The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to I-90: From Boston to Seattle
Over 3,000 miles of asphalt and adventure along I-90.
Interstate 90 (AKA I-90), is a coast-to-coast, transcontinental freeway, and it just so happens to be America’s longest Interstate Highway. Unless you’ve only traveled around the southern portion of America, you’ve probably hopped on and off I-90 at some point, whether you boarded around Boston, Chicago or Seattle. I-90 is a whopping 3,020 miles long, after all. In the east, I-90 begins right by Boston’s Logan Airport, passes through the Continental Divide by Butte, Montana and ends in Seattle, near Safeco and CenturyLink Field. Whether you’re taking it all the way or just for a few miles, these are a few of the best I-90 road trip stops.
Old Sturbridge Village
If you’re starting in Boston, there are loads of places to check out from the New England Aquarium, to Faneuil Hall (where you can choose from dozens of different food vendors for a taste of Boston), to the Freedom Trail and Museum of Science. As for hotels in Boston, the Liberty Hotel is a former jail with tons of subtle nods to the building’s past.
From Boston, stop at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA where you can literally step back in time to the 1830s. What separates this outdoor living history museum is that it happens to be the Northeast’s largest living history museum. Here you can experience what life was like in the late-1700s to mid-1800s. There are over 40 original buildings, and the staff is always in costume, and focused on 100% authenticity. The best time to visit to avoid crowds is spring, and fall. In fact, autumn is the perfect time to visit to get gorgeous photos while the village is blanketed in stunning fall foliage. BONUS: If you happen to visit during Thanksgiving, they have an out-of-this-world buffet.
Six Flags New England
Six Flags New England is a pretty remarkable amusement park because it actually dates back to 1870, and has the distinction of being the oldest Six Flags park. The park is spread out across 235 acres and when you buy a pass to the park, you get to go to the waterpark as well. When you go be sure to ride the Thunderbolt, a wooden roller coaster that’s been in operation since 1941. It’s not exactly a quick stop off the highway, but it’s an incredibly fun way to spend a day.
World’s Smallest Church
Next stop off I-90 is “the world’s smallest church.” Sitting atop a tiny wooden platform off Sconondoa Road in Oneida, the nondenominational Cross Island Chapel is absolutely adorable. The 3′ by 6′ church was built in 1989, and today sits on top of a small dock, smack dab in the middle of the pond. It’s available for meditation and special occasions.
Jell-O Gallery Museum
From the “World’s Smallest Church” to the Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, NY. Even if you’re not a fan of Jell-O, every road trip needs an offbeat museum detour. Here you can learn everything you ever wanted to (or never wanted to) learn about Jell-o, for just $4.50 in admission. Then, while in Le Roy, eat at Smokin’ Eagle for some delicious barbecue before hopping back on the highway.
Eternal Flame Falls
Then head to Orchard Park, NY to see the Eternal Flame Falls. This is a pretty phenomenal natural wonder and a visit is worth the detour off I-90. Park at Chestnut Ridge Road and prepare for a short, 15-minute hike to the falls. You’ll start to smell a rotten egg-type odor (the result of the natural gas that causes the flame) the closer you get to the tiered falls, which cascade around 30 feet. Here you’ll notice a small grotto inside of which is a flame, about 4-8″ high, ignited by the natural gas emitted from the spring. It’s really an amazing natural wonder.
Willoughby Ghost Walk
As you take the interstate through Willoughby, why not take a walk on the spooky side? The Willoughby Ghost Walk tours operate from June through October and provide guided walking tours of downtown Willoughby. You’ll learn all about the haunted history of the town, including the legends of strange phenomena that have been reported over the years. The tour covers 12 blocks and lasts just under two hours.
Birthplace of Superman
If you’re a fan of Superman (especially the comics), then make the pilgrimage to the home of Jerry Siegal, the creator of Superman. Outside the home you can see a sign and the iconic Superman logo commemorating the home’s previous owner. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with the idea of a hero with superpowers in 1933. Both boys lived on the same street and were from immigrant Jewish families. The current owners of the home where Superman was “born” are quite friendly to people on Superman pilgrimages, and scattered throughout the property is superman memorabilia.
A Christmas Story House and Museum
If you’re a fan of the movie “A Christmas Story” then it’s essential that you stop at the house where the film was shot… even if it’s the middle of summer. It’s located on West 11th Street in Cleveland and tours are offered. They even encourage you to touch the exhibits, and recreate your favorite scenes for photos. The tour can run you around an hour, so if you have the time it’s almost as good as actually being in the movie.
If you’re staying the night in Cleveland, there are quite a few great hotel options. The Glidden House is an incredibly 1910 mansion-turned-B&B, and the Hyatt Regency at The Arcade features a killer location. As for food, try Lucky’s Cafe or Melt.
Olde Avon Village
If you enjoyed Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, then take a detour off I-90 to Avon, Ohio’s Olde Avon Village. Here you can walk back in time and see what life was like in the mid-1800s. There are shops, homes and pretty much everything else you could want in an authentic 19th century village. Then it’s back to the 21st century and back on the road.
Pokagon State Park
When you’re ready to stretch your legs again, stop at Pokagon State Park, near Angola, Indiana. The name for the park comes from Leopold and Simon Pokagon, the last two leaders of the Potawatomi tribe. If you’re looking to spend the night in Indiana, you should check into the Potawatomi Inn, a pretty popular Midwest resort lodge. Throughout the park you’ll find beautiful stone and log structures, wide open fields and meadows, rolling hills and even wetlands.
Washington Park Beach
Detour off I-90 to Washington Park Beach in Michigan City, IN and visit the Michigan City Lighthouse or take a walk on the boardwalk. There’s also a seven-acre zoo just across the street from the beach, and playgrounds for little ones. The park is open from 6am to 10pm, and costs $2 during the weekday and $5 on weekends. There’s also loads of parking.
Michael Jackson’s House
If you’re a fan of Michael Jackson, then you’ll definitely want a photo at his childhood home in Gary, Indiana, which is right off the interstate. The best time to visit is in August, when there’s usually a Michael Jackson-themed event going on.
The Second City
If you love Saturday Night Live, or just really dig improv comedy, then you need to visit the mecca of improv: The Second City in Chicago. This is where the best SNL cast members got their start.
TIP: If you purchase tickets through the Second City website you can usually get a great deal on a restaurant nearby at the same time. Dinner and a show in Chicago make for a perfect night out on the town.
And if you want a hotel in Chicago, the options are almost endless. Hotel Lincoln, Hotel Monaco, Hotel Burnham… take your pick. They’re all great.
Legoland Discovery Center
As you head out of Chicago, visit Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumurg, IL. There are over 3 million lego bricks here and you can easily spend the day exploring with kids. Keep in mind that Legoland is a kids’ attraction, and all adults must be accompanied by a child. If you happen to have a kid around, though, it’s a can’t-miss stop.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch
If you’re road tripping during summer and fall, you’ll absolutely want to visit Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Pingree Grove. There’s so much to do, especially during autumn, from a pumpkin-eating dinosaur, to a hay bale maze, and basically every other fall-themed outdoor activity you can think of. Oh, and the puppet show is absolutely adorable.
TIP: Go during the week to avoid the massive weekend fall crowds. And don’t forget to stop at the cafe and gift shop.
Lake Kegonsa State Park
I-90 then makes its way into Wisconsin. Lake Kegonsa State Park is considered “one of the best-kept secrets of southern Wisconsin.” This state park features a 3,200-acre lake, woodlands, a swimming beach, fishing, a boat launch and campground. There are tons of hiking trails and picnic places in case you just wanted to get some fresh air and soak up a little sun.
Next up: Quirky roadside photo op alert. There’s a massive Pink Elephant wearing glasses at a gas station. His name is “Pinkie” and he was installed in the late 1970s at the gas station, now a Citgo. It’s definitely the most adorable gas station on I-90.
Circus World Museum
If you’re still in the mood for some more offbeat adventuring, head to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This town was where the Ringling Bros. Circus was founded in 1884 by five brothers. In fact, they named the city the “winter quarters” for the circus, Ringlingville. Several buildings were built along the Baraboo River between 1897 and 1918, and today they make up America’s “largest surviving group of original circus structures.” Here you can see memorabilia and learn all about circus history, which is actually pretty interesting.
And if you want a good book to read on the road, Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love” will definitely get you in the mood to fully enjoy your time at the Circus World Museum.
From clowns to witches…over in Wisconsin Dells, skip the water parks (did you know that Wisconsin Dells has more waterslides per capita than anywhere else in the world?) and head to the Witches Gulch. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings. Admission to get in is just $5 and it’s an absolutely breathtaking geological wonder. The Gulch is a slot canyon that surrounded by lush woodland. It’s pet-friendly and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
And if you *do* actually want in on the waterpark action at the Water Park Capital of the World, we love the quirky offerings at Kalahari Resort.
Mill Bluff State Park
If you’re still in the mood for some outdoor fun, your next stop along the highway is Mill Bluff State Park near Camp Douglas, Wisconsin. This state park has beautiful, towering bluffs, swimming areas, a campground and plenty of places to hike or relax after a long day of driving.
FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard
Then, head down County Highway Q, just off I-90 to visit the FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard. This is a super quirky stop and a totally fun place to wander around and snap pictures. The grounds are full of molds that were used for all those iconic fiberglass roadside giants that dot the country (especially on iconic, classic routes like Route 66). It’s free to walk around, just pull into the visitors area, and be courteous, respectful and don’t climb on anything, because they’re still a working Fiberglass shop. This is a great place to check out, and it’s totally off-the-beaten path.
The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor & Confectionery
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then do yourself a favor and visit The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor and Confectionary in La Crosse. Here you can sit back and imagine you’re in the early 1900s, just enjoying a fountain soda, made from scratch in an old-fashioned soda shop. They also have handmade chocolates, and a candy selection that’s to-die-for.
Once you hop the border to Minnesota, pull into the SPAM Museum in Austin. Even if you’re not a fan of SPAM, this is a pretty cool museum that covers the history of this processed meat. Also, there’s loads of SPAM merchandise in the gift shop (hello Christmas presents!) If you do enjoy SPAM, there’s often a vendor out front selling SPAM burgers.
Jolly Green Giant Statue
Once you get to Blue Earth, Minnesota, worship at the feet of the massive Jolly Green Statue. Towering at over 55 feet tall, the giant is a cultural icon and it makes for an awesome photo op. There’s a small gift shop on site; it’s not open all the time, but there’s plenty of parking and you can get your picture at any time of day with the giant. It’s very close to I-90, and it’s very easy to hop on and off for the photo op.
Devil’s Gulch Park
Over in Garretson, South Dakota, you’ll come to your second gulch. This one is Devil’s Gulch Park. This natural chasm has secured its place in history as the spot where Jesse James jumped (with horse) while escaping from authorities after he had robbed a bank. The whole area is quite beautiful and there’s even a waterfall. There’s a visitor center at the gulch, and you can learn about the science and history of the area here. There’s also a walking tour that will take you about an hour, but it’s totally worth it if you’re taking your time here.
1880 Cowboy Town
Next up, is 1880 Cowboy Town in Sioux Falls. Again, I-90 can get pretty monotonous, so take advantage of these offbeat attractions. Sadly, 1880 Cowboy Town has seen better days (okay, fine, a lot of the mannequins and exhibits are pretty dated) but to be honest, the rundown nature of the place actually adds to its appeal. Plus, there are some nice exhibits on the history of Sioux Falls here.
Next is America’s “corniest” attraction. It all started back in 1892 when the town of Mitchell, South Dakota was home to just 3,000 residents. Folks wanted a place to gather and celebrate their bountiful South Dakota corn harvests, and thus the Corn Palace and Corn Palace Festival were born.
The Corn Palace grew so quickly that in 1905, a new Corn Palace had to be built, and then another newer and even bigger palace was unveiled in 1921. This is the Corn Palace we all know and love today. If you’re headed through South Dakota, the Corn Palace is a must-see, and if you’re going through South Dakota in late August, you’ll be in for a real treat: The Corn Palace Festival…a giant 5-day party to celebrate all things corn.
State Historical Society/Cultural Heritage Center
At the State Historical Society in Pierre you can get a great sense for the culture of South Dakota by immersing yourself in the state’s history. From Native Americans to the early European settlers, there’s plenty to explore, and the museum’s gorgeous displays do an excellent job of uncovering the history of South Dakota. Plus, the building itself is gorgeous.
Wounded Knee Massacre Monument
I-90 passes through a ton of American history as well. The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek, when the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment engaged in battle with the Lakota tribe in an effort to disarm them. 50 U.S. soldiers were killed, and at least 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota tribe were killed during the battle. Today you can pay your respects at the Wounded Knee Massacre Monument.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site offers a great tour and there’s a very informative visitor center onsite. If you have time, take the guided tour through the control center. The tours are by appointment, so prepare to allow a bit of extra time, but it’s worth it for this rare bit of Cold War history.
Wall Drug Store
Your next stop is Wall Drug Store. Yes, it’s a “tourist trap” but it’s become something of an icon in this part of the country. The coffee is only 5 cents, and it’s pretty good. There’s also loads of kitschy gift shop items to buy, too.
As you drive along I-90 through Rapid City, hit up Art Alley and learn a bit about the history of city and surrounding area. The art is tasteful and pretty informative. You can also sometimes see artists in the process of creating new pieces.
There are tons of awesome hotels in Rapid City, South Dakota, so consider staying the night here. Cambria Suites, the Hotel Alex Johnson, and Big Sky Lodge are all great spots to catch some Z’s.
Chapel in the Hills
And now for something completely different. The Chapel in the Hills is an amazing architectural gem just outside Rapid City. It’s also surrounded by beautiful scenery and has lots of wildlife roaming around. If you’re in the mood to get out of the car for a stroll around the serene, storybook setting.
Mount Rushmore National Monument is a road trip essential. Once you get here, it’s just $11 to park, and you’ll find a great place to get a picture of yourself in front of the massive monument at Grand View Terrace. It’s important to note that peak tourist season for Rushmore is June through August, and during this time traffic can get a bit backed up. If you’re traveling during summer, plan to get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon. There’s a great little walking path at the base of the monument as well.
Tatanka: Story of the Bison
Next stop: Deadwood. The entire town of Deadwood is amazing, especially Mount Moriah Cemetery, where you can see the graves of Wild West greats like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The downtown historic district is basically a time warp back to the 19th century. Notable hotels in Deadwood include 1889 Inn, Iron Horse Inn, and Hickok’s Hotel & Gaming.
Another great roadside stop in Deadwood is Tatanka: Story of the Bison. Here you can learn that there’s more to Deadwood than just cowboys and outlaws – Native Americans were just as crucial to the history here. You can even have a guide take you on a tour.
Custers Last Stand: Little Big Horn
Your next stop is Custer’s Last Stand: Little Big Horn. Here you should visit the Indian Memorial, the theme of which is “Peace Through Unity.” It’s a circular structure that’s just a few dozen yards from the 7th Cavalry obelisk, commemorating the fallen soldiers. The walls of the Indian Memorial contain the names of the Native Americans who died during the battle. The most moving part of the memorial is the “spirit gate,” which is a window in the circular memorial that opens onto the Cavalry monument as a symbolic way to welcome the cavalrymen into the Native American memorial.
Crazy Mountain Museum
If you keep going along I-90, you’ll reach Timber, MT. Visit the Crazy Mountain Museum, run by the Sweet Grass Museum Society. This museum is an adorable small-town museum that features a collection of artifacts that make the history of Sweet Grass County come alive.
Our Lady of The Rockies
Our Lady of the Rockies is America’s third largest statue, and it’s quite the sight to see. You can even go inside the statue – but be prepared to be moved: the walls are covered in letters and mementos left there by visitors in memory of their loved ones. If you have a special intention in mind, you can bring along a little something to leave with Our Lady of the Rockies and you can rest assured that she will take good care of it. Otherwise, you can view it from just about anywhere in the town of Butte.
Old Prison Museum
Then head to Deer Lodge, MT and take a tour of the Old Prison Museum. It’s an amazing tour if you have the time. You’ll be able to walk through the prison tunnels, and through the facility, which is like walking back in time. Plus, your admission gets you into a pretty awesome car museum as well.
Garnet Ghost Town
From the Old Prison to a verifiable ghost town. If you have time to venture a little bit farther off I-90, Garnet Ghost Town is a fantastic detour. Yes, it’s off-the-beaten-path, but because of that it’s not a particularly popular place for I-90 tourists to venture off to. You can easily spend an entire afternoon hanging out here and walking around. There are incredible opportunities for photos and the setting is absolutely gorgeous, surrounded by wildlife and forests.
Oasis Bordello Museum
Once you reach Idaho, plan to spend some time in Wallace. It’s an amazing little town that was also the primary filming location for the action film “Dante’s Peak.” One of the coolest places to visit in town is the Oasis Bordello Museum. This was a working brothel until it was abandoned in 1988, after it was raided by authorities. What makes it such a cool museum attraction today is that it was abandoned so quickly that most of the clothes and furniture was just left after the raid. It’s also rumored to be haunted. People say you can hear the sound of women talking in rooms that are completely empty and often times people also smell pipe smoke or perfume. The museum is open seven days, and admission is only $5.
Crystal Gold Mine
Then it’s onto Crystal Gold Mine in Kellogg. Regardless of what time of year you choose to be road-tripping across I-90, this is a fantastic stop. It was a working mine from 1879 until 1881, then it was closed and forgotten until 1991. In 1996, it opened as a historical tourist attraction. You can take an underground tour here, learn all about the late 19th-century mining methods and experience what life was like for miners in Silver Valley.
Old Mission State Park
Next, head to Old Mission State Park to see the oldest building in Idaho. The Mission of the Sacred Heart was built in 1850 and is a fantastic place to learn about the history of the area, from its first tribal inhabitants to the Jesuit missionaries that later settled there. There’s a visitor center and gift shop onsite, and it’s close to the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alene’s, one of America’s most amazing bike trails, in case you’ve brought your bicycle on your road trip.
If you keep going for a few more miles along I-90, you’ll reach Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This Idaho city is filled with natural beauty, which you can experience at Tubbs Hill Nature Park. Enjoy a nice meal at Crafted Kitchen, or get the perfect breakfast at The Garnet Cafe. And as for hotels in Coeur d’Alene, spots like the Roosevelt Inn, Coeur d’Alene Resort and the Greenbrier Inn are excellent options.
John Wayne Pioneer Trail
After you leave Coeur d’Alene, it won’t be long before you reach Washington state. Head to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, a 145-mile trail that takes you from Iron Horse State Park all the way to Tekoa (via various counties including Spokane). The trail is parallel to the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad, and takes you two-thirds of the way through Washington. It’s an easy exit off I-90 at either the Cedar Falls, Twin Falls, or Hyak exit. Wherever you decide to hike, it’s a beautiful trail.
Gingko Petrified Forest State Park
Another great place to get out and stretch your legs is the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in the town of Vantage, a little under three hours outside Spokane. Here you can walk through a petrified forest (basically, you’ll see lots of sparkly, fossilized logs) and along the Columbia River shoreline. There are also places to camp, including RV sites, a restroom and three miles of hiking trails.
Before you reach Seattle, which deserves its own trip guide, finish off your trip at North Bend (have lunch at Twede’s Cafe, which was the filming location for the Double-R diner from the cult TV show, “Twin Peaks”.) While in the area, absolutely visit Snoqualmie Falls. This is one of America’s most beautiful waterfalls. The falls are easy to get to, there’s lots of parking, and it is wheelchair-accessible. And, once again, if you’re a “Twin Peaks” fan, you’ll recognize it as the waterfall where the Great Northern Lodge is located.
Depending on the time of year you decide to drive I-90, it’s important to note that weather can affect your journey. Snow and high winds will plague you from Minnesota to Montana, especially in the winter. Snow plows do a pretty good job, but if there’s a storm, you could get stuck, so be prepared before setting out for this trip. Also, keep in mind that between Rapid City and the Black Hills, you’ll be at an exceptionally high elevation, which means it’s a bit colder in this area. Pack accordingly, depending on the time of year. In fact, during deep winter, you can expect sub-zero temperatures across South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Remember your anti-freeze, snow tires, and don’t let yourself run low on gas.
What stop along I-90 are you most looking forward to exploring? Let us know by leaving us a comment on our Facebook page.
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