We all know the classic U.S. roads like Route 66 or Highway 101, but the road that travels through the country's Northwestern and Midwestern regions doesn't always get the attention it deserves. Originally built in 1926, U.S. Route 12 travels from Aberdeen, Washington through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana and ends in Detroit, Michigan—spanning a whopping 2,484 miles. Along the way are many cities large and small worth making an extra-long pit stop, where you can see everything from historic villages and state parks to antique cars and prairie dogs.
The first stop on your trip if you travel west to east is Aberdeen, a small town that offers a lot to do. Music and history lovers may be interested in the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park or the Lady Washington, a replica of the first American ship to make landfall on the west coast. However, the jewel of Aberdeen is the Westport Winery Garden Resort, a sprawling multi-use facility where you can enjoy wine, eat at the high-end Seaglass Grill, marvel at the gardens and sculptures, or shop for local art. Before you hit the road, a short visit to the winery will kick off the journey in style.
Grey Cliff Prairie Dog Town State Park in Sweet Grass County, Montana
If you’re a fan of scampering furballs, make a quick stop at Grey Cliff Prairie Dog Town State Park. As the name implies, Prairie Dog Town State Park is home to several large colonies of everyone’s favorite Great Plains rodent. The park is only 98 acres but provides a quick stop to watch the prairie dogs dash around and chatter at each other.
Visitors to Theodore Roosevelt National Park can walk the same trails that the former president used as a young man in the late 19th century. Following in his footsteps the park has added miles of walking and biking paths and scenic byways. While driving, walking, or biking in the park, keep your eyes peeled for bison and other wildlife like elk and prairie dogs, who live in the Badlands.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park in Morton County, North Dakota
The site of General Custer's infamous last stand, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is the oldest state park in North Dakota and a visit will present the opportunity to learn about early American history, including the Native American perspective. On-a-Slant Village features a state historic site and six reconstructed earth lodges representing the Mandan village and tribe that once inhabited the area. You can also see the reconstructed fort which was built on top of the site of the village in 1873. After many clashes with the tribes of the area, the fort was officially decommissioned and torn down but has been rebuilt for historic tours. There's also a reconstruction of General Custer's home, an art store that sells the work of indigenous artists, and many hiking trails.
If you're stopping in Fargo because you're a fan of the movie, be sure to visit the Fargo Moorhead Visitors Center where you can take a photo of the actual wood chipper prop used in the movie. After that, enjoy the city's many attractions like Red River Zoo, Fargo Air Museum, or Bonanzaville USA history complex. You'll also find fine art at the Plains Art Museum and a unique Viking history museum ways at the Hjemkomst Center.
The largest city in Minnesota, Minneapolis offers many opportunities for urban and nature exploration. You can take a short detour to Minnehaha Park, just six miles south of downtown, where the winding footsteps will lead you to the famous Minnehaha Falls. Or, stick around Minneapolis and pay a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Mill City Museum, or the American Swedish Institute.
This eccentric car museum is home to many of America's most famous cars, from the personal vehicles of U.S. presidents to cars from famous movies, and cars owned by some of the world's most notorious gangsters like Al Capone. Although, there's more than just car exhibits. You can also check out the Abraham Lincoln exhibit, which displays artifacts of the former president's life and replicas of NASA spaceships.
US 12 will take you past Chicago, but if you can't spend a full day here to enjoy everything the city has to offer, be sure at least to stop for some deep dish pizza and visit Millennium Park. Home to the famously reflective and selfie-friendly bean, officially called the Cloud Gate, the park has over 20 acres of green space and several points of interest along the Lake Michigan shore. Take your time to appreciate the artwork throughout the park, which includes the Boeing Galleries, the Crown Fountain, and Lurie Garden.
Your journey along U.S. 12 will be over by the time you reach Detroit and what better way to celebrate the triumph of a finished road trip by ending it in the home of so many famous American vehicles. A paradise for motorheads and Motown fans, you can visit places like the Henry Ford Museum, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the Automotive Hall of Fame, the Motown Museum, or the Detroit Institute of Arts. And if you're a bit tired out by all the museums, try taking a long walk down the scenic Detroit Riverfront or make your own tour by hopping on the Detroit People Mover.