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Kid Friendly Rest Area Listing

We write about roads and road trips - and in my case (Adam) I have two young and now growing boys - so because of this, there are always going to be unexpected stops.  When your 18-month-old is crying or your four-year-old is having a meltdown, sometimes the best thing is to stop and take a break.  Playgrounds, children's museums, or a park are just some of the places where my family has stopped on our trips over the years.  However, we also have come across a number of rest areas that are kid-friendly that allows us to take a break and not stray off the road at all.

Because of this, we've decided to build a list of kid-friendly rest areas by state that hopefully will be of some assistance to parents, grandparents, and caregivers when planning a long trip.  If you know of any kid/family-friendly rest areas please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.  Please let us know of the state, highway, location (name), and also what amenities or features are there.  A picture or two is also helpful.

Updated 7/09/23: 
Added listing for I-94 West in New Buffalo, Michigan

Illinois:

Interstate 24:

I-24 Illinois Welcome Center (Exit 37):

Exit off the Interstate at the home of Superman - Metropolis.  This rest area has a small playground for kids, but also a fun photo spot where you can be Superman!

Indiana:

Interstate 64:

Mile Marker 59 Westbound:

Not all kid-friendly rest areas need a playground or hiking trails.  Just give the kids a big field to run around in for 10 minutes or so, and it's worth it.  If you are lucky, you may be able to get up close and personal with a few cows from the farm that borders the rest area to the north.

Maryland:

Interstate 68:

Youghiogheny Overlook Welcome Center (Eastbound) - Mile 6:

Rest Area/Welcome Center features a small hiking trail and scenic view. (H/T: H.B. Elkins)

Sideling Hill Rest Area:


Near mile marker 75 on Interstate 68, the Sideling Hill Rest Area showcases the Sideling Hill Cut that shows numerous geological formations.  For kids, the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 68 (eastbound) and the somewhat strenuous stairs to the Sideling Hill viewing platform can tire them out but also affords fantastic views.

Interstate 70:

I-70 East and West South Mountain Welcome Centers:

Located between Exits 35 and 42, both rest areas/welcome centers feature a nice-sized playground for all ages.  If you are able to blow off 30 minutes to an hour, this is a great stop for families with kids.

Michigan

Interstate 94:

New Buffalo Welcome Center (Westbound):

An ADA-compliant All Can Play Playground at the State Welcome Center.  It is well-shaded. (H/T: Yan via page comments)

Minnesota:

Interstate 94:

Playgrounds are located on all I-94 rest areas within the state. (H/T: Doug Kerr)

Missouri:

Interstate 44:

Missouri Welcome Center (Eastbound) - Mile 1:

There is a playground at this welcome center. (H/T: Rich Phiel)

Conway Rest Areas - Mile 11:

Rest Areas in both directions here have a playground and a Route 66 educational area. (H/T: Rich Phiel)

New York:

Interstate 86:

Eastbound - Campbell Rest Area:

Between Exits 40 and 41, the Rest Area includes a playground.  (H/T: Doug Kerr)

Interstate 87:

Glens Falls Rest Area - Northbound:

Located north of Exit 17 - Rest Area includes playground (H/T: Doug Kerr)

Interstate 90:

Mohawk Valley Welcome Center - I-90 Westbound Mile 187: 

Doug Kerr
Opened in 2017, this rest area along the New York State Thruway is a must-stop for families. This year-round facility has an Erie Canal-themed ADA-compliant playground, an indoor interpretative center, and a "Walk of Fame" featuring prominent and historical local figures.

North Carolina:

Interstate 77:

Iredell County Rest Area - Mile 58:

This new Rest Area sits in the center median of the highway - which allows it to be accessible in both directions.  The Rest Area has a small nature trail north of the main facility.

Interstate 85:

Davidson County Rest Area - Mile 100


Unique in that this rest area can be accessed by both northbound and southbound travelers, this rest area is home to the North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  It is a short walk from either parking lot to the memorial and there is also a historic relocated truss bridge on site.

US 421:

Wilkes County Rest Area / Northwest North Carolina Visitor Center:

Only accessible via US 421 North, this rest area and visitor center feature an 0.8-mile nature trail within its grounds.  This is a great way to take the kids and pets on an enjoyable hike!

Texas:

US 87:

Donley County Rest Areas (North & Southbound):


Located four miles southeast of Hedley, there is a rest area on each side of the road.  Both rest areas have playgrounds, a train station theme, and a small museum inside.  There is also plenty of space to walk your favorite pet. (H/T: Aaron-Ashley Yorn).

There's a small museum display inside the Donley County Rest Areas.


Hardeman County Rest Area (North & Southbound):

This rest area sits a few miles east of the town of Quanah.  It is very similar to the Donley County Rest Area with an interpertive museum and playground.  The playgrounds at these rest areas are larger than in Donley County.  It is again a great place to walk your favorite pet - but be wary of snakes!  (H/T: Aaron-Ashley Yorn).

Virginia:

Interstate 64:

New Kent - East Coast Gateway Welcome Center (Mile 213 Eastbound)

There is a small slide set at this rest area.  It will keep your toddler and pre-schooler busy for a few minutes. The Visitor's Information Center is new.

Interstate 85:

Bracey -Virginia Welcome Center - I-85 Northbound

Playground similar in size to a subdivision or apartment playground.  Not a bad spot for kids to play for 10-15 minutes.

West Virginia:

US 19:

Canyon Rim Visitor Center (National Park Service):

Possibly the most ideal place to stop for families or any type of traveler, the Canyon Rim Visitor Center just off US 19 in Fayetteville has a little bit of everything.  Run by the National Park Service as part of New River Gorge National River, the visitor center offers plenty of picnic areas, an exhibit room that includes an enclosed observation deck, and a boardwalk that leads to two viewing platform of the famous New River Gorge Bridge.

The benefit of this Visitor Center is that it has both indoor and outdoor activities that make this the perfect stop regardless of the weather.  Over the years, we have stopped here to have a picnic lunch and let the boys run around, take a look inside the exhibit area to stretch our legs on a long, cold, wet driver, or get some photos of the bridge from the various viewing platforms.
While the Visitor Center is only open from 9 am to 5 pm.  The boardwalk and observation platforms are open.  Also, if you have younger kids, the boardwalk trek to the lowest viewpoint consists of many stairs so they may want you to carry them on the way up!

Wyoming:

Interstate 80:

Bear River Rest Area (Welcome Center) and State Park - Mile 6:

Exit 6 on Interstate 80 leads to both the Bear River Rest Area/Welcome Center and Bear River State Park.  Both the Welcome Center and Bear River State Park group shelter have playgrounds.  In addition, Bear River State Park features hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and swimming. (H/T: Andy Field)

Pine Bluffs Rest Area/Visitors Center (Exit 401):

Google Satelite image showing the walking path that connects the Rest Area to the Archeological Site.

Just west of the Nebraska State Line at Pine Bluffs, this rest area includes a nature trail connection to the Pine Bluffs / High Plains Archaeological Interpretive Museum.  It is a former University of Wyoming archeological site - that demonstrates the entire archaeological process.  There is also a Nature Trail.

US 18/85 - Lusk:

This rest area has a small playground for kids.  One warning in the winter months the toilets freeze.


Comments

Yan said…
New Buffalo Welcome Center on I94 (eastbound) in Michigan has a nice ADA-compliant playground
Adam said…
Yan, thanks! I've added the listing today!

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