Let me preface this list by letting you know that we are SCENERY people, not CITY people. So if you fall into that category of traveler, this list is for you.
1) The Wilderness of New Mexico.
Driving from Roswell, NM to Four Corners Monument was one of the most desolate and beautiful drives I have ever been on. I could spend a month exploring New Mexico! The natural scenery, mountains, hills, and plants are so different than they are here in the east. It's also the least populated stretch of land I have ever seen. Put the Land of Enchantment on your must-see list.
2) Gold Bluff's Beach
Hands down the absolute coolest place I have ever been. Drive miles through redwood trees and get deposited onto the beach. Camp right on the sand here, and see tons of wildlife too. There aren't that many spots to camp here, and it is primitive (with a pretty nice bathroom-sink and toilets only), which meant we had the beach to ourselves. The drive, the view, and really everything about this place was magic.
3) Petaluma, CA
A detour around traffic took us through Petaluma, CA and it was such a cool town! There was a great vibe there, as well as local art, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Bank (SO COOL!), and some excellent food trucks!
4) Oregon Welcome Center
You kind of expect welcome centers to be functional, but not necessarily beautiful. The Oregon Welcome Center along the coast coming up from California was such a beautiful and lovely place to rest, stretch our legs, collect some driftwood, and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the continental US. Make sure you stop here if you're driving through the area!
5) Couer d' Alene, ID
We didn't actually stop here, and as far as I can tell, we didn't even get a photo! The drive through Idaho was unbelievably gorgeous--mountains, rivers, streams, trees, and all sorts of natural beauty surrounded us the entire way through. I would love to explore the whole state! I also can't wait to visit the Young Living Farm in St. Maries, ID which is very close to Couer D' Alene.
What places have you been that completely took you by surprise in a good way? Share them with me! I love a good surprise.
You Might Also Like:
Four Corners Monument has a certain appeal, no doubt about it. There is just something about being able to stand in 4 states at one time and check, check, check, check them off the bucket list. My oldest also really wanted see Four Corners, so that gave us the added initiative to add this stop to our road trip. Here are the most important things you need to know about Four Corners.
1) It's in the middle of nowhere. It's way, WAY out there with not much around except, of course, the beautiful scenery and gorgeous view. (We passed the coolest formation called Shiprock) so that's something to consider. Of course we were coming up towards it from Roswell, so you may have a different experience coming through one of the other states.
2) Be prepared for the opportunity to buy lots of things. It's somewhat of a tourist trap, but some of the handmade items there are absolutely gorgeous and we were kinda like, "Here. Take our money."
3) When you get there, you'll head straight for the 4 corners, but there will probably bean awkward line forming there. There is a 3 Picture Limit according to the signs placed around the monument, though I'm not sure how they would know if you took 3 or 50. I think the point is to be respectful of all the people who are there to do just what you are doing.
4) Don't be in such a hurry though. The signs sort of persuaded me to rush things along and I didn't even think to do some of the things I had wanted to do there, like, put each foot and hand in a different state, or kiss my hubby while in different states. We did get a photo of each of our kids in a different state, so I'll still call it a success.
Would we go again? No. I don't think so. But we are glad to have visited there once.
BONUS PRO TIP: Take note of where the sun is, and turn away from it for a picture with fewer squinty eyes and hand shaded faces. (Clearly, we were not yet pros when we took our photos...)
The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is amazing. If you are anywhere even remotely close to it, get there to see it! I actually don't know a whole lot about the construction of the dam, but I did take a dam selfie.
Sadly, we didn't take the dam tour, but we're actually just grateful that we made it there in time to see it at all! We made it in the nick of time, about 15 minutes before the dam closed. It was SO beautiful to look at. The dam is constructed beautifully, and the way the road winds around it makes for a really fun drive. Don't expect it to be cool when you open your car door though! It was blazing hot, even at 8:00 at night!
There were some surprises about visiting the Hoover Dam, based on the assumptions I made from watching the movie Fools Rush In.
1) The Hoover Dam is gated and patrolled. You don't just drive right up to it and hop out.
2) Consequently, the Dam has a closing time. Don't expect to drive right across it during the nighttime hours. I believe it closes somewhere around 8:00 or 9:00 PM
3) It is recommended that you DO NOT sit on the ledge around the dam.
4) You actually DO toss a coin in if you want to. We saw the evidence and added our wishes to the mix.
5) Remember to Enjoy the sight of fresh water... It's the last of it for a long time if you're heading west through the desert!
Rating 5 Stars- Would Definitely Go Again!
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of those places that conjures up mixed emotions. You've got the "It's just a hole in the ground" crowd, and then you've got the "WOW" crowd. We fall directly in the "WOW" crowd. It was 114 degrees when we were there, we walked a ton, climbed a bunch of steps and although we were direly thirsty and half of us were cramping up, I wouldn't trade it. Every once in a while, you get the privilege of being in a natural sanctuary, a place where you feel it's only appropriate to be silent, or possibly whisper a praise and you can stand there in awe for even just a moment. In my experience that's becoming increasingly rare, and I'm grateful for a moment just like that.:
Here are my top tips for enjoying the Grand Canyon:
1) Take water with you. Even when you get out of your car. We made a rookie mistake, and left our water in the car! It's the desert y'all. Take some water.
2) Plan to spend some time there. We only stopped at the first vantage point, even though there were many, We could have spent much longer there, but to be honest, we were wiped out from the heat (and our silly mistake mentioned above)
3) Even if you're going with your family, try to steal just a moment by yourself in this place. Take turns with the spouse holding onto the kid most likely to run towards a canyon, and sneak a moment in a place where peace echoes. And try not to feel like the moment was ruined when someone shouts ECHO (echo, echo...) into said canyon. And by someone, I mean your children. ;)
Roswell, New Mexico
We've been curious about Roswell for a long time. I mean, who isn't? Possible alien crash landing? Area 51? And tell me y'all have watched the show Roswell... If not, add it to the list and binge watch it on Netflix ASAP!
We were super excited to visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico. This is mostly due to the fact that I watched the show Roswell and knew that I should definitely go there! I had to convince at least one of our children that NEW Mexico is in the United States and that people speak English here. The museum was full of information, pictures, and displays of aliens. It was a really fun place to visit. It's not a giant museum, all on one level, and we spent about an hour, hour and a half, there exploring and looking through. We did not read everything there, but enjoyed it just the same.
EXPERT TIP: Play the license plate game in the parking lot of the museum! There were people from so many states and different countries there. It was definitely an attraction!
While in Roswell, most of the Alien fun is located on one central street, so make sure to walk up and down and take pictures with all the alien storefronts, and drop in to get a couple souvenirs. There was also a cool gemstone store on the corner where we picked up a lodestone, and a couple other treasures. The kids really enjoyed that store and got to see some bio luminescent rocks there which was really fun.
We allotted about 3-4 hours in Roswell, and I think we stayed around 2.5-3 hours total. All in all, it was great to see in person, and I'm very glad it was on our list of places to stop. It was so fun to be able to celebrate Father's Day with my husband and children in a place that he has wanted to visit since he was a teenager. Would we ever go back? Maybe. While I feel like we got the gist of the town, there is always more to see, and New Mexico is a beautiful state. It's actually on the short list of places to make a second visit to, so it's very possible we could see our way through this quirky city again.
The Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo,TX
If you are passing through Amarillo make sure you take the time to go to The Cadillac
Ranch. It is the only thing we had time to do in Amarillo as we were passing through, and it was worth the extra hour we spent there. Here's how you do the Cadillac Ranch:
1) Take spray paint with you. You will be defacing property--but don't worry, it's encouraged! Read all about it on Wikipedia-everything I read there was helpful.
2) When you get there, pull off on the side of the road and go through the cattle gate there. Then walk on over to the cadillacs and make your statement and take some photos!
3) Don't be too attached to the mark you leave behind. Someone will paint over it within the hour, most likely.
4) If you have kids, definitely take them with you! Our kids had a blast and they will probably never forget getting to spray paint there. (Side note-you may want to wear old clothes in case spray paint happens to get everywhere. Lesson learned the hard way...)
5) Take lots and lots of pictures! You're going to want to look back and remember this. :)
Radical Living for regular people
Mainstream is overrated.
Fund the Fun