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Recently, my family drove 15 minutes from our home for a short hike to enjoy a stunning waterfall.
Here’s the strange part about that trip. I had either never been to it, or had been when I was way too young to remember or appreciate it.
Fifteen minutes from home.
This experience got me thinking.
Do people that have always lived in New York visit the Statue of Liberty on a day trip? My guess is probably not because they don’t see it the same way as someone who plans an entire trip around it. It’s just part of “home.”
The best way to plan a day trip where you live is to think like a tourist!
If you type in the name of your state plus the word tourism in Google, a box is going to come up at the top with images of Popular Destinations. Below that will be a sub-heading for more destinations in (your state), click on that.
What comes up next is a fantastic resource for planning a day trip!
If you live in an area that borders a nearby state, do a search for that one as well.
If you need another springboard for ideas, use the places described below to get you thinking about the best places to go on a day trip near you for family fun!
- The Quirky & Unusual
Less than an hour’s drive of where we live are some of the following:
- a fake hospital for baby dolls that people travel from all over the world to visit… not kidding, a $2.5 million dollar building where “nurses” deliver baby dolls (and you adopt them for a price)
- a place where you can pedal a cup of food up a wire to a goat waiting on the roof of a building
- a premium zip line adventure where you can take a hike through the sky and spend the night in a teepee (complete with wi-fi lol)
Think about those places you drive by or have grown used to, but others might find as pure fun (or strange) and entertaining when considering a day trip near your home.
Sometimes we overlook these places in our own backdoor because they are not a new destination or experience.
However, they make some of the best opportunities for a day trip and creating new memories with family and friends!
There are trails in every state. These offer outdoor fun, exercise, and a lot of them are free.
Getting out on a trail allows your family to enjoy nature, each other, and time away from the noise that is always competing for our attention.
Trails provide scenery and learning experiences that the whole family can enjoy. Many are bicycle or pet friendly so everyone can join in on the fun.
3. Historic Sites
My husband is a bit of a history buff, and we make a lot of stops off the beaten path to visit historical sites. To be completely honest, I’m not as enthusiastic as he is.
When I really stop to think about what it means to be standing where events took place that forever changed the future, then I get it.
Kudos to all of the history buffs who are able to easily step back in time and appreciate these places for what they really are…
treasures that make for a great day trip!
State parks and local parks have much to offer on a day trip.
They are places to enjoy everything from picnics and playgrounds to splashing in a creek and fishing.
Sometimes campgrounds offer a daily pass rate for families to enjoy the amenities without staying on a site.
5. No destination
Just take a drive for a day trip and see what you can find and where you end up! No agenda, no set destination, just setting out to see whatever you want.
These adventures can end up creating some of the most favorite memories!
If you’re doing this with children, then you may want to consider this list of essentials for a car full of kids:]
6. Downtown areas
Quaint downtown areas are often passed by for the bigger city areas and shopping malls. It’s too bad!
Downtown areas may be smaller and without all the bells and whistles, but they have some wonderful old buildings and old-fashioned shopping.
Especially during the holiday season, downtown areas offer a picturesque way to spend time with the family.
Each Christmas season, we have an 50 year old furniture store that fills their display windows with local performers acting out Christmas scenes. They sell hot chocolate and let kids get their picture taken with Santa. Norman Rockwell would have loved it!
Museums offer valuable learning experiences. They provide opportunities to explore art and culture that you can’t get from a book or the Internet.
Children’s museums are both educational and entertaining for a day trip for families with young kids. Experiences are both a great use of time and money.
8. On the water
If the location and weather works out for a day on or near water, that’s a great way to spend the day with family.
Swimming, boating, fishing, tubing… all offer a way to stay cool on a hot summer day and enjoy time with friends and family.
If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of an indoor water park, those are always a favorite for kids that can’t get enough of water fun.
9. Family “Field Trips”
If you Google [Name of State + Field Trips] you are going to get a ton of ideas that homeschool or education groups use to plan trips for students.
You may find places near home that offer tours of a facility or workshops to learn how different things or made.
These offer front row seats (many times free) to watch candles being carved, glassforming, wood carving or the art of blacksmithing.
These skills take on a whole new meaning when you are able to see them in action.
Some of these ideas have a cost associated, but it’s usually a bargain for what’s considered a “mini-vacation” that doesn’t require a hotel stay.
If you’re looking for free family day trip ideas, check out…
What have you done for a day of family fun close to home?