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NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

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NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

We are in the process of planning our annual family summer trip for this year and thought that instead of flying to our destination , we would make the journey part of the trip. We live in NYC and would like to drive to visit family in Kansas City, then drive back. Google maps says it's about 19 hours each way, so we are thinking of 5 days for the drive there, 5 days in KC, then 5 days back (last week in June and first week in July). We will be renting a minivan to make the ride easier for the kids. Does this seem reasonable?

If so, the next question is routes/activities. "We" are my wife and I, plus our 3 boys (14, 12, and 5). We love beautiful scenery and national parks (I realize we're driving the wrong half of the country), interesting museums, caves, and other unique local features. We are not interested in stopping to see a zoo, children's museum, and science museum just because we're in a city that has them.

Some places I've found that I think we'd enjoy are:

Mammoth Cave (somewhat out of the way, but the only NP in the area)

Air Force Museum (Dayton)

City Museum (St. Louis - a smashing success last summer)

Indianapolis - Indy 500 (is there anything to see?), Children's Museum I've heard is great

Falling Water (PA)

The Wilds (OH)

Lancaster, PA (we were there a few years ago, how does Amish Ohio compare, and how far out of the way is it?)

Abe Lincoln stuff in Springfield (IL)

Cincinnati - we have friends there we'd like to visit, any recommended activities?

Pittsburgh - any good stops?

From Google Maps, it seems that NYC -> Western PA on I-70, and St. Louis -> KC on I-70 are the way to go (unless I-80 across northern PA is worth taking in one direction?), but from Western PA to St. Louis, it seems that we can stay on 70 through Dayton and Indianapolis going, and then come back by 64 and 71 through Louisville (and Mammoth) and Cincinnati. Does this seem to make the most sense?

The only other option I'm considering is to detour in one direction through Chicago, as my kids would love Willis/Sears Tower and bike riding by the lake, plus a museum or two. Is this worth it, or will it take me too far out of my way? If I do go the north route, is there anything in Cleveland to throw in as well?

Sorry for all of the confusion, and thanks in advance for any advice and assistance!

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1. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

Attractions in Cleveland that your children might enjoy include the U.S.S. Cod, the Steamship Mather, the West Side Market, and perhaps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum if they have an interest in rock. However, your youngest might be happier visiting the Great Lakes Science Center next to the Rock Hall. The Mather is an ASME mechanical engineering landmark.



If in Cleveland on a weekend afternoon, you also could visit the Terminal Tower observation deck, perhaps seeing lake freighters navigating the Cuyahoga River. See the 10/27/12 review here:


You also might check out Lake View Cemetery if you want a little history on your trip. It features the grave site of John D. Rockefeller and the Garfield Monument, the largest of all presidential monuments.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square also is one of the best and most unique urban Civil War memorials. It features both women and African Americans in its statuary depictions.


I know you said no art museums, but Cleveland has one of the best in the U.S. and admission to its general galleries is free so you could leave when your kids become bored. I don't remember if the Met has an armor court like Philadelphia, but the Cleveland Museum of Art has a good one especially enjoyed by boys. The CMA also has introduced digital technology currently not available in any other museum in the U.S. and it reportedly fascinates kids of all ages.



Does your family enjoy thrill parks? Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is the roller coaster capital of the world, and also has much to amuse a five-year-old if the parents are willing to split up. There are several water parks in Sandusky, including one at Cedar Point.

Check out Ohio Amish country and the Lake Erie islands as well in the following travel article.


Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island features Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, the most massive Doric column in the world topped by a 31-story observation deck, higher than the torch of the Statue of Liberty. From the deck you can view the site of the Battle of Lake Erie, one of the most consequential naval battles in American history. This year will mark the bicentennial of the battle. The memorial is the only peace memorial administered by the National Park Service.

Put-in-Bay also has the world's largest geode.


Kelleys Island has reportedly the largest easily accessed glacial grooves as well as cozy beaches.

The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI, is one of the foremost history destinations in the U.S. Definitely consider taking the Rouge factory tour if production is taking place.

Also consider Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the rest of the beautiful eastern shore of Lake Michigan on your way to Chicago. See post 20 in this thread.


The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park also is in Dayton.


If you visit The Wilds, go first thing in the morning on a hot day or the animals won't be active. Sunset tours also are a possibility, but they are usually booked far in advance. Consider visiting the nearby mouth of the Big Muskie which created The Wilds for a good photo-op.


In nearby Zanesville, you can visit the "Y" bridge (see last paragraph in the following link) and Tom's Ice Cream Bowl, a popular ice cream parlor frozen in the 1950s.


Other attractions in south central Ohio, not far from I-70, include the Tecumseh Outdoor Drama in Chillicothe and the Hocking Hills. The Tecumseh drama offers a behind-the-scenes tour featuring demonstrations by the show's stuntmen.



In Cincinnati, there is a good aquarium, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and you might enjoy walking across the Ohio River on the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, the direct ancestor of the Brooklyn Bridge by almost two decades.


Where do you plan to celebrate July 4th? Both Cleveland and Columbus have some spectacular celebrations.

You also might be surprised by the quality of the zoos in Ohio.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo claims to have the largest collection of primates in the U.S., it has one of the nation's best Rain Forest exhibits, and its new world-class African Elephant Crossing features the larger African elephants rather than the Asian elephants on display at many zoos. Visitors can view procedures in its veterinary hospital, feed its giraffes (at 2 p.m.?) and ride its camels. Don't visit the Cleveland zoo on Mondays in the summer as the admission fee is waived for residents of Cuyahoga County and the zoo can be very crowded.

The Columbus Zoo has been ranked as one of the best in the U.S. and also has a water park.

Good planning!

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2. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

In Pittsburgh, you could take the Duquesne Incline up Mt. Washington to see one of the best cityscapes in the U.S. and the birth of the Ohio River.

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3. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

Amish country in Ohio-- I have been told it's less commercial than Pa. Sits sort of between Columbus and Cleveland. Should you venture there, friends of mine from out of state loved this: http://www.yodersamishhome.com/

Air force museum in Dayton is great-- I your trip tharu the area coincides with the Dayton Airshow... VERY cool! http://www.daytonairshow.com/

Columbus zoo is rated best in the nation and has a waterpark attached. I know you're not particular interested in zoos, but it really is a good one.

http://www.colszoo.org/ The Wilds and the zoo are teamed up. Have not been to the wilds yet, but our photo club went and really enjoyed it.

En route from Mammoth Cave to Cincinnati-- Lexington, Ky is a beautiful place. Tons of horse farms-- Can tour a horse farm if any are interested in that. tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g39588-d17…

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4. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

In many respects, I enjoy the Cleveland zoo more than the one in Columbus, but they have different featured exhibits. If you're going to visit just one zoo, you might want to compare exhibits and activities. Two of my favorite exhibits in Columbus are the manatees and the polar bear exhibit, where you can view polar bears from the bottom of a pool in which they swim.

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5. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way


TE and Wings1980 have given you some great suggestions.

Here are a few more:

INDIANAPOLIS - http://visitindy.com/

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art as an extensive collection of native American artifacts that is quite interesting.


The museum is located in the White River State Park complex with the NCAA Hall of Champions, IMAX theater, and the Indianapolis Zoo. There's also Victory Field, home to the minor league Indianapolis Indians.



Of course, as you already mentioned, there's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


North of town, there's Connor Prairie, an interactive history park.


In downtown Indy (and Broad Ripple and Carmel), there's a pizza place called Bazbeaux's that has some really good pizza.


SPRINGFIELD, IL - http://www.visit-springfieldillinois.com/

If you can, I'd encourage a swing through Springfield to see the Lincoln sites. There's his home, the state capitol, his office, the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library, New Salem, and his tomb.





Of course, as you pass through St. Louis, you can stop to take a ride to the top of the arch.


On your return trip, you can swing through Louisville, Lexington, the New River Gorge near Beckley, WV, and perhaps into western Virginia to see Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello and drive part of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

LOUISVILLE - http://www.gotolouisville.com/index.aspx

Of course, there's Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger facility, and there's a bit of Lewis & Clark history in the Louisville area.




Of course, south of Louisville are Mammoth Cave and the Lincoln Birthplace Historical Site.



Near BECKLEY, WV, there's a small center featuring the art of local artisans and craftsmen.


And the New River Gorge:


On your way into Virginia, you can stop at the Greenbrier hotel for a look around:


In Charlottesville, there's Monticello:


And you can drive the Skyline Drive:


For a little Civil War history, you can stop at Antietam and Gettysburg (the Battle of Gettysburg was fought 150 years ago 1-3 July).



That should give you plenty to think about for your trip. Here's an interesting site for quirky roadside attractions along whatever route you select:


As far as some of your other ideas are concerned:

Fallingwater - Very interesting site. Make tour reservations in advance, especially on weekends.

Going to Chicago - Great city (where I grew up) with tons to see and do.


Navy Pier - http://www.navypier.com/

Field Museum of Natural History - Tyrannosaurus Sue -



The Adler Planetarium - http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/

The John G. Shedd Aquarium - http://www.sheddaquarium.org/

The Art Institute of Chicago - http://www.artic.edu/ (Has the classic Grant Wood painting "American Gothic"--the farmer with the pitchfork and his wife.

Based on your timing, you'd likely miss the Taste of Chicago (10-14 July), where millions of people come to Grant Park to taste food from dozens of Chicago restaurants.

Although if you're there for the 4th of July, there's a huge fireworks show along the lake front. Go atop the John Hancock center for a unique view of the show.

I hate to say this about the town that I grew up in, but you've heard the news reports of all the shootings and murders that happened there in 2012. The downtown and lake front areas are generally as safe as any other large city.

I don't like to generalize because there are pockets of good in with the bad, but it's generally the sections south and west of downtown that experience the higher violent crime rates. You'll be fine traveling through those areas on the interstates, but would avoid getting off onto surface streets in some parts of town.

The Chicago Sun-Times put together an interesting map of where all the shootings and murders took place in 2012. It can be a good tool to give you a sense of where NOT to go in the city:


Would I let it deter you from visiting the city? Absolutely not. I just don't want to see someone unfamiliar with the city unnecessarily put themselves in harm's way because they weren't educated about the risks.

Enjoy your trip!

Edited: 11 February 2013, 17:01
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6. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

The Hocking Hills are considered one of the most beautiful locations in Ohio. Trails range from easy to difficult. I've done them all with little kids, but you have to be very careful when walking near cliffs, especially when the trails are slippery. The Hocking Hills parks are something like a kids' adventure fantasy out of a Disney movie.

The Hocking Hills are best visited after recent rainfalls as water features are rain-fed.


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7. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

The New River Gorge likely offers the best rafting east of the Mississippi River. I would recommend it, but my guess is that your 5-year-old is too young for a raft trip there, but I didn't check that out.

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8. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

King's Island, a sister thrill park of Cedar Point but less acclaimed, is located near Dayton.

9. Re: NYC to Kansas City RT - 5 days each way

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