These days, a family getaway often means a trip close to home.  Heading into the countryside to visit historic towns and sites along the way, stopping for a country-cooked meal, and perhaps spending the night where the sounds of nature lull us to sleep are as relaxing as a visit to any resort.

For the past decade, another attraction has begun to invite travelers to leave the interstate behind and drive the rural highways—brightly painted quilt blocks, known as barn quilts hung on barns and visible to passersby. Barn quilts are not fabric heirlooms left out in the weather; they are painted on plywood, usually eight-by-eight feet, and then mounted on the surfaces of barns and other buildings. About four thousand barn quilts are now on display in forty-five states, and the number continues to grow.

Barn Quilt Book by ParronThe first barn quilt was created in Ohio, in 2011,  by Donna Sue Groves.  She wanted to honor her Appalachian heritage and her mother’s quilting by decorating their barn with a replica of a quilt square. Donna Sue brought the idea to her community, and soon a sampler of twenty barn quilts were sprinkled throughout Adams County, Ohio, for both locals and visitors to enjoy.

Since then, over one hundred communities across the country have created their own quilt trails;  most supply a driving map that guides travelers along the way and provides information about the quilt pattern at each stop.  Individual barn quilts are sometimes chosen simply because they complement the barn or building—the geometric design and bright colors are emblematic of the pride that the owners have in their property. Other quilt blocks are replicas of cloth quilts, often family heirlooms painted by a beloved quilter from an earlier generation.

Many quilt trails include destinations such as galleries, farm stands, and other attractions that provide a chance to enjoy not only the painted quilt but also a bit of country life.  After stopping to take a photo, the family can peruse the local crafts, produce, jams and jellies, and sometimes even some wine made in the area. The quilt trail offers enjoyment for just about every traveler.

When planning a trip, it is easy to find the quilt trails along your route.  Visit the website and click on the states you plan to visit. You will find links to each of the quilt trails along the way, along with information to help you plan your journey.   If you’d like to find out more about this incredible grass roots art movement, the book Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement tells the story of the quilt trail from its beginnings, including over eighty photographs and dozens of stories gathered from across the country.

Editors Note: A special thanks to Suzi Parron for her contribution to this article and the quilt trail movement.  For more information, please consider purchasing her book “Barn Quilts and The American Quilt Trail Movement“.  To read more about her recent travels, visit her blog at:

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