Add Some Nature to Your Road Trip with Views, Rest Areas & Parks
She keeps Moet et Chandon
In her pretty cabinet
“Let them eat cake” she says
Just like Marie Antionette
Those are the opening lyrics of Killer Queen by Queen. I didn’t know that until my children discovered Queen just in time for our 2,200 mile road trip. Amazingly enough, I still like Queen, even after hearing the same lyrics sung in a shout, sung off key deliberately, or even better, two versions, both off key, at the same time!
I was determined that we would not end our road trip on a sour note, but I knew I was nearing a tipping point. We needed some time out of the car and some space to move. We needed a nature break.
I’m a big believer in the nature pit stop. Most road trips rely heavily on fast food restaurants or gas stations with attached convenient stores that appear at nearly every exit. These have their place and are ideal for the quick fill up and break, but they do nothing to truly re-energize a tired, road-weary family. My strategy for fitting in nature breaks is to look for the places listed below.
These pop up relatively rarely and with little warning along the highways, and we always make a point of swinging in. The photo above was taken at a scenic view along the Palisades Parkway just outside of New York City. There are usually no facilities at these places because they’re intended as just a quick stop to admire a wonderful view, but I’ve never been disappointed. I like turning the camera over to the kids to capture some of their favorite views.
Rest areas appear with more regularity than scenic views and vary widely in quality, but many offer at least some picnic areas and walking space. With some advance planning, you can easily plan out stops along your route using the Google map of U.S. rest areas or an app such as USA Rest Stop Locater available for Apple or Android devices.
My favorite rest area, yes I have a favorite rest area, is the Sideling Hill Rest Area on I-68 in Maryland. It has a fascinating, up-close view of the cut out of the mountain. My second favorite, yes I have a second favorite rest area, is the New Kent Rest Area on I-64 East in Virginia. This is our traditional stop on the way to the beach every year, and includes a children’s playground as well as a brand new welcome center. Building in such a tradition is a great way to break up a road trip.
Parks and Nature Centers
Locating parks and nature centers along your route takes a little more planning and definitely takes more time out of your trip, but it’s very rewarding. When the kids were younger, I often searched for playgrounds. As they got older, I searched for places that offered short trails. Recently, we loved our visit to the Crane Point Nature Center in Marathon, FL, located just off the Overseas Highway. The Nature Center has a small museum, as many nature centers do, fish tanks, and a few, short trails that let us get a taste of Florida wildlife.
We spent an hour at the Nature Center and returned to the car refreshed, ready for the next leg; positive road trip saved. Now how about some Bohemian Rhapsody?
You may also enjoy:
- Road Trip Safety Tips
- The Single Parent’s Guide to Road Trips with Kids
- Road Trip Tips: Kids’ Favorite Books on Tape
- 3 Must-Have Apps for Road Trips with Kids
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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…