The United States is a vast country and is known for a lot of its natural national park wonders including the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains and more . .. all of which can be found in the multitude of National Parks throughout the US. It’s also home to famous cities such as NYC, Los Angeles, Boston, Portland and Seattle. With the help of some other travel bloggers, I’ve compiled a list of the most bucket worthy weekend road trips to take around the United States.
1. Los Angeles, CA – Santa Barbara, CA
By: Daria – The Discovery Nut
Santa Barbara to Los Angeles is one of the most popular getaways in California. With only 95 miles between these two cities, it’s not hard to see why so many people go to Santa Barbara for a weekends to escape the busy Southern California.
The drive takes you along the iconic Highway 1 that boasts spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, so the entire drive feels like a breeze.
Once you arrive in Santa Barbara, you will have a chance to explore one of the top wine regions of California, enjoy uncrowded beaches and spectacular hiking trails and learn the fascinating history of this town.
Santa Barbara boasts a rich colonial heritage and many historic buildings in the heart of town that can be explored on foot. These landmarks established by Spanish colonists can be easily recognized by white stucco walls, red tile roofs and tall ceilings supported by wooden beams.
For example, El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, a former military outpost and an open-air museum is one of the best places to learn Santa Barbara’s colorful history through numerous exhibits.
El Presidio is also home to El Cuartel, the second oldest building in California and the oldest building in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara boasts one most beautiful courthouses in the United States built in Spanish Colonial Revival Style, the historic Mission Santa Barbara and Casa Del La Guerra – the incredible architectural landmarks that will give you a taste of Santa Barbara’s history and provide a glimpse into how Spanish colonists have established their territory along the coast.
When you spend a weekend in Santa Barbara, you will quickly realize that it’s not enough to see everything that this city has to offer. That’s why so many people coming back here to see everything that this Central California gem has to offer.
2. NYC – Myrtle Beach, SC
|Myrtle Beach, SC
Driving from New York City to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a fun road trip for those looking for beautiful scenery, a manageable driving distance and fun destinations along the way.
While you can do this trip year-round it’s probably best in summer or early fall when the fall foliage looks beautiful and temperatures are still comfortable. In summer you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning beaches along the Atlantic coast and go for a swim if you feel like cooling down.
The trip starts out in New York City where there is plenty to do and see like the Highline Park, or of course famous sights like the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. Pass through Washington DC and see the white house before briefly stopping in Charlotte to see Freedom Park. Finally, make a turn towards the coast and arrive in Myrtle Beach.
This is where you should spend the majority of your weekend to enjoy yourself and relax by the beach. If you’re visiting during the winter it will still be nice and warm although perhaps not hot enough to go swimming. Enjoy the boardwalk and the evening entertainment or just have an early night to get up in time for a magnificent sunrise.
3. Deluth, MN – Grand Portage, MN
by: Kassidy’s Journey
When choosing a road trip to take within the U.S., look no further than the North Shore in Minnesota. This beautiful stretch of land runs along Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world!
Start your trek in Duluth with a visit to Canal Park. View the iconic aerial lift bridge and enjoy shopping and plenty of places to grab lunch.
As you finish up in Duluth and head towards the North Shore, opt for the Scenic Drive, which brings you closer to the lake’s shoreline.
Continue your journey up Highway 61 and make your first stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park. The North Shore is home to 8 of Minnesota’s best state parks.
Gooseberry has fascinating waterfalls, just minutes from the parking lot, as well as beautiful hiking trails around Lake Superior.
As you make your way further up the shore, stop in some of the small towns, such as Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, and Silver Bay.
Head into Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, for arguably the best pie in the state.
Tettegouche State Park is home to Minnesota’s tallest waterfall. The easy 3-mile hike is doable for most people and has beautiful views the entire way.
As you approach Canada, you’ll find Grand Portage State Park. Another fascinating waterfall is found here. In Grand Portage, there is also access to the ferry that brings you to Isle Royale National Park.
For the best weather and views, plan your road trip between June and October. The summer has great weather, while the fall months provide colorful foliage.
The entire trip from Duluth to Grand Portage is just under 3 hours. With so much beauty in such a short distance, there is no question as to why this is a favorite weekend road trip for locals to Minnesota and visitors alike.
4. The Oregon Coast
By: Candace (CS Ginger)
One of the best places to take a road trip in the United States is along the Oregon Coast. It is a beautiful part of the country with so many fun and adventurous things to do along the way.
Depending on how many days you have, starting in Cannon Beach and working south to Brookings is a great route.
If you have fewer days, Cannon Beach to Florence is another great route. The route from Cannon Beach to Brookings is about six hours.
In Cannon Beach, be sure to visit Haystack Rock at low tide. It is a great place to see the tide pools. You can go on a short hike in Ecola State Park and check out the cute downtown area. Spending a day in Cannon Beach will give you enough time to see the highlights.
As you make your way south, there are lots of fun things to see along the way. Just south of Cannon Beach is the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It is a fun stop to grab some ice cream and cheese. You can also go on a self-guided tour of the factory.
Another fun stop along the way is the Devil’s Punchbowl. It is a large sea cave that you can walk down in at low tide. Remember safety first here and keep very good track of the tide levels. Thor’s Well is another quick and easy stop that is cool to see. It is a collapsed sea cave that fills with water as the waves go in and out.
Another beautiful city to stop in is Gold Beach. There are so many fun things to do in Gold Beach. Otter Point State Recreation Area is a great place to do some hiking and explore the picturesque ocean bluffs. If you’re up for more of an adventure, there are jet boat tours that explore up the Rogue River.
Pittsburgh is a perfect weekend trip from New York City. It is known as the ‘City of Bridges’ because of its more than 440 bridges that criss-cross the three rivers that surround it. It is also called the ‘Steel City’ because it was once where all the steel titans had their offices and mills in the area.
There are numerous museums that show off Pittsburgh’s interesting past. The Carrie Blast Furnaces tours guide people through the history of the steel industry. There is the Andy Warhol Museum which is the largest museum dedicated to one artist and houses the works of the pop icon who is a Pittsburgh native.
The TV show Mister Rogers Neighborhood was filmed in the city and fans of the show can see the puppets and sets from the beloved children’s program on display at the Heinz History Center. Another iconic brand local to Pittsburgh is the ketchup and pickle condiment maker, Heinz, its history is highlighted in one of the exhibits of the museum.
Once on the road, there are many possible cities to visit but the cutest is Hershey, Pennsylvania where Kisses and other chocolates are made. Some even say that the air smells like chocolate! Watch out for the street lamps that are topped with Kisses and stop by Hershey Park for some fun and lots of chocolate.
You are deep in Pennsylvania Dutch Country so make a beeline to a market or roadside shop to buy fresh produce, baked goodies, and jams. If you still have time, stop by Philadelphia for a Philly cheesesteak and visit the Liberty Bell or the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps that were featured in the movie, Rocky.
Obviously, there is so much more to see, but these are the greatest hits and will make a superb road trip.
6. Page, AZ – Monument Valley, AZ
|Horseshoe Bend, AZ
Page, AZ is a great place to start or end an epic weekend road trip. Page itself has a ton to do, and the famous Monument Valley is just a two-hour drive from here. These areas both boast beautiful natural formations that you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
If you can, plan your trip around the annual Lake Powell Balloon Regatta, which typically takes place the first weekend of November. Each morning, more than fifty hot air balloons take flight against a stunning backdrop over Lake Powell, and on Saturday night, there’s a vendor fair and “Balloon Glow” event.
Some other things to do in Page include taking a tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world, eating lunch at Big John’s Texas BBQ (note that it’s closed mid-November-January) and visiting Horseshoe Bend and admiring it’s incredible views.
After exploring Page for the day, drive to Monument Valley and stay the night at Goulding’s Lodge. Make sure to ask for a window seat at the on-site restaurant and watch the sunset. (Note that you lose an hour due to the time difference.)
Some other things you can do in Page are stopping at the Forrest Gump Point for some iconic photos and driving the 17 mile loop around the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (you can visit all viewpoint on your own or opt for a guided tour which would take you to more exclusive areas of the park).
If you have time, head east to explore Mexican Hat Rock and the Valley of the Gods.
From Monument Valley, make the two-hour drive back to Page, AZ. If you went as far as Valley of the Gods, your drive back to Page will be closer to three hours, but either way, you gain an hour on your way back!
7. Denver, CO – Moab, Utah
|Moab National Park, Utah
By: Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the best weekend trips to take in the US is a Denver to Moab road trip
. It’s perfect for a long weekend of adventure, with plenty of things to do for any outdoor enthusiast.
From Denver, take I-70 west towards Moab. Stop at Dillon Reservoir and hike the quick Sapphire Point Overlook loop. It’s an incredible view of the Rocky Mountains! Other excellent stops include Glenwood Springs and the Colorado National Monument.
When you get to Utah, be sure to veer off I-70 and take the scenic highway 128 for spectacular views of the desert and canyon along the Colorado River. Highway 128 will take you straight to Moab, your ending destination.
Moab is the perfect spot for hiking, riding UTVs, rock climbing, water rafting and so much more. Be sure to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The highlights can be visited in one day between both locations, or you could spend a whole day in each park.
The best time of year to take this weekend trip is May through September. That avoids driving through snowy weather in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, although snow in May or September is still possible.
8. St. Augustine, FL – Savannah, GA – Charleston, SC
|Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah, GA
There are many cities to visit in the South and a road trip is one of the best ways to see its greatest ones on a weekend. One of the oldest cities in America is St. Augustine, Florida where the Spanish conquistadors first settled. Known as the ‘Ancient City’ it is easy to walk around to see how the settlement flourished into a city by visiting its historic sites. The famed ‘Fountain of Youth’ is also here and you can visit it (though it doesn’t have any magical qualities!).
Four hours away is the Southern gem, Savannah, Georgia. A must-try for down-home cooking is Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room for Southern specialties – fried chicken, greens, cornbread, biscuits, etc. The food was served family-style inside the home pre-COVID so it was a fun experience to eat so much food while gathered around a table with strangers.
Now, takeout can be eaten at outdoor tables or taken to a nearby square to enjoy. For Instagram-worthy photos, plan to visit the Wormsloe Historic Site for it’s driveway of oak trees covered in moss. The grounds are worth a stroll too!
The last stop on this whirlwind tour is Charleston, South Carolina. The historic town has a great maritime history connected to the Civil War. Just outside the city is the Charleston Tea Garden, home to Bigelow Tea. Tea lovers will love the tour of the farm and tea tasting. Dotted around the area are plantations with antebellum homes that can be visited to have the complete southern experience.
9. NYC – Watkins Glen – Buffalo/Niagara, NY
|Watkins Glen Gorge
The Empire State is so much more than New York City, so you must jump into your car and take a road trip to explore Western New York. From NYC drive west towards the US-Canadian border and Buffalo, New York. The trip there will take eight hours so Watkins Glen is a perfect midway point to stop and give your legs a stretch.
Watkins Glen is right on Seneca Lake and the Gorge Trail is the perfect balance of an easy hike and beautiful nature. Make sure to stop and take photos of the Cavern Cascade waterfall and the Rainbow Falls plunge pools. The Corning Museum of Glass is nearby for a dose of culture and works of art made of glass. And of course, many wineries and cideries dot the area so stop by for a tasting or two.
Continue on and head to Buffalo, New York’s second-largest city. I love visiting the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and always recommend it! Its centerpiece is the tri-domed conservatory and it is the place for Instagram-worthy sunset photos.
To complete the trip, a must-visit is Niagara Falls. Prospect Point is the perfect place for a souvenir photo and a boat ride on the Maids of the Mist up to the falls is a great way to see the power of the falls up close. Go to the Top of the Falls restaurant for more excellent views and to try Buffalo wings and Beef on Weck, a roast beef sandwich, to have an unbelievably New York experience.
10. Sedona, AZ – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
By: Debbie Fettback from World Adventurists
Driving from Sedona to the Grand Canyon
will take you through some of the most scenic views you will ever experience.
Your weekend begins in Sedona. With its dramatic landscape against the bold blue skies, Sedona is one of the prettiest places on earth. Known as mother nature’s red rock country, the landscapes will leave you in awe.
An outdoor paradise, Sedona offers endless adventures for you to discover. There are many hiking opportunities featuring trails of varying difficulties. No matter the distance of the hike, you will be surrounded by impressive expansive panoramas.
Other adventure options include viewing ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, off-road jeep tours, hot air balloon rides, driving the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and the natural waterslide at Slide Rock State Park. Sedona is also known as a place of healing and rejuvenation and is home to several energy vortexes.
The Grand Canyon is a two-hour drive from Sedona to the South Rim. Expect the drive to take longer though, with the incredible scenery along the way. You will witness why the Grand Canyon earned Arizona the nickname as The Grand Canyon State. The size and scale of it will blow your mind; it is a wonder that you need to see to believe!
Take a self-drive tour around the South Rim. There are several pull-out areas along Desert View drive that give different viewpoints. The drive takes around 4 hours to do, at a leisurely pace. If you can spend an extra day, enjoy some hiking to see the Grand Canyon from a different scale.
March through May is the best time to do this road trip. You’ll have more comfortable weather while still being able to enjoy the sun and warmth.
11. NYC – Boston, MA
|Mystic Falls, CT
For a taste of New England, a road trip from New York City to Boston is just the ticket. Boston has many historical points of interest in American history especially when it comes to the Revolutionary War. The Freedom trail is the main path to history and all the stories we have heard about the American Revolution that led to the colonies gaining independence from the British reign.
Clam chowder is very New England and with the cold winds that howl through Boston, a bowl will definitely warm you up after a tour. Ye Olde Union Oyster House is one of the oldest running restaurants in the country and it started serving chowder in the 1800s. One of the beer brands that started the craft brewery movement is Samuel Adams and beer lovers can visit the taproom and take a tour of the brewery. If this is your thing, there are many other breweries in the city to visit to see the brewing process or have a pint.
On the way back to New York is Hartford, Connecticut, and the Mark Twain House and Museum. The mansion is where Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, amongst others. There is a tour of the home that shows the opulence that the family lived in and plant lovers will love the conservatory full of exotic houseplants.
One more stop before heading back to NYC is Mystic, Connecticut. The seaside town was a shipbuilding center and is now home to the Maritime Museum, the largest museum dedicated to maritime history. Drop by the Olde Mistick Village, to see how an 18th-century New England village looks like. The open-air market has plenty of stores to buy souvenirs and get a treat or two.
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