By The Honest Body Project Zoo
October 05, 2005

When families take to the road for vacation, they tend to concentrate on big tourist attractions such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and the Empire State Building. But there are plenty of quirky pleasures to be found just off the beaten track. We've gathered a list of don't-miss family attractions in every state.

ALABAMA: Helen Keller's Birthplace

Gain inspiration from visiting Keller's home in Tuscumbia, which includes the pump Anne Sullivan used to teach her the meaning of "water."

ALASKA: The Aurora Ice Hotel

Bundle up for a tour of this chilly but spectacular new ice structure at Chena Hot Springs Resort, which -- thanks to cutting-edge technology -- hopes to remain open year-round.

ARIZONA: Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park

Little cowboys and cowgirls can relive the Wild West at this 12,000-square-foot museum, chock-full of artifacts from the mining days of yore.

ARKANSAS: Crater of Diamonds State Park

It's finders keepers at this diamond mine in Murfreesboro, as visitors are allowed to take home their geological finds.

CALIFORNIA: The Redwood Forests

How big are they? Drive or hike the Avenue of the Giants at Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Weott to find out, or visit any of the redwood groves in Northern California.

COLORADO: Dinosaur National Monument

Junior paleontologists will thrill at seeing dinosaur bones and other fossils embedded in the rock wall at the Quarry Visitor Center.

CONNECTICUT: Mark Twain House and Museum

Twain's lovingly restored Hartford home -- where he is believed to have penned the adventures of young Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn -- also boasts a museum with scheduled events and activities.

DELAWARE: Winterthur Museum

The Enchanted Woods children's garden, the Touch-It room full of handmade toys and objects, and the garden tram are among the activities at this family-friendly country estate located just outside Wilmington.

FLORIDA: Ringling Museum of the Circus

Costumes, props, and artifacts are preserved in this colorful tribute to the Big Top located in Sarasota.

GEORGIA: Stone Mountain Park

Take a train or ride a skylift to see the largest high-relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving depicting Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Entertainment and shopping options abound at the 3,200-acre park.

HAWAII: Flumin Da Ditch

These popular tours on the big island of Hawaii allow families to wend their way at a leisurely pace in shallow water -- in stable, double-hulled kayaks -- along the ditches of the island's old plantations.

IDAHO: The Old Mission

Built by the Coeur d'Alene Indians in 1848-1853, this carefully preserved mission in Cataldo brings history to life with historical pageants and hands-on demonstrations.

ILLINOIS: The Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower)

This 110-story skyscraper features interactive exhibitions -- including "knee-high" attractions for children -- as well as breathtaking views of Chicago. Willis Tower

INDIANA: Parke County

Known as the Covered Bridge Capital of the world, this county in western Indiana boasts 32 of the picturesque bridges, plus a restored jail, old mills, and antique shops. Begin your tour at the visitors' center in Rockville.

IOWA: Field of Dreams

Families can take a swing, run the bases, or simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings at this preserved movie site in Dyersville, which includes the famous baseball diamond and farmhouse seen in the 1989 film.

KANSAS: Mennonite Heritage Museum

This living museum of eight historic buildings in Goessel -- including a one-room schoolhouse -- tells the story of the Mennonites, who fled Russia in the late 1800s for Kansas.

KENTUCKY: Kentucky Derby Museum

The newly expanded attraction at Churchill Downs in Louisville boasts video graphics and hands-on activities designed to capture the spirit and style of the great American horse race.

LOUISIANA: Laura: A Creole Plantation

This Vacherie sugar plantation, which dates from 1805, introduces visitors to the Creole culture through the life of owner Laura Locoul Gore. Kids will enjoy discovering the origins of the Br'er Rabbit folk tales, which were recorded from slaves who lived on this plantation.

MAINE: Seashore Trolley Museum

All aboard a restored early 20th-century streetcar for a ride into the past at this family-friendly Kennebunkport museum.

MARYLAND: National Aquarium

Join a guided tour of the shark tank, take the kids to a touch pool, and visit a shark nursery at this state-of-the-art aquarium in Baltimore. You might even spend the night there through a special sleepover program.

MASSACHUSETTS: Old Sturbridge Village

Spend a day in the early 1800s at this 200-acre recreated village, where visitors can learn to milk a cow, gossip with costumed "residents," and dine on meals created from authentic recipes.

MICHIGAN: Mackinac Island

There are no cars allowed on this scenic island, which retains the Victorian flavor of its heyday, but families can bike, take carriage rides, or visit the historic fort nearby.

MINNESOTA: Mall of America

So big it even has its own Camp Snoopy amusement park, Underwater Adventures shark encounters, and NASCAR indoor races, this collection of more than 500 stores in Bloomington could keep you busy -- and shopping -- for days.

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi Petrified Forest

Huge petrified logs dating from prehistoric times make for fascinating exploring -- and don't miss the museum and nature trails -- at this Registered National Landmark in Flora.

MISSOURI: St. Joseph Museum

A Lewis and Clark exhibition, natural history dioramas, and Japanese friendship dolls are among the items on display at this museum headquartered in a restored Victorian home in St. Joseph.

MONTANA: Museum of the Plains Indian

Check out the not-so-little petrified baby T-Rex fossil at the Blackfeet Heritage Center of this Native American museum in Browning, which also boasts rawhide and buckskin clothing, historic galleries, and films.

NEBRASKA: Pony Express Station

Situated in Gothenburg's Ehmen Park, this station showcases artifacts from the Pony Express riders who traveled along the Oregon Trail.

NEVADA: Eureka

This 19th-century mining village has been preserved since its days as a gold and silver boom town; authentic buildings from the era include an opera house and newspaper office.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: America's Stonehenge

The origins of this man-made North Salem rock maze -- considered the oldest in North America -- are as mysterious as its design, which dates back some 4,000-plus years.

NEW JERSEY: Atlantic City Boardwalk

Amusement parks, museums, and trolley tours are among the more family-friendly activities at this historic boardwalk, which has been attracting vacationers since the late 1800s.

NEW MEXICO: Taos Pueblo

This 1,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site is still inhabited by the Taos Indians, who practice tribal law and offer handcrafted silver, pottery, and fine art for sale.

NEW YORK: Niagara Falls

Enter the Cave of the Winds for spectacular views of the falls (be forewarned that you'll get wet!) or visit the Daredevil Museum to plot the fates of those who have tried over the years to survive the plunge.

NORTH CAROLINA: Biltmore Estate

Among the many historic homes in Asheville, Commodore Vanderbilt's is tops; with 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces, it's America's largest private home. The 8,000-acre estate can be explored by hiking, biking, or rafting.


This well-preserved Bismarck fort boasts original buildings dating from the 1860s as well as an interpretive center and museum.

OHIO: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

A treat for music lovers of all ages, this Cleveland museum shows off artifacts spanning nearly 100 years, from Paul Simon's guitar to John Lennon's report card. Children under 8 are admitted free.

OKLAHOMA: Great Salt Plains State Park

Visitors can dig for selenite crystals -- and take them home -- as well as climb an observation tower, fish, swim, picnic, and walk on a nature trail in this lake area around Cherokee.

OREGON: Lewis & Clark Trail

Follow the explorers' trail across the state (or choose parts of it), including parks and the Columbia River Gorge (where Lewis & Clark had to find a way around the Cascade Rapids), all the way to Cape Disappointment, home of the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast and a museum of L&C artifacts.


Tour private homes, take buggy rides, and enjoy family-friendly theatrical productions in rural Lancaster County, known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, home of more than 16,000 members of the Amish religious community.

RHODE ISLAND: Slater Mill Museum

With period buildings and costumed interpreters, this living history museum in Pawtucket highlights the Industrial Revolution and how it affected daily life in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Southern Plantations

The Charleston area is known for its lovingly preserved antebellum mansions, several of which are open for tours and a glimpse at the Old South.;;

SOUTH DAKOTA: Crazy Horse Memorial

Although not yet completed, this towering Black Hills monument to Lakota chief Crazy Horse -- the face alone is nine stories high -- offers a look at our nation's history from the Native American perspective.

TENNESSEE: Grand Ole Opry

Visitors can immerse themselves in country music the way it was meant to be heard at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House or at its historic predecessor, the Ryman Auditorium downtown.

TEXAS: Space Center Houston

Junior astronauts can explore the interactive exhibitions at the Kids Space Place, experience virtual weightlessness at the Space Station, and see the world from another angle at the giant-screen Mazda theater.

UTAH: Four Corners

Here at the junction of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, children can put a hand and foot in each state for a souvenir photo and shop for Native American goods along this popular tourist stretch.

VERMONT: Ben & Jerry's

Join a factory tour in Waterbury to see how the ice cream is made, and don't forget to try a sample in the FlavoRoom.

VIRGINIA: Toy Museum at Natural Bridge

Billed as the world's largest collection of childhood memorabilia -- from Barbie to Mr. Potato Head -- this museum offers self-guided tours to while away a rainy day.

WASHINGTON: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Follow the Winds of Change Interpretive Trail to learn about how the 1980 eruption of this live volcano near Castle Rock affected local flora and fauna.

WEST VIRGINIA: The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

Hop on a vintage miner's car for a guided tour of this family-owned coal mine, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Your guide will be a veteran coal miner.)

WISCONSIN: House on the Rock

This aptly named Spring Green attraction is, indeed, a house built upon a rock overlooking the Wyoming Valley. Don't miss the glass-walled Infinity Room, which will make you feel as if you're hanging in space.

WYOMING: Fossil Butte National Monument

For a glimpse into prehistoric life, hike the Fossil Lake Trail near this 50-million-year-old lake bed in Kemmerer. A Junior Ranger program allows kids 5 and up to participate in special activities along the trail and record their names in a permanent register.



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