Road Trip Boston to Boise
May 14, 2007 10:12 AM   Subscribe

[RoadTripFilter] Point me to some can't miss attractions/camping/lodging/whatever along I-80/I-84 From Ohio To Idaho.

My girlfriend and I are moving from Boston, MA to Boise, ID this summer and are planning on taking our time getting out there. We'll be visiting family in PA, and then heading west along (though not ON, for as much as we can manage) I-80, through Ohio all the way to Salt Lake City, and then shadow along I-84 to Boise.

I've read previous road trip questions here, and scoured What else do we need to see? We're not committed to that route precisely and have the time to take side-trips if something really interesting isn't quite on our route.

We're interested in anything and everything. Historical monuments, cultural attractions, beautiful natural formations, obvious idiotic tourist traps, and everything inbetween. We're also looking for interesting places to stay: especially haunted inns/b&b/etc and places to camp.

I've annotated the route with possible stops I've found already at google maps , please feel free to comment on those possibilities as well if you're familiar with any of them.
posted by ThePants to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you don't mind adding some miles to your route, I-90 through South Dakota is far more interesting than I-80 through Nebraska. You can see the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, Wall Drug, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse, and then drop down to Carhenge. These were all stops on a roadtrip my boyfriend and I took in the other direction last summer, and they were fantastic! The New Belgium Brewery and the Swetsville Zoo, both in Ft. Collins, Colorado were also beyond awesome.
posted by MsMolly at 10:35 AM on May 14, 2007

If you do take I-80 through Nebraska, although I agree with MsMolly's advice to skip it, be sure to stop at Ole's Big Game bar in Paxton, exit 145.
Be sure to stop at the Mississippi when you cross over. IIRC, you can get down to the river bank if you take the first Iowa exit just over the bridge. I don't recommend getting your feet wet, but it's worth skipping a few rocks across the water.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:50 AM on May 14, 2007

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Its about 15 - 20 miles north of the I-80 corridor. Its thought by many to be the best seasonal amusement park in the country if not the world.

On Preview: Just checked your map and you do list Cedar Point. Good for you. Not sure when you are coming but if you can wait until middle of June their new roller coaster will be opened. Also, try to visit during the middle of the week as opposed to the weekend. You'll enjoy yourself much more. PointBuzz is a very comprehensive fan site for the park where you can learn lots and ask questions. Also e-mail in the profile if you have any for me.
posted by mmascolino at 10:53 AM on May 14, 2007

I was going to recommend Starved Rock stat park when I saw that you already had it on your list. It's a beautiful place, highly recommended, A+++++++ would do business with again.
posted by indyz at 11:02 AM on May 14, 2007

There is also Badlands National Park and several wonderful caverns, like Wind Cave and Jewel Cave near Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. There are some fantastic tourist traps in that area too, like Reptile Gardens and Bear Country, USA. South Dakota tourism websites will throw a lot at you, I'm sure. I cut my tourism teeth in that neck of the woods. Lots of fun!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:07 AM on May 14, 2007

I also see that you are passing by Chicago and its collection of museums are world class: Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry (German Submarine! Coal Mine tour!), Art Institute of Chicago, and the Shedd Aquarium.
posted by mmascolino at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2007

As a native Nebraskan, let me disagree with others in this thread, and suggest that instead of avoiding Nebraska, or blasting through it at 80 mph, with your windows up, as many are wont to do, that you not only slow down, but actually stop. It's a big state, and you'll need to stop, anyway. It does have its points of interest, and its own kind of beauty, too.

In Nebraska, I-80 passes about 3 miles south of the state capitol, Lincoln. It's a testament to the common sense of Nebraskans that they didn't divert the route of the Interstate to pass closer to the capitol, but just built a spur (I-180) out to it. There's a rest area just before the exit for Lincoln that is worth pulling off for. You get a nice view of Lincoln off in the distance, and a great view of some small patches of land allowed to go back, as much as possible, to Prairie ecology. Seeing this up close, as you must, to see it at all, is to hold a much better appreciation of the Prairie landscape, as you roll across it, for all those miles that you will.

The Nebraska state capitol building is one of the most interesting in the U.S., and it's been recently renovated. It's the only state to have a unicameral legislature, too. Several good places to eat within walking distance of the capitol building, and parking is never a problem. If you want to take your picture with some bison in the background, Pioneer Park can fill the bill.

Along I-80, through much of Nebraska, you'll be following the Platte River valley. You'll be too late to witness the annual migration stop overs of sand hill cranes at the Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon (a bit west of Grand Island), but it's still a great place to stop, and take a short hike into the river valley. Depending on your schedule, and appetite for side trips, I'd also suggest a visit to the Willa Cather Foundation sites around Red Cloud, about 60 miles south of I-80. Getting off the Interstate, you get a different perspective of the Sand Hills.
posted by paulsc at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Exit 426 off of I-80 in Nebraska has the Strategic Air Command Museum, Mahoney State Park, and a drive-through wild animal park. Mahoney has cabins, a lodge, and camping if you want a place to stay. They also have a nice restaurant with a view of the river and a very, very tall observation tower which is challenging for those with a fear of heights (like myself).
posted by Ostara at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2007

In southern Idaho, don't miss Craters of the Moon National Monument. And, if you're the geeky type, Idaho National Labs near Arco; stop and see the world's first nuclear reactor, EBR-1, and look at prototype nuclear jet engines that are just sitting in the parket lot.

Also, the I-80 through Wyoming is pleasant in a wide-open west kind of way, but a little dull. I've been across the state a few times and I enjoyed it a lot more when I went straight through the middle on smaller highways. In the south it's high plains. In the middle and north, there are more mountains and valleys and canyons. And there's Yellowstone, of course, but if you're moving to Boise I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to make it down there; Yellowstone warrants a few days on its own. (it is well worth the trip. especially if you've never had the opportunity to see a herd of bison wandering around.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:08 PM on May 14, 2007

When I made a trip in the reverse direction (Seattle to Iowa) last Fall, I stopped at: Crater Lake (Oregon), Arco/INL/Craters of the Moon, Idaho Falls, Jackson Hole, Grand Teton/Yellowstone NPs, the Bighorn Mountains, Devils Tower, and The Badlands.

The majority of my trip was on US 14/20 and I90.

Looking at your google map, if you are going through Utah, you might as well swing through Canyonlands NP too.

Starting this year, there is a different deal for the National Parks Pass. It is $80 but counts for admission to all pretty much all Federally Managed lands (FS, NPS, USF&WS, BLM) so, it's still a good deal if you will be living out west. Yellowstone is $25, Crater Lake was $10 (might go up to $20). It boes not cover use of campgrounds though (~$15/night).

Make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory/film for your camera, you'll need them.

There's a lot to see out there, but it is separated by long stretches of Nothing, so make sure you don't overextend yourself on driving.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2007

heh, boes not...
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:26 PM on May 14, 2007

Also, something I learned on that trip: You are not taking enough pictures. Really. If you think you have taken enough, take at least 5 more...
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:29 PM on May 14, 2007

In Idaho I would stop at City of Rocks National Reserve. I love that place. Love it. Great places to camp and wander and it is damned far from everything--and, the rocks are gorgeous. Of course, I'm a climber...but, I have hiked and camped there, too.

If you can add a little time I would skip driving across southern Wyoming (gag) and instead drive across Colorado. Email me if you do this route and I can give you CO suggestions.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:14 PM on May 14, 2007

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