How to Plan a Road Trip on Interstate 90

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The kernel mosaics at South Dakota's Corn Palace have been the backdrop for presidential campaign stops.
The kernel mosaics at South Dakota's Corn Palace have been the backdrop for presidential campaign stops. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

You could easily turn a weeklong road trip down Interstate 90, the nation's longest interstate highway, into a month or more with all the metropolitan areas and sites of interest between the terminus cities of Boston and Seattle. Begin your I-90 plans by deciding if you want to focus on big cities, natural wonders, can't-miss historic places or unique bits of American culture.

Urban Stops

You can knock several sizable cities off your "to visit" list with a cross-country drive on this single interstate. If you leave from Boston, the route takes you past Springfield, Massachusetts, and over the Connecticut River before heading on a country route into upstate New York. Stop at the historic state Capitol in Albany; step back in time at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse; see where President Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated in Buffalo. Driving into Ohio, save your appetite for the West Side Market in Cleveland, and harness your appreciation for all things furry and feathered at the Toledo Zoo. Take a day or two in Chicago for hearty helpings of pizza, art, opera and baseball. Relax at the oasis of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin, before crossing the plains and stopping in Sioux Falls or Rapid City, South Dakota. Join the other city slickers for a trail ride in Billings, Montana, on your journey toward Washington State, where you can hit Spokane before the end of I-90 in Seattle.

Natural Wonders

Save room in the car for hiking, camping, biking and boating gear, because I-90 barrels straight into a sports-lovers' fantasy. From skirting the south side of the Great Lakes to the densely forested Black Hills and Badlands National Park, the route takes you past the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming; from here or at the northern end in Billings or Bozeman, Montana, you can take a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. Camp at the confluence of the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers at Missouri Headwaters State Park; state park officials note that explorers Lewis and Clark stopped here in 1805. Rocky beauty abounds as you wind toward Coeur D'Alene National Forest in Idaho. Just before reaching Seattle, you cross the Cascades, where you can turn off to head toward famous peaks such as Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens.

From the History Books

If your entertainment choices run to the History Channel and bookshelves packed with nonfiction titles detailing war and peace, bookmark some historical points of interest along this coast-to-coast route. According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, nearly a third of Revolutionary War battles unfolded in the Empire State; a handful of key sites, including the Fort Plain Continental Army headquarters, are along the I-90 route. Much farther west, one of the most iconic monuments to American history, Mount Rushmore, is a short drive south of I-90 at Rapid City. Pulling into South Dakota and onto the Crow Reservation, visit the Custer Battlefield Museum and the Little Bighorn Battlefield, memorializing the site of the bloody 1876 clash between the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes and the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry. To journey farther back in time to prehistory, stop at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman to see part of its vast, legendary collection of dinosaur fossils.

All Americana

The I-90 route overflows with Americana for lovers of the country's old pastimes and good old-fashioned kitsch. Springfield is the birthplace of America's hoop dreams, so pull off at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In Indiana, you'll pass by South Bend, home of "Touchdown Jesus" and legendary Notre Dame football as well as the College Football Hall of Fame. If spooky lore is your thing, stop at the Bristol Opera House in Elkhart, Indiana, to catch a production and perhaps spot one of its reputed ghostly occupants. Splash at "The Waterpark Capital of the World" any time of the year in indoor facilities at Wisconsin Dells. Wave to the 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant and visit his museum as you pass Blue Earth, Minnesota. Get a kernel of truth about agriculture as art at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. And an I-90 trip calls for a stop at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, which started during the Great Depression as a free stop for ice water and has ballooned into a 76,000-square-foot tourist mall with a stagecoach, teepee, Western art gallery, saloon and much more.

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