12 Nostalgic Destinations Where You'll Happily Relive Your Best Memories

Wonder wheel at Coney island amusement park aerial view
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Your bucket list should include a road trip across the United States. Visiting historical landmarks and nostalgic destinations will give you an appreciation for America's hidden gems and create unforgettable memories. And, if you have your favorite people along for the ride, you can bond like never before as you traverse across the country.

Nostalgic destinations hold a special place in our hearts. Remember the trips you once took as a child? We often think back on them for many years to come. For your own kids, you can create wonderful memories that also give you an opportunity to teach them about United States history or nature. Ride the rollercoasters at Coney Island or stroll in the sands at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Spend time camping in the wilderness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park or hike into the Grand Canyon for a chance to stargaze under a dark sky untouched by city lights. Experience the beauty of nature in a way that we often miss when we go about our daily activities, especially for those of us who live in bustling cities or busy towns. And there's nothing like a drive along Route 66, imagining what it was like to live in an era long past.

Take a trip down memory lane by visiting these oft-remembered destinations. You'll have new stories to share with your loved ones, photographs for your scrapbook, and be ready to plan the next visit on any traveler's dream travel list, perfect for making memories.

01 of 12

Palm Springs

Spanish Architecture located against the rocky mountain terrain of the desert in Palm Springs
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The golden age of cinema took place in the Californian city of Palm Springs. Famous movie stars like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra all built their second homes here. When you travel to Palm Springs, the architecture of the houses gives you a glimpse into mid-century glamour; many of the homes have also made it on the National Register of Historic Places. So, if you have a thing for the 1930s to 1950s movie era, then Palm Springs should definitely be on your radar for a road trip.

02 of 12

Route 66

drone view of American car driving in a straight road of the famous Route 66
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Even if you don't know where to find Route 66 (yet), you have heard of Route 66. The highway connected Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, and revolutionized the way people traveled across America. It was the first all-weather highway that reduced the cross-country trip from Chicago to L.A. by a whopping 200 miles! People who could afford a car would want to make this trip because it signified freedom and thus, the realization of the American dream. You probably won't be able to travel the entire highway as it was during its heyday from 1926 to 1985, but enough of it still exists that you can get a taste of what makes it so special.

03 of 12

Martha's Vineyard

The Vineyard's Fishing Town-Fishing Buoys
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Located off the Massachusetts coast, Martha's Vineyard offers visitors plenty of opportunities for sailing and fishing. People in the 1950s used to vacation on the secluded island when they wanted to experience major rest and relaxation. But not only that, the island became a home away from home for those who spend enough time there. You can only reach it from boat or plane, so you can park your car somewhere else and hitch a ride to this beautiful destination. Remember the 1974 film Jaws? Well, it was filmed here on location. Today, you can find places on the island to stay, eat, or visit, but we recommend checking out the lighthouses along its shores.

04 of 12

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Country road in early morning in the Cades Cove area of the Smokies
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Nothing brings on the nostalgia like traveling through mountains that have formed over thousands of years. Take a hike through natural forest that will give you a true connection to nature. And the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains—which earned their name from the fog that embraces the range—provide a view that will take your breath away. You can camp under the stars or explore the historic mill. Cades Cove offers a walk through America's history with churches and cabin homes built in the mid-1800s when the valley was a place to call home. It's almost like stepping back in time.

05 of 12

The Grand Canyon

rafters floating down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
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If you plan to head to Arizona, you can't leave the state without a stop at the Grand Canyon. The National Park System protects this historical site but it's open to the public all year round. (The exception is the North Rim side of the Grand Canyon, which is closed during the winter months.) The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is enough to leave you awestruck—measuring 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. You can join a ranger program or hike in a group. But if you want to camp alone or with your family, make sure to follow all of the directions and pack the proper gear before heading out into the area.

06 of 12

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Drone shot of the amusement park on the beach in Santa Cruz
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Since 1907, the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz Beach has been a destination for local families and visitors, alike. It has the oldest amusement in California. In fact, the Giant Dipper roller coaster and Looff Carousel have been named as National Historic Landmarks. You can still hop on these rides at the amusement park, as well as some newer rides. Other attractions along the Boardwalk include miniature golf, laser tag, game arcades, and more. Grab a bite to eat—with everything summer staples like hot dogs and burgers to sweet treats like waffle ice cream cones and funnel cakes, there's no shortage of options to satisfy your childhood cravings.

07 of 12


the famous Cleveland sign landmark script overlooking the skyline in downtown
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Does your heart beat to rock and roll? Then you'll want to venture to Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to commemorate your favorite rock music stars. The museum offers educational programs as well as tours that will take you down memory lane. Exhibits explore different types of music that have helped to shape America and the world and includes the cities, like Memphis and Detroit, that have made a major impact on the music industry. You'll learn about musicians and their songs...and get an understanding of how they influenced a nation.

08 of 12


different colorful signs identificates shops and Honky Tonk bars located on Broadway Street in Nashville
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It may be the capital of Tennessee, but any country music aficionado will call Nashville by its nickname, "Music City." Take a stroll downtown to some of its legendary venues including the Grand Ole Opry House where stars like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, and Elvis all made their debut. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and historic Ryman Auditorium are downtown, as is the district, featuring honky-tonks with live music and the Johnny Cash Museum, celebrating the singer's life.

09 of 12

Old Town Kissimmee

Old Town sign and ferris wheel in Kissimmee, Florida
Old Town / Facebook

Apart from the hustle and bustle of Disney World and Orlando's other mega attractions, Old Town in Kissimmee, Florida, moves by a slower pace. Stepping into this family-friendly attraction is like stepping back in time with 18-acres of tree-lined brick streets, retro-inspired boutiques and diners, arcade games, and amusement rides. Every weekend, classic cars drive down Main Street for the Friday Nite Muscle Car Cruise and Saturday Nite Classic Car Cruise. Best of all is the iconic rainbow-colored ferris wheel, which welcomes visitors at the gate.

10 of 12

Lake Compounce and Crocodile Cove

carousel horse at the gates of Lake Compounce and Crocodile Cove
Lake Compounce and Crocodile Cove / Facebook

The amusement park at Lake Compounce has been helping families make summer memories since 1846. Located in Bristol, Connecticut, this park has been in continuous operation for 174 years—that's a lot of history! During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lake Compounce dealt with its share of controversy, but made a comeback when it came under the ownership of The Kennywood Entertainment Company. The entire park got an upgrade with improvements on current rides and more than 20 new rides and attractions to the park. Today, Lake Compounce is owned and run by Palace Entertainment and continues to create great memories for families that visit.

11 of 12

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Horseshoe Falls on the canadian side of Niagara Falls
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Niagara Falls, with its natural beauty and ease of access, has been a popular honeymoon destination since the early 1800s—even billed as the "Honeymoon Capital of the World" by the 1900s. Today, generations of those newlyweds can return with their families to experience the mighty falls in awe all over again: trekking into the Cave of the Winds on Goat Island, hopping aboard for a ride on the Whirlpool Jetboat or the Maid of the Mist, or hiking down into the gorge from Whirlpool State Park.

12 of 12

Coney Island

people visit famous old promenade at Coney Island, the amusement beach zone of New York
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Just off the Q train from New York City, the seaside neighborhood of Coney Island awaits every summer for locals and tourists alike to enjoy a day in the sun. Street performers, the Circus Sideshow, and the Mermaid Parade in June lend an eccentric vibe. Nathan's Famous is known for its Fourth of July hot-dog eating contest. Luna Park, an amusement park featuring the Cyclone roller coaster originally erected in 1927. But if slow and steady is more your speed, take a leisurely ride on the famous Wonder Wheel, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in the summer of 2020.

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