Going to the Sun Road
Car Rentals & Roadtrips

21 Great American Road Trips Around the US

Jessica Spiegel

Jessica Spiegel

August 8, 2023

8 min read

Road trips in the US come in all flavors—from looping journeys perfect for a long weekend to epic point-to-point trips ideal for a week or more. There are routes through National Parks, to historic and archaeological sites, and designated drives themed around traditional arts and crafts or local cuisine. And being behind the wheel means you can let spontaneity be your guide, stopping for quirky roadside attractions and breathtaking vistas.

Skip the highways and look instead for those little squiggly lines on the map—you never know what you’ll find.

Note that the timeframes listed are just starting points, since part of the appeal of a road trip is being able to adjust the schedule as you go, and there’s no requirement to drive the entirety of any route listed—especially the two-week trips.

Day Trip Routes

Road to Hana

Road to Hana on Maui.
  • State(s) included: Hawaii (island of Maui)
  • Miles: 64.4
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: Year-round; start early in the day (7:00-7:30am)
  • Highlights: Wai’anapanapa State Park; Hamoa Beach; Keanae Peninsula; Ho’okipa Beach Park; Twin Falls; Garden of Eden; Hana Town; Wailua Falls
  • Airports: Kahului Airport (OGG)

The Road to Hana is among the shorter road trips on this list in terms of distance, but it’s so jam-packed with reasons to get out of the car that attractions are identified by individual mile markers. It’s also nowhere near a straight line, with hairpin twists and turns that enforce slower speeds. The tiny road grips the edge of the island and is often shrouded by dense rainforest. 

There are dozens of gorgeous waterfalls, picturesque beaches, botanical gardens, and viewpoints at regular intervals so you can admire the lush beauty. All this to say that yes, you could drive the Road to Hana in a day, but you should spend more time if you can. Extend an out-and-back trip with an overnight in Hana to maximize sightseeing. You still won’t see everything in two days, but you’ll be far less rushed.

Sample deals to Maui: 

  • Phoenix nonstop to Maui for $188 roundtrip
  • Honolulu or Kona nonstop to Maui for $58 roundtrip
  • San Diego nonstop to Maui for $259 roundtrip   
>>Read more about the Road to Hana in our Maui guide

Trail Ridge Road

  • State(s) included: Colorado
  • Miles: 48
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: June-September
  • Highlights: Rocky Mountain National Park; Milner Pass; Fall River Pass
  • Airports: Denver International Airport (DEN) is about 77 miles from Estes Park at one end of the road

The most famous scenic drive in Rocky Mountain National Park is Trail Ridge Road, which connects the park’s gateway towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. The fact that it climbs a staggering 4,000 feet almost immediately, coupled with 11 miles of the road being above the treeline, means drivers are treated to expansive views in all directions. Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass (10,120 feet), but the highest point of the road is a whopping 12,183 feet. 

Be on the lookout for wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, and ptarmigans, and stop at the Tundra World Nature Trail to see colorful carpets made of hundreds of tiny alpine flowers. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and explore on foot, either at the many scenic viewpoints and trails, but keep in mind that conditions can be pretty windy at these elevations—bring along warm gear even if it’s summer.

Sample deals to Denver:

  • Los Angeles nonstop to Denver for $49 roundtrip 
  • Charlotte nonstop to Denver for $151 roundtrip 

Historic Columbia River Highway

Multnomah falls.
  • State(s) included: Oregon
  • Miles: 74.1
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: May-October
  • Highlights: Crown Point; Multnomah Falls; Bonneville Lock and Dam; city of Hood River
  • Airports: Portland International Airport (PDX) is a little more than 16 miles from the western end of the highway

The original road built on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, completed in 1922, was the first US road specifically designed to be a scenic highway—and it remains the prettiest route through the gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is famous for its many waterfalls, including one of the tallest in the country: Multnomah Falls. 

Dozens of hiking trails at all skill levels spread like spiderwebs away from the highway and up to lofty viewpoints overlooking the river, such as the challenging hike from Angel’s Rest to Devil’s Rest, but even non-hikers can enjoy spectacular views from Crown Point (don’t miss a peek inside Vista House and its tiny museum). Stop at Bonneville Lock and Dam to see Herman the Sturgeon (he’s about 10 feet long and 60 years old). And, if you’re visiting during the late summer or early fall, a detour from Hood River through what’s known as the “Fruit Loop” is a great way to stock up on freshly-picked pears, peaches, and apples.

Sample deals to Portland: 

  • San Francisco nonstop to Portland for $99 roundtrip
  • Los Angeles nonstop to Portland for $115 roundtrip

Beartooth Highway

  • State(s) included: Montana, Wyoming
  • Miles: 68.7
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: Late May through mid-October
  • Highlights: Absaroka-Beartooth Mountain Range; Yellowstone National Park
  • Airports: Red Lodge Airport (RED) is near one end of the road; the nearest airport on the other end will depend on where you exit Yellowstone (Yellowstone Regional Airport is near Cody, Wyoming to the east of the park, Yellowstone Airport is near West Yellowstone, Montana to the west of the park)

Planning a road trip to Yellowstone National Park gives you a chance to add another day to your itinerary to take in what’s been called one of the most scenic drives in the country—the Beartooth Highway. This stretch of US Route 212 not only crosses the highest highway points in both Wyoming and Montana (10,947 feet and 10,350 feet respectively), it also dips into Yellowstone itself, making it an ideal prelude to the park. 

Viewpoints along the way entice drivers with truly epic views of national forests, alpine lakes, snow-covered mountains, and—if you’re lucky—wildlife like bears, moose, mountain goats, and wolves.

Sample deals to Yellowstone:

  • San Francisco to West Yellowstone for $161 roundtrip
  • Austin to Jackson Hole for $164 roundtrip

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going to the Sun road.
  • State(s) included: Montana
  • Miles: 50
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: July-October
  • Highlights: St. Mary Lake; Jackson Glacier Overlook
  • Airports: Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell

Most National Parks have scenic drives enclosed entirely within their borders, but few are as spectacular as Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. Built in the early 1930s, this scenic byway cuts the park nearly in half from northeast to southwest, giving visitors a look at a variety of landscapes. 

Take your time, stopping frequently to see the many glaciers that give the park its name, not to mention all the mountain peaks and dramatic valleys between them. Pack some provisions and go for a hike, or spend the night at one of the five park campgrounds located along the route. And while the Going-to-the-Sun Road is technically a one-way trip, many visitors turn around and go back the way they came—the scenery changes depending which way you’re headed.

Sample deals to Kalispell: 

  • Chicago or Denver nonstop to Kalispell for $197 roundtrip 
  • Portland to Kalispell for $166 roundtrip 

Overseas Highway

  • State(s) included: Florida
  • Miles: 113
  • Minimum days needed: 1-2
  • Best time to go: Spring
  • Highlights: Key Largo; Pennekamp Park; Seven Mile Bridge; Dolphin Research Center; Bahia Honda State Park; Key West
  • Airports: Miami International Airport (MIA) is a little more than 63 miles from Key Largo, near the start of the Overseas Highway; Key West International Airport (EYW) is at the end if you don’t want to backtrack

While US Route 1 extends all the way from the Canadian border with Maine to Key West, Florida, it’s the southernmost hundred miles that are arguably the most interesting. Dubbed the “Overseas Highway,” this two-lane engineering marvel seems to cross more water than land on its journey from the southern tip of mainland Florida to Key West. 

There are more than 40 bridges en route, including one that’s seven miles long. It’s not all watery scenery, though—there are white sand beaches, lots of places beloved by snorkelers and divers (just don’t touch the coral), and even a place where you can swim with dolphins. At the end of the road (literally), eclectic Key West is an excellent place to watch sunsets.

Sample deals to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West: 

  • San Francisco nonstop to Fort Lauderdale for $197 roundtrip 
  • Portland to Key West for $206 roundtrip 
  • Boston to Key West or Miami for $123 roundtrip 

>> Read more about finding cheap flights to Miami

High Road to Taos

Taos Pueblo.
  • State(s) included: New Mexico
  • Miles: 56
  • Minimum days needed: 1
  • Best time to go: May-September
  • Highlights: Chimayó; Córdova; San José de Gracia Church; Taos Pueblo
  • Airports: Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF); flights are usually cheaper into Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) which is located around 60 miles southwest of Santa Fe

There are two roads connecting Santa Fe and Taos—but only one of them is designated a scenic byway. The High Road to Taos isn’t very long, but you’ll need at least a day for all the stops you’ll make en route to check out the unique arts and crafts and to explore New Mexico’s Spanish history. 

Stop in Chimayó to visit the diminutive santuario, where pilgrims come by the thousands every Easter, and see examples of traditional weaving. Look for wood carvings in Córdova, visit the 18th-century adobe San José de Gracia Church in Las Trampas, and wander among the traditional adobe homes in the UNESCO World Heritage Taos Pueblo. If you’re making this a day trip from either Santa Fe or Taos, returning via the Low Road offers a change of scenery as it snakes along the Rio Grande.

Sample deals to Albuquerque and Santa Fe: 

  • Austin nonstop to Albuquerque for $138 roundtrip 
  • Atlanta to Santa Fe for $199 roundtrip 

Road Trips Perfect for Long Weekends

Bluebonnet Trail

  • State(s) included: Texas
  • Miles: ~145
  • Minimum days needed: 1-2
  • Best time to go: Spring
  • Highlights: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area; Willow City Loop; Lyndon B. Johnson State Park; Inks Lake State Park
  • Airports: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is just over 54 miles from Burnet.

The bluebonnet is Texas’ state flower, and while the state government has designated the city of Ennis as the official bluebonnet city, one the best scenic drives through bluebonnet country doesn’t include Ennis at all. Instead, it follows Route 29 in Texas Hill Country from Burnet west to Llano, then south to the Willow City Loop and Fredericksburg, then east to Johnson City and back up to Burnet. Burnet and Llano say they’re the bluebonnet “co-capitals,” and the aforementioned Willow City Loop is particularly well-known for wildflowers. During the spring, you’ll see vast fields of the signature blue blossoms—and plenty of other colorful blooms—in all directions. It’s a feast for the eyes and your Instagram followers.

Sample deals to Austin: 

  • Raleigh nonstop to Austin for $178 roundtrip
  • Chicago nonstop to Austin for $81 roundtrip  

Blue Ridge Parkway

blue ridge parkway.
  • State(s) included: Virginia, North Carolina
  • Miles: 469
  • Minimum days needed: 3-4
  • Best time to go: Autumn
  • Highlights: Natural Bridge; Mabry Mill; Blue Ridge Music Center; Moses Cone Manor; Grandfather Mountain; Mile High Swinging Bridge; Craggy Gardens; Biltmore Estate
  • Airports: Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) in Virginia; Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs, appropriately enough, along the Blue Ridge Mountains (part of the Appalachian range) and connects two of the best National Parks in the east—Shenandoah to the northeast and Great Smoky Mountains to the southwest. 

Far from being a simple route to get visitors from one park to another, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a road trip destination all its own. In addition to the natural beauty and scenic stops along the way, there are also noteworthy cultural attractions. Tour Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Visit the Blue Ridge Music Center to learn about Appalachian music and stay to hear a performance. And don’t miss Asheville’s Biltmore Estate; the largest private home in the United States, it’s now open to visitors.

Sample deals to the Blue Ridge Parkway: 

  • Austin to Asheville for $163 roundtrip
  • Austin, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, or SF open-jaw to the Blue Ridge Parkway for $186-$203 roundtrip

Natchez Trace Parkway

  • State(s) included: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee
  • Miles: 444
  • Minimum days needed: 2-3
  • Best time to go: Spring or Autumn
  • Highlights: Sunken Trace; Jackson Falls; Emerald Mound; Cypress Swamp
  • Airports: Nashville International Airport (BNA) is at the northern end of the parkway; Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR) is the nearest major airport to the southern end at 73 miles away

The original Natchez Trace was something of a bison superhighway, expanded and frequently used by native peoples for thousands of years. Today, the Natchez Trace Parkway roughly follows the original trail’s route between Nashville, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi. Parts of the “Old Trace” remain and are open for visitors to walk on the historic trail, and there are also ancient burial mounds along the route. 

Among the other attractions, don’t miss the fantastic Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, the elevated boardwalk through Cypress Swamp (look for alligators in the water below) and the gravesite of famed explorer Merriweather Lewis—he died on the Trace in 1809.

Sample deals to Nashville and Baton Rouge

  • Boston nonstop to Nashville for $167 roundtrip 
  • San Francisco to Baton Rouge for $206 roundtrip 

Utah Route 12

Utah route 12.
  • State(s) included: Utah
  • Miles: 122.9
  • Minimum days needed: 2-3
  • Best time to go: May-September
  • Highlights: Capitol Reef National Park; Dixie National Forest; Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; Escalante Petrified Forest State Park; Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Airports: Cedar City Airport (CDC) is a little less than 69 miles from Panguitch, the southern end of the road, but only has service from Salt Lake City; Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) is 213 miles from Torrey, Route 12’s northern end, and 245 miles from Panguitch

Technically, you might only need a day to drive the entire length of Route 12 in Utah, but there are so many places to stop and explore along the way that you probably won’t even see it all with three days to spare. The road is bookended by two National Parks—Capitol Reef just outside Torrey in the north and Bryce Canyon near the other end of the road in Panguitch. 

Between the two, Route 12 winds through the canyons and cliffs of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, often hugging the edge of red rock cliffs (it even goes right through two red rock arches in Red Canyon). There is no shortage of hiking trails, waterfalls, swimming holes, and campgrounds to make it worth lingering.

Sample deals to Salt Lake City: 

  • Portland nonstop to Salt Lake City for $157 roundtrip
  • Phoenix nonstop to Salt Lake City for $77 roundtrip 

Green Mountain Byway

  • State(s) included: Vermont
  • Miles: ~200
  • Minimum days needed: 2-4
  • Best time to go: Autumn, for the fall foliage
  • Highlights: Green Mountain National Forest; town of Stowe; Ben & Jerry’s factory tour (Waterbury)
  • Airports: Albany International Airport (ALB) at the southern end and Burlington International Airport (BTV) at the northern end (if you don’t want to backtrack)

Nearly every road in New England is awash with riotous foliage colors in the fall, but Vermont’s Route 100—the Green Mountain Byway—is among the best “leaf-peeping” scenic drives in the region. It stretches the length of the state for about 200 miles, with offshoots like beautiful Route 125 (or the “Middlebury Gap”) and the Green Mountain National Forest, making it ideal for a long weekend of exploring. Take your time, stopping to browse art galleries and farm stands in between short hikes to admire the views.

Olympic Peninsula Loop

Olympic National Park.
  • State(s) included: Washington
  • Miles: ~430
  • Minimum days needed: 3-4
  • Best time to go: Summer
  • Highlights: Olympic National Park; Hurricane Ridge; Hoh Rainforest; city of Port Townsend; Lake Quinault; town of Forks; Cape Flattery
  • Airports: Seattle International Airport (SEA) is a little more than 103 miles from Port Townsend via car on the Hood Canal; from Seattle, you can also take a car ferry to Bainbridge Island and then drive to Port Townsend from there

The Pacific Northwest is famous for its wet weather, and there may be no better place to see all that rain put to good use than Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Part of the route around the peninsula is Highway 101—the Pacific Coast Highway—but this part is unlike anything you’ll see further south. 

Start your loop in pretty Port Townsend and meander along the coastline. Stop at Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge for a hike and to admire the views of the mountains. Take a detour to Cape Flattery (the northernmost point of the lower 48) before continuing on the loop to the town of Forks for a bit of “Twilight” kitsch. Keep going and Mother Nature shows off her majesty again at the spectacular Hoh Rainforest and Lake Quinault. If you’re headed back to Port Townsend along the Hood Canal and you like oysters, don’t miss a stop at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon in Lilliwaup.

Sample deals to Seattle: 

  • Dallas nonstop to Seattle for $187 roundtrip
  • Denver nonstop to Seattle for $147 roundtrip  

Nome’s 3 Scenic Highways

  • State(s) included: Alaska
  • Miles: ~460 (this is round-trip; each drive is out-and-back on the same road)
  • Minimum days needed: 3
  • Best time to go: Summer
  • Highlights: Inupiat town of Teller; Pilgrim Hot Springs; Salmon Lake; “Last Train to Nowhere”
  • Airports: Nome Airport (OME) has service from Anchorage on Alaska Airlines

The city of Nome, Alaska, is about as remote as you can get in the United States, sitting near the western-most point of the state. While Nome might be well-known in winter as the finish line for the famous Iditarod, three (gravel!) roads serve as scenic drives for summer adventurers

Base yourself in Nome and choose a different leisurely drive each day. Take the Nome-Teller Highway to get within 55 miles of Russia across the Bering Strait. Detour off Nome-Taylor Highway to visit Pilgrim Hot Springs. Wind along the coastal Nome-Council Highway. Bird-watching is particularly fabulous in this area, with several species not often seen in the lower 48.

Sample deals to Anchorage: 

  • Chicago, Phoenix, LA, or SF nonstop to Anchorage for $197 roundtrip 
  • Minneapolis to Anchorage for $294 roundtrip 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Jim Beam distillery.
  • State(s) included: Kentucky
  • Miles: ~260
  • Minimum days needed: 3-4
  • Best time to go: September-October
  • Highlights: Louisville; Bardstown; Lexington
  • Airports: Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF)

Assuming you’ve got a designated driver, this loop starting and ending in Louisville is a great way to learn about Kentucky’s bourbon history as you sip. Don’t miss the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey in Bardstown and some non-bourbon sights like the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Louisville Slugger Museum. There is an official “Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” but even some of the bourbon distilleries that aren’t on that list have tasting rooms and offer tours—so if you’ve got a favorite tipple, check their site for open hours.

Sample deal to Louisville: 

  • Austin to Louisville for $166 roundtrip 

One Week Road Trips

Black Hills & Badlands

Badlands National Park.
  • State(s) included: South Dakota
  • Miles: ~300
  • Minimum days needed: 4-6 days
  • Best time to go: Late August through September
  • Highlights: Badlands National Park; Black Hills National Forest; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse Memorial, Devil’s Tower
  • Airports: Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP)

Rapid City sits between the Black Hills and the Badlands, with plenty of interesting and quirky detours along the way. Head east to stop at the funky Wall Drug store before exploring the stark beauty of Badlands National Park. To the northwest of Rapid City, fans of the HBO series, “Deadwood,” can walk the streets of the actual town before turning south to meander through the dense forests of the Black Hills to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for bison, antelope, and other wildlife. Take a brief detour into Wyoming to check out Devil’s Tower, one of the most unique rock formations in the country.

Sample deal to Rapid City:

  • Austin to Rapid City for $164 roundtrip 

Pacific Coast Highway: Seattle to San Francisco

  • State(s) included: Washington, Oregon, California
  • Miles: ~1,100 (includes the Olympic Peninsula)
  • Minimum days needed: 5-6
  • Best time to go: April-May (south to north) or September-October (north to south)
  • Highlights: Olympic National Park; town of Astoria; Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area; Redwood National Park; Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Airports: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on the northern end and your choice of San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), or Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)  at the southern end

Highway 101, called the Pacific Coast Highway in California, stretches all the way up the West Coast. From Seattle, first head northwest to take in the lush rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula before starting your drive south along Highway 101. In Oregon, stop in Astoria for a “Goonies” tour or explore the cheese factory in Tillamook in between beach walks. Some of Oregon’s most popular beaches are in Newport, but the small towns of Bandon and Brookings aren’t to be overlooked—and be sure to check out the huge and ever-changing sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. 

Once you cross the border into California, you’re in redwood country. Redwood National Park is the obvious draw, but stop in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (outside Crescent City) for a less crowded walk among giant trees. You can drive through a tree in Klamath before taking in the adorable and artsy towns of Arcata and Eureka. Further down the coast, explore the gorgeous Point Reyes National Seashore on foot or two wheels before a contemplative walk through Muir Woods National Monument and making your way into San Francisco.

Sample deals to Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose: 

  • Chicago nonstop to Seattle for $129 roundtrip
  • Nashville to San Francisco for $83 roundtrip  
  • Detroit to San Jose for $96 roundtrip 
>> Read our travel guide to Seattle

Pacific Coast Highway: San Francisco to Los Angeles

Big Sur.
  • State(s) included: California
  • Miles: ~500
  • Minimum days needed: 3-5
  • Best time to go: 
  • Highlights: Big Sur; Hearst Castle; town of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo
  • Airports: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK) at the northern end; Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), Long Beach Airport (LGB), or Ontario International Airport (ONT) on the southern end

If ever a road trip screamed for a convertible and the perfect playlist, this stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is it. The highway hugs the coast, giving you plenty of options when you want to soak up some California sun right on the beach. Along the way, there are also lots of non-beachy attractions to lure you out of the car. Visit the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium and the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, explore Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and nearby Hearst Castle, and stop to check out some of the California Missions, including one in charming Santa Barbara.

Sample deals to San Francisco and Los Angeles: 

  • Boston nonstop to San Francisco for $197 roundtrip 
  • Phoenix nonstop to Los Angeles for $90 roundtrip
  • Salt Lake City nonstop to Los Angeles over Christmas/New Year’s for $167 roundtrip

Road Trips Ideal for Two Weeks (or More)

Historic Route 66

Route 66.
  • State(s) included: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, California
  • Miles: 2,448
  • Minimum days needed: 10-14
  • Best time to go: May-June or September
  • Highlights: Lincoln Home National Historic Site; Ozark Mountains; Cadillac Ranch; Petrified Forest National Park 
  • Airports: Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) is near the eastern end of Route 66; Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), Long Beach Airport (LGB), or Ontario International Airport (ONT) are all near the western end; if you’re only driving the section detailed below, fly into Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) and out of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (AMA)

Route 66 is perhaps the most famous American road, inspiring a jazz standard and countless road trips. If you know the song, you’ve already got a good idea of the path the “Mother Road” traces across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles. Some parts of the historic road have been co-opted by newer highways, but some parts have been maintained as “National Scenic Byways” for maximum road trip nostalgia. 

The segment between Springfield, Missouri and Tulsa Oklahoma is a favorite, or you could just concentrate on the roughly 400 miles of Route 66 that cut diagonally across Oklahoma itself—more than any other state. The National Route 66 Museum is in Elk City, Oklahoma, and there are some quirky roadside attractions along the way, including a huge blue whale made of cement in Catoosa and the world’s largest concrete totem pole in Chelsea.

Sample deal to Route 66: 

  • Denver, Phoenix, or San Francisco nonstop open-jaw to Route 66 for $137-$147 roundtrip

The Road to Nowhere

  • State(s) included: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
  • Miles: ~1,800
  • Minimum days needed: 7-10
  • Best time to go: Fall
  • Highlights: Wall Drug; Badlands National Park; Sitting Bull Memorial; the Alamo
  • Airports: Minot International Airport (MOT) is near the northern point of US-83 in North Dakota and McAllen Miller International Airport (MFE) isn’t far from the end of the road in Brownsville, Texas; you can also detour a bit to fly out of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Austin (AUS), or San Antonio (SAT)

Ignore the ominous nickname given to US Route 83 (some prefer to call it the Great Plains Highway) and think instead of driving from the Canadian to the Mexican border along what used to be the only paved road connecting the two. The road, finally completed in 1959, is almost a straight shot through quintessentially Midwestern plains and farmland into the heart (and heat) of Texas. 

Optional detours (like Badlands National Park and the memorial to Sitting Bull) are plentiful, but the true appeal of this under-appreciated road trip is that it’s not a list of attractions strung together by highways—which makes it perfect for travelers who love serendipity and have nowhere in particular to be.

Great River Road

Great River Road.
  • State(s) included: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
  • Miles: ~2,500
  • Minimum days needed: 10-14 days
  • Best time to go: Fall (Drive the Great River Road Month is September)
  • Highlights: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium; Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum; Gateway Arch National Park
  • Airports: Hector International Airport (FAR) is about two hours from the headwaters though you could also start from Minneapolis (MSP), St. Louis (STL), or Memphis (MEM); Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is near the end of the river

The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River and it serves as the border of most of the ten states along its route. The full length of the river, from the headwaters in northern Minnesota to where it spills into the Gulf of Mexico on the Louisiana shore, is more than 2,500 miles, and the diversity of landscapes the river informs is impressive. There are lots of river-related interpretive centers, scenic overlooks, and attractions in every state (just look for the “pilot’s wheel” road signs), including locks and dams.

Sample deals to New Orleans: 

  • Charlotte to New Orleans for $87 roundtrip
  • Dallas nonstop to New Orleans for $81 roundtrip

Save up to 90% on domestic flights within the US. Join Going and get alerts for amazingly cheap flights delivered right to your inbox.

Jessica Spiegel

Jessica Spiegel

Freelance Writer

Jessica Spiegel is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She's an obsessive knitter and loves Italy, pho, Sazeracs, the Portland Timbers, and altruism.

Published August 8, 2023

Last updated December 19, 2023

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