25 Great US Spots to Take the Kids Before They Graduate High School

Emily Abbate | Jul 5, 2012 Big Kid

family road trip sunset
iStock.com/Choreograph

Summer is the prime time to get travelin' with the family. The weather is warmer, the kids are out of school, and thankfully -- gas prices aren't absolutely ridiculous this year. The best part of living in the good ol' U S of A? There's a whole lot of terrific terrain just waiting to be explored right here in our own backyard! So where should parents absolutely take their broods this summer? Check out our list of 25 Instagram-picture perfect spots. 

More from CafeMom: 50 Must-See Places to Take the Kids Before They Get Too Old

As the kids get older, they become less interested in spending quality family time and more interested in checking out, well, the "cooler" things and people in life. This is exactly why it's so important to squeeze in some of these classic road trips while the kids are still young enough to be told to GET IN THE CAR NOW. Have everyone buckle up for one of these excursions -- you may not get another chance!

More from CafeMom: 9 Smart Road Trip Tricks for Surviving Car Travel With Kids

Yeah, yeah, water parks, those are fun, and so are beach towns. However, there are a whole slew of historic sites, monuments, and American landmarks across the country that are must-sees for all kids. Check out our list of 25 great places to take the kids to before they graduate high school. We know this next family vacation is going to be amazing -- and maybe even cool, too!

The Grand Canyon
Meinzahn/iStock

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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    Image via ConspiracyofHappiness/Flickr

    Who doesn't love a little trip to South Dakota to ogle over the faces of George WashingtonTheodore RooseveltAbraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson?

  • Smithsonian

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    Image via Casbr/Flickr

    Consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine separate research facilities -- you could spend days traversing all that this Washington, D.C. gem has to offer.

  • Grand Canyon National Park

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    Image via Moyan Brenn/Flickr

    Nearly 5 million people see the 1-mile-deep Grand Canyon in Arizona every year. Now, it's your turn.

  • Appomattox, Virginia

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    Image via Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr

    Take a bite out of American history by visiting the Appomattox Court House, the place where General Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant after four long years of the Civil War.

  • Empire State Building

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    Image via Adam Lerner/Flickr

    The 102-story skyscraper in the heart of New York City has the best views of the Big Apple, by far.

  • Niagara Falls State Park

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    Image via James Scherber/Flickr

    Created by the Wisconsin glaciation about 10,000 years ago, these breathtaking waterfalls -- technically shared with Canada -- are the perfect backdrop for a family photo.

  • The Freedom Trail

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    Image via Carrie8706/Flickr

    Grab your hiking shoes! This 2.5-mile urban walking trail allows its 3.2 million annual visitors to experience 16 historically significant sites in Boston.

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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    Image via Andrew Mace/Flickr

    Right beside New York City's famed Central Park, the Met has a collection of more than 2 million works of ancient art, including Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern.

  • Statue of Liberty

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    Image via Rakkhi/Flickr

    This gift from France is one of the biggest symbols of America. South of Ellis Island, visitors can cruise around Liberty Island on one of New York City's various ferry lines.

  • The Golden Gate Bridge

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    Image via Kevin Cole/Flickr

    One of my favorite sites in all of the U.S. spanning San Francisco Bay. Make a pit stop in Ghirardelli Square for some delicious chocolates while you're in the area!

  • Four Corners

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    Image via Colin/Flickr 

    Four Corners, otherwise known as the point where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet, is a fantastic spot for your family's bucket list. What kiddo doesn't want to be in four places at once?

  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

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    Image via kisforkate/Flickr

    Covering 3.3 million acres of glaciers, rainforest, coastlines, and mountains, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska's Inside Passage. Whether you're into hiking or just into breathtaking views, the park has something to offer the entire family.

  • Liberty Bell

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    Image via bardgabbard/Flickr

    Did you ever know that the word "Pennsylvania" is spelled incorrectly on the bell (sans one "n")? Educate your kiddos with that fun fact once you get to this Philadelphia icon!

  • Gettysburg

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    Image via Pat Henson/Flickr

    The Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg are a must-stop, but there are also loads of other historical attractions like the Shriver House Museum, the Jennie Wade House, and of course the annual Gettysburg reenactment that are worth a looksee.

  • Hoover Dam

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    Image via Airwolfhound/Flickr 

    Join the almost 1 million people who visit the Hoover Dam each year. The best part? You can all enjoy a pit-stop in Vegas while you're at it!

  • Kennedy Space Center

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    Image via Robin Capper/Flickr

    What kid doesn't want to know a little bit about what it's like to be an astronaut? AND you can soak in some Florida rays? Ooh ooh, pick me!

  • World Trade Center Site

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     Image via Saucy Salad/Flickr

    From personal experience, I can tell you that the fountains at the former World Trade Center locale are breathtaking. Walking around the National September 11 Memorial and Museum with your kids is a good opportunity to talk about the event that forever changed our nation in 2001.

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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    Image via Dave Reid/Flickr

    This living memorial to the Holocaust leaves me speechless every time I visit.

  • Newport Mansions

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    Image via Martin de Lusenet/Flickr

    The mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, boast architecture unlike anything else in the United States. 

  • Great Salt Lake

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    Image via Bryan Jones/Flickr

    Nothing says family bonding like views of the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere. 

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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    Image via Steve Dunleavy/Flickr

    Taking your kids to check out the volcanoes in Hawaii is probably one of the coolest things you could do as a parent. Seeing all of those geology lessons come to life? A dream come true! 

  • Hollywood

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    Image via DominusVobiscum/Flickr

    From Marilyn Monroe to Dick Van Dyke, your kids will have a blast checking out all of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

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    Image via dgphilli/Flickr

    This Georgia landmark is an excellent place for children to learn about a truly inspirational man who worked for racial equality here in the US.

  • Yellowstone

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    Image via Jim Dollar/Flickr

    This famous national park that stretches across three northern states is best known for its wildlife and and the spectacular Old Faithful Geyser. But stay away from the people-hating black bears!

  • The Great Lakes

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    Image via Doug/Flickr

    Sure, seeing the lakes is cool. The best thing, though, is to really experience them! Pack up your swim gear and take the family out for a day of water sports. Paddle boarding, anyone?

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