16 Epic Road Trips for Families in North America
Road Tripping is a socially distant way to get out and keep exploring while staying safe! It eliminates the need for public transportation or flying and gives you the freedom to explore as you please. Across North America, specifically Mexico, the United States, and Canada, there are plenty of epic road trips that blend well with families. These road trips offer family fun, history culture, and nature. Read on to get some great ideas for your next getaway!
Epic road trips in Canada
The Icefields Parkway-Banff & Jasper National Parks
Recommended by Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Rated at one of the most scenic drives in the entire world by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway makes for one seriously epic road trip. The Icefields Parkway is the name of the 230-kilometer-long road that runs in both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. It connects the popular tourist towns of Lake Louise and Jasper, and as such, is not only a gorgeous drive but also a convenient one for travelers exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Planning your Icefields Parkway itinerary can be a little tricky with so many different attractions to check out. You can complete the entire drive in just one day if you stick to simply viewpoints and maybe one short hike (such as Mistaya Canyon.) But if you have the time, you can spend a night at one of the hotels along the Icefields Parkway such as The Crossing Resort, which is located exactly at the halfway point of the drive.
There really are tons of things to do along the Icefields Parkway, but some of my personal favorites include the Bow Lake Viewpoint, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Athabasca Glacier, the Skywalk, and Athabasca Falls. All of these attractions are gorgeous and kid-friendly!
You will need a Parks Canada Pass to drive the Icefields Parkway. This pass can be purchased at a booth at the entrance to the road or be bought online in advance. It is the same pass required for visiting any of the national parks in Canada. Also, it’s important to note that there aren’t many services along the Icefields Parkway. In fact, the only gas station is at Saskatchewan River Crossing and it is extremely overpriced. Be sure to fill up before you go! Food is also limited to hotel restaurants and the café at the Discovery Center at the Athabasca Glacier so packing some snacks and water is also a good idea.
Vancouver to Whistler, Canada
Recommended by That Adventurer
Whilst often completed in a couple of hours, the Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler is well worth driving more slowly to enjoy more of what there is to offer along this beautiful stretch of coastline. A two day trip, with an overnight in Whistler, will allow you to take in the beauty of this 120km drive where you’ll go from the sea and beaches in the city of Vancouver to the mountains of Whistler on one of the most epic road trips.
Starting in Vancouver, cycle around Stanely Park or take the water ferries over to Granville Island to stock up on some yummy road trip snacks at the market. Lee’s Donuts are always a winner!
As you drive out of Vancouver over Lions Gate Bridge, enjoy the view of the North Shore Mountains directly in front of you and, if you’re a passenger, look to your right to see if you can spot Mount Baker which can often be seen on a clear day. The coastline and views of Howe Sound are stunning all the way to Squamish which is where the first main stops along this route are.
Whether you’re into hiking, climbing, mountain biking or some other outdoor activity, Squamish really has it all. It’s not known as Canada’s adventure capital for nothing! For day hikes, try the Chief or the Sea to Summit trail (you can take the gondola up to save your energy!), or just take in the impressive views of Shannon Falls. Be sure to get lunch at Sunny Chibas, a Mexican restaurant serving burritos the size of your head!
From Squamish to Whistler, you’ll leave the coastline and head into the mountains with equally stunning views. Again, there are plenty more hikes and Brandywine falls is worth pulling off the highway to see. In Whistler, enjoy the skiing (if it’s winter), or the trails, biking and lakes (if it’s summer). Blackcomb Lodge in the centre of Whistler village is one of the more affordable options and has self-catering suites perfect for families.
Vancouver Island, Canada
Recommended by Lotte of Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
Victoria to Port Renfrew
Vancouver Island is a great destination for a family road trip because many of the sights are relatively close to each other. So no hours in the car with impatient kids in the back, but a short drive before you can explore the next highlight on the list. There are so many amazing things to do on Vancouver Island, you could spend months here without getting bored. However, for this Victoria to Port Renfrew road trip, you will need at least two days (though three would be better).
Start your family road trip in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and a fun, compact city that can easily be navigated on foot. Spend at least one day here, two if you have the time. Kids will love Beacon Hill Park with two playgrounds and a petting zoo. Another good place to visit in Victoria with kids is Fisherman’s Wharf. The whole family will enjoy walking around this harbor with its pretty colorful houses. Seals are often spotted at Fisherman’s Wharf, so be on the lookout for these wonderful creatures.
Where to eat and where to stay in Victoria
For a quick lunch, head to Crust Bakery. Tacofino is a lovely spot for dinner with plenty of delicious little tacos to choose from. A wonderful place to stay is the Fairmont Empress Hotel, but it’s expensive. Alternatively, the Helms Inn is a nice mid-range hotel.
Victoria to Port Renfrew
Great stops along the way are Sooke Potholes Provincial Park and the Sheringham Point Lighthouse. At Port Renfrew, hike the short Botanical Beach Loop Trail (3 kilometers). Kids will love the tidal pools on the rocks with little critters and crawlers inside them. Be aware black bears can be seen here, so carry bear spray with you at all times and instruct your kids about bear safety.
Recommended by Stephanie from The World As I See It
If you’re looking for an awesome family road trip in Canada that involves fun roadside attractions, incredible outdoor adventures, and some great places to make memories then consider a week long Northern Ontario road trip. Plan your first day by leaving Toronto early and head north to the French River Provincial Park Visitor’s Centre for your first stop. Here you can enjoy incredible views of the river from their pedestrian bridge as well as learn about the area’s history in their museum.
Up next is the perfect family destination, Sudbury. Home to the giant nickel, awesome museums like Science North and Dynamic Earth, as well as awesome outdoor activities depending on the time of year you visit that range from a skate trail to hiking. And after a long and fun-filled day make your first night’s stop in Sault Ste. Marie at the Delta Hotels by Marriott that’s located right along the waterfront. For your next day spend it exploring Lake Superior Park, hiking, chasing waterfalls, and end it with a wonderful night of camping in the park. Your third day will take you up and around Lake Superior with stops at the giant goose in Wawa, the Winnie the Pooh Memorial in White River, a bunch of awesome lookouts, and a visit to the Grand Canyon of the North – Ouimet Canyon.
Stay a night or two in Thunder Bay at the historic Prince Arthur Hotel. There are a ton of family-friendly things to do in Thunder Bay, from chasing waterfalls to checking out Fort William Historical Park. There’s also a ton of great hiking nearby, like Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Mount McKay. And if you’re looking for a great restaurant to refuel after a full day of exploring head to Bight Restaurant with waterfront views.
Vancouver to Banff
Recommended by Jacquie of Flashbacking Family
The most direct (and quickest) route from Vancouver to Banff would take you on the Trans Canada Highway via Kamloops in about 9 hours. This is not the most scenic route, however, and when you are taking a road trip in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, you need to take the scenic route.
From Vancouver, take Highway 99 up to Whistler (which is worth a stop as there are so many things to do in Whistler in the summer as well as the winter). From Whistler, cut across to Kamloops and then join up with the Trans Canada Highway which will take you all the way to Banff. This journey without the stop would take you a little over 11 hours.
The stretch of road from Whistler to Kamloops is just beautiful. Make sure to look in your rear mirror for a different but equally stunning perspective.
If you are not stopping in Whistler, Kamloops is a good half-way point to break up the journey. It’s not the most scenic of towns, but it has a bunch of moderately priced hotels just off the highway that are perfect for road trippers needing a bed for the night. The Hampton Inn by Hilton was clean and comfortable and if you are travelling with kids, they have a great pool with a waterslide. Mittz Kitchen is a great choice for hearty, road trip food.
Epic Road trips in The United States
Dallas, Texas to Albuquerque & Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommended by Umiko from Two Worlds Treasures
Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle is your first stop on this 7 day road trip from Dallas to Albuquerque and back to Dallas again. Make a quick visit to the Big Texan, Route 66 Historic District, and Cadillac Ranch, the iconic Mother Road attractions in Amarillo. Then continue to Tucumcuri in New Mexico where you will spend a night. Look for Route 66 wall arts and Tee Pee Curios in town before you rested in your room. The next morning, visit the Dinosaur Museum at the Mesalands Community College or Tucumcari Railroad Museum. Then headed to Santa Rosa where you can swim or dive at Blue Hole, The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest.
Arrive in Albuquerque, give yourselves a rest for the exciting 2 days in town await you ahead. A day visit to Explora – the Children’s Museum, and New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will make everyone have a great time. Ride a tram to Sandia Peak, explore old town Albuquerque, and hunt for petroglyphs at the Petroglyph National Monument on the other day.
On your way to Santa Fe, you must explore the unique Tent Rocks National Monument. After check in at the hotel, go to the Plaza area, and visit Loretto Chapel, famous for its miraculous staircase. Then enjoy the rest of the day around the Plaza.
The next morning, explore Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos where you can climb to cliff dwellings. Back to town, enjoy your last day in Santa Fe by exploring Meow Wolf.
Before you leave for Dallas the next day, make sure you have tried New Mexico’s green chile cheeseburger. Cowgirl BBQ in Santa Fe is one of the best for it.
Best of Oregon Road Trip-USA
Recommended by Michelle of Intentional Travelers
With Portland as a starting and ending point, it’s easy to see the wide range of Oregon’s diverse terrain in a very short amount of time. In this “Best of Oregon Road Trip Loop,” you’ll enjoy valleys, waterfalls, high desert, and beaches. And all in less than 11 hours (530 miles) of driving time! This trip can be done in a 2 or 3 days but is better enjoyed over a week or longer.
Starting in Portland, head East through the impressive Columbia River Gorge to the trendy windsurfing town of Hood River. Pull over to the Old Highway for a hike to any number of waterfalls. Then, stop by local apple farms as you head South through Mt. Hood National Forest and pass numerous mountain peaks on your way to Central Oregon.
Central Oregon is a high desert, outdoor playground in both summer and winter. Grab a hearty brunch at Mo’s Egg house or some fantastic Mexican food at Diego’s in Redmond.
Next, continue back West into the Willamette Valley where Oregon wine country and farmlands make a picturesque backdrop around McMinnville, Oregon. Stay at the historic McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon or nearby vacation home rental, grab some ice cream, and enjoy the imaginative playground in town.
From there, you’re just one hour away from the Oregon Coast. Climb the dunes at Pacific City and stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory to sample local cheddars and ice cream on your return to Portland.
Route 100, Vermont
Recommended by Caitlin of The Country Jumper
Rte 100, in Vermont, starts just north of the Massachusetts border near the town of Stamford and continues up to the Canadian border in the town of Newport. All said and done the road is 216 miles and can be done in a day – but doing it quickly is very much not the point!
Starting at the southern end, your first stop should be Killington. In the winter, Killington is a popular ski destination with Pico Mountain, and in summer you can explore parts of the Vermont portion of the Appalachian Trail.
From Killington, head 30 minutes up the road to Rochester. In this droplet of a town there is a great restaurant – Rochester Café, and across the street is Sandy’s Books and Bakery where you can order a coffee and browse the new and used books.
From Rochester, head through Granville Flats and keep your eyes peeled for moose before hitting Moss Glen Falls for a quick pull off photo-op. Just a bit further along is Warren where The Warren Store makes a killer baguette and their Number Six sandwich is the best you’ll have. Across the street is The Pitcher Inn where rooms are available or you can eat in the restaurant. This inn is on the higher-end.
The next town over from Warren is Waitsfield where you’ll find American Flatbreads – great for dinner but be sure to get your name in early, Lawson’s Brewery, a famous covered bridge, grocery stores, and a post office.
Another 45 minutes from Waitsfield you’ll hit Stowe which has a lovely downtown, skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort, and beautiful accommodation at Trapp Family Resort.
From Stowe it’s just over an hour to the Canadian border or just over two hours if you want to keep trucking and make your way to Montreal.
Miami to Key West, Florida
Recommended by Lori from Travlinmad
One of the most interesting and fun Florida road trips for families is the popular drive from Miami to Key West. The drive itself is fairly easy — mostly two lanes for the entire 166 miles along US1. Nonstop will take 3 1/2 hours at a minimum, but longer if you get behind slower traffic towing a camper or boat, or if you can’t avoid the temptation to stop at every scenic view and salty attraction along the way. The natural impulse is to get there as quickly as possible but we don’t blame you if you take your time. You’re in the Florida Keys and on Island Time enjoying one of the most epic road trips.
Plan to stop in Islamorada, a mecca for fishermen. Here you can visit The Theater of the Sea with dolphin encounters, or The History of Diving Museum. Marathon is the next place to stop. With so many choices this is a great place for lunch or dinner. There are a number of really good options, but Fish Tales Market & Eatery is one of the best in the Keys for super-fresh seafood. Marathon is just about halfway to Key West and a great place to overnight. There’s a good number of accommodations, but The Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort is highly recommended and right on the beach. While in Marathon, don’t miss a visit to The Turtle Hospital or Dolphin Research Center.
For the last leg of the trip to Key West get out your camera for photo ops as you cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge. And don’t sweat the traffic. It’s all part of the joy of a road trip to Key West.
North to Central California
Recommended by Samantha from A Truthful Traveler
Although usually overlooked, the North to Central Coast of California
is a beautiful family friendly destination! Starting at the border with
Oregon, this three day drive down Highway 101 takes you through changing
scenery all along the way. Spend your first day by stopping in one of
the many state/national parks.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park has a beautiful drive, Avenue of the Giants, that will take you on a winding ride underneath the massive trees. With many short hikes and stops along the way, it is the perfect family adventure. Spend a night overlooking the ocean at one of the hotels or campgrounds anywhere from Westport to Mendocino. Van Damme State Park offers sites next to the river.
Spend your second day exploring the Mendocino Coast, with views that rival the more popular Big Sur. Visit beaches and remember to look down (or don’t) at the ocean far below you on the highway. Spend your evening out by the ocean again or travel inland parallel to Point Reyes for some hilly mountain views.
Start your final day by visiting Muir Beach, a less crowded but beautiful beach just north of San Francisco. Some classics in San Francisco include viewing the bridge from Golden Gate Lookout and stopping in at Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Factory for a special treat! A lesser known idea is exploring the old Sutro Baths. Exploring the remains of the bathhouse is a fun adventure! This road trip is an amazing one for families, just beware that you might bring some sand home with you!!!
Utah’s National Parks
Recommended by Ashley of Jetset Jansen
One of the most epic road trips you can take in the USA is through the American Southwest. Utah has five national parks through the southern half of the state and many things to see on your trip. The best place to start out is from Las Vegas. It’s easy to fly into and rent a car straight from the airport. To see the Big 5 National Parks and to spend time hiking, 2 weeks is a great amount of time to explore the wild west.
From Vegas, Zion National Park is about a 2.5-hour drive and located in the southwest corner of Utah. The next stop is Bryce Canyon National Park, which is not far down the road from Zion. From Bryce, head towards Grand Staircase Escalante, which has lots of hidden gems and hikes. You can drive through Capitol Reef and see the highlights along the road, or stop to explore this 3rdnational park longer.
Goblin Valley State Park is a great place to stop on the way to Moab and once you reach Moab, there are lots of things to do in the area. Moab is also a great, centralized area to explore the last two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. You can either take the highway route back to Vegas, or you can head south to Monument Valley and loop around to see some more great spots like Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon!
Florida & Georgia
Recommended by Nichola of Family Hotel Expert
Exploring Northern Florida and Southern Georgia by road is a fascinating trip where you’ll find a blend of modern-day America mixed with historic sights and hotels dating back to the early 1900s. You can easily spend a fortnight discovering more about these iconic US states with a route which takes you off the main highways and out into the real country.
Set out from Orlando, and treat yourself to a trip into the heart of the city where you’ll find parks, boating lakes and a pleasant chilled pace of life. If theme parks are your thing make sure you get your fill here with the likes of Volcano Bay, one of the most recent hugely popular additions to the offering from the likes of Universal and Disney. Some of the best family resorts in Florida can be found on this drive including the Omni Amelia Island Resort.
Head North on Interstate 95 and out into the countryside before crossing the county border over the St Mary’s River. Jekyll Island is a fascinating spot to stop at, with colonial style houses and a sense of calm. It’s a great location to spend a few days for some relaxation and exploring the likes of Driftwood Beach where twisted trees grow up in the sand struggling against the elements of the sea.
End your trip at Savannah, a city filled with picturesque parks. It’s the perfect location to enjoy Georgian hospitality, spend some time in independent shops and dine in restaurants set in historic buildings such as The Vault Kitchen & Market, an Asian fusion eatery located in a former bank.
Recommended by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
For your next family vacation you can’t go wrong with a Colorado road trip. The windy mountain roads, picturesque towns and national parks are one of a kind. Begin and end your road trip in Denver and plan to spend at least 2 weeks on the road.
From Denver head up to Boulder to explore this hip city. Families will enjoy exploring Pearl Street Mall which is known for its shops and restaurants. Street performers are abound here and parents will love the local craft beer.
From Boulder stop in Grand Junction to relax in the hot springs and to visit the adventure park. Then head onwards to Ouray. This little town was our favourite stop on our Colorado road trip and is known for its picturesque main street, friendly locals, and multitude of nearby walking trails.
Up next is Mesa Verde National Park. This UNESCO site has the dwelling remains of the Ancestral Pueblo people. There are over 600 ruins within the park many of which can be seen from lookout points or along walking trails. On your way into the park stop at the museum to learn about the history of the area.
Before heading back to Denver stop by Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Both offer otherworldly landscapes you’ll need to see to believe. They will conclude your family Colorado road trip.
Epic Road trips in Mexico
Recommended by Demi of Around The World With Her
Mexico has been a family favourite for many years, and offers some brilliant road trips. Nothing beats a road trip in the Yucatan Peninsula. The area is famous for stunning beaches, water parks, historical ruins and much more. Many tourists visit every year and it is considered a safe and easy to navigate area of Mexico.
I recommend starting in Cancun, as many international flights arrive there. On arrival there are car hire companies in the airport, or perhaps you would prefer to spend a few days in one of the many resorts in Cancun. Next, head down to Playa Del Carmen. One of the busiest towns in the Yucatan, this is a great place to relax on the beach. Visit nearby Xcaret – a family friendly adventure park. The surrounding areas are full of cenotes – freshwater pools popular with visitors. Many have on site lockers, cafes and even life jackets!
You must take a trip to Chichen Itza – one of the 7 wonders of the world. Best visited independently by car, this is perfect for a road trip. More ruins await a short drive away in Tulum, as well as some great restaurants and beaches. Xscape Tulum is a great 3 star, child friendly hotel with parking onsite. Here you can also rent bikes.
From Tulum, it is about 3 hours back to Cancun. This Yucatan Itinerary can be done in about a week thanks to short driving distances. If you have more time, consider adding Merida and/or Bacalar!
The Central Loop, Mexico
The Central Loop road trip is one of the most epic road trips in Mexico, bringing you plenty of culture, family fun, history, and food! Beginning in Mexico City, (you can fly in and rent a car to avoid the riskier Northern section of the country), explore the many great sights right there in the city. Visit Chapultapec Park and Zocalo & Presidential Palace with the Diego Rivera murals.
Next, continue on to Oaxaca, where you can enjoy some Mexican culture. Spend some time shopping for locally made pottery or tour a pottery factory. From Oaxaca you can take the short drive to Monte Alban, where you can climb the hill and explore the ruins that sit at the top. The little ones will love stretching their legs and exploring the site. If you are brave, be sure to try the fried grasshoppers topped with chile and lime that you can find in Oaxaca.
After this continue on to the port city of Veracruz on the Eastern coast of Mexico. The kids will love a trip to the Aquarium or spending some time at the beach. If you are feeling adventurous, enjoy an ATV ride along the beach and sand dunes. Visit a Tropical Eco-Nature Reserve or go for a swim in some natural pools before heading back to Mexico City. You will want to allow 1-2 weeks for this trip to fully experience what these destinations have to offer.
Southern Baja California
Enjoy Mexico on one of the most epic road trips in the area. A road trip down Mexico 1 will give you stunning Pacific coast views, culture, and history. Start in Tijuana and head south down Mexico 1, taking in the sites of the coast line. The first stop will be Ensenada, a Mexican port city. Here you can enjoy walking along the harbor and taking in the views of docked fishing boats and cruise ships. Explore the markets and enjoy some fresh seafood or try a fish taco.
The next stop will be San Telmo, where you can enjoy some nature and hiking or a stay on a working ranch. Next continue on through San Quintín and into the Central Desert where you can explore the sea lion crater and the kids will love the sea lions sun bathing along the ‘secret beach.’
Next, you will continue on to Cataviña, where you can enjoy some cave paintings, a tour of a saltworks factory, and grab a bite to eat. Stop at Bahía Concepción and enjoy some white sane beaches or watersports at Playa Santispac. Visit the historic district in Todos Santos and walk along the beach. Go waterfall hunting at Cañon de la Zorra in East Cape. Finish your road trip in La Paz with a day trip to Isla Espíritu Santo where you and the kids can enjoy some marine life, snorkeling, and swimming. You should plan on allowing one to two weeks for this road trip.