Top Road Trip Ideas for Adult Families

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When the kids grow up and finally flee the coop, you may start to realize how much you miss having them around. When that happens, get the brood back together for a bonding road trip. Experiencing the open road as an adult unit, unbound by the need to visit theme parks and water parks (not that they have to be off the table -- there’s no age limit on Disney!), is a refreshing starting point and opens up an entire nation of possibilities. Plus, planning a route for adults requires a different perspective than putting together a trip with young children in tow. For starters, you can put in longer driving hours and take the scenic route without worrying about the schedule of hungry and overtired kids. The country is your oyster, so here are four of the best road trips for adult families to explore.

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1. Austin to New Orleans

The trip from Austin to New Orleans is a great extended break for a family looking to mix nature with urban exploration and delicious roadside eating. Starting in Austin, where you should definitely fuel up at Franklin’s Barbecue, make the trip to Houston, where the Beer Can Museum provides the type of attraction that only adults can appreciate. Spend the night in Houston and visit the Space Center before taking off for Lafayette, a great college town where you can enjoy some live music at Blue Moon Saloon. Beyond Lafayette, there’s the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. Here, you can stop for an educational tour around the house. Winding up the road trip in New Orleans, families can make the most of the city with music and nightlife on Bourbon Street, strolls around the French Quarter, and local bayou swamp tours. 

2. California Wine Country

Combining great scenery with tasty vino, a road trip through California wine country is a great getaway idea for an adult family. Sure, alcohol and driving don’t mix, but you’ll be lingering in great destinations with stopovers that make the trip work for you. Besides, the roughly 300-mile route isn’t all about wine. Using California State Route 29 as your guide, you can take in the best of the region, passing destinations like Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville, Rutherford and Napa to discover picturesque vineyards, charming towns, and beautiful natural attractions. Make a stop at the coastal town of Mendocino for the quaint shops and beautiful beach. Plus, don’t miss a drive through the Navarro River Redwood State Park between winery stop-offs. 

3. Los Angeles to Joshua Tree

The route from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree via Palm Springs throws together the manmade beauty of some of the country’s finest modernist architecture with the visual seduction of the nation’s most iconic national parks. Pack your sunscreen and hire a drop-top for one seriously cool road trip. Starting in Los Angeles, take Route 10 towards Palm Springs. Along the way, indulge your inner child with a stop at the impressive Cabazon Dinosaurs and see the famous fields of wind turbines. Once in Palm Springs, it’s all about soaking up the sun, style, and all things modernist. Before making your way to Joshua Tree for hikes, nature trails, and cactus gardens, take a trip to the top of Chino Canyon, which ascends two-and-a-half miles on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and offers great views as well as an escape from the searing heat.      

4. Upstate New York

Upstate New York is packed with plenty of spots with museums, roadside curiosities, and quaint small towns. Can’t choose one destination? Choose them all as you cruise through the Hudson Valley, making the most of the fine dining, antique digging, and horse racing en route. While sticking to the picturesque roads of Route 9, make the drive from Albany to Champlain. Important stopping points include Malta for its iconic drive-in theater; Saratoga Springs for fine dining and a visit to the Saratoga Race Course; Lake George for the best in kitschy souvenir shops, arcades, and mini golf; The Sagamore Resort for a night on a private island on the lake; and Fort Ticonderoga for a stunning diamond-shaped fortification built by the French in 1758.  

5. Cape Cod’s Old King’s Highway

A Cape Cod road trip will serve up charming beach towns, a picturesque natural landscape, quaint museums, and beautiful beaches. You’ll want to plan your trip around the crowds that descend on the famous East Coast peninsula in the height of summer. Start your journey in Sandwich, Massachusetts — the oldest town in Cape Cod. While here, a visit to the Sandwich Glass Museum, a fresh lobster roll, and a walk along the bustling boardwalk will put you in a New England state of mind. Following the Old King’s Highway, make your way to Hyannis for the JFK Hyannis Museum, Yarmouth Port for some historic architecture, and Dennis for the Scargo Tower and some local theater at The Cape Playhouse. After that, head for the great outdoors and enjoy excursions in Nickerson State Park. Next, it’s on to exploring the Cape Cod National Seashore before ending in the unique town of Provincetown, where the arty diversity will entertain the whole family. 

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