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Ever since we discovered the existence of a little place called The Clown Motel, we knew we had to go. I mean, it’s world famous. We finally got our chance last summer when we set off on a road trip from Missouri to California and back. This motel in Tonopah, Nevada, is decorated with clowns inside and out, and if that’s not creepy enough, it’s also right next door to an old cemetery. Seems like the perfect place to get a restful night’s sleep, right? The Clown Motel Lobby and Gift Shop We’d just spent two nights in Yosemite National Park, so we arrived from the west. The Clown Motel is one of the first things you see as you pull into town from that direction. I have to admit, it was a welcome sight after driving through some pretty bland areas. I know. Yosemite spoiled us! Even if you…

As we learned about visiting Alcatraz, it was soon apparent that the Alcatraz Night Tour was the option for us. We initially weren’t planning to stay in San Francisco on this road trip; we planned to drive through on our way to Yosemite National Park from Monterey, California. But as we planned our trip, we realized we’d need to stay a night near San Francisco. So why not check out some of the attractions in the city? And though the Alcatraz Night Tour isn’t technically a ghost tour, the description sounded close enough. After all, we love a good ghost tour in a new city. Planning Our Alcatraz Night Tour To visit Alcatraz, you need to buy tickets for a tour, and the tickets are only available through the Alcatraz Island Tickets website. If you purchase tickets from another source, they may not be valid. If you visit Alcatraz during…

If you’re heading to San Francisco, you simply must plan to spend some time in Chinatown, the oldest in North America and the largest outside of Asia. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a sensory delight; the art, the food, the music, the shopping–China’s culture is a fantastic experience and was a highlight of our road trip. Though we only spent a few hours there, it’s one of my family’s favorite memories. Planning Our Visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown We only spent one night in San Francisco, but our limited time was packed with experiences. Honestly, as we planned this three-week road trip from Missouri, we didn’t initially plan to stay in San Francisco; we intended to drive on through. I thought San Francisco would be its own trip for us one day. As we continued to plan, we realized that we’d be staying somewhere nearby anyway as we drove from Monterey…

When we visit national parks, we often stay on-site in a national park lodge if it makes sense for that visit.  For our first visit to the Grand Canyon, we knew we wanted to check out the Grand Canyon Village, so why not stay the night there? Located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona, Grand Canyon Village features lodging, shopping, and dining options right along the canyon. There are several benefits to staying right on property at a national park lodge; one of our favorites is to see park features at different times of the day. We hoped that during our Grand Canyon visit that we could see the light changes at sunset and sunrise. Another benefit is that often the day visitors thin out as dusk approaches and you may get to experience the park with fewer people. And often, national…

If you spend enough time driving Route 66 and learning about the highlights along the way, you’ll inevitably stumble upon the El Rancho Hotel and its movie star history. When we found ourselves driving through the American Southwest, we couldn’t resist staying a night. Located right on Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico, this historic hotel is not only a fun place to sleep, it’s also a fun Route 66 attraction that will have you looking in every nook and cranny for its surprises. History of El Rancho Hotel In the 1930s, a man named R.E. Griffith, known as Griff, came to Gallup. He liked the area enough that he decided to build a hotel, so he hired Joe Massaglia to build the hotel on Route 66. In 1936, the hotel was completed. Griff’s brother, movie director D.W. Griffith, used the hotel to house movie stars and production crews that…

One of the places we visited while in the Pacific Northwest was Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. We wanted to visit during low tide so we could maybe see some aquatic life in the nooks and crannies, and evening was the perfect time for our schedule since we had limited time in the area. For a first-time visit, we scratched the surface of Olympic National Park, and now we know we want to visit again someday. Earlier in the afternoon, we arrived in Forks, Washington. That’s right. The setting Stephanie Meyer chose for her Twilight books. We found some of the locations that inspired the different locations in the books, and we checked out the Twilight Forever exhibit in town. We had dinner in La Push (baby!) and even stayed in a Twilight-themed room at the Pacific Inn in Forks. To read all about that adventure, click here. But…

When traveling along Route 66, it’s fun to stop at the various roadside attractions you’ll encounter, both original to when Route 66 was in its prime and the newer stops that have resulted in renewed interest in Route 66. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those newer attractions. Located about 50 miles south of Springfield, Illinois, in Staunton, we found the ranch to be a well-timed stop when we made our trip home from Springfield to Joplin. And it’s a lot of fun! Henry’s Rabbit Ranch: A Little Background Rich Henry, the owner of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch, launched the attraction in 1999 after he came to the rescue of his daughter who needed help with her rabbits that had multiplied. Rich was glad to help, and eventually, the rabbits made their home at the ranch. Over the years, rabbits have come and gone. You can even pay your respects in…

When you think about Kansas City, “steamboat” is probably not the first word to pop into your mind. But if you’re visiting Kansas City, the Arabia Steamboat Museum may just turn out to be one of your favorite experiences. The museum is located on the Missouri side of Kansas City at the City Market, a great place to visit on its own. If you go on a Saturday, the area will have booths set up in addition to the normal shopping and food choices. You can shop for crafts, flowers, produce, and food. There are plenty of things to sample here! It’s like a farmer’s market on steroids. And if you’re staying near the free KC Streetcar, hop on the streetcar at one of the stops and ride it to the end of the line. This is exactly what we did during our visit; it was a nice ride through…

When my birthday rolled around in July, we were ready to get out of town for a few days. After examining a few possibilities, we settled on Nashville. Besides a quick stroll downtown a few years ago, I hadn’t been since I was a teenager. When I discovered that I could get tickets to the Grand Ole Opry on my birthday, I knew what I had to do: We’d be launching my next trip around the sun with Nashville’s historic show. Country Music and Me I won’t lie; I’m not a huge country music fan. I can look at some acts in the past with nostalgia; I remember road trips with my family as Johnny Cash, Elvis, or the Everly Brothers played on the radio. And I love some of the big names over the years–Dolly, Patsy, Loretta, The Judds, and Alabama. If you’re my age, you lived through the…

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