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Road Tripping Along U.S. Highway 12

From the shores of Lake Huron to the wine country of Washington, there are plenty of places worth a visit along U.S. Route 12. Whether you're looking to spend some time in the wilderness, enjoy a fun time on a water slide, marvel at the sights of a big city, or spend the day doing some shopping, you'll find tons of great activities on one of America's longest stretchs of road.

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01Detroit

Overhead view of a park in Detroit along the water Photo by Kahari king on Unsplash

Detroit is the first major city along Route 12, and Michigan's largest city offers plenty for tourists to enjoy. Whether you're immersing yourself in culture at the Detroit Institute of Arts or Public Library, checking out the action at a Tigers or Red Wings game, discovering car highlights at the Automotive Hall of Fame, or enjoying some quality barbecue at Slow's (washed down with a Vernor's, of course), you'll find plenty of great experiences here. If you venture off highway 12, you can cross into Canada and explore Windsor, Ontario, making this a two-country trip.

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02Indiana Dunes

The Indiana Dunes give Midwesterners the chance to enjoy the beach without extensive travel. Steven Milligan / Getty Images

If you're looking to enjoy a day at the beach without going to the edges of the country, the Indiana Dunes are an excellent option. You'll find plenty of shorelines here among Lake Michigan, as well as some of the most beautiful views in Indiana. The Dunes are best enjoyed in the spring, summer, and early fall, so if your plans take you here during the warmer parts of the year, it's worth a stop.

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03Chicago

Long exposure of Chicago streets in daylight Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash

As anyone from the Midwest will tell you, Chicago is a city with no equal. The Willis Tower, Millennium Park, Wrigley Field, the Magnificent Mile, and deep-dish pizza are all worthy of a visit on their own, and when you combine them all, you might need to plan a separate visit just to make time for everything. You'll want to park your car, as Chicago is best explored by foot or train, but for a detour, it's hard to do better.

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04Madison

Lake Monona is a freshwater drainage lake in Dane County, Wisconsin, surrounded on three sides by the city of Madison DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Wisconsin's state capital is also its most unique city, and it's not even close. Madison is one of the best places to experience street festivals and enjoy some fantastic farm-to-table restaurants -- and that's before you get into the cheese curds and fish fries that Wisconsin has made famous. Throw in the excitement of a University of Wisconsin Badgers football game and a day of fishing on the lake, and you've got an outstanding weekend trip for the family.

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05Wisconsin Dells

The water parks make Wisconsin Dells a tourist destination, but the cliffs are where its name comes from. Pamela Howard / Getty Images

If you're bringing the kids on a road trip, you'll love watching their eyes light up when they see the water slides of Wisconsin Dells. The Dells is known as the water park capital of the world, and if your family enjoys aquatic thrill-seeking, you'll never run out of things to enjoy here. Unlike most water parks, this isn't limited to the summer months: most resorts here feature at least one indoor water feature, with Wilderness Resort serving as home to four. If you do come in the summer, make sure to see the natural Wisconsin Dells: five miles of stunning cliffs and gorges on the Wisconsin River

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06The Twin Cities

Minneapolis Skyline Golden Hour Photo by Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash

Whether it's shopping at the Mall of America, the natural wonders of Minnehaha Falls, exploring the state capital of Minnesota, biting into a Juicy Lucy, or checking out one of Minnesota's five pro sports teams in action, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul offer something for everyone. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is always worth exploring, and whether you're interested in nonstop action or taking it easy by the Mississippi River, you'll have plenty to enjoy on a visit here.

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07Aberdeen

Storybook Land, Yellow Brick Road Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

Have you ever wanted to follow the Yellow Brick Road? You can do exactly that at Storybook Land in Aberdeen, South Dakota. L. Frank Baum, the author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," spent three years of his life here, and the character of Dorothy Gale is based on a woman from South Dakota. You'll see plenty of other storybook characters at this park, so if you've got children or book lovers traveling with you, this place is a must-visit.

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08Helena

A stormy day in the East Rosebud valley Photo by Trevor Vannoy on Unsplash

For a journey into the mountains and some of the best fishing in the world, Helena is one of the most exciting places you can visit on highway 12. You'll want to bring your fishing rod and tackle box on this trip, as the fly fishing is unmatched in the United States. If you're a hiker, you can get spectacular views of the city by climbing up Mount Helena. This is a city that's definitely for outdoor lovers.

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09Lolo Hot Springs

If you're looking to relax in the mountains, this spot just south of Missoula is one of the best places to do so. Lolo Hot Springs offers a chance to experience the warm waters of a natural hot spring, which can be a wonderful way to relax after a day of mountain driving. Lolo Pass is nearby, too, so you can take a look at some of the prettiest natural drives in the northwest between Montana and Idaho.

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10Tri-Cities

A winery in Washington State Photo by ideadad on Unsplash

The Tri-Cities area in Washington is well known as wine country, so if you've got a connoisseur of fine wines traveling with you, this is a stop you'll need to make. Cabernet Sauvignon from the Evergreen State is considered top-tier, and you'll also find fine merlot in the eastern part of Washington. With more than 95% of the state's vineyards located near the Tri-Cities, wine lovers won't want to leave!

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