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  1. Default Seattle to Cleveland and Back summer trip-3 kids, 3 weeks, help us choose a route

    I'm going to take my family (me, DH, DD15, DD11 and DS2) to Eastern Ohio to visit relatives. We took this trip once before, in 2007, and really loved it. Turns out the kids don't remember much from that trip--Mount Rushmore is the boldest of their road memories--and so we will drive it again.

    I'd love some tips on picking our route and choosing what to see. I've got books, maps and have been searching the forums for ideas, but it's frankly overwhelming. Some thoughts from experienced cross-country travelers on what's worth the detour and what isn't would help. And of course, it is all subjective, but here are some of the things we like:

    Mount Rushmore--loved it, want to see it again
    ghost towns and well-preserved turn of the century towns
    pie
    roadside kitsch
    caves
    microbreweries
    places made famous on screen, big or small
    water (lakes, rivers)

    We're going to give ourselves three weeks or so to get there, visit our family, and drive home. I don't like to drive at night and with the little guy, we can't do any huge mileage days, so we have to break it up.

    thanks for any and all input!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default The children's involvement.

    If you did not stop there last time, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD would be memorable for the children.

    With three weeks you may even be able to manage a few days in Yellowstone NP. Another NP along the route is Badlands and the associated attractions in that area, Custer SP, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave. You could take a detour along I-94 for some of the way and take in Teddy Roosevelt NP.

    Are the children doing any of the research for you. The older two would no doubt be confident at researching places which they fancy on the maps. See what attractions there are in all the towns and surrounding areas along any given route.

    One way to have the children remember a trip for a long time, is to get them to keep a journal. Get them to write down at the end of the day what the most memorable activities and places were. This can include stubs of entry tickets, drawings, photos, pictures cut from brochures, even something picked up along the way. It works best if you keep a journal as well.

    My grandchildren have been doing this for many years - even the 2 1/2 year old (now four) has his journal of a trip to Britain. In his own childish way, with his parents' help (but no coaching), he was able to keep his own journal. Things in his journal include a photo of the front fence of the RV park in which they stayed which reminds him of the swimming pool right behind that fence, and all the fun they had there. Another is a circle drawn, with a stick figure inside, which to him depicts the London Eye and the memories of that ride..

    Great for all of you to look back on. Have fun planning and have a great trip.

    Lifey

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    4,546

    Default

    I chuckled at the mention of "pie". This past summer, we stayed in Custer City (really a small town) while visiting the Black Hills area. In that town was the Purple Pie Palace (or Place?), which the owner of the motel we stayed at, recommended. We never went there, because neither of us needed dessert, but it looked really cute.

    Places made memorable on screen: if you or your children ever saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, you will want to go to Devil's Tower National Monument. Look for it in the NE corner of Wyoming, on a map. It's about 30 miles off of I-90, but you cannot see it from the interstate. If you've seen the movie, you'll be humming that 5-note ditty as you drive up. Your children will love the Prairie Dog Village that you have to drive through to get to DTNM. There is also a 1-1/4 mile trail that goes all the way around the Tower. Some of it is paved for a stroller, but if you have a "Kiddie backpack" to carry the two year old, the older kids will like it. You may see climbers on the Tower except in June, where folks don't climb because of Native American culture.

    Caves -- above, someone suggested Wind Cave. We enjoyed our tour through that cave.

    Water and lakes -- if you go through Minnesota either direction, you will see lots of those!


    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
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    Default

    The big question is - how many days do you want to spend with your family in Cleveland - and how many days in transit each way? Seattle to Cleveland via fastest Interstate routes is 4 hard days of just driving each day.

  5. Default

    We need at least 4-5 days with family, in the Cleveland area (Chardon specifically). The 2 year old won't tolerate 4 hard days of driving...it would be 4 hard days of crying to get out of the car seat:-(. If we just wanted to see the family, we'd fly straight to Cleveland--the road trip lets us see the sights.

    Love the idea about travel journals! I sort of kept one on our last trip by sending email dispatches, but I neglected to keep copies and no longer have the email account I used.

    I very much want the big kids involved in planning; my teenager says she hates road trips (although she always ends up enjoying them once we're on the road). I'd like to be able to present options to them, like, if we go route X we can see attractions A, B, C. versus route Y where we see attractions D, E, F.

    I spent about an hour staring at the U.S. map last night, trying to figure out which way we should go on the way back. I'm pretty sure the way out will include your suggestions of Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Devil's Tower, Custer (will have to check out the pie). I'd like to see Yellowstone.

    But which way to go after we go through the Badlands? Last time we went through Iowa and saw a lot of corn, then up through Chicago (didn't stop), and into Indiana before passing into Ohio. That part of the trip was mostly just driving; we didn't really know what to see and were getting ready to be there. This time, with older kids, there must be some sights to see between SD and OH.

    thanks everyone!

  6. #6
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    Oct 2008
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    Default

    From Rushmore, you can head out I-90 and see the Badlands and the Corn Palace. Then you can head down I-29 to Kansas City and across I-70 to St. Louis and visit the Gateway Arch. Stay on I-70 to Columbus and take I-71 to Cleveland. This also has the benefit of avoiding the Chicago traffic and the toll roads.

    Note that you should spend multiple days in Yellowstone in order to actually see it - it's a HUGE park. Plan your days accordingly. Lodging around Yellowstone is very expensive in season. If you go to Yellowstone, either enter or leave the park via the northeast entrance and drive the Beartooth Highway (US-212).

    You didn't specify exactly when you are taking this trip, but I'd avoid taking it around the time of the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally if you are going to Rushmore and anywhere near it.

  7. Default

    glc, on our last trip, around partway through Idaho, we started seeing a lot of motorcycles. And more each day until finally while trying (and failing) to find a hotel room near Mt Rushmore, we learned about Sturgis. We actually drove through the town to see the rally, since we were there.

    This trip will be in June, so no Sturgis for us this time.

    Is it really not realistic to see Yellowstone's highlights in a day? I have never been so do not know.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    One full day would be very rushed. It takes that long just to drive the roads, much less stop and see things. You need 2 full days.

    The closest thing to "budget" lodging near Yellowstone that I can personally recommend is the Evergreen Motel in West Yellowstone. Rates in June start at $125 per room per night.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Default

    There's just no way to see Yellowstone's highlights in a day - there's just too many of them, and the area is just too big. You've also got things like Geysers that don't work around your schedule and can require you to wait if you want to see them. Even 2 full days would require you to do a bit of picking and choosing just to see the most popular areas.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Default No, it is not, but....

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiki View Post
    Is it really not realistic to see Yellowstone's highlights in a day? I have never been so do not know.
    Seeing the highlights in a day is nigh near impossible, it is a big place.

    However, my first visit ever to Yellowstone was a 'drive thru'. I did not have time, nor the knowledge required as to what Yellowstone deserves. But I did see a lot. It whet my appetite for future visits, none of which have been more than two days, but all up is probably getting close to a week, seeing a different area each time.

    If you were to 'drive thru' Yellowstone and stop at Old Faithful (however long it takes), you will no doubt see lots of wildlife and the amazing landscape. Maybe it will whet your appetite to plan a trip there.

    I'd still drive through it - and see a little, rather than past it - and see nothing.

    Lifey

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