Continuing west, our next stop was Badlands National Park. Being the middle of summer, the kids were not enthusiastic about hiking, so we basically just took the Badlands Loop Road auto-tour. We did stop at almost every pull out to view the park and the wildlife. This road is beautiful and totally worth the drive.
When in Illinois, we stopped for a quick view of the Gateway Arch, but didn’t stop in, just wanted to see it. Then we headed north to Carthage and on to Nauvoo.
In Carthage we visited the Carthage Jail and visitor center. We took the tour and saw where Joseph Smith, the first President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his brother Hyrum were murdered.
When the tour was over we headed on to Nauvoo. We parked along Main Street and took a walk around the historic sites. We toured the gunsmith and printing shop. We even went down Parley Street all the way to the Mississippi. Then we went to the Joseph Smith Historic Site Visitors Center and back around to see the Nauvoo Temple. It was an interesting day full of historic sites.
After we wrapped up our visit to Nauvoo we headed west across Iowa. The next day we stopped at a couple more LDS historic sites, the Kanesville Tabernacle and across the state lines to Omaha and the Winter Quarters Mormon Trail Center. Both had nice presentations and things you could touch (and play with), as well as historical information.
Our next stop was Mammoth Cave National Park. We got up early from our hotel to get there in time for our scheduled tour. We took the Domes and Dripstones tour. I think it was the perfect one for us. It wasn’t too long (less than a mile) or strenuous, even my 6 year old enjoyed it. I highly recommend it.
It was a warm, humid day outside, but in the cave it’s much colder, but not uncomfortably so. My camera did fog up once we came back though.
When you are on a cross-country roadtrip, you want to make sure the roads are at least pretty. So, from the Biltmore Estate, we found our way to the Blueridge Parkway and started driving west again. We drove along the lowest section of the famous parkway. Windy roads through the woods…lovely. Then we picked up the road across Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
We didn’t have time to stop along the way, so we just did the basic auto-tour of the main road. First we stopped at the Oconaluftee visitor center. There were interesting information displays and cool things to look at. I always think visitor centers are worth a stop. You can get maps, refill water bottles, use clean bathrooms, and sometimes there are interactive displays you can touch and learn from. An as always, I made sure to get a stamp in my national park passport (affiliate link).
We drove through the Smoky Mountains and in to Tenessee. We saw the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, not quite the same as ours in Seattle, but an interesting sight. We even saw the signs for Dollywood. We didn’t go, but I’ve heard it fun.
While driving through the Carolinas, how can you resist visiting the Biltmore Estate. It’s just about the closest thing we have to a castle in the United States. We took advantage of their offer for kids to visit free during the summer. We bought our tickets online and just had to pick them up in the morning. We didn’t choose to use the audio-recorded tour and just went through on our own, reading the signage. It wasn’t too crowded, but there were many people there, even on a Thursday morning. We toured the house and it’s surrounding garden, but didn’t take the time to see the village. It was pretty cool. I love seeing old houses, and this is so lavish and awesome, it was great.