Site Loader

This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you I may earn a commission, if you make a purchase. Thank you for using these links to support my blog and enable me to continue to provide you with free content.

Our family is on the quest for 50 states! We have a goal to get the kids to all 50 states before they graduate high school. Our road trip through the central states up to North Dakota last summer added states number 35 to 38 for the bigs. We also visited three MLB stadiums on our trip. My husband wants to visit all the MLB parks, so I try to incorporate those on our travels when possible. Keep reading for our detailed Central States Road Trip Itinerary.

Miles traveled: about 3,000

Length of trip: 12 days. You could make the trip shorter by a couple days, but it would limit your time to explore different cities. You could easily make this trip longer. While I felt we got to see a TON of things, there was definitely more we could have explored!

Accommodation: Not all accommodations are listed in this blog and this could be for a few of reasons – either we didn’t enjoy the location, the hotel/apartment wasn’t suitable for our family, or we had a awful experience at check in with a very cranky and unhelpful staff member and would not like to mention that specific hotel. Accommodations we enjoyed are listed in this post as well as other suggestions.

Table of Contents – Central States Road Trip Itinerary

    Itinerary

    We are based outside of Dallas, Texas which is where this itinerary starts. You could fly or drive into any of the major cities listed in this itinerary and complete the full loop. Our route is listed below. Keep scrolling for heaps more pictures and information – including where to eat, stay, and play!

    Day 1: Drive from Dallas, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas.

    Approximate drive time: 5 hours (add time for each location if you have children, especially small children, or a small bladder!)

    Day 2: Drive from Little Rock, Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri

    Approximate drive time: 5.5 hours

    Day 5: Drive from St. Louis, Missouri to Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Approximate drive time: 5.5 hours

    Day 8: Drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Approximate drive time: 5 hours

    Day 9: Drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota and continue on to Omaha, Nebraska

    *If we didn’t have family to visit along the trip, we would have spent less time in Milwaukee and more time in Fargo. This will help break the driving up and you’ll get to spend more time in Fargo, which was surprisingly one of our favorite cities on the trip!

    Approximate drive time: 9.5 hours total (3.5 hours from Minneapolis to Fargo)

    Day 10: Drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri

    Approximate drive time: 3 hours

    Day 11: Drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Approximate drive time: 4 hours

    Day 12: Drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma via Oklahoma City and return to Dallas, Texas

    Approximate drive time: 5 hours total (if you go direct Tulsa to Dallas, it is 4.5 hours)

    The Trip

    Day 1: Drive from Dallas, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas. We left Dallas around 4pm on Day 1 due to picking up our oldest two kiddos from summer camp, so Little Rock was a get in late/leave early stop. If you leave from Dallas in the morning, you will have more time to explore Little Rock.

    Arkansas is a beautiful state with all kinds of outdoor activities. If you and your family are the outdoorsy type, make sure to allow extra time in Arkansas.

    Where we stayed in Little Rock: Homewood Suites Downtown Little Rock

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: AC Hotel by Marriott or The Burgundy Hotel

    Places to explore in Little Rock: Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Riverfront Park, Museum of Discovery, the Old Mill, One Heart Playground, hike at Emerald Park, kayak the river

    Day 2: Drive from Little Rock, Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri. The drive from Little Rock to St. Louis went by fairly quickly. We stopped for lunch at The Depot Cafe. I couldn’t get enough of this cute 100 year old train depot that is now the restaurant. The food was fresh and delish & the portions were a good size. The staff were so friendly and welcoming!

    St. Louis, Missouri

    Where we stayed in St. Louis: In a Vrbo on Waterman Blvd. We weren’t too crazy about the neighborhood and the unit on the third floor was rough with all the luggage and kids. Other than that, it was comfortable and spacious.

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Four Seasons Hotel, St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Live by Lowes, Hyatt Regency at The Arch, Le Meridien Clayton, or Hotel St. Louis

    Things we did: City Museum, St. Louis Zoo, Gateway Arch, baseball game at Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village, Forest Park, Six Flags St. Louis, Delmar Loop

    Other places to explore in the area: Missouri Botanical Garden, Moto Museum, Grant’s Farm, The Magic House, The National Museum of Transportation, Anheuser-Busch Brewery

    Where to eat in St. Louis: Revel Kitchen, Seedz Cafe, Lulu’s Local Eatery, Cinder House, Fitz’s Delmar, Blueberry Hill

    S. Louis Zoo

    We had a reservation for the St. Louis Zoo (tickets are FREE, but at the time we visited reservations were required) at 2pm. Free parking on the street was easy to find, but there were also a couple of closer parking lots if you wanted to pay to park.

    For a free zoo, we were super impressed! If you visit on a hot day, you will enjoy the cold air blast of air in the penguin exhibit. Our kiddos loved getting up close with the hippos at Hippo Landing.

    No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. You can take an elevator to the top of the arch, but someone (ahem – the husband – ahem) is afraid of heights, so we kept our pretty little feet on the ground. Except for that one time when the kids were racing to “touch the arch first” (below right) and two kids tumbled down the stairs. There were lots of tears and two unhappy injured kiddos.

    The absolute BEST thing we did in St. Louis was visit City Museum. If you have toddlers that don’t stay close to you, maybe wait to visit when they are a bit older. If you have a hard time climbing into small spaces – or climbing in/out of any space for that matter – consider skipping out on this place.

    But if those don’t apply to you – you NEED to visit this place! As the sign below says there are no maps, which drove me crazy at first, but once we got to exploring the magic started to happen. The kids were smiling from ear to ear. I could see their imaginations grow and even mine & my husband’s inner kid came out.

    Allow several hours here. The time flew by for us.

    Our 4 year old enjoyed this little kid area and didn’t want to leave.

    City Museum has a 5 and 10 story slide that are built around the old shoe warehouse spiral chutes! The youngest wasn’t tall enough for the slide, so after walking up ALLLLLLLLLL the stairs and seeing the height sign, we walked all the way back down. The 4 year old and I met my husband and the bigs at the bottom of the slide. FYI – the height requirement for the 10 story slide is 48″ and no lap children are allowed. Don’t risk it and walk all the way to the top! It’s monitored and you will be sent back down those stairs, giving you a nice booty workout for the day.

    After the morning at City Museum, we made our way to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. Cardinals Nation is directly across the street from the stadium and is a fun place to hangout before the game. It looks a LOT like Texas Live at the Rangers Stadium.

    Busch Stadium has a VERY strict bag policy. See that cooler bag on my husband’s arm in the pic below? Yep – they measured that at the gate and it was about 1/2″ too big, according to their measuring chart. So, instead of walking many many blocks back to our car, my husband started stuffing the contents of the cooler in all the kid’s pockets. Knew these cute little kiddos would be useful. Glad we brought them along.

    I also dropped the ball on drinks and didn’t realize you can’t take in aluminum cans into the park, which led to my kids chugging Waterloos at the gate. That was a sight to see.

    Once we were finally inside the park, I was happy to learn my husband got us great seats. The seats were in the shade under a cover and there was a large fan above us. Even with being in the shade, it was still super hot. The ice packs from our 1/2″ too big cooler came in handy. Each kid got to take turns putting the ice packs on their necks.

    It wasn’t too long into the game that a storm rolled in. Another great bonus to being under the cover. Winning! And did I mention this day was my birthday?!

    The next morning we drove around Forest Park. There is so much to see and do here!

    Our day was booked, however, for spending at Six Flags St. Louis. Everyone in our family loves roller coasters, so theme parks are our jam.

    Day 5: Drive from St. Louis, Missouri to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Where we stayed in Milwaukee: with family!

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, Hotel Metro, or The Westin

    Things we did: Baseball game at American Family Field (which I’m told by a good source is also called Wrigley North), Six Flags Great America

    Other places to explore in the area: Discovery World, RiverWalk, Harley-Davidson Museum, Miller Brewery Tour, Lake Michigan

    Where to eat in Milwaukee: Milwaukee Ale House, cheese curds from Clock Shadow Creamery, Beans & Barley, Parkside23, Beerline Cafe, Lakefront Brewery

    Flying the drone over the boats in the Marina at Veteran’s Park (above) was fun!

    We also stopped at Schlitz Park along the river so I could fly my drone. There are restrictions for flying your drone, so sometimes you have to get a few miles out of the city or away from an airport to be able to take off.

    Next, we met the family at Wrigley North. Eight of us on my husband’s side of the family are big Cubs fans and my sister-in-law’s husband is a Brewers fan. I timed the trip so we would be able to see the Cubs play the Brewers, and my in-laws flew into Milwaukee from New Mexico to meet us!

    We had fun tailgating before the game. It was fun to see so many people (a LOT of Cubs fans!) out grilling, hanging out, and playing corn hole before the game.

    I even got my drone out and flew around the stadium. See the 8 Cubs fans and 1 Brewer fan below?!

    American Family Field has a great playground in the parking lot that we utilized after the game. It’s a great spot to let your kids run around and get their sillies out while the traffic clears.

    That night, my husband and I went on a double date with my sister-in-law and her husband. They took us downtown to Milwaukee Ale House. The views of the river were beautiful. It’s a great date night spot! We were supposed to go to some breweries after, but my husband and I were party poopers and too tired to do anything after dinner. Even with having four extra adults to help with the kids, they were still exhausting. ha.

    The next morning, all nine of us got up and drove to Six Flags Great America. We spent the day with my husband’s family riding all the rides.

    Our littlest’s favorite ride was the Little Dipper!

    The next morning I decided to repack. Originally I’d packed every person in their own suitcase and we would carry all the luggage up to the house/hotel at each stop. From this point forward in the trip though, we were only going to be at the last four stops one night each. I thought it would be easier to pack all five of us a set of jammies & one outfit each in four separate suitcases. That worked really well! Once we reached our destination for the night, we would only need to bring in one suitcase and it had everything we needed for that night and the next day. Genius.

    Day 8: Drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along the way, stop and see the giant orange moose in Black River Falls, WI. Yes, he’s cheesy but the kids will love him. There’s also a giant mouse sitting on a block of cheese in the same area. This stop makes for a good stretch break.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Where we stayed in Minneapolis: Embassy Suites Downtown Minneapolis

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Elliot Park Hotel (I stayed at Elliot Park hotel with some girlfriends a couple of years ago and would definitely go back!), Hewing Hotel, Hotel Ivy, Hyatt Regency, InterContinental, Lowes, or Rand Tower Hotel

    Things we did: Minnehaha Falls Park, Como Zoo & Conservatory, Sunken Garden at the Como Conservatory, Mill Ruins Park

    Other places to explore in the area: Sculpture Garden, Chain of Lakes, see a baseball game at Target Field, Minneapolis Queen paddle boat cruise, Mall of America (there’s an theme park inside this mall! We took the kids here several years ago.), Minnesota Children’s Museum

    Where to eat in Minneapolis: Trio, Young Joni, Sooki & Mimi, Peoples Organic Cafe, Agra Culture Kitchen

    Minnehaha Falls Park is beautiful! We didn’t allow enough time here, and could have easily spent half the day here. There are tons of trails to explore, rocks to climb, and a river to play in.

    The Como Zoo and Conservatory was our next stop and we had a reserved entry time here like the St. Louis Zoo. Make sure to check beforehand if you need to make a reservation to enter. The admission is by cash donation, and there is a large clear container at the entrance to put your donation inside.

    We didn’t spend long in the zoo area because we came for the Conservatory.

    This is what we came for – the Como Conservatory. Yes, it’s a bunch of beautiful plants and at times my oldest let me know how “boring” it was to “just look at a bunch of trees and plants”, but I didn’t let her crush my happy plant spirit.

    The Sunken Garden – I mean come on! How gorgeous is this place?!

    Sunken Garden at Como Conservatory

    The bonsai trees and Japanese Garden were at the end, and I got to walk through peacefully…alone. My husband needed to find a bathroom for one of the kids and ended up taking all of them. Woop Woop.

    The Conservatory from the outside, pictured below.

    Dinner was at a plant-based comfort food spot. We ate up the nachos, a wrap, the best cornbread, and some mac n cheese – all plant-based. YUM.

    While we were waiting for the order to get done, the bigs and I walked around the block and found this awesome flag mural on the side of the VFW building!

    Before heading to the hotel, we all drove down to the river.

    The Embassy Suites was tricky with parking, but we had a good experience with everything else! The room was pretty small, but it was only one night. For it being right in the middle of downtown, the bedroom was dark and quiet.

    Day 9: Drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota and continue on to Omaha, Nebraska. This was our biggest driving day. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I would suggest taking a day or two away from Milwaukee and adding a night in Fargo to break up the drive. Also, we were having so much fun in Fargo, we didn’t want to leave!

    Fargo, North Dakota

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Jasper Hotel

    Things we did: Fargo Theater, go on a mural tour (highlight for my son was the Super Mario mural), Viking Ship at Hjemkomst Center, Fargo Woodchipper at the I-94 Visitor’s Center, played pinball games at Drekker Brewing Company

    Other places to explore in the area: Fargo Air Museum, Solberg Farms

    Where to eat in Fargo: Coffee at Twenty Below, Teddy’s Eatery & Parlor, CRAVE, Porter Creek

    I go into more detail in my A Day in Fargo, North Dakota blog post, but here’s a quick run down. Hit up the Visitor’s Center on I-94 to get a picture with the woodchipper from the movie Fargo. Grab you a coffee or chai (my fave) at Twenty Below, then go on a mural tour around town!

    These murals were so fun, especially the Mario wall! There are more murals pictured in my Fargo blog post.

    Visit the Viking ship at the Hjemkomst Center, eat lunch at Teddy’s, then spend the afternoon at Drekker Brewing Company. The kids and husband will enjoy the pinball machines. I loved the high high ceilings, all the natural light, and friendly people.

    Omaha, Nebraska

    Where we stayed in Omaha: Not somewhere we would recommend due to the staff. Yes, it was THAT bad.

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Kimpton Cottonwood, Magnolia Hotel, The Farnam, Omaha Marriott Downtown

    Things we did: Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (Bob the Bridge), Blackstone District

    Other places to explore in the area: Omaha Children’s Museum, Kenefick Park, Freedom Park Navy Museum

    Where to eat in Omaha: Twisted Fork, Kitchen Table, First Watch, Modern Love, The Boiler Room

    Go Bobbing in Omaha! What is Bobbing, you ask? It’s standing on Bob the bridge in two states at the same time. This was fun for the kids to see the state line and jump back and forth from Iowa to Nebraska.

    Day 10: Drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Kansas City, Missouri

    Kansas City, Missouri

    Where we stayed in Kansas City: Hampton Inn Country Club Plaza

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: The Inn at Meadowbrook, Ambassador Hotel, Lowes, 21c Museum Hotel, or Crossroads Hotel

    Things we did: Baseball game at Kauffman Stadium, Riverfront, Country Club Plaza, Crown Center

    Other places to explore in the area: National WWI Museum, Science City, Kaleidoscope, Legoland Discovery Center

    Where to eat in Kansas City: Kansas City Joe’s BBQ, CharBar, Vested Coffee, The Campground, Urban Cafe, True Food Kitchen, Songbird Cafe, Bibibop

    Another beautiful day for a baseball game! I loved the Kauffman Stadium – from the water feature on the outfield, to the awesome kids area inside the park, to the bomb.com margaritas. To note: Kansas City Royals game margaritas were WAY better than the margs at the Brewers game.

    The highlight for the kids was getting to run the bases!! Some (maybe all?) MLB stadiums have a Family Day where the kids are able to go on the field and run the bases after the game. The bigs got to do this several years ago when we went to a Twins game at Target Field. This time the littlest kiddo got to participate!

    We even got to see a couple of players drive out of the players parking lot after the game.

    Our hotel was in Country Club Plaza, which was a nice area.

    You will love how big the living area is in the room! We had a good view too.

    It was the 4th of July, so we made our way down to the Riverfront for KC Riverfest. The littlest loved on about 237 dogs, we ate really good Brazilian food from a food truck, we watched street performers, and we danced to the live music like no one was watching. Dancing with the family was one of the highlights of the trip for me!

    The next morning we paid a visit to Vested Coffee in the Garment District and also went by their Beacon Hill location. My in-laws have known the owners of Vested Coffee for years!

    I loved the brick in the Garment District location, but also loved the Airstream camper they have inside their Beacon Hill location. The bigs even got to go inside the Airstream and learn a little about coffee making.

    Next I got to spend some time flying my drone at Mill Creek Park. The park was the perfect spot for the kids to get out and run around before our drive.

    Before leaving KC, we had to try one of the top spots for BBQ! I had many travel blogger friends recommend different BBQ places in Kansas City. It was hard to choose one. We will have to visit again and try out the other places that were recommended.

    Kansas City Joe’s was a great pick. Be prepared to wait in a long line. We went at an off time and the line was already starting to wrap around the building. Thankfully my husband scored a close parking spot, so I waited in line while he and the kids sat in the cool air conditioned car.

    The restaurant is in a gas station. Yes, a gas station. Trust me. There are awards and news clippings displayed on the walls throughout the restaurant, and they have their famous BBQ sauce for sale. There were no tables available to sit, but we were going to take the food on the road with us anyway. Just be prepared to take it to-go if it’s super busy!

    Day 11: Drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Where we stayed in Tulsa: Homewood Suites Catoosa

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: Tulsa Club Hotel or Hotel Indigo Downtown

    Things we did: The Gathering Place (Hands down, the BEST activity the whole trip for the kids!), Praying Hands at Oral Roberts University, The Boxyard

    Other places to explore in the area: Tulsa Botanic Garden, The Golden Driller, Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Discovery Lab

    Where to eat in Tulsa: Smoke on Cherry Street, Chimera Cafe, Evolve, Farmbar

    The best park there ever was. I can’t say enough good things about The Gathering Place! Everyone liked it so much we ended up going again the next morning before leaving town! Hit up the bathrooms in the lobby on the bottom floor, and then go explore. There are little kid areas, big kid areas, slides galore, a pirate ship, swings, a skate park, and so many things to jump and climb on. It’s awesome!

    What your kids will look like after spending hours at The Gathering Place.

    On our way out of town, after spending more time at The Gathering Place, we went by to see the Praying Hands statue at Oral Roberts University. My friend, Lauren, suggested this spot and I’m so glad we visited!

    Day 12: Drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma via Oklahoma City and return to Dallas, Texas

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Where my husband and I would have stayed if we were traveling kid-free: The Skirvin Hilton, Omni, 21c Museum Hotel

    Things we did: Bricktown, OKC sign at Wheeler Ferris Wheel

    Other places to explore in the area: Lake Hefner Lighthouse, Scissortail Park, Mix-Tape, go glamping in a wagon or teepee at Orr Family Farm

    Where to eat in Oklahoma City: Cafe420, Flower Child, Kitchen No. 324, Whiskey Cake, The Jones Assembly

    Our stop in Oklahoma City was a quick one. I flew my drone one last time, we walked around Bricktown a bit, and the kids got to play on the OKC letters at the Wheeler Ferris Wheel.

    Well, there you have it folks. A big high five to you if you made it through the longest blog post I’ve ever done. Surprisingly, this was not the longest road trip we’ve ever completed!

    Our longest road trip was when we moved from Australia to the States and spent 72 days on the road making a large circle around the USA.

    Where has your favorite road trip destination been so far?! Let me know in the comments below.

    Related posts:

    Seeing the USA, one road trip at a time

    24 Hours in Nashville

    48 Hours in Branson, Missouri

    Mandi

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    About the Author

    Hey there & welcome! I’m Mandi – wifey to my college sweetheart, mom to three crazy cute kiddos, and we are an American/Australian dual citizen family.  You’re in the right place of the blogging world if you love your kids, but also want to be encouraged to travel kid-free once in a while. I share about our luxury travels (kid-free & family), our love for healthy foods, and how we stay mentally/physically/emotionally well.

    Throwback

    Categories