Now that retirement is near (or here), you’re probably infected with the travel bug! While there are plenty of amazing cities and countries across the globe to visit, there’s nothing like exploring your own backyard. And when your backyard happens to span from sea to shining sea, well, you just have to take advantage of it. Follow our list of best routes and attractions off the beaten path for your own great American road trip!
American road trip classics: East coast
If you want to explore the incredible foliage and varied terrain of the east coast, we’ve got you covered. Here are some great routes that wind up, down, and around the east coast:
Blue Ridge Parkway
This iconic drive is bookended by Shenendoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. This route is a 469-mile drive that is actually controlled by the National Parks System, so there’s tons of scenic stops along the way: Check out the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Dinosaur Land in West Virginia, or the views from Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina.
This marvel of engineering is a 150-mile drive from Miami through the Florida Keys. The trip consists of 42 bridges that take you over the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Keys, and you can make stops at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the Dolphin Research Center (where Flipper is buried!), or the Ernest Hemingway Museum. Don’t forget to check out the Key West Cemetery and pay close attention to the headstones—see if you can find the one that says “I Told You I Was Sick.”
American road trip classics: West coast
Pacific Coast Highway
California State Route 1, better known as the PCH, is widely considered one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the world. It’s one of the shining gems on any American road trip bucket list and takes travelers through the best that California has to offer. Wind from San Francisco to San Diego and take in the scenery and the attractions: California wine country, iconic Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, and the stunning architecture in Santa Barbara.
If you’re willing to start your great American road trip with a plane ride, the Alaska Highway drive is well worth it. This 1,400-mile trip actually begins at Mile 0 in British Columbia, but soon you’ll be cruising through the Yukon Territory where you can check out the Sign Post Forest and the Continental Divide.
American road trip classics: Cross country
The best way to see this stunning nation is to simply go coast to coast. Pack up the RV and settle in for a few weeks of driving through the 3,000 miles of the continental US. There are many routes that wind throughout the country, including the Loneliest Road (Sacramento to Ocean City, Maryland), The Great Northern (Seattle to Maine), and the Oregon Trail (Portland to Cape Cod).
The great American cross country road trip is not complete without some wacky stops along the way. Here’s some oddball attractions that might have you getting off the highway for a closer look:
- Cano’s Castle (Antonito, CO): A massive house that’s made up entirely of scrap metal
- World’s Largest Ball of Stamps (Boys Town, NE)
- World’s Largest Chicken Wing (Madeira Beach, FL)
- Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue (Plains, GA): If Jimmy Carter and the Planters peanut had a child, this would be it
- Lenny the Chocolate Moose (Scarborough, ME)
- Lucy the Elephant (Margate, NJ): The world’s largest fake elephant that previously served as a summer home
- Mitchell’s Corn Palace (Mitchell, SD): You guessed it—a castle entirely made of corn
Travel tip: Check out apps like Roadtrippers to find fun stops that are along your route!