The open road is the perfect place to discover new locales and learn about the country. Road trips enable you to travel at your own pace, sharpen your navigating skills, and create lasting memories. This summer, plan to embark on an epic road trip—from either coast to America’s iconic national parks, plus all the amazing places in between.
Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center. Photo courtesy of Maryland Office of Tourism
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
For any American interested in learning about African American history, a road trip through the Underground Railroad territory is a must. If you want to see everything, you’ll need six weeks to cover 800 miles across half the country. But if you're short on time, consider the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. It follows the famous abolitionist's life journey through Delaware, Maryland, Philadelphia, and the Finger Lakes region of New York. Along the way, learn about the struggles of enslaved people at various museums, exhibits, murals, and historic homes.
While in the Finger Lakes, you can also learn about American Civil Rights and the suffrage movement at the Susan B. Anthony Museum, Wesleyan Chapel (where the first women’s rights convention was held), and the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center.
Motel and Route 66 sign on Historic Route 66. Built in 1904. Photo courtesy of Travelview/iStock.com
HISTORIC ROUTE 66
The Route 66 road trip offers an immersion into iconic American culture, filled with vintage motels, classic diners, and quirky attractions (such as the world’s largest rocking chair in Casey, Illinois). If you take the entire road trip, stretching 2,448 miles across eight states from California to Illinois, you'll see nature's best in so many places. Make plans to discover petrified forests, deep caves, vast deserts, ponderosa forests, and the world’s wonder: the Grand Canyon.
Make sure to shop for jewels and artifacts at the largest Native American trading grounds in Gallup, New Mexico, and join the locals for a country western dance at Wild West Junction in Williams, Arizona.
Hikers stand under Delicate Arch in the Arches National Park. Photo courtesy of UOT/ Visit Utah
UTAH’S MIGHTY 5
If you are an outdoor adventurer, you'll love the ultimate Utah National Parks road trip that will take you through some of the most spectacular parks in the U.S. You can make Salt Lake City a base to explore over 20 national parks and monuments. The city is also minutes away from Great Salt Lake, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Antelope Island. Continue on to the mighty five: Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion.
While the parks are open year round, spring and fall are ideal times to visit because of temperate weather, fewer crowds, and changing foliage. Plan to spend at least a day or two at each park to enjoy hiking, biking, rafting, and scenic drives.
The road over Florida Keys to Key West. Photo courtesy of Totajla/iStock.com
Leaving the U.S. mainland and driving on a narrow, 7-mile bridge surrounded by water on both sides will feel like a surreal road trip. The 120-mile-long coral archipelago of the Florida Keys was inaccessible by road until the Overseas Highway opened in 1938. Currently, a series of overwater highways and bridges string together some of the 1,700 islands, making it a scenic and adventurous road trip.
Traveling between Key Largo and Key West you will find expansive beaches, picturesque lighthouses, underwater coral reef parks, seafood restaurants, and Bohemian towns dotted with charming bungalows.
Street and walkway on Carmel Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Photo Pgiam/iStock.com
CALIFORNIA'S HIGHWAY 1
The dramatic, winding road that hugs the Pacific coast of California has been a backdrop in countless movies. Stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the famed highway boasts laid-back beach towns filled with charming shops, art galleries, and farm-to-table restaurants featuring local ingredients. You can let your hair loose under the California sun while cruising in a dreamy convertible along the 655 miles of Highway 1.
Along the way, stretch your legs on the trails, or at parks and beaches at Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Big Sur. Spend some time in the European-style waterfront village, Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's where you can access Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive , which spans California's Monterey Peninsula—home to surf-carved cliffs, colonies of harbor seals, and spectacular sunsets over the Pacific.