7 Most Amazing Under-the-Radar Road Trips in the U.S.
This article was written by Jimmy Im and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.
According to AAA, one in four Americans take a road trip every year, and with good reason. It's cost effective (especially with falling gas prices), enriching, and utterly nostalgic, and just plain fun. While plenty of iconic routes snake across our nation (like the Pacific Coast Highway and Route 66) we rounded up under-the-radar routes that should definitely be on your bucket list. They're just that amazing. So get your favorite driving playlists ready and check out these hidden-gem road-tripping adventures.
1. The Route: Boston to Rockport, Massachusetts
The Vibe: The Massachusetts coast is alluring, dotted with historic fishing towns.
Along the Way: Start by taking in Boston's best sights, from shopping on Newbury Street, to a Red Sox game in Fenway Park, to The Freedom Trail, to Faneuil Hall Market Place, to eating in the North End. Then head to Salem on MA-1A North. Salem is steeped with history: It's home to the infamous Salem witch hunts but it's also quaint and beautiful. Be sure to check out the Peabody Essex Museum, The House of the Seven Gables, and Old Burying Point Cemetery. Just outside of Salem, you'll also want to visit Marblehead, a charming, coastal village with roads and buildings dating back to the 18th century and a harbor filled with yachts. Wander the streets and visit Old Burial Hill, Castle Rock Park, and the Marblehead Lighthouse to stretch your legs. Drive north on I-127 to Gloucester, a fishing town home of the book and movie The Perfect Storm about the doomed Andrea Gale (and, incidentally, where the concept of frozen food was born; it was developed there in America's oldest working fishing port!). Good Harbor Beach and the Fisherman's Memorial are worth seeing, and you can also go whale-watching. End up in Rockport, a boho art colony where artists are inspired by, Motif #1, a 150-year-old red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf. Or check out Halibut Point State Park.
Related: Smackdown: Boston vs. Seattle
2. The Route: Kohala Coast to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
The Vibe: Think of it as an alternative to Maui's Road to Hana ride, except on this one is on the Big Island, known for its exciting outdoor adventures. Perfect for nature lovers.
Along the way: Start at Kohala Coast, home to the island's best resorts like Four Seasons Hualalai and The Fairmont Orchid. First, take a dip at Maniniowali Beach, known to locals as Kua Bay, one of the most pristine beaches on the island. People also love to bodyboard there, but be careful and check to see that the waves are small enough to be manageable. Next head south on Highway 19, taking in the natural environments, from the coast to rain forests (there are actually 11 of the world's 13 climate zones on this one island). At Highway 11, after mile marker 108, stop at Coffee Shack, a beatnik cafe on the edge of a cliff, sporting breathtaking views of the coast. Have a strong cup of locally produced Kona coffee, then continue on to the 180-acre Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park, home to a well-preserved, ancient Hawaiian royal residence. It's a beautiful drive along old lava fields and tropical forestry for about 40 miles. Stop in the town of Naalehu for Punalu'u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery in the United States, famous for their doughnuts. Hop back in to the car until you reach Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which made headlines last year with several eruptions. There are lava caves to explore, and visit the Kilauea Visitor Center and learn how to safely view the active lava flows in the park.
3. The Route: Reno Loop, Nevada
The Vibe: If you've conquered Route 66 or just want something a little different, try the Reno Loop, with tons of activities for sporty and adventurous types.
Along the way: Kick off the drive with rock climbing at Whitney Peak Hotel, a new property sporting the largest artificial rock-climbing wall in the world. You can't miss it - the wall is on the side of the hotel. Next, take Nevada State Route 431 to Incline Village on the shore of Lake Tahoe. Stop and get in a hike (or go skiing in the winter), play some tennis, or go sailing. For those feeling more frisky, there's an unofficial nude beach just south of the area. Jump back in the car and take Nevada State Route 28 to Stateline, where Heavenly Mountain Resort's activity center at the top of the gondola includes a zipline and rope courses. From there, head to the town of Genoa from State Route 207 to Route 206. The tiny town is home to Genoa Bar, one of the oldest in the state, where an iron safe is filled with a collection of decades-old bras. Continuing to U.S. 395 through Carson City until U.S. 50, take State Route 341 (which turns into 342) to Virginia City. Mark Twain once lived here as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. The 19th-century mining town still retains wooden boardwalks and Victorian-era buildings - hop on a rail tour to get the full retro effect. Virginia City is also chockfull of ghosts, so check out haunted sites like The Washoe Club Haunted Museum, Piper's Opera House, or the Silver Queen Hotel.
4. The Route: Napa Valley to Mendocino, California
The Vibe: The famed Pacific Coast Highway is the most visited route for road trippers (from families to honeymooners), but Northern California touts an amazing drive, too. Just sober up before you get back in the car after all the wine tasting!
Along the way: Hit a few wine tastings and tours in Napa Valley, like Beaulieu Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area; family-owned Buehler Vineyards for great value; or Cade Estate for especially awe-inspiring views. From Napa, take the 101 to 128. During the drive you'll stop in several towns with breathtaking landscapes, like Sonoma and Healdsburg. In Sonoma, of course there are more wine tastings, and Francis Ford Coppola's winery is equipped with an outdoor pool and exciting gift shop with film memorabilia. You can also check out the Boyes Hot Springs at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. In hipster-laden Healdsburg, you can stop to soak up some of the wine with fresh, crafted cupcakes at Moustache Baked Goods, which uses simple, organic ingredients for their sweet treats. But make sure you're sober for the drive, because this part of the trips is all about embracing the beauty of the region, and take the windy, two-street roads slow and easy. Through small towns, tree-lined streets, and plenty of open sky, you'll end up on Highway 1 along the rugged coast, until you reach the rustic town of Mendocino. It's embellished with Cyprus forests and scenic cliff sides, many that overlook blowholes and sea caves. Check into Elk Cove Inn, a hidden gem that's just as rustic as the region. There are only 16 rooms, all of which tout breathtaking views of the coast.
5. The Route: From Austin to Marfa, Texas
The Vibe: While we love the classic Texas BBQ and Hill Country Hideaways, a new emerging route is a hipster favorite: the road to Marfa.
Along the Way: From Austin, take U.S. 290 to I-10. This stretch is more of a meditative drive; there's not much along the way. But about an hour and a half from Austin, the small town of Fredericksburg woos tourists for its quaint, small-town feel with family-run shops on Main Street. It's also known for Enchanted Rock, a former spiritual holy ground for Native Americans favored by hikers. After six hours, travelers will arrive at Marfa, a quirky, trippy town run by an artist colony. It's wildly famous for it's stand-alone Prada store that's more of an art concept. Famous movies like Giant in 1956 were filmed in Marfa, and retro legends Liz Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson all stayed at the famed El Paisano Hotel. Keep your eyes out for mysterious lights in the town, floating glowing balls of white, yellow, and red light, spotted since 1883 and, to this day, remain a mystery. There's even a viewing area located nine miles east of town on Highway 90.
6. The Route: Denver to Telluride, Colorado
The Vibe: There's nothing like slope hopping out west, but spring/summer is the best time to see the small towns of Southwest Colorado; they're culturists' dream destinations.
Along the way: The drive from Denver to Ouray on I-70 West is through some breathtaking landscape in the mountains and national forests. Ouray is a famous ghost town that's quirky and well preserved - it looks like a film set for a Western. If you're driving during cold weather, the claim-to-fame in Ouray is the ice climbing at Ouray Ice Park. As the largest ice park in the world with 200 climbing routes, it's one of the best places in the U.S. for this recreation. Take US-550 South to Durango, a charming town that's home to cute cafes and old-school saloons. You can also take in the great views with an old-timey train ride from Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum or at San Jaun National Forest. From here, via CO-145 North, it's only two hours to Telluride, which is home to Butch Cassidy's first bank robbery. Travelers can visit the original safe in what's now a sunglass store. Nearby highlights also include Ridgway, where True Grit was filmed; Sawpit, the smallest town in Colorado with a gas station and one street lamp (Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise own homes here), and the protrusion of Wilson Peak, the iconic mountain on every Coors Light beer can.
7. The Route: Zion National Park Loop, Utah
The Vibe: Most discerning travelers/road trippers have seen the Grand Canyon. In the same region, Southwest Utah is getting more interest with its scenic drives embellished with red rocks, unspoiled landscapes, and a whole 'lotta sky. It's like landscape porn.
Along the way: Start at Zion National Park, Utah's oldest national park with 69 types of wild animals living here (including mountain lions). A two-hour scenic drive takes road trippers to Lake Powell, a manmade reservoir surrounded by sandstone walls (water sports, like paddleboard yoga, are offered here). Lake Powell is a stone's throw from Amangiri, one of the most luxurious resorts in the U.S. Have lunch on the outdoor terrace and you may spot a celebrity or two. Go onward to the beautiful Highway 12 (Utah's "All American Road") to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, home to million-year-old canyons for canyoneering, then Bryce Canyon National Park where you can pitch a tent for some major overnight stargazing. Nearby Boulder is known for Hell's Backbone Grill's pumpkin enchiladas and other farm fresh produce in the middle of scenic nowhere. From here, you can take on a three-hour drive to Canyonlands National Park to experience more surreal, natural scenery.
Here’s how to take a California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals.
Heading out on a road trip across the glorious state of California? Unfortunately, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of the state's summer and fall festivals have been canceled or delayed. Those that are still scheduled, for now, are probably best to skip as California is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases making it important to avoid crowded areas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the aspects of California culture the festival’s celebrate. You can go on a socially distanced California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. But, before you head out on the road be sure to pack proper PPE, be conscious of how many ICU beds are available in the towns you’ll visit, have a game plan for meals, book accommodations with hygiene protocols, and triple check your car is ready for a road trip. Here’s how to take a California road trip inspired by the state’s festivals. There are over six festivals in California dedicated to lavender. This California road trip itinerary goes from the South to North and hits up spots for everything from BBQ, kites, wine, and garlic. Instead of the Vista Strawberry Festival get fresh strawberries at local markets Vista Strawberry Festival in San Diego celebrates one of the most delicious berries. Vista was once the strawberry capital of the world in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fewer strawberry fields in the area today but you can still get freshly picked berries from local vendors at the Vista Farmer's Market every Saturday morning. You must wear a mask while browsing the stalls and maintain a distance of six feet. You don’t have to go to the Festival of Whales to see whales Festival of Whales, during the migration of the California gray whales, isn’t the only way to enjoy the majestic aquatic creatures in Dana Point, California. The area is known as the whale watching capital of the world as whales can be spotted off the coast of Dana Point year-round. The destination is home to one of the largest concentrations of blue whales on Earth. Many other species of whales also migrate past Dana Point. ©Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Getty ImagesInstead of the Vans US Open of Surfing check out the largest surfboard in the world Vans US Open of Surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California is the largest surf festival on earth. The 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 but you can still enjoy the town’s surf culture. Watching surfers take on swells at the beach and then take in the glory of the world’s largest surfboard which broke two Guinness Book of World Records. The surfboard held the most people at once and is the largest surfboard ever made. Skip the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival and enjoy a boysenberry pie at a local diner Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is the birthplace of the boysenberry. Knott’s Boysenberry Festival usually takes place every spring. Even without attending the festival, you can get your boysenberry fix. Enjoy a boysenberry pie, a boysenberry churro sundae, or a boysenberry funnel cake at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner. Make a reservation in advance to snag one of the outdoor tables on the patio. Be sure to pick up boysenberry salad dressing and preserves for a tasty souvenir. Pass on the Santa Maria BBQ Festival and go for take-out Santa Maria barbecue is a regional culinary tradition. While visiting the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County be sure to taste some of the award-winning BBQ in the area. You don’t have to go to the Santa Maria BBQ Festival to indulge in a flavorful meal. Instead, grab take-out from the many BBQ restaurants in Santa Maria including Woody’s Butcher Block or BBQ Land. You don’t have to attend the Morro Bay Kite Festival to fly a kite Morro Bay Kite Festival was canceled this year but you can still partake in a socially distant activity by flying a kite at Morro Rock Beach. The breathtaking surroundings and windy location make for the perfect kite flying environment. Bring a kite and fly it on the beautiful bay at a safe social distance from other folks on the beach. ©CAN BALCIOGLU/ShutterstockTake a selfie next to a 20-foot-tall artichoke instead of the Artichoke Festival Artichoke Festival in Castroville may have been canceled this year but it’s still worth making a stop at the artichoke center of the world. Taste some of the local delicacies such as fried artichokes and snap a selfie next to the 20-foot-tall artichoke at the Giant Artichoke Restaurant. Marilyn Monroe was crowned the first Artichoke Festival Queen in 1948. Go to Garlic World instead of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Gilroy is the “Garlic Capital of the World” and celebrates with an annual festival. The Gilroy Garlic Festival was canceled this year. Don’t fret as you can still enjoy garlicky food at the family-owned Garlic World roadside grocery store. ©Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz/ShutterstockNosh on Himalayan cuisine in Berkeley rather than attending the Himalayan Fair Himalayan Fair is the largest Himalayan festival in North America but has been postponed until the fall. You can still support the Himalayan culture and people in the Bay Area by enjoying delicious Himalayan cuisine at Berkeley restaurants such as Mount Everest. Taste of Sonoma is canceled but Sonoma County wine is not Taste of Sonoma showcase was meant to be held at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens this year. Even though the festival was canceled, travelers can still enjoy the best wine country has and visit Kendall-Jackson in Santa Rosa, California. Make a reservation to enjoy the top-selling Chardonnay in the States at the winery’s outdoor patio.
#VanLife: how a pandemic affects life on the road
#VanLife. It’s been all the rage for a while now. Living in your van or car can provide freedom. Freedom from rent, freedom from the mundane, and often most importantly, freedom to travel the country. But what happens when a pandemic hits, bringing travel to a grinding halt? What happens when you’re ordered to stay home but your home is a van? I spoke with two people for whom van life is the norm and learned some of the ways COVID-19 has impacted their community. Jen Nielsen, @jolly_jen, in the 2009 Toyota Matrix she calls home six months out of the year. Where to Go? When COVID-19 hit the fan in March 2020, going “home” to parents or friends was an option for some vanlifers, but not all. For many, traveling across the country to stay with friends or family would do more harm than good because they would be putting not only themselves at risk but every person they came in contact with along the way. Additionally, those who normally have someone to go to might not have that option anymore if those individuals are at a high risk of being seriously harmed by the virus. Then there’s the fact that some people don’t have friends or family they can stay with at all. So what were vanlifers to do? Well, many of them chose to self-quarantine by camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forest land. It was something they knew how to do safely, it stopped them from traveling, and it meant they would only be close to other people when they went into town for food or gas. There were a few problems, however. One of these was time limit restrictions, usually 14- or 16-day limits in these areas. To make matters worse, some locations even closed down for people who were from outside the county. Halle Homel, a full-time vanlifer, summed up the situation in a blog post on her site: “We rely on public lands to be able to live in our homes when we have no other options [...] But lately, BLM and Forest land has been threatening closures too, and for those of us who live on the road, I have to ask the question: where are we supposed to go?” A part-time vanlifer named Jen Nielsen experienced this problem first-hand. She quarantined in Utah on BLM land for a while before receiving an order to leave. Then she packed up her car and headed next-door to Colorado where she quarantined on more BLM land until she had to leave after 14 days. The constant need to move clashed with her desire to be responsible, shelter in place, and come into contact with as few people as possible. Harrassment Being a vanlifer during this time had other negative effects, one of those being in-person harassment. For example, Jen was yelled at by a local for having out-of-state plates while in Colorado. Cyber harrassment was also a problem for many vanlifers who document their adventures. Halle was active in sharing her experiences online during this time and faced backlash. On Instagram, she would post photos of her secluded campsites and in exchange received negative messages from people telling her to go home. Halle Homel, @halleswanderingsoul, sitting on top of her van in California.Tips for Van Life Travel Moving Forward As restrictions now let up and tensions regarding the pandemic subside, vanlifers are starting to move again. With assistance from Jen and Halle, I gathered a few tips for helping vanlifers do so safely. 1.Plan ahead: Do your research to make sure campgrounds, roads, and recreation areas are open before you head there. Also, utilize apps like iOverlander, a community-based tool, to find a place to sleep before moving. 2. Seek out unpopular areas: Many national parks are being slammed with visitors as they reopen, which makes it difficult to social distance while exploring these locations. Focus your travels on less well-known areas of the country. 3. Avoid bad roads: As there are less people traveling than normal, there are also less people going down remote, unpaved roads. Therefore, if you get stuck on one of them, there’s a smaller chance that someone will pass by and help you out of the mud. Furthermore, these roads are often in no-service zones, so being unable to call for help may leave you stranded. 4. Consider your route, not just your destination: Routes leading you through large cities should be avoided. Not only does this allow you to evade the crowdedness that’s synonymous with these cities, but it also gives you the opportunity to support the economies of smaller communities. Finally, I want to encourage you to share your own tips for traveling safely during this time in the comments below! This new environment is a tricky one to handle, but if we all help each other out, it doesn’t have to be dangerous. Martha Anderson is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.
Return of the Great American Road Trip
Imagine you and your loved ones have a cooler packed of food, and clothes for a week in your car. Air conditioning on, singing to music, enjoying the open road. Take a minute and close your eyes. Do you feel freedom? There is sun shining on your face, COVID-19 worries in the rearview mirror, and the open road ahead of you. The great American road trip is a pastime that took off in the 1950’s, when there was rapid growth in families owning cars after World War II.These families commonly traveled U.S. Route 66 which ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Any families taking road trips in the 50’s were doing something right. Not only did a road trip enable these families to choose who they wanted to go with, plan a trip specifically for themselves, and put money back into the economy after World War II, they also started a tradition that would revive itself time and time again. It’s been 70 years since road trips became an American tradition and in 2020 the tradition will be back again and coming in strong. COVID-19 took away how we used to travel. The Department of Labor reported that in just 10 weeks over 40 million people applied for unemployment. The financial hardship many families find themselves in, along with COVID-19 restrictions, has severely limited travel plans in 2020. The way they may be accustomed to traveling will no longer be an option and they will look for different ways to spend their time and explore somewhere new. If you’re looking for a cheap vacation the answer is: road trip. AAA reported national gas prices in the month of May as an average of $1.97, almost a dollar less than this time in 2019 ($2.82). Traveling by car is cheap and convenient; whether you choose to go somewhere in state or out of state, the current gas prices will be worth the drive. When the American economy is in shambles, we are encouraged to spend money to help rebuild our economy. Road tripping enables Americans not only to spend their money on necessities but on fun activities. Stopping by local restaurants or businesses to have a new experience raises tourism and will help money flow to small towns and businesses. Places like the Grand Canyon will open up bringing in people to see its beauty, buy souvenirs, eat at their restaurant and still have the ability to create a social distancing environment to make everyone feel safe. Where should we be going on our road trips? Anywhere out of the ordinary. “The key is to find a place everyone isn’t going to,” said Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of TravelingMom.com. Now is the time to convince your loved ones to join you on that obscure trip you’ve always wanted to go to. A trip to Buena Vista, Colorado gives many outdoor recreational activities, no matter what season. Social distance as you kayak down the Arkansas River, go rock climbing, scramble up Turtle Rock, or find your own adventure. Camping at national or state parks gives you plenty of time to bond with your loved ones, explore a new area, see and experience new things. The best part about a road trip is how the experience brings everyone closer together. Each activity you do together, every conversation you have, even the arguments you have about where to go next or what to do, allows you to learn a little bit more about the other person, how to compromise and work together as a team. Even though you may be bummed that your flight to Brazil was canceled or that cruise you were planning on taking, COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise. Americans now get to explore their own country, something many of us don’t do. America has some of the most beautiful and unique geologies in the world The road trip will bond us for life, create memories to last a lifetime, and an experience that will keep us planning the next one. Are you planning a road trip? Click here to see Budget Travel’s road trip itineraries. Sam War is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.
RV Sales Skyrocket Due to the Coronavirus
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been looking for a way to get out of their homes and start truly living their lives again. As summer arrives, travel enthusiasts are finding that one of the hardest parts of the pandemic is that the list of places to travel is shorter than ever. It is even more disappointing for those who had trips already planned and were forced to cancel plans they had been looking forward to for so long. Airlines, cruises, and hotels have limited access or closed indefinitely, and that has inspired everyone who is eager for an adventure to think outside of the box. With group gathering guidelines limiting the number of places that are open for guests, getting outside and participating in outdoor recreation activities is one of few safe options left. Streets, parks, lakes, beaches, and trails have become most people’s new favorite places. Memorial Day is normally the weekend that kicks off the summer season, and this year it was especially important because it coincided with many places relaxing their stay-at-home orders. As a result, mass amounts of people are suddenly interested in purchasing some new toys to enjoy after weeks of being in lockdown. All over the country, RV sales have skyrocketed. RVs are the perfect way to get out, take a trip and enjoy the outdoors while still safely social distancing. Renters or buyers have the guarantee of their RV being a clean and safe place. Charrier and RV Masters’ owner, Tim Switzer, explained that RVs have become so popular in the past few weeks because the buyers or renters will still have control of their environment. “You’re sleeping in your own bed, you’re using your own bathroom,” Switzer said. “You don’t know who was in a hotel before you so it’s your own germs and your own choice of cleaning.” You can’t have that guarantee with airplanes, buses, cruise ships or any other public transportation. RVs have everything anybody could ever need in a quarantine. With an RV, the biggest risk of exposure to COVID-19 is the gas station. This has become such a big deal that some RV lots are struggling to keep enough RVs on hand for people to rent or buy. Scott Jones, owner of Access RV in Utah, even went as far to say that this was the busiest they have ever been in the 25 years his business has been open. American Family RV in Salem and Chesapeake, Virginia have doubled their sales in the past two months. Reno, Nevada has seen a 130% increase in RV sales compared to this time last year. In Kenner, Louisiana, there has been a 170% jump. Some people have even begun calling RVs “COVID campers.” It seems everyone has the same idea, no matter what state they live in. RVs are also helping frontline healthcare workers There are other uses for the RVs amid the Coronavirus though too. RV companies or owners have started offering up their RVs to first responders, nurses and other essential workers who cannot go home in fear of spreading the virus to their families. There is a Facebook page called “RVs 4 MDs” started by Emily Phillips and Holy Haggard in Texas. Since its founding on March 24, it has grown to more than 20,000 members all over the nation that have come together to help match available RVs with those in need of a way to self-isolate. RVshare and RVs 4 MDs created rental agreements and insurance to protect both the renter and owner of the RV while the frontline worker uses it. RVshare has even waived all booking fees for parties who rent through the platform. Even in such a difficult time, people have found a way to extend a helping hand. And from across the country at that. Now, essential workers can go to their “home” parked right outside their real home. Though it is not the same, it is better to see your family in the window only feet away than not at all. A temporary home could save hundreds of people from the virus. Another reason sales have increased is because hurricane season is approaching. According to Tim Switzer, some people use RVs as their form of evacuation when there is a storm warning. Having an RV is an easier and more homey way to pack up the necessities to leave in a scary situation while still having a safe and comfortable place to live. Living in a global pandemic has been a confusing time but it is beautiful to see that people are still able to find the good. Where some found a loophole to travel restrictions, others found kindness in an unexpected place. The virus, though scary and lonely, was not strong enough to keep people from spreading love or exploring the stunning places the nation has to offer.Haley Beyer is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.