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U.S. Route 12 Road Trip

10 states and 2,500 miles, these are RT 12's best stops.

  • 51
  • 46:22
  • 2,661 mi
  • $283

Created by Roadtrippers - May 13th 2016

U.S. Route 12 runs east–west across the northern United States, from from Detroit, MI to Aberdeen, WA. Nearly 2,500 miles in length, this cross-country route has been mostly surpassed by road trippers in favor of the I-90 and I-94 highways. But just because it's less popular doesn't mean it's less worth driving! Head off the beaten path to the best attractions along Route 12.

Starting in Detroit, learn about the city's rich history at Hitsville, USA (the Motown Museum,) or at the Henry Ford Museum. You can also soak up some beauty at Belle Isle, a 900-acre island that's been turned into a gorgeous park. Stay the night at the Corktown Inn, the Hotel St. Regis, or one of the other nice hotels in Detroit.

1
2mi 00h 07m
The Heidelberg Project
4.4

3680 Heidelberg St., Detroit, MI, US

The Heidelberg Project

1

Since so much has been made of the state of Detroit's neighborhoods, stop by the Heidelberg Project, a massive folk art installation, to see what one man is doing about the urban decay. Many of the homes and yards here have been decorated in the strangest and most fascinating ways imaginable: records, stuffed animals, polka dots, tires, found-object sculptures and more cover the gorgeous old houses.

2
3mi 00h 07m
Slows Bar BQ
4.5

2138 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI, US

Slows Bar BQ

2

What do you do when you're hungry and looking for some amazing barbecue north of the Mason-Dixon? It's not easy to find, but it exists! There's not much Slows Bar BQ doesn't do right, which is a feat, considering they offer a massive variety of sauces, from Carolina mustard-style to the lesser-known white BBQ sauce, all kinds of meats, and a ton of different kinds of sides. And beer! Naturally, this place gets pretty busy, but trust us: it's worth the wait.

3
3mi 00h 05m
The Inn On Ferry Street
3.9

84 E Ferry Street, Detroit, MI, US

The Inn On Ferry Street

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3

Victorian mansions dot the neighborhoods of Detroit, so it makes sense that you should get to stay in one! The charm and character of the Inn on Ferry Street is in a perfect location, has clean and elegant rooms, and provides excellent service.

4
41mi 00h 44m
Maize and Blue Deli
4.5

1329 S University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI, US

Maize and Blue Deli

4

Maize and Blue Deli is a favorite among Michigan locals and visitors alike. This deli serves up the biggest sandwiches you've ever seen. Plus, they categorize their equally huge menu by your preferred type of meat (and they offer 8 different types of pastrami sandwich). Be prepared to share, or have tons leftover for the road!

5
38mi 00h 45m
The Parlour
4.1

1401 Daniel Rd, Jackson, MI, US

The Parlour

5

If you've got a sweet tooth, visit The Parlour in Jackson, MI. Step back in time at this retro-inspired ice cream shop that's been treating people to sweet treats since the 1940s! You can't go wrong with a classic hot fudge sundae, but if you're really hungry, they have a massive, 21-scoop behemoth that's free if you eat it in under an hour. Beware of brain freezes!

6
62mi 01h 04m
Air Zoo
4.4

6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI, US

Air Zoo

6

Part aerospace museum, part theme park, all fun. Air Zoo in Portage, MI features ferris wheels, bi-plane rides, flight simulators, paratrooper jumps and more. It's a great experience to see their collection of historic aircraft, and kids will have so much fun they won't realize they're learning... and adults won't mind, either.

7
51mi 00h 55m
Silver Beach Center and Carousel
5.0

333 Broad St, St. Joseph, MI, US

Silver Beach Center and Carousel

7

Silver Beach Center and Carousel in St. Joseph MI is a beautiful, hand-carved carousel that's impressively detailed, and it has more than just your classic horses. You can ride a hippo, a tiger, a panda, or even a clown fish! Plus, right near by at the Silver Beach Center you'll find Michigan's tallest kaleidoscope, a splash fountain, and more.

8
66mi 01h 11m
Michael Jackson's House
3.8

2300 Jackson St 46407, Gary, IN, US

Michael Jackson's House

8

Over in Gary, Indiana you can visit the humble home where Michael Jackson and his talented siblings grew up. It's an appropriately humble tribute to the simple beginnings of the Jackson Five. You can't go inside, but there are little touches in memory of MJ, and sometimes the neighbors will come out and sell souvenirs.

9
34mi 00h 43m
Freehand Chicago
4.0

19 East Ohio Street, Chicago, IL, US

Freehand Chicago

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9

Welcome to the Windy City! If you're looking for a ridiculously cool hotel in Chicago, hit up Freehand Chicago, an impossibly hip hostel (they have private rooms for a little extra, or shared rooms for an insanely reasonable price). The trendy decor and location in a 1927 building in River North will make you forget that this is actually a hostel. Plus, the bar, coffee shop, and restaurant inside attract people who aren't even staying here, and they put on the coolest events.

10
1mi 00h 04m
Millennium Park
4.6

200 N Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL, US

Millennium Park

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10

You won't find any better views of Lake Michigan and of Chicago's skyline than at Millennium Park. There's always something going on, and tons of weird little nooks and crannies to explore here.

11
1mi 00h 05m
Gino's East
4.0

162 E Superior St, Chicago, IL, US

Gino's East

11

Chicago has tons of great food (Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, etc.), but it's almost a crime if you visit without at least trying some of their signature deep-dish pies. Gino's East is one of several places famed for their Chicago-style pizza, and the old-school Italian vibes make it even more fun.

12
91mi 01h 34m
Historic Auto Attractions
4.1

13825 Metric Rd, Roscoe, IL, US

Historic Auto Attractions

12

Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe IL features all kinds of cars (including one that belonged to Elvis), but the whole museum has a pop culture twist, so you'll also find a lock of Abe Lincoln's hair, some of Houdini's props, costumes from Gone With the Wind, and tons of other assorted oddities that will entertain pretty much anyone.

13
66mi 01h 05m
National Mustard Museum
4.5

7477 Hubbard Ave, Middleton, WI, US

National Mustard Museum

13

Over in Middleton, Wisconsin you'll find the National Mustard Museum, which has the world's largest collection of mustards! Yes, for real. As legend has it, the owner of this kitschy stop began his mustard collection to take his mind off the pain of watching the Boston Red Sox lose the 1986 World Series. Check out the strange displays, sample some mustards at the tasting bar, and pick up some condiments at the gift shop.

14
35mi 00h 43m
Circus World Museum
4.4

550 Water St, Baraboo, WI, US

Circus World Museum

14

Back in the day, the Ringling Brothers circus was headquartered in Baraboo, a little Wisconsin town, and the performers and animals spent their winters here. So, naturally, the town has a ton of circus-themed attractions, like the International Clown Hall of Fame, but if you want to keep it classic, head to the Circus World Museum on Water Street. Here you'll find tons of antique posters, costumes, wagons, and props, like the Human Cannonball's cannon.

15
75mi 01h 22m

14177 County Hwy Q, Sparta, WI, US

FAST Fiberglass Mold Graveyard

15

In Sparta, WI, take a slight detour to the FAST (Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks) Company, which is responsible for most of those giant kitschy roadside statues that make you think of classic Americana. But where do the molds go once they've been used to make the statues? Into this bizarre graveyard, where you can find eerie shapes like elephants, skulls, sharks, devils, lions, and ice cream cones, among others.

16
54mi 01h 03m
Norske Nook
3.9

13804 7th St, Osseo, WI, US

Norske Nook

16

This part of the country has strong Scandinavian ties, so enjoy the benefits of their heritage at Norske Nook in Osseo. It's adorable little bakery and gift shop. Sample goodies like sandbakkels, rosettes, lefse and other traditional treats!

17
27mi 00h 31m
Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum
4.6

1110 Carson Park Dr, Eau Claire, WI, US

Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum

17

Once you take Route 12 into Eau Claire, pose for pictures with the statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox (since you're in one of the legendary giant's supposed hometowns), and learn about what it was like to be a logger like ol' Paul Bunyan at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum.

18
83mi 01h 27m
The Covington Inn
4.5

100 Yacht Club Rd W, Maplewood, MN, US

The Covington Inn

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18

The Covington Inn is easily the coolest and most unique hotel in Minnesota. There aren't many floating B&Bs in the country, you know! The 1946 tugboat has four rooms, all adorned with nautical antiques. The views of downtown from the water are great, especially at night, and the hosts are super accommodating.

19
11mi 00h 16m
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
4.4

725 Vineland Pl, Minneapolis, MN, US

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

19

The 11-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is run by the Walker Art Museum, and it has nearly 40 sculptures for you to see, including the iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry." The garden is beautiful, and it's always fascinating to see art outside the gallery, so take some time to explore.

Route 12 may not be the most popular cross-country road trip, but it's full of offbeat roadside stops, fascinating pieces of American history, beautiful natural wonders, and delicious road food, from BBQ joints to craft beer pubs.

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