5 Most Popular American Road Trips
American Road trips are both an iconic cultural experience and a mythical form of escapism in a vast and diverse land. There are few better ways to discover a country and its culture than through a road trip with family or friends, travelling to some of the most magical places and meeting local people along the vast network of All-American Highways.
The road trip is a real institution in the United States and there are some famous routes immortalised by photographers and directors of the silver screen. Other routes may be less iconic but are certainly just as breathtaking. We’ll take you through the best of them. To self-drive America is a true ode to freedom. The open road promises real adventure and the trip of a lifetime. Here are our five most popular american road trips.
1. America’s Mother Road – Route 66
2,448 miles of asphalt and legends running from Chicago to Santa Monica, the real purists can count on 3 weeks of travelling to make the whole journey, but you can choose to browse it by region and extend your stay in various places to see more of the sights. Remember, on this trip, you’re in control.
Historic Route 66 is an emblem of the American wild west. This particular road trip is legendary in many ways, not least because of its impressive size. Crossing three time zones and eight states, it remains an icon of a country, immortalised in culture, films and songs. Lined with bustling metropolises, nature reserves, rough deserts studded with cacti, historic motels and old service stations, there’s plenty to see and do en route too.
Route 66 will always remain the cradle of the American road movie in the collective imagination, evoking freedom and nostalgia and taking you through the great landscapes the American continent has to offer.
Make sure you plan your Route 66 itinerary in advance to see all of the best spots. Start in Chicago and take some of the most iconic cities in the American West. St. Louis in Missouri, Oklahoma, Amarillo in Texas and Albuquerque in New Mexico are all somewhere along the road. As is the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, so this is one of the most comprehensive trips imaginable through the heartland of the USA!
2. Self Drive the Southern Sunshine States
No visitor will ever be bored in Los Angeles. At least, not for very long. Given the number of attractions on offer in this special city, you might be tempted to stay forever but if you have a sense of adventure then this is an excellent place to start a road trip.
Our Sunshine States self-drive trip starts in the City of Angels before taking you through the best that the sunny south of the country has to offer, on both the east and west coast. Discover the sun-kissed central Californian regions before heading to Florida to see what the other side of the continent has to offer. Discover deserts, mountains and sensational national parks just a few hours’ drive away from LA.
Then, cross the Sierra Nevada in all its splendour and see across Yosemite National Park from Death Valley or Mono Lake. This epic part of the journey of about 60 miles takes you through majestic alpine scenery, large expanses of prairie plains, roaring waterfalls, sparkling lakes and wild mountain meadows.
Before leaving California, you’ll also take in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas to ensure your trip out west doesn’t miss the main attractions found here. Then, drop off your rental car and finish the California leg of your self drive, before hopping on a plane to Miami for the second leg to begin.
Florida is known as the Sunshine State and it’s not hard to figure out why. With beaches as far as the eye can see, as well as an impressive array of natural attractions too, dolphins, manatees and alligators are famous residents here. It’s not surprising then, that you’ll find intriguing marine life and breath-taking sunsets on your holiday agenda most days.
Jump behind the wheel in Miami but not after you’ve spent a day or two checking out this special city. Count on staying here a couple of days if you want to visit everything but be sure to enjoy the beaches, the good vibes and the nightlife Miami is known for.
Once you’re on the road, the sights don’t get any less spectacular. Drive around the peninsula of Florida and experience the tropical sights, wildlife and spectacularly good weather. From Key West in the south – just 90 miles from Cuba – to the unique geographical area of the Everglades,
Experience the best that the sunshine states of the USA have to offer by exploring them from behind the wheel – the rugged west coast and the beauty of Florida.
3. New England Driving
New England is made up of six states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the tiny Rhode Island. It is the cradle of the American nation and a region with a strong historical and cultural identity. It also possesses a real hidden gem.
Autumn is the ideal time of the year for a visit to this part of the world. For a few weeks in October, the leaves of the numerous forests of the region undergo a spectacular change. The Fall in New England sees the abundant deciduous trees lose their leaves, but not before regaling us with the changes in colour from green to burning oranges, reds and golds.
The first two weeks of October is New England’s peak tourist season but it’s a special time for locals too. What they call ‘leaf peeping’ is a popular pastime in the Autumn, when New Englanders chart the progress of the colour of the leaves. It’s a very important cultural moment here, so much so that there are entire websites set up to keep track. So that makes the Fall in New England one of the most spectacular and culturally rewarding road trips you can make in America.
Similarly to the other side of the continent, a good place to start is in a main metropolis of the region, like Boston, but you can easily choose to start in other cities instead. In fact, you could even begin the journey in New York if you’re up for an extra day’s exploration or an NYC city stay before your adventure.
Either way, get ready for over 2,000 miles, six American states and some spectacular roads and landscapes along the way whilst you explore New England by road. This region contains cottages in the woods with quaint roofs and chimneys, covered bridges over streams in lush forests, small fishing ports, great lobster and seafood, and – for those who fancy stretching their legs – there’s also some great hiking to be found here too.
Enjoy city slicking in Boston, or another city of your choice, take in the rural feel of the Berkshires, coastal life in Cape Cod or Kennebunkport and make your way through the stunningly beautiful forests of New England during one of the most spectacular natural changes any landscape can undergo.
Book our popular New England Road Trip itinerary in plenty of time.
5. The Blues Highway
Across the Florida Panhandle and along the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find some of the most culturally enriching regions that the USA has to offer. New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis need no introduction to music fans but jazz and country aficionados aren’t the only ones who understand the cultural significance of these cities, and you don’t need to be a fan in order to experience them to their fullest.
Turn this into the trip of a lifetime by seeing these iconic locations on a self-drive holiday, allowing you to experience the excitement of the towns with the beauty of the scenery in between. Start in Orlando, one of the most popular cities in the United States with its world class theme parks, its unending entertainment and wonderful nightlife – a great place to start your trip. Spend a couple of days here to take it all in before heading north and along the east coast of the Floridian Peninsula – through Jacksonville and into Georgia – to the city of Savannah to be precise.
From here, the famous Blues Highway leads you to Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee and all the way back to the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans, with famous music towns like Charleston included on the way. Discover the birthplaces of celebrated artists, traditional record shops and renowned studios as well as the other cultural delights that make the region so special – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for instance, which is the most visited in the country.
We recommend you create a road trip playlist of your favourite artists from the region and hit the road, stopping now and again to enjoy a new city or a hike to stretch your legs, and to work up an appetite for the culinary specialities the American south is famous for.
The end of your road trip takes in arguably the greatest city of the region: The Big Easy, New Orleans. For this one, you definitely want to park the car and explore on foot.
Head to the French Quarter on the edge of the Mississippi River – known as the “Vieux Carré”. It is probably the most famous district of the city with its undeniable charm, historic houses wrought iron balconies, flower gardens and constant vibrancy. Then, make your way to Bourbon Street to witness world class jazz in one of the many clubs in Frenchmen Street, outside the old square.
Drive the Blues Highway on our Southern States self drive holiday.
4. West America Road Trip
Although the American West can be visited all year round, driving here is best enjoyed in the summer, especially if you plan to visit Sierra Nevada – the mountain range in California that plays home to Sequoia, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe National Parks. Tioga Road, one of the essential routes for crossing the range between San Francisco and Death Valley is generally closed between November and May. All the other parks are open year-round, with the exception of the Grand Canyon North Rim, which is open from May 15th to October 15th.
In this area of California, you’ll find some of the most iconic locations on the continent: from the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas to the natural wonders and national parks of Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion and the Grand Canyon, this is the perfect way to take in all of the sights and tick off some of the most sought-after tourist destinations in America.
The question then, becomes where to start? The answer, of course, is anywhere – on the road, you’re the boss! Nevertheless, starting in Los Angeles or San Francisco is a good option as it allows a bit of time to explore a city on foot before the start of your trip – something that also helps to save on a few days of car rental. But like most things on an American road trip, that’s all down to personal preference and nothing is set in stone.
The highlights of a trip like this in such a vast and beautiful region are numerous, and as mentioned before, iconic spots aren’t hard to find. But even in the less well-known areas of the west, the road has the ability to surprise and delight, taking travellers through dozens of miles of wilderness, arid and seemingly unforgiving settings, before the road reaches the next town. These are often the best places to shoot some photos of the incredible contrasts in the landscapes depending on the time of day and the quality of the light. So don’t forget your camera.
Start planning with our Highlights of the West self drive today.
Explore the incredible diversity of America and its memorable states with a self drive itinerary worth writing home about. Add on more holiday time where you please, stop whenever you feel like it and uncover iconic regions, from the Southern states that ooze personality to the beautiful colours of New England in fall; the coastal gems that are perfect for beach lovers to the epic national parks of the west. Use our five most popular American road trips to start planning your self drive America holiday today.