Here in Massachusetts we have had some unusually warm weather (we were just shy of 90 degrees on Mother’s Day!). While many people are probably aware of the record-setting amount of snow we had, it was also an especially cold winter. So the sudden appearance of summer-like weather is welcome (very, very welcome).
Friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids all dressed up for prom and graduation is just around the corner, which means summer isn’t far behind. Have you made your summer vacation plans? Many around here spend some or all of their summer on the Cape and Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard)…we are lucky to have a vacation paradise practically steps out the door. But with gas prices staying well below $3 a gallon, have you considered a road trip? There really is nothing more American than hopping into your car and taking off on some kind of journey. To help inspire you, I have gathered a few ideas to get you started…some road trips take more planning than others, some take more time. But the flexibility offered by a road trip, and the chance to explore another part of the country can’t be beat.
Let’s start off with the classic road trip, Route 66.
Where: Beginning in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, this route passes through Illinois, Missouri, a corner of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
How Long: 2,448 miles
Highlights: While Route 66 actually existed, over time new highways were built that bypassed it; in 1985 is was officially “decommissioned.” To travel the route now is a slower paced activity that allows for stops at both natural wonders like Meramec Caverns and the Petrified Forest, along with manmade attractions such as the Big Blue Whale, reptile farms and Indian curio shops.
Website to Get You Started: Driving Route 66
The Lower 48
Where: This road trip hits every one of the lower 48 states. This trip is a loop, so you can start at the point nearest you and continue through to every state before winding back up at your starting point.
How Long: 13,699 miles…you might have to take a sabbatical from your job to get through this one, which realistically would take 2-3 months to complete.
Highlights: This trip was planned using an algorithm to find the optimal route that would allow you to visit a National Natural Wonder, a National Historic Sight, a National Park or a National Monument in each state, along with a stop in Washington, D.C. (to see, of course, The White House) and two stops in California (because they’re special). (I am originally from Michigan so I have to also include this road trip, formulated by the same person using the same algorithm…it is 2,098 miles and hits all of the “Pure Michigan” hot spots.)
Website to Get You Started: Computing the Optimal Road Trip Across the U.S.
Where: Route 1 from Miami to Key West, Florida, passing through Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon & Big Pine Key.
How Long: 127.5 miles, including a 7 mile long bridge; can be traveled in as little as 4 hours
Highlights: Started in the 1930’s on the right-of-way of a former railroad, this route crosses over 42 bridges. As you might expect, this route offers all manner of water activities…fishing, sailing,kayaking, diving and snorkeling options abound, but don’t forget to include time to visit the giant flea market on Big Pine Key.
Website to Get You Started: The Florida Keys and Key West. And don’t forget to watch the movie “True Lies” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis for a great action scene on the overseas highway.
Grand Canyon to Moab
Where: Covering six national parks in Arizona and Utah
How Long: 862 miles, the suggested trip is for 10 days
Highlights: Starting at the Grand Canyon, this route crosses over into Utah to hit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands & Arches National Parks, along with Dead Horse Point State Park. Great for those who enjoy hiking, camping and mountain biking, this is certainly a trip to remember.
Website to Get You Started: A Classic Road Trip from Utah to Arizona
Coastal New England
Where: Starting in Mystic, Connecticut and traveling through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, ending at Bar Harbor, ME
How Long: Approximately 400 miles
Highlights: Starting at Mystic Seaport and hitting highlights like Newport, RI, Boston and Portland, Maine, this route ends at Acadia National Park, with 47,000 acres to explore.
Website to Get You Started: Discover Coastal New England
Kenai Peninsula and The Big Island Loop
Where: This isn’t a single trip, but rather two different trips, one on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and one on the Big Island of Hawaii…traveling beyond the lower 48 brings some breathtaking scenery.
How Long: Kenai Peninsula trip, approximately 500 miles; Big Island Loop, approximately 300 miles.
Highlights: The Alaskan road trip travels through Chugach State Park and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and offers mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and lots of wildlife. The Hawaiian trip circles the Big Island of Hawaii and includes Volcanoes National Park and a side trip to climb the 13,796 foot Mauna Kea.
Websites to Get You Started: Alaskan Road to Nowhere and Hawaiian Sea to Summit Road Trip.
We have such a wealth of travel options within our own borders, from seacoast to mountains, canyons to prairies…hop in your car and go do some exploring!
For other travel options, check out the links below:
10 All-American Summer Road Trips
America’s Best Road Trips
10 Best U.S. Road Trips to Take This Summer