If you've ever traveled east-west across the middle of the country, then you're probably familiar with Interstate 70. Stretching from Cove Fort, UT to Baltimore, MD, it traverses the Midwest and West of America. Not only does the route take you through tons of beautiful states, from wild and wonderful West Virginia to the rolling plains of Kansas to the rocky mountains of Colorado, but you also get the chance to pass through cities like Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, and (of course) Baltimore. Whether you're just taking I-70 for a brief period on your way somewhere else, or you'll be taking it for longer stretches, this guide to the coolest attractions along the way will definitely be useful.
The eastern end of the interstate is at a park and ride outside of Baltimore. Take at least a few hours to explore B'more. It's got harbor views, more monuments per capita than any other state, and tons of offbeat attractions, like Fort McHenry, the American Visionary Art Museum and the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. Hotels in Baltimore, such as the Admiral Fell Inn, the Pier 5 Hotel and Rachaels Dowry Bed and Breakfast can accommodate overnight stays. Oh, and make sure to enjoy some crab, fresh from the Chesapeake!
Stop by this historic rail-station-turned-restaurant for a quick snack and a drink, or a full meal. Baldwin's Station is a main attraction in the cute little town of Sykesville, so stroll down their Main Street before or after stopping at the restaurant. The menu offers casual lunch fare (sandwiches and burgers), and classy dinners, along with a full bar. They also do murder mystery party nights and host live music as well!
In Frederick, you can visit one of the country's most intriguing little museums. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine isn't for the faint of heart, but it's a fascinating look at a major historical event through a lens that we often don't think much about: medicine. The Civil War was known for being bloody, and not just because of the battles. Medicine was, in many ways, advancing rapidly during the war, and in other ways, it was still gruesome and primitive. You'll leave with a new perspective and appreciation for the doctors of the Civil War!
A visit to Fort Frederick State Park takes you even further back in history, to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Explore the 18th century fort, much of which has been reconstructed, take a guided tour, examine exhibits on the region's history, or even fish on the park's Big Pool Lake, and enjoy the hiking and nature trails!
Hop out of the car and try out a different mode of transportation! The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers relaxing, 2 1/2 hour round trip tours through the Allegheny Mountains. It's especially beautiful during the fall, when the leaves are changing colors, and they occasionally offer themed tours as well!
The I-70 route passes near Fallingwater, one of America's most iconic houses, so stop off to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed gem. The views from inside the house are only matched by the views of the house itself, and the guided tours and historic exhibit provide lots of insight into why Fallingwater has become so famous. Bonus: if you're more into hidden gems, another Frank Lloyd Wright home, Kentuck Knob, is also nearby and open to the public.
America's Taj Mahal is in... West Virginia? The Palace of Gold, located at New Vrindaban, a Hare Krishna community, is an opulently-decorated memorial to former leader A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Pradhupada. You can tour the building, bedecked with semi-precious stones and gold leaf, as well as the grounds, which feature gardens, fountains, and even wild peacocks. Enjoy lunch at the onsite Indian restaurant, and even stay the night in a cabin!
This cute little home is the former residence of astronaut John Glenn, the first man to orbit the Earth. The John & Annie Glenn Historic Site, in the small town of New Concord, OH, provides a look into the life of John Glenn before he began training to be launched into orbit. Plus, it pays just as much tribute to his awesome wife, Annie, who held down the home during the Great Depression and WWII, as it does to him!
I-70 then rolls into Ohio's capital city, Columbus, which has plenty to see and do! Visit the statehouse or the Columbus Zoo, or poke around the shops and restaurants in the quaint German Village or the trendy Short North. Plus, Columbus is home to one of the country's largest colleges, THE Ohio State University, so there's always something interesting happening. The Blackwell, Hawthorne Park Bed and Breakfast and Le Meridien are some great hotels in Columbus if you need a place to spend the night!
The historic village of Clifton Mill is the perfect place to stretch your legs. Hop out, explore the inner workings of the 19th century grist mill, stroll across the covered bridge, take in views of the waterfall, and stock up on snacks at the 1940's gas station. There's also an onsite restaurant that serves up an exceptionally tasty home-style breakfast!
Whether the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gets your engine going, or you're more interested in the epic Children's Museum, Indianapolis is a pretty cool city. The NCAA Champions Hall of Fame and White River State Park are also lesser-known spots worth hitting up while exploring Indy. Plus, the city's foodie scene is on the up-and-up, so dig around for some really great eats as well! There are some nice hotels in Indianapolis as well, like The Conrad, the JW Marriott and The Alexander.
Most people probably don't think too much about their baking powder when cooking, but the most popular and iconic brand, Clabber Girl, actually has an interesting past. Stop by the Clabber Girl Museum and Restaurant to look at vintage memorabilia, learn about the brand's history as well as the history of the city of Terre Haute, and enjoy some delicious treats (get a biscuit or a cinnamon roll!) It's a cute, quick little stop.
The Kaskaskia Dragon is a classic roadside attraction. Originally made for a parade float, the dragon has been placed alongside the road to entertain and amuse passersby. While it makes for a great photo op, make sure to go into the liquor store across the street to buy a "Dragon Coin", which you can drop into a box next to the beast and make it breathe fire!
The next major city you'll hit along I-70 is Saint Louis. Located on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, this city is famed for its iconic Gateway Arch, delicious BBQ, brewing history, and Midwestern friendliness. Get lost in the "phantasmagorical wonderland" that is the City Museum, sample local beers from Schlafly, devour ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse, and catch a baseball game at Busch Stadium! The Doubletree St. Louis Union Station, the Moonrise Hotel and the Cheshire are some rad hotels in St. Louis worth checking out!
As you explore I-70, pay tribute to another famous American explorer at the Historic Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center. Tour the home where legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone lived and died, and explore the little historic village around the property. Take the guided tour to see inside all of the buildings and learn about life in 19th century Missouri!
Columbia, MO is home to the University of Missouri, which means tons of cool college culture. Explore the Museum of Art and Archaeology for some refined culture, or catch an indie rock show at The Blue Note. End your day with a stay at the Tiger Hotel, a boutique hotel with a rad 1930's cafe and patio/outdoor live music venue! It's easily the coolest hotel in Columbia.
The Nicholas Beazley Airplane Company was rather short-lived, only lasting between 1921-1937, when the Great Depression caused demand for planes to plummet. They designed 4 aircraft, and today, one is on display at the Marshall Memorial Municipal Airport. You can find exhibits on this fascinating period in history and on the company itself.
Everything's up to date in Kansas City! This Midwestern city features loads of interesting and one-of-a-kind cultural institutions, like the Liberty Memorial, which is a monument to WWI, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, which are a few of the cool things to do in Kansas City. Hotel Sorella, the 816 Hotel and The Raphael Hotel are some awesome accommodation options in KC as well.
Then it's on to Topeka, KS! Home to the Brown v the Board of Education National Historic Site, the Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site, and, of course, Truckhenge, this city provides a welcome respite from the endless prairie of Kansas. And if you need a hotel in Topeka, Senate Luxury Suites the Virginia Inn and the Clubhouse Inn and Suites are great options.
Dorothy and Toto may have traveled somewhere over the rainbow, but you don't have to leave Kansas to find Oz... it's actually not that far off I-70. The Oz Museum is dedicated to everything Wizard of Oz, from the book to The Wiz and everything in between. Countless artifacts and loads of memorabilia, plus tons of info on the movie adaptations and the writing of the book can be found here. Don't leave without picking up a souvenir at the gift shop!
Part library, part museum, part grave, and part historic home, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum is a pretty comprehensive site. Visit the house where he grew up, an exhibit in the library about his time as a WWII general, watch a film about his life in the visitor center, and see his final resting place.
An interesting look at the Swedish immigrants who settled in this part of Kansas, as well as a working historic mill, the McPherson County Old Mill Museum is a very in-depth, interesting, and cheap (at only $2 a person for admission) look into the past. If you're lucky, you'll visit when the wooden mill is at work, turning wheat into flour!
Located at Fort Hays State University, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History displays a fraction of the school's nearly 4 million specimens... and you can easily spend hours here browsing everything. Fossils, minerals, and displays of long-extinct animals provide a fascinating perspective on the history of Kansas!
I-70 is lined with awesome little museums! From the first patented helicopter (whose blades still spin!) to bison to vintage cars, the High Plains Museum features a small collection of fascinating objects that are well worth checking out... especially because admission is free (with a small suggested donation!)
It's hard to find authentic vintage wooden carousels like Kit Carson County's Carousel, so take advantage, unleash your inner child, and take a ride. It features three rows of animals, all of which are stationary, and all of which are beautifully detailed. It's one of the most unique things to do in Colorado!
Denver is a former Wild West cow town that's blossomed into a laid-back and outdoorsy city. There's tons of great hiking around here, a renowned craft beer scene, and plenty of other amazing restaurants and cultural icons. There's no shortage of things to do here in Denver! Cool hotels in Denver include The Oxford Hotel, The Magnolia Hotel and The Curtis.
The Continental Divide, where East becomes West! Technically, this is the point where water stops running towards the Atlantic Ocean and towards the Pacific Ocean instead. Either celebrate as you pass through I-70's Eisenhower Tunnel, or pull off onto the gravel road before and climb up the mountain to find the marker.
There are so many ways to entertain yourself at Glenwood Caverns that choosing just one, or even two, might be a challenge. It's home to Colorado's largest show cave and thrill rides built right onto the edge of a cliff, enhancing the adrenaline rush factor of the rides by about a billion, plus old-timey Wild West shows and attractions, in case you want something a little more low-key.
About 12 miles of I-70, you'll find Glenwood Canyon, and what a beautiful drive it is. The walls of the canyon can be as high as 1,300 feet, making for a super unique cruise. Historically, railroads and wagon trails have wound their way through the canyon, adding a touch of history to the stunning views. If the 12 mile drive isn't enough for you, hike to nearby Hanging Lake for even more incredible scenery!
Doc Holliday's Grave lies off a trail up a steep hill. A famed Wild West gunman who played a key role in the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Doc was buried in Glenwood Springs after dying of tuberculosis, a surprise because even Doc himself believed that he would die in a gunfight, or, as they say, "with his boots on". Ask a volunteer here to provide even more background on his short but busy life!
Add some Wild West scenery to your Wild West history lesson with a stop at the Colorado National Monument. One of many places to take in the scenery along I-70, the easiest way to experience this gem is with a drive along Rim Rock Road-- it has tons of scenic overlooks so you can see every angle of the landscape.
Cisco might not be the most picturesque ghost town (seriously, this place really puts the "ghost" in "ghost town") but it's iconic enough that it's worth the stop. The crumbling cinderblock houses and boarded-up wooden structures are certainly creepy, and were featured in "Thelma and Louise" and "Vanishing Point".
Since I-70 passes so close to Moab, you should definitely take advantage and stop by Arches National Park. More easily accessible than nearby Canyonlands, take the time to hike to Double Arch or Delicate Arch and snap a few photos! Plus, Moab is an incredible place. There are tons of little restaurants and cozy hotels, so it's a good place to spend a night or two. These two parks are some of the most popular places to visit in Utah for a reason!
Arches aren't the only wild things you can find in Utah... Goblins also abound here! Okay, the goblins at Goblin Valley State Park aren't actually monsters, but they're pretty cool to look at regardless. The drive out here is kind of long, but it's pretty, and hiking around the valley is a surreal experience. The landscape is almost Martian-feeling!
Calling all hippies: Mystic Hot Springs is the best place to re-create your own personal Summer of Love. Bathtubs overflowing with mineral hot springs water, live music, massages, and the ability to spend the night in one of their on-site vintage cabins or refurbished school buses give this place authentic peace and love vibes that are utterly relaxing.
The interstate ends in Cove Fort. The Cove Fort Historic Site, the Escalante National Monument, and the ability to stay the night in a Conestoga Wagon, pioneer-style, at the Capitol Reef Resort just outside Capitol Reef National Park make this part of Utah a great place to explore.
I-70's unique route takes you right past some of the coolest hidden gems and iconic attractions in America. Whether you're on the highway out of necessity, or you're just seeing where the road takes you, you don't have to go too far off the route to find awesome things to see and do!