After my third gas station stop that day, they all started to blend together. One fuzzy memory of sketchy bathrooms and the smell of corn nuts. Plus, my kids constantly begging for candy or a slushie or some other ridiculous purchase.
And while I am so thankful for all those blessed blue interstate service signs that have saved us more than once from a total hangry meltdown or a bathroom emergency, sometimes you want to experience a little more on your travels than just the lottery posters from each state.
After lots of road trip practice, I’ve found I’m much happier sprinkling in some interesting stops that let us actually experience some parts of the various places we travel through. Some stops are quick and some are a little longer, depending on our travel goals, but all these fun stops add some life to our road trip and have given us a much better sense of place as we’ve passed through various regions of our great country.
It’s one of the things I love most about road trips.
Where to Stop Along I-65 With Kids
Here’s a list of fun stops that we’ve actually made along I-65. I know there are lots more out there but wanted to include only those I have personal experience with. You can check out this post on how I plan fun stops if you want to make your own list.
Some of these take a few hours and some are quick hops off the interstate, but hopefully they provide a little interest as you stretch your legs. And I promise they all have clean bathrooms!
Road Trip on Interstate 65 (I-65)
A working dairy farm that offers tours, kids activities, and a delicious cafe and restaurant. Don’t miss the chocolate shake and grilled cheese. You can easily stop in for a few minutes to grab food or stay for several hours.
This state park features prairieland instead of the typical woods of most state parks. Great playgrounds and walking trails and a fancy aquatics center (open seasonally). It’s not far off the highway but does require a short drive so skip if you need a quicker stop.
The world’s largest children’s museum is just minutes off the interstate but be prepared to spend several hours exploring this huge museum. Kids and grown-ups will love the planetarium, children’s theater, and tons of hands-on exhibits, all included in the price of admission. For more tips on visiting, see Things to Know Before You Go: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. And if you’ve got kids who love sports, you have to check out their newest expansion – Sports Legends Experience!
Let your kids burn off some energy The Commons (a public event space in downtown Columbus, IN) with its huge indoor climber and play area or take a driving tour of this city known for its modern architecture. If you have time, grab some ice cream at the restored old-fashioned ice cream counter at Zaharakos.
This National Park is popular for a reason! Tour one of the largest caves in the United States with knowledgable park rangers or let your kids participate in the Junior Ranger program to earn their own badge. The visitors center has lots of interactive displays and food is available next door at the hotel. Make sure to plan ahead since tour tickets sell out regularly. You can purchase tickets ahead of time and check the tour schedule online.
A quick exit off of I-24, the east loop around Nashville, this park is tucked along the banks of the Cumberland River and offers plenty of free parking as long as the Tennessee Titans football team isn’t playing at home. A fun playground, pedestrian bridge, and picnic spots make this a great place to stretch your legs, plus there’s a splash pad (in season) that would be perfect for cooling off.
Nashville’s science museum is kid-friendly and easy to get to. My kids love the seven-story adventure climber and hands-on exhibits. If you’re a ASTC Passport member (check with your local science museum to see if they participate), you get free admission but planetarium tickets are extra.
Imagine a hotel lobby on steroids and you still can’t come close to picturing the wonder of this famous Nashville hotel. It’s a little bit further off the interstate than a few of the other stops but if you’re looking for a place to entertain your kids, you can’t go wrong with a stop here. I’ve got a full post all about how to tour the Opryland Hotel with kids.
You can’t miss the giant rocket welcoming you to Alabama. This rest stop is a highlight every time we drive through. With plenty of area to run around and a fun photo background, this is a super easy and quick stop to make.
You’ll have to detour off of I-65 for about 20 minutes to reach the US Space and Rocket Center but it’s worth it to visit this NASA site that hosts hundreds of kids for space camp each year. You can visit several building and climb inside lots of retired space equipment. My kids loved this and once again, it’s free for ASTC members.
When you spot the giant peach water tower, you know you’ve arrived. This charming fruit stand has fresh produce and local products plus a restaurant and cafe that is a must stop for our family. Grab a hand-held fruit pie or some peach ice cream and let your kids explore the playground up the hill while you rest. It can be busy at times but SO worth a stop.
Only stop by if you’re hungry because the free samples are legit! Plus you can view some of the factory floor, stop by the cafe or shop for both collectables and food items. There’s a ton of parking but that does mean it can get busy so look for huge buses before you pull in if you don’t have a lot of time to stop.
Related Post: Screen Free Toys for Your Next Road Trip
Family-Friendly Hotels along I-65
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We’ve traveled this route many times and have found several hotels that offer great accommodations for families. I’m pretty sure all of them offer breakfast as well as a pool, which are must haves according to my kids. If you’re traveling during high season make sure to book well in advanced as many of these fill up quickly with road trippers. We’ve personally paid to stay in all of these hotels
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What’s your favorite place to stop on a road trip? Do you have a special spot along I-65? Are you a stop-along-the-way or push-on-through through?
Need even more ideas for your next road trip, make sure to check out my Road Trips for Families Series