You Need a Surprise Road Trip This Weekend

SWAN of the Week, Number 152
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You need a surprise road trip this weekend.

In a time of shelter-in-place, working from home, and schooling at home, there has never been more of a need to get out of the house with a purpose. 

When every day can seem like the same, I feel strongly that weekends should feel like a weekend. It can be valuable to break routine while still social distancing, not interacting with others, but also giving yourself a mental break from inside your four walls.

No matter your budget or life stage, there are pandemic-safe things to go out and do!

So I started a “Surprise Road Trip” tradition with the family, where I choose a social-distance-friendly destination about an hour’s drive away in and then surprise everyone by driving there on the weekend.

Since most places are closed but others are too busy, I’ve decided to focus on some old school road trip destinations that are outdoors, kind of dumb, and a complete spectacle. 

So far, I’ve surprised the kids by rolling up at:

For each trip, I pumped up expectations for our trip as only a dad can. I provided clues, a countdown, and lots of dad jokes about how amazing the reveal would be. And of course there are surprises when we get there. I brought nickels for the kids to “make a wish” at the buffalo nickel, cans of green beans to pose with the Green Giant, and a picnic lunch at the smallest park. I bought Dala horses online for the Giant Dala Horse. And yes, we listened to Weird Al’s 7-minute classic, “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.”

Are each of these a stupid thing to do and a huge eye-roll moment? Heck yes they are. 

But each trip has been something to look forward to all week, and change up the day-to-day pace. Mission accomplished. 

Back at home, we’ve also spent weeknights exploring our neighborhood, hiking to hidden lakes, and even peering in the windows of a dead KFC. 

Here are some resources you can use to find offbeat road trip destinations within an hour of your home: 

  • Roadside America – this site not only has a great catalog of ridiculous road trip stops, you can also use the map feature to see what’s immediately nearby, or maybe a little longer drive. 
  • Atlas Obscura – this is a little classier list of destinations and stops.  
  • Off the Beaten Path – this book series is pretty great, and there’s one for every state! 

The weather is getting gorgeous, and there’s no excuse not to do some urban exploring. Just don’t forget to stay away from other people, don’t take unnecessary risks or risk to others, wear a mask if you’re around others, and capture that #content, too!

See you on the internet!

PS: You’ll note the Jolly Green Giant, Wooden Nickel Buffalo, and Dala Horse were all wearing masks. What a fun surprise to normalize masks to our kids. BONUS! 

update: PR Week wrote about it!

PR Week: A vacation during the pandemic?

Who needs a dreamy vacation to Hawaii this year when you can take a trip to see the world’s largest ball of twine or an enormous statue of the Jolly Green Giant?

Those are some of the magical sights Greg Swan, Fallon’s director of digital, social, PR and innovation, has been seeing with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been organizing surprise road trips for his family each weekend, for 15 weeks now, hitting weird and wonderful destinations within a 60-mile radius of his Minneapolis home.


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