If you're looking for a summer adventure like no other, get behind the wheel, roll the windows down, queue up a heartland rock playlist, and embark on one of these epic American road trip ideas. Nothing ignites the heart and rejuvenates the soul like the wind hitting your face out on the open road. Find yourself by losing yourself, and hit up every attraction along the way.
Whether you've scored a long weekend or have a full week off from work, make the most of it by hitting the road and discovering everything America has to offer. Stay local with a scenic outing taking you through nearby counties and states, or venture out to unfamiliar coasts. Feel the fresh caress of ocean breezes and sample fresh-caught seafood from America's most famous seaports. Trek through the wilderness exploring the country's national parks and find yourself just a few hundred feet away from spectacular waterfalls and prehistoric glaciers. Visit the most iconic landmarks of the American roadside, pulling over at historic tourist attractions that are shamelessly kitsch.
You'll be sitting in the driver's seat of your own adventure, literally, so set your own itinerary before you put the pedal to the metal, or just make it up as you go. You make the rules when you're behind the wheel, so answer the call to adventure and buckle up for an unforgettable ride.
1. Route 66, Illinois to California
The famed Route 66 is so classic it's almost a cliché, but when it comes to road trips, it hardly gets more American than this. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, and cutting through eight states, America's "Mother Road" offers up a bountiful number of attractions synonymous with "Americana." Kickstart your adventure with a meal at Lou Mitchell's, "The First Stop on the Mother Road." Fuel up along the way with a "cheeseburger with cheese" at the Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, Arizona. Check out the kitschier sites like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas or the 1930s Wigwam Hotel chain in Holbrook, Arizona. While you're on the road, the most breathtaking views will be of the Western American landscape. Make time to take in the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the old gold mines of the Black Mountains, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
Take in Mother Nature's beauty, along with old farmsteads and Craggy Gardens, on a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Trailing from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina up to Virginia's Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, the scenic route is dense with forests and awe-inspiring above-the-cloud overlooks. Start in artsy Asheville and plan to spend a day or two before your trip, exploring the town's many breweries (it boasts more breweries per capita than any U.S. city) and brunching at Early Girl Eatery. Once you're in Virginia, it's worth checking out the old fashioned Poor Farmer's Market in Meadows of Dan and spending some time at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax for traditional Appalachian music. When you reach Charlottesville, check out the homes of Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.
3. Bayou Cruise, Louisiana
Take a trip out to the low-lying lands of the Mississippi bayou and coast down winding country lanes through murky wetlands. Highway 31 will take you along the Bayou Teche. Spot herons while driving past lagoons and alligator-harboring swamps. See the haunting beauty of Spanish moss cobwebbed across ancient oaks and cypress trees. Make a pitstop in Breaux Bridge, the self-proclaimed crawfish capital of the world, and fill up on some Cajun fare.
4. Florida Keys
Get out on the water on this paradise-bound highway that stretches across the 120-mile-long chain of islands that make up the Florida Keys. Take US 1 from Key Largo to Key West, making sure to indulge in pitstops on the route's many beach bars, and take some time to relax on the island of Islamorada. For some added adventure, suit up for some water sports or check out the underwater coral reef parks. The island chain's 7 Mile Bridge is one of the longest bridges in the world.
5. Coastal New England
Explore New England's coast with a summer getaway brimming with handsome seaports and fresh seafood. Stop in the seaside city of Mystic, Connecticut to enjoy all things maritime, including the historic wooden ships at The Museum of America and the Sea. Further east, treat yourself to some fresh lobster and New England clam chowder at Newport, Rhode Island's Aquidneck Lobster Bar. Venture north through Boston before heading up to Portland, Maine, where you can take it easy in Old Port or try a tasting at the Allagash Brewing Company. Cap off your trip in Acadia National Park, a prime spot for spotting bald eagles, so bring your binoculars.
6. Pacific Northwest Wine Country
Decide on a designated driver, then set off on a journey through the Pacific Northwest touring the area's many vineyards and scenic sites. Begin your journey to becoming a wine connoisseur in Salem, Oregon, where you'll find over 200 vineyards in the nearby Willamette Valley. Grab a quick bite in Portland, a city that has over 500 food carts available at any given time. Head east on part of the historic Oregon Trail, now Route 84, and be prepared to be blown away by the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge. Once you cross the border into Washington State, take some time to unwind at one of the region's wineries, like Chateau Ste. Michelle that hosts a summer concert series.
7. Southern BBQ Trail
Head down south for a foodie adventure unlike any other. Start your eating excursion in Holy Hill, South Carolina at Sweatman's BBQ, a family-owned farmhouse serving up all-you-can-eat barbecue. Next up is Birmingham, Alabama, where you can grab your second fix at Saw's BBQ or Miss Myra's Pit Bar BQ's. Work your way down to Mississippi for some live blues and barbecue at The Shed. Next, make your way through New Orleans for a little debauchery and hit up The Joint, or try a "cochon de lait" pork poboy at Walker's. When you're about full and ready to finish off the trip, wrap things up in Austin at the famous Franklin BBQ.
8. Pacific Coast Highway, California
Find yourself California Dreamin' along one of America's most iconic drives. Start your coastal adventure in the historic capital, Monterey, uncovering the state's rich history and visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Head south on SR 1 through Carmel, spotting kingfishers and pelicans, then follow the PCH along the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur, high above the Pacific Ocean. Take a tour of the extravagant Hearst Castle, then continue along scenic stretches of coastline scattered with beach towns.
9. Hana Highway, Maui
Get on island time along the winding roads of Maui's infamous Hana Highway. The Road to Hana curves along steep seaside cliffs while cutting its way through gorgeous flora like blooming mango trees and panoramic vistas. At mile marker 32, the 120-acre Wai'anapanapa State Park is home to fresh water caves and the glistening waters of Pa'iola Bay with its black sand beach. Make a pitstop at one of roadside stalls to buy local snacks and when you're done, pick up a t-shirt that declares, "I survived the road to Hana."
10. Anchorage To Valdez, Alaska
Tour the stunning Alaskan landscape with an adventure from Anchorage to Valdez. The 300-mile route runs past prehistoric glaciers and mountain ranges with 14,000-foot peaks. Between Anchorage and Glennallen you'll pass a number of hiking trails and nature centers as well as the Native Village of Eklutna, the area's oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan Indian settlement, dating back to 1650. Be sure to pull over at the Matanuska Glacier Scenic Turnout along Glenn Highway and make a stop at Jackass Creek to take a photo with its classic sign. From Glennallen to Valdez you'll witness picturesque waterfalls and the alpine tundra of Thompson Pass.
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