Some people love to fly. Others prefer a good road trip — even if the economic advantages don’t quite add up. I remember leaving work on a Friday in Savannah, Georgia, driving cross-country over the weekend for a job interview in Palm Springs, California, then turning around and coming home in the same amount of time. The trip was exhausting, yet more rewarding than taking a plane to cut down on hours. Some of us just love to drive. So check out the following road trips. They’ll allow you to discover the United States in ways you’ve never imagined.
The 8 Best Road Trips in the United States
Take the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles
The Pacific Coast Highway officially stretches from the redwoods of Legget to the beaches of Dana Point, but is best enjoyed as a scenic road trip between California’s two largest cities. Begin in San Francisco, home of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf before heading south with farmland, vineyards and the serenity of the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop.
Expect a few tight corridors along the way to Los Angeles, where the sizzle of Hollywood and the sunshine of Santa Monica await. It’s about a seven hour trip, so break it up with a detour to Solvang. The Dutch founded the small town, which remains a unique example of European architecture with windmills, bakeries and wine- tasting lounges. Book a room at The Landsby, a boutique hotel with two-level loft-style suites and quick walking distance to everything Solvang has to offer.
Travel the Carolina Backroads Between Savannah and Charleston
The quickest route between Savannah and Charleston doesn’t involve any highways. It’s a backroad drive on US-17 that travels through small towns, endless trees and the occasional deer—a journey best enjoyed in spring or fall when the region’s notoriously humid weather isn’t too bad. Your trip is bookended by two towns that couldn’t more authentically represent Southern charm.
Savannah is a riverside port community with some of the best-preserved architecture in the country mixed among grass-filled city squares and weeping willow trees. The drinking scene is one of the liveliest in the south with patrons allowed to enjoy alcohol on streets and sidewalks (in the Downtown area at least), especially during one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country.
Charleston is a bit more sophisticated with a restaurant scene that goes far beyond southern-fried specialties. Visit historic sites like Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began and spend the night at The Vendue, a downtown boutique hotel with art exhibits and a rooftop bar with citywide views. Guests can also enjoy complimentary bicycles to explore the city as well as wine receptions and cookies and milk at the end of the evening. If you have time to spare on the road trip, detour off the main route and visit the beaches of Hilton Head or Kiawah Island.
Travel the Old West from Reno to Las Vegas
No major expressways or Interstate here. The seven-hour drive between Nevada’s largest city in the north and largest city in the south is a dramatic desert jaunt — often on just two tight lanes on Highway 95. Reno is complicated. The casinos are old and worn out, but it’s hard to argue with the emerging dining scene in Midtown or the drinks in the Freight House District.
Try the beer at The Depot, an old train station that’s now a brewery. Once you leave town, the fun is only just beginning. Take intriguing detours to Virginia City (a mining town that hasn’t changed much since the late 1800s), Goldfield (a relic of the gold rush with a dramatic art installation of junked automobiles known as the International Car Forest) and Rhyolite (a ghost town on the doorstep of Death Valley). Once you get to Vegas, one thing is certain: bigger is always better.
Over the past year, the Strip has welcomed new attractions like AREA15 (a warehouse-like art and entertainment space) and Resorts World, the first all-new hotel in more than a decade. Book a night and party by the pool at Ayu Dayclub, feast at Famous Foods Street Eats (possibly the most eclectic food court in the country) and see a show by Celine Dion, who opens the new state-of-the-art theater with her latest Las Vegas residency.
Las Vegas Hilton At Resorts World
Visit Three Texas Cities in One Road Trip
Texas is one of the largest states in the country, yet three of its most noteworthy cities are within convenient driving distance from each other. Begin in Houston, where the attractions range from the parks and bars of Downtown to the space-age history of the Johnson Space Center, home of the Apollo missions.
From there it’s less than three hours to Austin, a city known for live music at venues like the Continental Club on South Congress or Stubb’s Bar-B-Que near Downtown. Have a few drinks and gather around the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch hundreds of bats emerge at sunset. Round out the trip with a stop in San Antonio and explore the history of the Alamo and four different 18th century missions.
Your best bet for an overnight stay is the Hotel Valencia, which sits on the city’s iconic Riverwalk with easy access to shops, bars and restaurants. The Spanish-style architecture will catch your attention, but it’s the quiet courtyard (perfect for unwinding with a glass of wine) that seals the deal.
Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
Zip Across the Florida Panhandle from Jacksonville to New Orleans
Miami and Orlando get the most attention from Florida tourists, but don’t overlook a road trip across the “panhandle” in the northern part of the state. The trip starts in Jacksonville, a cosmopolitan destination of art, museums and restaurants before heading west across Emerald Coast beach towns like Panama City, Destin and Pensacola.
Each stop has the same combination of white sand contrasting sharply against blue-green waters. After crossing Mobile Bay into Alabama, you’ll be tempted to hit the next exit, but carry on to Biloxi, a gulf-coast tourist destination with casinos, boating and fresh seafood. Once you hit New Orleans, spend a few nights at Windsor Court, which is within walking distance of the French Quarter and just two blocks from the riverfront.
The hotel is extremely pet-friendly and has a classic contemporary image with a rooftop pool and bar. The Grill serves modern American cuisine with a Jazz Brunch on weekends. Windsor Court is a great home base for exploring the bars of Bourbon Street and historic destinations like the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. Visit in early spring, when you can take advantage of Mardi Gras and avoid hurricane season.
Windsor Court Hotel
Travel Through American History from Philly to D.C. and Williamsburg
If you’re an American history junkie, a road trip doesn’t get any better than this. Begin in Philadelphia, where you can see the Liberty Bell and tour Independence Hall—the very spot where the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
Washington, D.C. is less than three hours away down Interstate 95. Plan your trip in the spring and see the cherry blossoms bloom on the National Mall; home to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other patriotic destinations. You’ll need more than a day to check out the nation’s capital, so book a night at The Jefferson, a boutique hotel that’s seen extensive renovations since it was originally a World War II-era apartment building.
The property is between the White House and Dupont Circle, making it easy to explore the busiest areas on foot. Round out the road trip with a drive to Williamsburg, Virginia. The 300-acre historic district is a preserved, restored living history museum, representing life in Colonial America with reenactors dressed in the clothing of the era.
The Jefferson, Washington, DC
Experience New England Beauty and Culture Between Portland and Cape Cod
The drive from Portland, Maine to Cape Cod, Massachusetts packs a lot of activity in a relatively short three-hour road trip that hugs the Atlantic coast with scenic views and a wide variety of New England culture. Portland is Maine’s largest city, a charming destination on Casco Bay with breweries, lighthouses, shoreline and fishing. Don’t leave without trying a lobster roll at the Portland Lobster Company.
After hitting the road, you’ll want to check out a few historic detours. Salem has museums and sites connected to the town’s notorious witch trials that took place more than 300 years ago, not to mention one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in the country. The journey continues straight through Boston, so pull over and spend a few hours (or a few days) checking out everything the city has to offer, from a Red Sox game at Fenway Park to a bowl of Clam Chowder at the Warren Tavern.
However, it’s hard to beat the seaside serenity of Cape Cod. Take advantage of the white sandy beaches and laid-back lifestyle with a stay at the Chatham Bars Inn. The resort has defined luxury on the cape for more than a century with waterside views and restaurants serving local farm- fresh ingredients. Squeeze in a massage at the spa when not boating or whale watching
Hotel Chatham Bars Inn Resort & Spa
Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and Tennessee
This road trip lasts seven hours, but covers just two states. Along the way, you’ll see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Southeast. Begin in Richmond, Virginia where historical sites date back to not only the Civil War, but the American Revolution. Fuel up for your trip with a regional staple, the ham biscuit, at Early Bird Biscuit Co., and take Interstate 64 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic mountain drive surrounded by land maintained by the National Park Service.
Enjoy high elevation, waterfalls and rolling hills, while heading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trip is best enjoyed in summer, since the winter months are difficult due to snow and road closures. Pull over at the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center and hike to sweeping overlooks (or if you’re feeling adventurous, the wreckage of a plane crash from nearly 40 years ago). The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is a historic mansion with wine tastings.
Once you reach the resort town of Gatlinburg, rest and recharge at the Inn at Christmas Place, which follows a holiday theme year round and has a 95-foot slide at the swimming pool.