The Coolest Attractions and Stops Along I-80

Drive I-80 from CA, through Omaha, Iowa, and Ohio to the Atlantic!

  • 28
  • 55:14
  • 3,358 mi
  • $744
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Created by Rebecca Radnor - September 3rd 2018

Because Interstate 80 connects two major US cities (San Francisco and Teaneck, NJ, right outside New York City), it's a popular and well-traveled route. But, even though its endpoints are two of the country's coolest destinations doesn't mean that everything in the middle isn't worth checking out! Along the way, you'll pass through Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Des Moines, and more, and travel across states like Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which are all loaded with offbeat and interesting attractions. Here are some of the coolest things to see and do along I-80!

Photo of Empire Mine State Historic Park
4.5

10791 E Empire St, Grass Valley, CA, US

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Once you leave Sacramento, you'll drive on I-80 towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Here, you'll find the Empire Mine State Historic Park, one of the "oldest, deepest, longest, largest and richest" mines in California. Over 300 miles of passageway produced 5.8 million ounces of gold over the course of 100+ years. In the park there are tours of historic buildings, hiking trails, and the chance to go down into the shaft of the mine, but the coolest feature here is the Secret Room. Few knew about this room's existence while the mine was operational, but it was kept hidden because it contained a scale model of the whole mine's underground system... and today, you can go check it out! It's the best way to really understand just how huge this mine is.

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88mi 01h 37m
Photo of The Reno Arch
3.7

Virginia St, Reno, NV, US

The Reno Arch

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You'll pass near Reno on I-80, so pull off and at least take a picture at the iconic Reno Arch, bearing the city's iconic slogan: "The Biggest Little City In The World." If you want to stay longer, there are plenty of attractions (the National Automobile Museum, the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, and Wingfield Park) to keep you busy... if you don't spend all of your time trying to strike it rich in the casinos!

The Whitney Peak Hotel, and the Peppermill Resort Spa and Casino are two stellar options for hotels in Reno, although there are some really nice casino/resorts all throughout the city!

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289mi 04h 27m
Photo of Western Folklife Center
4.5

501 Railroad St, Elko, NV, US

Western Folklife Center

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For more interesting history along the highway, stop at the Western Folklife Center. It contains a gallery, museum, and gift shop but it's so much more than just that. They offer concerts, classes, lessons, and tons more, and work to preserve the aspects that make the American West so unique. And, if you're lucky, you'll be passing by here during the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

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108mi 01h 43m
Photo of Rainbow Hotel Casino
3.5

1045 W. Wendover Blvd.,, West Wendover, NV, US

Rainbow Hotel Casino

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Since you're in Nevada, indulge yourself a little at the Rainbow Hotel Casino, just off I-80. Luxe rooms, free wifi, several onsite restaurants, two pools, a spa, and, of course, the casino, make this a nice place to take a break from driving and relax.

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201mi 03h 07m
Photo of Bear River State Park
4.5

601 Bear River Dr., Evanston, WY, US

Bear River State Park

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Then the route takes you into Wyoming. Just because the state is known for its wide open spaces doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to see in Wyoming! Get a deep appreciation for the state's landscape at Bear River State Park. With views of the surroundings, a few miles of trails, and a chance to see some of that famed Wyoming wildlife (the park is home to herds of elk and bison), it's a great place to experience the Wild West.

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85mi 01h 21m

Po Box 112 37000 Business Loop I 80, Fort Bridger, WY, US

Fort Bridger Historical Association

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One cool attraction in Wyoming is Fort Bridger. Established in 1843 as a supply stop on the Oregon Trail, Fort Bridger saw many, many old-timey road-trippers passing through its gates. Today the Fort Bridger Historical Association has recreations of the trading post and fort buildings, an archaeological site preserving the remains of the original structures, and a museum housing artifacts from the Fort here.

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140mi 02h 13m
Photo of Fort Fred Steele Historic Site
3.8

I-80, Exit 228, Rawlins, WY, US

Fort Fred Steele Historic Site

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Stop by Fort Fred Steele to stretch your legs by walking among the remains of an old army post, built to protect the railroad. Several buildings and loads of interpretive signs and exhibits, not to mention a beautiful setting in the Wyoming landscape, make this a quick educational stop.

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86mi 01h 25m
Photo of Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum
4.5

975 Snowy Range Rd., Laramie, WY, US

Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum

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Another interesting historic stop along I-80 is the Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum. Built in 1872, it saw many famous outlaws (including Butch Cassidy!) pass through its doors. Walk into the cells, see pictures of old convicts, and learn what life was like for outlaws who weren't able to escape arrest!

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190mi 03h 12m
Photo of Natural Corrals Archeological Site (Ice Caves)
3.3

3 N Main St,, Superior, WY, US

Natural Corrals Archeological Site (Ice Caves)

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There's also Natural Corrals Archaeological Site, which is a really special place for a few reasons. It's a geologically important site, because ancient lava flows formed a rugged landscape dotted with caves, some of which have ice all year round. It's also historically important; there's evidence that Native Americans used this place for buffalo kills. Spend some time taking in the unique views here!

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241mi 04h 03m
Photo of Icbm Missile Museum
4.1

Champagne Dr, Warren AFB, WY, US

Icbm Missile Museum

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Located on Wyoming's F.E. Warren Air Force Base, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Heritage Museum is a fascinating look into the science and history of ICBMs and the 90th Missile Wing, which operates Minuteman-III missiles across the west. It's all housed in a turn-of-the-century building at the oldest continuously active military installation within the Air Force!

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173mi 02h 45m
Photo of Ash Hollow State Historical Site
4.1

U.S. 26, Lewellen, NE, US

Ash Hollow State Historical Site

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I-80 makes its way into Nebraska next, where you'll find even more natural beauty and interesting history. From Apache Indians to the Oregon Trail, Ash Hollow State Historical site is loaded with fascinating stories from the past. It's not hard to see why Native Americans chose to settle here, as it has caves for shelter and tons of wildlife. The park's Windlass Hill is notable as it was a challenge for emigrants on the Oregon/California Trail.

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80mi 01h 23m
Photo of Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard
4.4

1249 North Homestead Rd, NE, North Platte, NE, US

Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard

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Named for Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard manages 10,000 rail road cars every single day on its 2,850 acre spread. It's the world's largest train yard, and it's kind of hard to fully appreciate it unless you go to the top of the Golden Spike Tower and view it all from the observation deck. It's one of the best places to learn about the crucial role railroads played in American history!

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66mi 01h 10m
Photo of Heartland Military Museum
4.4

606 Heartland Road, Lexington, NE, US

Heartland Military Museum

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Another great attraction is The Heartland Military Museum, which has a huge collection of military vehicles that is incredibly impressive, with helicopters, jeeps, tanks, and tons more. You'll also find displays of weapons, uniforms, and equipment among other things. The chance to sit in some of the restored vehicles is definitely an opportunity you won't want to miss out on!

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35mi 00h 36m
Photo of Classic Car Collection
4.9

3600 US-30 B, Kearney, NE, US

Classic Car Collection

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Kearney, NE's Classic Car Collection is an ever-growing display of well-maintained and super cool vintage cars from across history. Even if you don't know a ton about cars, you'll love poring over the details and aesthetic of these retro beauties!

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117mi 01h 53m
Photo of World's Largest Time Capsule
3.5

358 Bluff Rd, Seward, NE, US

World's Largest Time Capsule

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Keep going on I-80 and you'll hit Seward, NE, which is home to the World's Largest Time Capsule. It's a 20-foot by 8-foot by 6-foot concrete vault filled with 5,000 objects from the town's history, donated by its citizens; there's even supposed to be a car inside! It was dedicated in 1975 and is set to be open in 2025, but in the meantime, you can check out the memorial and ponder what might be within.

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215mi 03h 18m

There's plenty to see and do in Iowa's capital, Des Moines. Go back in time at Living History Farms, go for some thrills at Adventureland Park, or check out what's on display at the Des Moines Art Center. Or, if you're just making a quick pit stop here, take a ride on the Heritage Carousel, grab a bite to eat at Drake Diner, or snap some pics at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

The Des Lux Hotel and The Hampton Suites in Downtown are great hotels in Des Moines.

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171mi 02h 39m

1422 5th Ave, Moline, IL, US

Lagomarcino's Confectionery

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If you keep heading along I-80 from Des Moines, it won't be long until you reach Illinois. A great location along the river in a neighborhood filled with antique homes adds to the atmosphere of Lagomarcino's Confectionary in Moline, IL. They serve up sandwiches, but the ice cream and candy are the main attractions here. Order a soda, malt, or one of their decadent sundaes and enjoy it in one of the old-fashioned booths... and don't forget to stock up on turtles and other chocolates for the road afterwards!

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via Iowa Dr

87mi 01h 29m
Photo of Starved Rock State Park
4.4

2570 E. 950th Rd., Oglesby, IL, US

Starved Rock State Park

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You'll find plenty of great parks in Illinois as well. There are tons of hiking trails at Starved Rock State Park, taking you past waterfalls, through twisting gulches, into mossy canyons, and around shaded forests. Make a day of it by camping out or booking a room at the onsite lodge and bask in the beauty of this natural wonder!

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58mi 01h 04m
Photo of Joliet Prison
3.8

1125 Collins St, Joliet, IL, US

Joliet Prison

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I-80 passes through the quaint little town of Joliet, IL next. It's hard to get inside the Joliet Prison (even after committing a felony, since the facility is closed) but the gorgeous old building has a unique claim to fame: it was featured in the Blues Brothers! Put on your suits, fedoras, and Ray Bans for a super epic photo op.

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41mi 00h 50m
Photo of Michael Jackson's House
3.7

2300 Jackson St 46407, Gary, IN, US

Michael Jackson's House

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I-80 passes around Chicago, and just east of the city, in Gary IN, is the humble little house where Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson Five (and Janet) grew up. You can't go inside, but the community has maintained the building and yard, and you're more than welcome to stop by and take pictures. Sometimes, neighbors will come out and talk to you!

There's no bad time of year to road trip along I-80. Snow might make traveling a little tougher in the winter, closing some attractions and slowing down your drive, and Iowa can get some bad storms and tornados in the spring, but there are enough big cities along the way and people driving the highway that something will always be open!