Plan on traveling America this summer or fall? While you could see its cities and travel between them via planes, trains, and buses, the heart of this nation can only be reached behind the wheel of your own ride.
In this extensive guide, we’ll delve further into several road trips you can take that will help you make a deep connection to what makes this nation tick.
One thing before we begin, though – if you aren’t taking your own car on this road trip (that is, you learned to drive using your parent’s ride, but presently live away from home and don’t own a vehicle), you need to get rental car insurance before pulling away from the lot.
Agencies will attempt to push their own overpriced policies on customers, and most of the time, they succeed, as they didn’t hold insurance prior to walking in the door. Avoid overpaying by going online to a provider such as Bonzah, as they offer prices far better than the alternative.
With that covered, let’s discuss the awesome road trips you can take across the USA this summer.
1) Route 66
As American road trips go, none are as classic as Route 66. Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, this highway effectively opened up the West to trade and domestic tourism starting in 1927. Along its path, towns small and large thrived, as businesses opened to service throngs of travelers and truck drivers who plied the road for decades.
However, as the interstate highway system gained prominence from the 1960s onward, traffic on Route 66 began to dwindle until it was officially decommissioned in the 1980s. Its legacy endures, though, as modern interest in the many examples of Americana along the highway has led to a resurgence in recent times.
From kitschy motels to places like the Cadillac Ranch, where 1950s era rainbow-painted Cadillacs are buried in the dirt of a roadside farm at an angle, there are plenty of cultural attractions along the way that gives travelers a sense of 20th century America.
Nature lovers will have plenty to take in as well; from the big skies of the Great Plains to the rusty rocks of the Southwest, climaxing at the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the empty spaces of the Heartland and the American West will inspire them just as they have generations of artists.
2) Great River Road
From its humble headwaters in Minnesota to the final bends it takes through the Louisiana bayou before finally emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, America’s longest river offers scenery and culture that will reward those who travel alongside it.
Known as the Great River Road, it starts at Lake Itasca State Park, where the Mississippi River starts as a stream barely deep enough to accommodate a canoe. From there, it follows it doggedly south, crossing this lazy body of water countless times.
On the way, you’ll gaze in wonder at surprisingly high bluffs on either side of the Mississippi River, the grand bridges which stretch across its increasingly widening width, and you’ll have the chance to engage with everyday Americans in bars known for being the birthplace of the blues.
3) Florida Keys
Couldn’t wait to experience Florida’s beaches, not just not liking the vibe in places like South Beach in Miami?
Rent a car and head into the Florida Keys on U.S. Route 1. Also known as the Overseas Highway, this road runs from the Greater Miami area over the shallow of the Florida Keys, terminating in Key West 107 miles later.
Despite the relatively short distance compared to the other highways on this list, it is best you give yourself at least three days each way to make the most of your time along this route.
As you travel through this tropical landscape, you’ll have the chance to swim with the manatees, snorkel amidst pristine coral reefs, camp on the beach, and more.
Upon arrival in Key West, touring Ernest Hemingway’s old house (which he deeded to his cats), standing at the southernmost point in the continental USA, and partying on Duval Street (which allows consumption of alcohol outdoors) are all things you’ll want to do.
Set aside one entire day to take a day trip out to Dry Tortugas National Park. An isle situated 70 miles west, it is home to an abandoned U.S. Army fortification which has been kept in excellent condition by National Park staff, as well as pristine beaches.
4) Blue Ridge Parkway
Tracing the spine of the Appalachians from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a spectacular scenic byway to drive in the summer and fall.
Measuring 469 miles from end to end, it is a road you’ll want to set aside a week to see, as its many curves and dramatic vistas mean that when you aren’t stopping to take pictures, the going will be slower than if you were on an Interstate highway.
Along its length, you’ll find many gorgeous waterfalls, sublime caverns, and numerous trailheads which offer scenic day hike for avid trekkers.
For fans of American culture, the highlight of the trip will come in Asheville, North Carolina. Here, you’ll have the pleasure of visiting the Biltmore Estate, the closest thing the USA has to a royal palace on its soil.
By far the biggest house in America, the opulence that George Washington Vanderbilt II, a 19th-century captain of industry, enjoyed is something the majority of us can only imagine, so let your imagination run wild during your time here.
5) The Loneliest Road in America
Need to get out of your own head for a while? Pack up the car and set out on a journey down The Loneliest Road in America. Referring to U.S. Route 50’s path through the state of Nevada, it passes through the Great Basin Desert, which is one of the most sparsely inhabited regions in the United States.
The few towns you will come across have roots that stretch back to the days when the west was wild, so be sure to stop in, take a look around, and have some down to Earth food at the local diner.
However, the biggest attraction of this 200-mile route is its seclusion, empty deserts, hot springs, and as you push further west, its mountain vistas.
Ending in Reno, spend your last night enjoying the amenities of civilization, which include plenty of gaming houses.