Site
Jersey City, NJ

The hospital on Ellis Island in New York Harbor operated from 1902 to 1951. Over 275,000 patients were treated and 350 babies born. Hard hat tours are offered as part of a fundraising drive to save the historic hospital.

Mountain Horse Farm
Farmstay
Naples, NY

This 33-acre working farm in the Finger Lakes region offers seclusion and, if desired, easy access to wineries and restaurants. Stay in the Carriage House Lodge or in a glamorous tent (“glamping”). The farm is secluded and surrounded by the peaceful Bristol Hills.

Eastern State Penitentiary
Historical Site
Philadelphia, PA

Opened in 1829, the stunning design and radical reform philosophy of this penitentiary quickly gained wide attention. Closed in 1971, this National Historic Landmark now fascinates visitors who flock to see Al Capone’s death-row cell and other prison history exhibits.

Shelburne Museum
Museum
Shelburne, VT

This museum, situated on 45 beautiful acres near Lake Champlain, is full of art and abundant Americana exhibits. Highlights include the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga, historic homes, a one-room schoolhouse, a jail, a lighthouse and a general store.

Southeast regional road trip destinations

Magnolia Springs Bed-and-Breakfast
Farmstay
Magnolia Springs, AL

An Alabama landmark built in 1897 and beautifully restored over several decades, the house now provides the perfect setting for a quiet and relaxing getaway. Enjoy the avenue of expansive live oaks that welcome visitors.

Experience Fayetteville
Shopping
Fayetteville, AR

A hidden gem surrounded by the Ozarks and Boston Mountains, Fayetteville is known for countless outdoor activities both in and outside the city. A welcoming tapestry of art, food, craft breweries and shops makes the city a bucket-list destination.

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building
Historical Site
Titus, FL

This eight-acre sprawl of a building, completed in 1966 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is the fourth-largest building by volume in the world. You will not want to miss the history made here, including the construction of the space vehicles that transported men to the moon.

Rock City
Natural Feature
Lookout Mountain, GA

Located atop Lookout Mountain, just six miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City is home to this unique natural wonder. Enormous rock formations anchor the many gardens, trails, caverns and waterfalls and provide a spectacular panoramic view of seven states.

Ark Encounter
Roadside Attraction
Williamston, KY

This reconstruction of Noah’s ark was built according to Biblical specifications and is over 150 yards long and stands four stories tall. The tour is wrapped around exhibits depicting the story of Noah and is complemented with family activities including a camel ride.

Biltmore Estate’s Secret Passages
Destination
Asheville, NC

The massive 180,000 square foot Biltmore Estate includes 35 bedrooms and naturally contains some good hiding places. This fascinating tour explores these many secret rooms and passages, which are often cleverly hidden in the design and difficult to spot.

Buffalo Creek Vacations on Trinity
Farmstays
Clyde, NC

This 72-acre vacation site in the beautiful Smoky Mountains offers lodging in a log cabin or a real caboose. Watch buffalo come in for their morning oats and enjoy family activities including horse riding, canoeing, kayaking and hiking.

Lowcountry Walking Tours
Entertainment
Charleston, SC

Four unique daily tours — Charleston’s Hidden Alleys and Passages, Downtown Charleston, Charleston’s Most Beautiful Walk and Charleston Private Walking Tours — are led by native Charlestonians who share their stories and extensive Southern knowledge with you.

Peabody Hotel Duck March
Hotel
Memphis, TN

The Duck March originated in the 1930s as a prank to startle visitors by placing ducks in the hotel fountain. Ninety years later, the ducks still march to the lobby fountain, arriving everyday at 11 am and departing at 5 pm.

NEON District
Shopping
Norfolk, VA

NEON (New Energy Of Norfolk) is a unique interactive opportunity to explore the Norfolk art world. Established institutions such as the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Harrison Opera House provide historic counterbalance to modern muralists and glass sculptors.

Blennerhassett Island
Destination
Parkersburg, WV

You access this isolated historic state park on a small Ohio River island on a sternwheeler riverboat. Visitors can tour the beautiful grounds, explore a Palladian mansion, visit a history museum and enjoy a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.

While the pandemic has kept us isolated for more than a year, things are beginning to change. While you may still encounter challenges, you may be able to venture out for a well-deserved vacation. Regardless of your final destination, enjoy the trip and travel safely.

Written by
Rick Hoel
Insurance Contributor
Rick Hoel is an international business attorney and legal and insurance writer for Bankrate.com, Reviews.com and Accessibility.com. Over the last several years, he has covered topics dealing with personal and commercial insurance and technology and the law. Rick is General Counsel and Director of Risk Management and sits on the Board of Power Stow Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Power Stow A/S in Denmark, the world leader in the supply of tracked conveyor systems to the airline industry.
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