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Fun Trips with Kids:
Oddities Attract
by Laurel Smith

Side Tracks to Remind you that half the fun is getting there.

Break up a long drive with a short stop to see something out of the ordinary. Just a fifteen minute pit stop can refresh the attitudes of your small passengers and make the next several hours sail by calmly. 

America is loaded with roadside attractions along every highway. There's more out there than you may realize. So, how do you find  them?  Start with one of the a multitude of guide books on the subject. If you travel often, then you need your own copy to keep in the car so that you'll never be without it. One of my favorites is "Roadside Attractions: Cool Cafes, Souvenir Stands, Route 66 Relics, & Other Road Trip Fun".  Browse the pages on your journey to find out what you may be driving right past without realizing. 

If you get a chance to map your trip before you go, there are some great web resources to help you find something amusing along the road to make your trip more interesting. Road Side America is one that I have used myself.  Just enter the state you'll be traveling through, and you'll get a map with all the local attractions marked on it.

Some attractions are just a ten minute stop, but others will take a little more time to fully appreciate and will involve flexibility on your trip schedule unless you have allowed for some stops. If you have to pay admission, then definitely plan on spending a little more time. 

Some road side sights are man-made, but others are natural oddities. One of my favorite nature made sights is Devils Tower in Wyoming. This bizzaro formation is weird in it's own right, but it's made even weirder by its role in the movies.  If you have a creative edge and plan it right, your kids can be watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind on your on-board DVD player as you pass through the state. Don't tell them about this little side trip until you can see it in your sights. Then pull over for a close encounter of your own. 
Devil's Tower, WY
Some oddities we find totally by accident. I got off the freeway once to look for a bathroom in Cookeville, TN, when we chance encounted a huge pink elephant wearing sunglasses and standing on a surfboard.

Here are a few more roadside stops we've made, just to give you some ideas....

Cooter's Place
Nashville, TN

My friend Devra on a road trip with her family.  I'm still trying to figure out why this isn't in Kentucky!

The Mystery Spot
Santa Cruz, CA.
Swetsville Zoo 
Fort Collins, CO 

Not really a zoo.  It's an art sculpture park of over 150 animals created from spare parts and scrap metal. Check out the huge dinosaurs, bugs, aliens, and all kinds of real and fictitious creatures. Admission is free-- optional donations are appreciated.

Truckload of Turkeys
Sometimes the roadside oddities are actually right ON the road instead of along side it.
Dinosaur World
Cave City, Kentucky

"Look Mom! It's HUUUGE!"

My family has a particular affinity for things that are gigantic. If it's huge, we want to see it. 

Curiosity tickles your mind and adds fun and novelty to your trip. Have your book in hand, or a list of options for stops available. Then be spontaneous. Make a stop. Give your family the chance to tell a story later about how HUGE something was or how completely WEIRD without even having to exaggerate.  As a bonus you get to be a kid again by seeing something through a child's eyes, and you'll truly understand that getting there really can be half the fun. 

Jolly Green Giant
"Look Ma! No Pants!"

--Laurel (Road Trip Mom)

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