You’ve got a week off. Maybe two? Two is better because it’s time to go road tripping, and you don’t want to rush a road trip — they’re really about taking time to stop, not cranking out the miles.
Though a cross-country trip is, perhaps, the most classic of American vacations, even a road trip of a couple hundred miles offers a steady supply of surprises, “Hey, pull over!” moments, and best of all, memories that will stick with you for, well, forever.
Up for it? Here, find five to try this summer.
Santa Fe, NM to Tucson, AZ
Admit it, you’ve always wanted to check out one of America’s best-named towns: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Your chance is here.
After you’ve had your fill of art, head to the Santa Fe National Forest to cool off on a whitewater rafting trip or with a contemplative bit of fishing. Then it’s time to get some miles going.
Head down I-25, or the back roads of your choice, to explore Albuquerque and then get filled in on the truth about that famously named town (think hot springs, museums and Ralph Edwards Park — yes, named for the T&C game show host).
Hang a right at Las Cruces, New Mexico, with its vibrant Main Street and plenty of galleries and wineries, and nearby ghost towns, too. Then keep driving toward Flagstaff and Tucson to wind down your trip with plenty of pampering.
St. Louis to Chicago
Break off a piece of Route 66 for a road trip that starts and ends in great American cities. Immerse yourself in American history at Gateway Arch National Park. Reacquaint yourself with the all-important Dred Scott trial, and go in-depth about the history of African-Americans in St. Louis.
And don’t you dare leave St. Louis without trying some of the city’s famous gooey butter cake (maybe after a hearty helping of fried ravioli?). Then wend your way on back roads, stopping in small towns and cities, as you head toward Chicago.
Just have a week? Then just hitting St. Louis and Chicago will fill the bill. Though do make a pit stop in Peoria to check out Luthy Botanical Gardens‘ five acres of stunning scenery.
Make a Doughnut in Utah
OK, you won’t make a real doughnut (though you’re sure to find some to chomp on during this drive). Instead, this is a round trip around the state that lets you fly in and out of Salt Lake City. Nice, right?
Your first stop should be Great Salt Lake State Park. If you have a kayak with you, put it in. You’ve never had such easy paddling. Keep a watch on land for bison and other animals. It is a most magical place.
Then head west to nearby Ogden, Utah, a cool little town with great coffee shops and — considering it’s a landlocked town — several surprisingly top-notch sushi spots, including Tona and Ohana Sushi.
After you’ve eaten your fill, point your car toward the southeast for a tour of exquisite public lands that make the state a hiker’s paradise and a photographer’s dream, including Ashley National Forest and five national parks — (from east to west) Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion, with Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument kind of in the middle of them all. Don’t go home without exploring a slot canyon or two.
Georgia, at Full Speed and a Slower Pace
Get a big-old dose of Atlanta’s shopping, restaurants and more before heading into a slowdown on the away-from-it-all Jekyll Island. Though you’re sure to find relaxation on Jekyll Island, stop off in the historic district and at the museum to put the place in context.
The island was, at one time, a destination for slave ships from Africa, and the last ship that ever made the sail landed there. Be sure to tour the island — on your own or guided — to see ongoing restoration projects. And then … the beach, biking and bird-watching await.
Great PNW Cities — and the Coast in Between
Portland and Seattle have been having a moment for quite some time, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to end anytime soon. But in between these two havens for restaurants, culture, shopping and much more sits miles and miles of coastline loaded with beaches and hiking.
Don’t cheat yourself by going directly to Seattle; head right on up to the far northwest tip of Washington, to Neah Bay, where you can surf, bird watch and get some of the best smoked salmon you’ll ever come across.
Plan Your Road Trip Using the Monumental Road Trip Map
To help you plan a U.S. road trip like a pro, we’ve mapped national monuments and landmarks across the country, and matched them with a nearby Marriott International hotel.