A Summer Road Trip Full of Forts, The Grandest of Canyons, and Local Toy Stores!

An Epic Summer Road Trip - With Bonus Stops at Local Toy Stores

An Epic Summer Road Trip - With Bonus Stops at Local Toy Stores

Summer is here and it’s a great time to take a road trip across the country. The USA really does have an amazing variety of things to see. There are historical sites, like the many forts used in battles, and there are gorgeous displays of nature, like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. We’ve compiled a list that has one of the top places to visit in each state and we’ve also given you info on a local and independent toy store near there. Landmarks and toy stores? Sounds like an amazing trip across the US.

ALABAMA - Fort Morgan: This star fort (a fort shaped like a star) was made famous for its role in the Civil War. The location is incredible as it is situated on a tiny peninsula in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. On your way to this southern most point of Alabama, stop in at Fantasy Island Toys in Fairhope, AL for a chance to grab some new toys!.

Denali -  by Christoph Strässler (creative Commons)

Denali -  by Christoph Strässler (creative Commons)

ALASKA - Denali (also known as Mount McKinley): This is the highest mountain in all of North America and the world’s third most prominent peak. Alaska is famed for its natural beauty and getting up close and personal with the Denali range would be a great way to see that beauty. Before making the trip up to Denali, stop in to Anchorage for some supplies and also to visit the toy store, Over the Rainbow. At this toy store you can see what you want to add to your holiday wishlists! 

ARKANSAS - Fort Smith: An area that looks like it was lifted right off the screen of an old cowboy western movie, Fort Smith has many historical sites to explore. Spend some time learning more about the Trail of Tears - when Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokee nation off of its land and into Oklahoma. In Little Rock, AK visit the toy store the Knowledge Tree.

General Sherman - California - used through Creative Commons

General Sherman - California - used through Creative Commons

CALIFORNIA - Sequoia National Park: Tough to choose one spot to visit from all of California - a state that is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the country. With places like Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more, it is a GIGANTIC tree that tops them all. In Sequoia National Park you will find General Sherman, the largest tree on Earth. Kids and adults alike stare in amazement at the incredible work of Mother Nature. 275 feet high and 25 feet wide, this thing is incredible. Near the Sequoias check out the toy store Professor Toy to find out what the hottest new toys are. 

COLORADO - Dinosaur National Monument: There are lots of great things to see and do in Colorado (Fort Boards was just there for ASTRA) but if we’re only recommending one it’s going to be to go see some dinosaur fossils. How amazing to look at something from almost 200 million years ago! On your way out there check out the fabulous children’s clothing and toy store, Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toys and peruse their selection of amazing toys. 

CONNECTICUT - Mystic Seaport: Learn about America’s maritime history. At the Mystic Seaport you’ll find the only surviving wooden ship from the nineteenth-century American whaling fleet. So much history has been wonderfully preserved in this town. Nearby the toy store to check out is The Toy Room for their selection of quality fun and educational toys. 

DELAWARE - Brandywine Valley: The site of the Battle of Brandywine, a battle that saw the intertwining of George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Alexander Hamilton, all key characters in the smash Broadway musical, Hamilton. Fans of the musical can get more historical background on those characters but anyone else should also enjoy being immersed in American history. Check out the toy store, Kid’s Ketch in Lewes, DE for their great selection - especially building and construction toys. .

Kennedy Space Center in FL  permission: creative commons

Kennedy Space Center in FL permission: creative commons

FLORIDA - Kennedy Space Center: Space, the final frontier, is always going to be interesting. So many children imagine being an astronaut rocketing out to space and at the Kennedy Space Center their pretend play will be all the more real. There are play areas specifically geared for little kids as well,  because we know that play is learning too! Since you’re there, you should check out the gift shop for its wide array of toys with a focus on STEM learning.

GEORGIA - The King Center: This museum, dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.’s early life, continues Dr. King’s mission and philosophy of nonviolence to eliminate poverty, racism and violence. This message is still as important as it was in the 1950’s (if not more) and the King Center regularly draws in engaged visitors to share that message. The specialty toy store that is right near there is Rhen’s Nest Toy Shop

HAWAII - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: How your road trip gets you to Hawaii is up to you (though there must be some reason that there are interstate highways on the island). On the Big Island you will find Volcanoes National Park -such an amazing place! There are sulfur banks all around that give off a noticeable heat and smell (careful not to breathe in too much!), there are steam vents shooting constant plumes of steam out, there is a rain forest to hike through, and of course there is a volcano. Stay till night time so you can fully appreciate the glow coming from inside this active volcano. There aren’t many places to get toys on the Big Island but luckily there is a Target on the island. 

IDAHO - Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: Just in case you can’t drive to Hawaii, there is a volcano in Idaho you can check out. Named Craters of the Moon because of the distinct surfaces created by lava tubes, it might be the closest you’ll come to walking on the moon. In the nearby town of Idaho Falls you can find the really cool toy store, WeeBee.

ILLINOIS - Museum of Science and Industry: There are many great places to see in Illinois. The Abraham Lincoln museum, Wrigley Field, or Sears Tower are among the many sites to check out. But a good (and engaging) museum is tough to beat and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is just that. They currently have an exhibit showcasing incredible LEGO structures! Finding an independent toy store in Chicago is easy (it is the homebase of ASTRA after all) but choosing one is difficult. We’d recommend checking out Play in Logan Square for a wide selection of awesome games and tools of play.

INDIANA - Studebaker Museum:  Fort Boards are distributed out of Indiana as well. The state has a rich history in the manufacturing industry and a great place to learn more about that history is the Studebaker Museum. Perfect for any car lover and interesting even if cars aren’t your thing. Learn more about America’s industrial revolution and see some gorgeous vintage cars too! Nearby there is a wonderful toy store called Explorations Toys where you can get toy cars or a bunch of creative learning toys too. 

IOWA - The Fort Museum: An under-the-radar attraction, the Fort Museum in Fort Dodge, Iowa is a great place to get some US history through interactive exhibits. Explore what frontier life was like and kids can get a sense for the world before cell phones! Head over to Urbandale, Iowa and check out the Learning Post to pick up some new toys!

Dodge City - permission: Creative Commons

Dodge City - permission: Creative Commons

KANSAS - Dodge City: You’ve of course heard the saying, “Get the heck out of Dodge” but you may want to ignore that advice and go to this popular destination. Here you can ride in a stagecoach, spend some time in a swinging door saloon, or watch a reenactment of a gunfight. And a great bonus (since we keep setting records for high temperatures) is that there is a water park nearby. Head into Wichita, Kansas and check out Imagine That Toys for some of the best toys of 2016 or 1816.  

KENTUCKY - Lost River Cave: Oh how cool is this place?!? 7 miles of underground cave systems where you can take an underground boat ride, hike to a butterfly habitat, do some geocaching, or even pan for gems and minerals! What a great place to end up at on a summer road trip! Head on up to Kentucky and visit Play Things Toy Shoppe for fun toys!

LOUISIANA - The French Market: While Bourbon Street is not a great place for kids, the French Quarter as a whole is very family-friendly. A great attraction is the French Market. This open-air market has lots of crafts and entertainers that keep you entertained as you stroll the market stalls. In New Orleans you can stop by Magic Box Toys to check out all of the amazing open-ended toys that they carry. The environment of New Orleans is filled with creativity so the kids should have some toys that they can use as a creative outlet!

MAINE - Cadillac Mountain: Nature is glorious isn’t it? When REI suggests that we #optoutside this is what they mean. Staring at a screen, even in full VR, could never replicate what you experience when you are taking in a site like you see at Cadillac Mountain. Part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, Cadillac Mountain beautifully showcases Maine’s rocky coastline. In Bar Harbor, Maine there is a quaint toy store called Stone Soup Toys where you can find lots of toys for hours and hours of imaginative play.

MARYLAND - Fort McHenry: Perhaps you’ve heard of a little known song called the Star Spangled Banner? Well that song, written by Francis Scott Key, was inspired by the flag flying high above Fort McHenry in the Battle of 1812. At Fort McHenry there are regularly scheduled reenactments of battle as well as plenty of US history lessons. In Baltimore, check out aMuse Toys. It’s a very cool toy store!

MASSACHUSETTS - The Paul Revere House: Boston’s Freedom Trail is certainly an interesting attraction but it is also full of information on massacres and tombstones. An equally interesting landmark (but less gruesome) is the Paul Revere House. This house, still standing from the late 1600’s, was the home that Paul Revere left from when he went on his famous ride. The inside of the home is full of artifacts from that time and there are tours available as well. Near there is a toy store called Magic Beans that you’ll want to check out for cool toys. 

Holland, MICHIGAN -  Creative Commons USAGE

Holland, MICHIGAN - Creative Commons USAGE

MICHIGAN - City of Holland: Sometimes the best American sites are ones that transport you out of America. We are a nation of immigrants and in many areas those immigrants established communities that mirrored the countries that they came from. In Holland, Michigan you will find the only windmill imported from the Netherlands, a yearly tulip festival, and museums that chronicle both Dutch history as wells as the history of the Dutch in America. In Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the two locations of The Toy Shelf for your toy needs. 

MINNESOTA - Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis: Minneapolis means, “city of lakes” and there are A LOT of them here. In one area of the city several of the lakes are interconnected through small waterways. Locals and visitors alike love spending the day canoeing or kayaking around this chain of lakes. Ask a local for where to buy toys and they’ll probably tell you to go to Creative Kidstuff where they have a big enough selection for you to create your own Holiday Gift Guide for all of your friends and family. 

MISSISSIPPI - Natchez Trace: You are on a road trip so this is a convenient sight to see since it is a 444 mile scenic drive. This drive has so much history. It was one of the earliest and largest trade routes in the US, with many large cities developing along the Trace. In Oxford, Mississippi you can find Treehouse Toys where they'll gladly show you how the toys work and what makes each one unique. 

MISSOURI - Missouri Botanical Garden: One of the top botanical gardens in the country, this is a great place to stroll around and stretch out those legs. And you know why you should visit Missouri? Because Missouri loves company! Sorry for the dad joke. But anyway, this garden has plenty to do and if you’re lucky you might spot some glass sculpture work from Seattle’s own famed artist, Dale Chihuly. In St. Louis head on over to Imagination Toys where you can see how the shopping experience at small local stores is different from big chains. You'll get top-notch customer service and help in picking out the best toy for your kid. 

MONTANA - Glacier National Park: Well Glacier is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been so it’d be crazy to suggest any where else. Make sure to know protocol around grizzly bears though! Amazing hikes with glorious views and a chance to see real life glaciers (before they unfortunately melt away) make this a terrific destination on your road trip. And in Whitefish, Montana you will find Imagination Station for a great selection of stuff including building toys and construction toys. 

NEBRASKA - Sunken Gardens: Explore the city of Lincoln and specifically the Sunken Gardens - a beautiful public garden that you can stroll around for hours. Make sure to go and find the waterfalls! Kid’s Stuff Superstore in Lincoln is also a place you can stroll around for hours. You'll be mesmerized by the selection of quality toys and games. 

Fly Geyser in Nevada - Creative Commons Usage

Fly Geyser in Nevada - Creative Commons Usage

NEVADA - Fly Geyser: This one is off the beaten path and, since it is on private land, arranging a visit can be a little complicated. But for the determined it can be a very rewarding sight. These geysers were accidentally created when drilling down into an active geothermal area. The end result looks like something out of an alien movie. Head over to Reno, Nevada and check out Kelekia Toys.

NEW HAMPSHIRE - Mount Washington Cog Railway: The top of Mount Washington is a great place to be and a great way to get up there is through the Cog Railway. Take a scenic ride on this historic steam-powered train. It’s a slow ride but you’ll enjoy every minute of it. Make sure to check out Little Village Toy and Book Shop where you can play with some train toys. 

NEW JERSEY - Thomas Edison National Park: It doesn’t matter which side you fall on for the heated Tesla versus Edison debate, Edison was still a greatly important historical figure. The Thomas Edison National Park is a detailed museum of the famous inventors works and it also has areas where kids can learn STEM skills and practice inventing. Very near there is a toy store called Sparkhouse where you will find more toys and tools that facilitate STEM and STEAM learning. 

NEW MEXICO - Carlsbad Caverns: Also check out White Sands National Monument when you can but if you can only do one, then it would be the caverns. Learn the difference (and then eventually forget) between a stalagmite and stalactite. Such an awe-inspiring experience for kids and adults alike. Check out Bigglesnorts in New Mexico. Need help picking the best toy for a 6-year-old? Or maybe a great STEM toy for a girl? They can help you with those tough decisions.

NEW YORK - Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: That famed statue that was a beacon to immigrants making it into the United States is certainly a must see on Ellis Island. But don’t miss the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration where you can learn so much history about the 12 million people that arrived in search of the American Dream. In New York you’ve got to check out the toy store, Kidding Around where they have a pretty great selection of special toys and gifts for kids of all ages. 

NORTH CAROLINA - Wright Brothers National Memorial: Located in the vividly named town of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, this memorial is a great place to learn about the Wright Brothers and what led to that very famous flight in 1903. Right by there is Kitty Hawk Kites where they have all sorts of toys but you’ll definitely want to get something that flies

NORTH DAKOTA - Theodore Roosevelt National Park: There is a variety of beautiful landscapes in this park so bring your camera. The highlight is the free roaming bison that move about the park. Make sure all of the visitors in your party know the rules of how to interact with bison and other wildlife. In nearby Bismarck, North Dakota you can check out the environmentally focused toy store, the Green Playroom where they promote toys that are good for the Earth. 

OHIO - Hocking Hills State Park: Hikes that are good for the whole family can be a real challenge to find sometimes. Many are going to be too strenuous for some or sometimes they are too easy. At the Hocking HIlls State Park you will find several hikes to choose from. All have wonderful scenery including caves and waterfalls. And the level of difficulty should be perfect for your family hike. Check out the collectible action figures over at Fairway Hobbies

OKLAHOMA - Museum of Osteology: Osteology is the study of bones and that is what you will find here at this skeleton museum. If this sounds like the stuff of nightmares then perhaps you should skip on this one, but many will find it fascinating. Check out Kidoodles in Norman, Oklahoma where they have toys for learning and toys for fun and toys for both. 

Cannon Beach, ORegon - photo by John Anes used with creative commons permission

Cannon Beach, ORegon - photo by John Anes used with creative commons permission

OREGON - Cannon Beach: If your kids are not too young to watch the movie Goonies (there is questionable language in the film) then it certainly is a great precursor to visiting Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock plays a prominent role in the movie and it is the highlight of any trip to Cannon Beach as well. A great place for kids to run around and explore. The kids of the Cannon Beach Summer Art Camp even get to play with Fort Boards! The Oregon coast is stunning and, because of steady wind, is also a fabulous place to fly kites. Head on over to Under the Big Top Toys in Seaside, Oregon for toys and kites.

PENNSYLVANIA - Gettysburg Museum: Visit the site of the Battle of Gettysburg - a hugely influential battle in the Civil War. The museum boasts a cyclorama, or painting that encompasses the viewer, detailing the battle. The ASTRA Marketplace convention for 2017 will be in Philadelphia and we're looking forward to checking out these sites!. Head on over to Pun’s Toys in Philadelphia to take a look at the hottest toys and trends in active-play. 

RHODE ISLAND - Newport Mansions: This is the United States’s version of royal palaces. You can tour these preserved mansions such as the summer home of the Vanderbilts. America’s history is very young compared to Europe, but here you can still see some historical architecture. Visit Bellevue Kids Clothing and Toys at Newport, Rhode Island if you have a chance.

SOUTH CAROLINA - Falls Park on the Reedy:  Walk across a suspension bridge to get a unique view of a waterfall. This park also has beautiful landscaping and some more of that Chihuly glass. Be sure to stop in at The Elephant’s Trunk in Greenville so you can see all of the awesome toys and games that they have on display. Support small businesses. 

SOUTH DAKOTA - Mount Rushmore: If you went to South Dakota on a road trip and didn’t go to Mount Rushmore then you’d have to deal with all of the people saying, “How did you NOT go to Mount Rushmore?” So it’s probably best to just go. It is actually quite impressive though. You can also use it as an opportunity to talk about the process that was involved in putting those faces on a mountain. Science! Nearby in Rapid City is a fabulous toy store to check out. Who’s Toy House is full of plenty of amazing toys to keep you busy.

TENNESSEE - The Grand Ole Opry: The most famous music venue in America’s “Music City”? That warrants a visit for sure. Even if you aren’t a country music fan you’ll be roped in by the energy and the history of the venue. Brilliant Sky Toys in Nashville has you covered for alll of your toy needs. 

The Alamo - usage under Creative Commons

The Alamo - usage under Creative Commons

TEXAS - The Alamo: Well of course we’ve added the most famous fort in the USA to our list of places for your summer road trip. A well preserved part of American history right in San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo is a great sight for kids to follow up with books and films detailing its significance. Go ahead and disregard proper spelling for a bit and visit Toy Werks in San Antonio where you can find great toys for every age range. 

UTAH - Bryce Canyon National Park: Utah has some of the most unique topography in the country. Areas like Bryce Canyon really showcase nature and all of the beauty that can come from it. Amazing arches formed from rock and huge canyons carved out over time by water, can leave you awe struck. The Red Balloon Toy Store in Provo, Utah has tons of games that will keep your kids entertained for hours.

VERMONT - Morse Farm: Vermont is famous for its maple syrup and at Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks you will be able to see the whole process of how it is made. You can see how it is extracted from the tree and then processed into syrup and you can even taste all of the different variations on maple treats that they have. Try a creamee there - a maple soft serve ice cream! And nearby, the shop Woodbury Mountain Toys has a well chosen selection of toys that are great for creative children. 

VIRGINIA - The Smithsonian Museum: Technically the Smithsonian is in Washington D.C. but since that is not a state, we’re suggesting that if you are in nearby Virginia, you must go to the most famous museum in the United States. The Smithsonian is an amazing resource for the young and old. There are many hands on exhibits and lessons geared towards kids but there is plenty for even the oldest and wisest in your party to learn. And when your smart litle child wants new toys to stimulate their mind, head on over to Barstons Child’s Play in Arlington, Virginia

Pike Place Market - SEATTLE, WAShington  usage - creative commons

Pike Place Market - SEATTLE, WAShington
usage - creative commons

WASHINGTON - Pike Place Market: A lot of pressure here on this particular one. We have to pick the one top sight for our home state? There are so many options but ultimately Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of Seattle.  Try to get there early before the market officially opens and you’ll get to watch the magic as all of the stalls get setup and ready. There are so many wonderful places to eat and awesome street performers and artists to keep you entertained. And yes, there are fish being thrown around too. In Seattle, to check out an independent toy store with a huge selection of well curated toys, go to Top Ten Toys in the Greenwood area of Seattle. To check out an adorable community toy shop with tons of character, head over to Red Wagon in the Madison Park area of Seattle. Both of these independent toy stores will give you a chance to check out some Fort Boards in person too. 

WEST VIRGINIA - Lost World Caverns:  A great way to avoid the scorching heat of the summer? Hide out in the Lost World Caverns where the temperature is always a cool 52 degrees. With enough advanced planning you can join a “Wild Cave Tour” and go crawling and climbing around the caves. We’d stop by Kid Country Toys in Charleston, West Virginia.

WISCONSIN - Wisconsin Dells: There were a whole lot of educational spots on the list but sometimes you just want to visit a huge water park The Wisconsin Dells also has pony rides, a circus museum, games, pretty much an overload of family fun. The nearby town of Baraboo (that just sounds fun) is where you will find the toy store, Just Imagine.

WYOMING - Yellowstone National Park: The most famous national park in America has plenty to offer. You’ll likely want to spend at least a few days here. One of the most popular sights is “Old Faithful”, a geyser that regularly erupts boiling water to the delight of park visitors. Check out Jackson Hole Toy Store for their selection of toys from around the world.

So that is an EPIC summer road trip. If you go to any of these spots we'd love to hear about it. Email us at info@fortboards.com or tag your photos with #fortboards . And if you happen to go to all 50 of these places this summer then we ABSOLUTELY need to hear about that! Have a great summer and happy forting!