Vacations in the USA were made for road trips. What’s all that wide open space for if not driving through, marveling at the varied scenery, and making choice stops at attractions along the way? If you love driving, you’re spoilt for choice. The US is the original home of car culture; it boasts some of the most iconic, scenic, and stunning highways in the world.
Let’s start with the big one: the celebrated 2451-mile drive from Chicago to Santa Monica, via a road that no longer officially exists but is still a favorite for tourists and vacationers the world over. If you just want to get from the windy city to the California coast, Route 66 is no longer the quickest or most direct route. However, nothing is more evocative of the golden age of early-twentieth-century Americana than a month spent slowly driving the old Route 66 and exploring the small towns and roadside attractions you’ll encounter while you travel.
Stay in unique, old-fashioned motels, visit drive-in restaurants and movie theaters, and take side trips to such sights as the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and Monument Valley. You’ll need a good guidebook and a fold-out map because Route 66 is long decommissioned, and you need to piece it together from remaining sections plus drives along the interstate that replaced the original route.
Avoid high summer when the route will be at its most crowded to fully experience the freedom and wide-open spaces of the desert plains. Stop at St Louis and visit the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.
Jersey City to Cape May
New Jersey may be the smallest state in the union, but it’s perfect for a scenic road trip, and you could even finish it off by heading into New York City. Start at High Point State Park, close to Jersey City, and pay a visit to Paterson Great Falls. Half an hour’s drive will take you to Liberty State Park with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. Drive south to Princeton to visit the famous university campus and explore this picturesque, historic town.
Finally, make your way to the Victorian resort town of Cape May, where you can see the Cape May lighthouse and take a trip around the harbor on the Yankee schooner, which is also used for dolphin and whale-spotting excursions. The whole trip with stopovers should take a week. Make the most of your downtime by visiting an online casino real money US where you can enjoy table games, virtual slots, and sports betting.
The Pacific Coast Highway
Originally the Roosevelt Highway when it opened in 1931 but now called Highway One, the legendary Pacific Coast Highway winds south-east down the stunning California shore from San Francisco to San Diego. It takes in Monterey, the Hearst Castle, San Luis Obispo, and Los Angeles along the way. If you just want to drive from A to B, you can do the 600-mile stretch in about 10 hours, but for a proper road trip, set a week aside to really enjoy the views.
This is some of the most rugged and beautiful coastlines in the US, with redwood forests, high mountains, stunning beaches, and endless blue skies along the way. From pioneer towns to Hollywood glamour, you can feast on roadside kitsch and bountiful local produce, including world-famous California wines. Take in the surfing paradise of Santa Cruz, with its boardwalk pier and old-fashioned roller coasters, and then drive out to Big Sur to stay at the bohemian Big Sur Inn or camp in the lush forests.
Elephant seals can be seen basking off Cambria, while the Neptune’s Net seafood bar in Malibu has been featured in numerous movies since it opened in 1956. On arriving in San Diego, visit the world-class zoo, and enjoy authentic Mexican food in this bustling border city.
Something for everyone
Other great road trips in the US include the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, 469 miles of the country’s most scenic drive, with no billboards or commercial traffic and a 45 mph speed limit. The 330-mile Olympic Peninsula in Washington State is great if you want to combine driving with hiking in stunning scenery. For shorter but no less spectacular drives, try Route 6a in Cape Cod, the Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, or Montana’s Going-to-the-sun Road.
For a genuinely American vacation, you can’t beat a road trip, and there are routes to suit all timescales and temperaments. Prepare well, hire a suitable car, and put together a playlist of evocative music for your journey. The result should be a holiday you’ll never forget.