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The Soapbox: The Unconnected Vacation

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Brandi Chambless

Every summer I attempt a road trip with one goal in mind: Reconnection.

When I say reconnect I mean with God, with myself, and with my loved ones. It pretty much works. Everytime.

It is no secret to moms, dads, and even teens everywhere that screens are stealing our lives away. This is one of the many reasons I have been attracted to natural settings and fun activities while on road trips that appeal to the senses as no screen ever can. Granted, there are some historical stops that are worth a little screen exposure, but, in general, my goal has been to discover the hidden jewels of America. You might be surprised at the choices available and with a simple picnic, some good music, and a cooler full of iced drinks in real glass bottles…life can be really good.

So, with that said, here some of my top picks for an American roadside adventure in alphabetical order by state (obviously Alaska and Hawaii will have some air travel first):

  1. Alabama – The Wharf Marina at Orange Beach
  2. Alaska – Denali National Park
  3. Arizona – Havasu Falls
  4. Arkansas – Brady Mountain Resort
  5. California – Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
  6. Colorado – Estes Park
  7. Connecticut – Bluff Point State Park
  8. Delaware – DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum, Fenwick Island
  9. Florida – Crab Island
  10. Georgia – Callaway Gardens
  11. Hawaii – Makapu’u Tide Pools (not for too small children)
  12. Idaho – Shoshone Falls
  13. Illinois – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  14. Indiana – Amish Acres
  15. Iowa – National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
  16. Kansas – Museum of World Treasures
  17. Kentucky – Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory
  18. Louisiana – Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours
  19. Maine – Fly fishing the Penobscot River
  20. Maryland – Antietam National Battlefield
  21. Massachusetts – Pilgrim Memorial State Park
  22. Michigan – Torch Lake
  23. Minnesota – Mystery Cave State Park
  24. Mississippi – Mississippi Petrified Forest
  25. Missouri – Meramac Caverns
  26. Montana – Glacier National Park
  27. Nebraska – Audubon Rowe Sanctuary
  28. Nevada – The Black Canyon
  29. New Hampshire – Cog Railway
  30. New Jersey – Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area
  31. New Mexico – White Sands National Monument
  32. New York – The Adirondack Park
  33. North Carolina – Bald Head Island Conservatory (by Ferry)
  34. North Dakota – International Peace Garden
  35. Ohio – Amish Country
  36. Oklahoma – Great Salt Plains State Park
  37. Oregon – Columbia Gorge Express
  38. Pennsylvania – Hershey’s Chocolate World
  39. Rhode Island – The Antique Yacht Collection
  40. South Carolina – Island Skiff Adventure Tours Hilton Head
  41. South Dakota – Black Hills & Badlands
  42. Tennessee – Mud Island River Park
  43. Texas – Big Bend
  44. Utah – Arches National Park
  45. Vermont – Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
  46. Virginia – Virginia Museum of the Civil War
  47. Washington – Hoh Rainforest
  48. West Virginia – The Greenbriar Falconry
  49. Wisconsin – Olbrich Botanical Gardens
  50. Wyoming – Pilot Butte Wild Horses

Having read through this list, I encourage you to make one of your own and intentionally plan a road trip that makes sense for you. It was extremely hard to select one location per state. There are hundreds. I issue a challenge to search for rainforests and mystical caves, salt mines and red desert rocks. These places can break up the digitally mundane moments of life for something far more thrilling.

In addition, don’t be afraid to be a total travel nerd and keep a log, and old family calendar, or the tradition of your choosing. I have historically bought a Christmas ornament at each stop, remembering the most meaningful ornaments in my collection like those my parents purchased while on a road trip such as the 1984 World Fair. Whether or not it is an ornament that ends up being that special keepsake—yes, buy the t-shirt, but, DO document the trip and the memories. Save it for that one day when it will make the most special gift ever.

The greatest gift, other than a journal, will be the connections made on a trip like this that can never be erased. As our children grow into adults and we grow older, let us raise a generation that knows how to slow down and spend quality time with other humans, the art of conversation, and how to laugh while relishing both the senses and intellect in nature’s playground. A good picnic in a faraway place will never be forgotten.

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About The Author

Brandi Chambless

Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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