Although there’s certainly no shortage of fun things to see across America, some sights and attractions are road trip musts. Says Candy Harrington, author of 22 Accessible Road Trips: Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, “There are a lot of unique roadside attractions and off-the-beaten-path finds along the highways and byways of America — many of which are wheelchair-accessible. Party of the magic of a road trip is taking the time to enjoy the journey and the things you discover along the way. In many cases the destination is secondary.”
With that in mind, here are Candy’s top 10 must-see road trip stops.
- Located just off Interstate 25 near Springer, New Mexico, Russell’s Travel Center (www.russellsttc.com) boasts a great collection of vintage cars, Route 66 memorabilia, old coke machines and some very cool photographs. There’s level access to the museum, and although there’s no admission charge, donations are gladly accepted.
- Take a ride on the Charles F. Mercer canal boat, which is docked at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park (www.nps.gov/choh) in Potomac, Maryland. This historic boat is pulled along the tow path by mules and captained by a costumed park ranger. It features level boarding, incline lift access to all decks and an accessible restroom. It’s a great opportunity to get a real feel for 1870s canal life.
- Learn a little bit about fire prevention and protection at Smokey Bear Historical Park (www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SFD/SmokeyBear/SmokeyBearPark.html), in Capitan, New Mexico. Dedicated to the famous bear who was found nearby, it features a Visitors Center with interpretive exhibits, a nicely accessible boardwalk nature trail and of course, Smokey’s grave.
- Enjoy some good old fashioned mountain music at the Carter Family Fold (www.carterfamilyfold.org) in Hiltons, Virginia. The headliners change every week, but the musicians are only allowed to play acoustic instruments at this Saturday night event. The theater is wheelchair-accessible and the energy is simply amazing. It’s a great opportunity to mingle with the locals and soak up some Appalachian culture.
- Plan to be in Shipshewana, Indiana on a Wednesday for the lively Shipshewana Antique Auction (www.tradingplaceamerica.com). There’s level access to the auction house, which features as many as 11 simultaneous auctions. Vintage glassware, furniture, dishes and toys are all up for grabs; and even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still lots of fun to watch.
- See how Sonatas and Elantras are made at the Hyundai Factory (www.hmmausa.com) in Montgomery, Alabama. The free tours are conducted in wheelchair-accessible trams, which take visitors through the stamping shop, welding shop, general assembly shop, engine shop and out to the test track. Advance reservations are required, and the tours fill up fast, so plan ahead for this fun outing.
- Take a tour of the LBJ Ranch – once dubbed the Western White House – in Johnson City, Texas. Part of LBJ National Historic Park (www.nps.gov/lyjo), there’s ramp access up to the front porch, with room to maneuver a wheelchair on the tour. Afterwards, you’re free to wander the grounds and check out LBJ’s Air Force One (a Lockheed JetStar which he jokingly referred to as Air Force One-Half), his collection of vintage cars and daughter Luci’s 1964 corvette. It’s an excellent tour, and very nostalgic.
- Have a bite to eat at the Blow Fly Inn (www.blowflygulfport.com) in Gulfport, Mississippi. Although the original restaurant was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, the newly built incarnation serves up some tasty southern dishes. There is ramp access up to the door, with plenty of room to wheel around inside. The lunch specials are yummy and very filling. Try the red beans and rice plate – you won’t be disappointed.
- Located on Historic Route 66, Oatman, Arizona (www.oatmangoldroad.org) features daily gunfights and donkeys that roam up and down the main drag. Getting there is fun too, as Historic Route 66 runs from Cool Springs and features lots of hairpin curves, switchbacks and sheer drop offs. It’s a fun way to experience the old Mother Road.
- Last but not least, don’t miss the Wizard of Oz Museum (www.ozmuseum.com) in Wamego, Kansas. Dedicated to “all things Oz”, the museum houses a substantial collection of Oz memorabilia, photographs and collectibles; along with some of L. Frank Baum’s earlier books. There is level access to the museum and plenty of room to wheel around the exhibits. It’s just a fun place.
22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, is the world’s first inclusive road trip book; with detailed access information about sights, lodging options, restaurants and roadside attractions on 22 driving routes across America. Available from your favorite bookstore or at www.22AccessibleRoadTrips.com, it’s a good choice for Baby Boomers, couples, families or anybody who wants to hit the road – disabled or able-bodied – as it boasts a wealth of information about fun routes and essential stops along the way.
Candy also blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at BarrierFreeTravels.com