On our recent trip o San Diego, we were sitting outside by one night by one of the hotel’s five firepits. Another couple sat down across from us on the other side of the fire pit. As we chatted with the couple, we started talking about what it is we do for a living. When mentioning that I specialized in travel, I was asked what type of travel was popular right now. I mentioned how popular road trips are right now…and how they highlight the best of the USA.
Like my family, this couple had spent most of the late spring and summer taking short little local road trips. As they were beginning to venture out a little more, they wondered what were some of the best destinations. I get this question a lot lately. So I thought I’d put together a list.
Below is a short list of road trip itineraries that highlight the greatest adventures and sights the USA has to offer.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is a part of coastal Main where the north woods meander down to meet the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first National Park east of the Mississippi River.
But, honestly, winter on the eastern seaboard may not make for the most ideal road trip. A much better time to drive to Acadia National Park would be during the summer months. You will have plenty of time to explore these islands that are along the rocky seashores of the northern Atlantic Ocean.
Bayou Back Country
The Disney Movie The Princess and the Frog has a delightful little song titled Gonna Take You There which talks about a taking a trip down the bayou. The bayou are the swamplands located in southern Louisiana. A trip through the bayou offers a very unique mix of cultures like African American, Creole, French Canadian, and Native American.
A road trip through the Bayou highlight the offerings of southern USA…like roadside shacks that offer delicious indulgences like a crawfish boil with the freshest of ingredients. While exploring bayou territory, take the time to find some live zydeco music. Zydeco is a mix of Creole, Cajun, gospel and the blues.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for its scenic beauty. It passes through Appalachian countryside from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains. The Blue Ride Parkway is the nation’s most driven National Parkway.
Annually, over 15 million people take this drive visiting historic battlegrounds as they enjoy the spectacular scenery of hills, valleys, and pastures. Listening to Bluegrass music along the way helps set the mood for this special drive.
The Grand Canyon was cut out by the Colorado River. The colors of the canyon are spectacular and showcase the different strata of rock in the canyon. The scenery will take your breath away. Thankfully, the Grand Canyon is protected as a National Park as well as being located on Native American tribal lands.
The highlights of a road trip through this part of the USA are many. You will find waterfall springs…and buttes that reach up towards the sky…and naturally chiseled cliffs. The beauty of the the area changes as the sun moves through the sky and as the seasons flow through the year.
The Grand Canyon is will leave you totally amazed and in reverence at Mother Nature.
Michigan’s Gold Coast is known for its miles of golden sandy beaches. A road trip along Michigan’s Gold Coast will have you discovering all the gems along the dazzling Great Lakes. You will discover huge inland seas. Explore the lighthouses located on rocky shores. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the best sky is in “Northern Michigan in the fall.”
Are you ready to see all the highlights of the Great Lakes on this USA road trip?
Slowly roam southward down by the Mississippi River. Then drive west to experience a retro piece of Route 66 and all the delights you can find there. Or maybe take some time to head on up to the Canadian border. The views will not disappoint.
Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park entertains more visitors very year than any of the other National Parks. The Smokies cover an 800-square-mile area of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Here you will find ridges of the mountains covered with beautiful trees. Wildlife abounds here where you just might spot a wild turkey, black bear, or a white-tailed doe. This destination is the perfect refuge with over 1,600 different species of wildflowers.
If you choose to highlight the USA with this road trip, consider taking it during the fall when the weather is more temperate and the leaves are turning gorgeous with fiery hues of red, orange, and gold.
Okay, okay, the National Mall is not a road trip. But it does make for a fantastic place to start a road trip (or finish one).
The National Mall is found in Washington, DC. It is at the heart of the capital of the USA.
Along the National Mall you’ll find historical monuments. Many of them are styled after ancient Greek and Roman architecture. You’ll find memorials honoring both civic as well as war heroes. And don’t forget to visit one of the numerous Smithsonian galleries and museums.
This place is one like no other. It is a place with a rich history of both protests and celebrations along the elongated grassy lawn.
From the National Mall you can begin a road trip highlighting Maryland’s historic road or a tour of the USA’s Civil War history.
Pacific Coast Highways
The highways of the Pacific span from north to south…from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico. The view along the way is filled with bewildering beach cliffs. And scattered throughout are little beach communities each with their own quirky charm.
If you take a trip along the USA’s Pacific Coast Highway via road trip, you’ll come across some real hidden treasures. See the timeworn forests of redwood trees. If you enjoy seafood, you’ll find an abundance of fresh seafood…along with many local fishing tales. And never miss the opportunity to watch a sunset on an old wooden pier.
The Rocky Mountains really call to those who enjoy the great outdoors. It runs along the North American Continental Divide. Driving through the Rocky Mountains during the spring or summer you’ll discover myriads of wildflowers and serene lakes.
The Rocky Mountains offer a rare mix of experiences that speak to many different interests. It has an abundance of wildlife, a rich history of pioneer heritage, as well as the opportunity to get a glimpse into Native American traditions. Many say that the Rocky Mountains highlight the American frontier spirit…perfect of a road trip wanting to experience the USA.
Fun side trips can have you visiting ghost towns of the Old West.
Route 66 is the mother-of-all road trips. It is THE classic of all road trips. The personality of this delightful road trip can be seen in the original Cars movie by Pixar/Disney.
Route 66 is over 2,400 miles long. It starts out in Chicago, the Windy City, and takes you all the way to the west coast and sunny Los Angeles, California. I’d like to think if I am able to ever do a Route 66 road trip, that I’ll end with a day at Disney California Adventure theme park and spend the day in Carsland re-living my adventure.
This journey takes place along a mostly two-lane highway. Along the way, you’ll pass through small towns with tiny little old motor hotels (motels), neon signs, lots of greasy spoon diners with some of the best pie that tastes just like mom used to make. And, occasionally, you’ll pass by a drive-in theater.
One of the highlights of this road trip is that you get to meet such diverse set of small-town folk…who always seem to eager to have a friendly conversation with those passing through.
If you want to take a road trip during the winter months, nothing highlights the USA like the beaches of the south. They are fortunate to have warm sunshine almost the entire year.
The state of Florida is a peninsula that is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the western side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side. It’s gorgeous with its semitropical weather and white-sand beaches. The turquoise waters allow for stunning sunrises on the east coast and sunsets on the western coast.
There are so many beaches in the south, that it would be easy to visit a new, distinct one every…single…day.
Yellowstone National Park
A road trip to Yellowstone National Park highlights the some of the best that the USA has to offer. It is the oldest National Park. Its natural rainbow-colored hot springs and geysers that shoot up into the air can’t be found anywhere else. But one of its most dazzling features is the USA’s largest ecosystem that is still intact. The ecosystem features an abundance of animals such as bison, elk, grizzly bears, moose, and wolves.
In addition, you can combine a road trip that includes a visit to the Grand Tetons, and you’ve experience the best of the western wilderness.
Going with the Trend of the Great-American Road Trip
Like the couple we met in San Diego, I see a lot more road trips in my family’s future. As I have researched how a road trip can highlight the best of the best in the USA, I realized how much of the country I still haven’t seen…but plan to see in the near future.
The great-American road trip continues to be a large and growing trend in the travel industry. I am committed to writing about each of the above itineraries in much greater detail in the coming months to help out my readers. As you plan your trips for the coming year(s), I hope you will find plenty of resources to help you in your planning.
If you have any specific questions, please let me know below as it helps me when I am doing my research and creating articles.
Please share this article freely with anyone you might know thinking about or talking about taking a road trip or two or three or more. I will continue to get update it as new information is added.