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Finding “Americana” in Your Backyard

If you’re looking for a great way to spend time as a family without spending a lot of money, try a family road trip. Planning the trip can be half the fun.  Get the whole family involved in finding fun places to visit and interesting places to stop.

From state parks and pop culture locations to obscure monuments and GIANT statues, “Americana” is easier to find and cheaper to explore than you may think!

Your local library or bookstore is the perfect place to start.  Weather you are looking for a weekend destination or simply a place to stop and break up the long drive to grandma’s house, there are a number of fantastic resource books that will help you find where “Americana” is lurking in your backyard!

  • 1000 Places To See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die by Patricia Schultz is filled with countless ideas for fun and educational weekend and day trips.  In addition to State and National Parks, these books highlight lesser-known attractions too.  For example, the Bruce’s from Downsized live in Phoenix and could easily travel back in time to the Wild West on a weekend road trip to Tombstone.
  • James Dean Died Here by Chris Epting highlights the locations of great pop culture landmarks.  It includes everything from where Apple Computer was born to the sites of famous assassinations. One interesting stop in the Bruce’s home state is the Arizona Meteor Crater, which is 550 feet deep and 2.4 miles wide!
  • Weird U.S. by Moran Sceurman is your guide to America’s local legends and best-kept secrets.  It highlights everything from haunted places to unexplained phenomena. If your family loves the obscure and just plain weird, this is the perfect book for you. If the Bruce’s are ever taking a drive along Interstate 10 in Arizona, they may want to take a short detour and see the “Thing” which you can visit for just $1.
  • The Great American Road Trip by Eric Peterson is your go to resource for finding the best roadside attractions.  From the world’s largest ball of twine to the giant dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, you will find it in this book.  Arizona has a number of interesting attractions, but the Bruce’s won’t want to miss the Longhorn Grill in Amado, AZ.  As the name eludes, this restaurant is shaped like a GIANT longhorn skull.
  • Another amazing resource for planning your next road trip is a good old fashion Atlas.  Most road atlases highlight points of interest and historical monuments.  When mapping out your next drive, check the atlas to see if there are any fun points of interest on the way.

In addition to being a mom of two toddlers, Cindy McCarthy is an explorer of kid-sized fun and author of, a blog that highlights where to go eat, shop, play and learn in Chicago. You can also follow Cindy on Twitter or on Facebook.