The Best Ways to Drive Across Country
The pandemic has meant that many people have been stuck inside for well over a year without getting out and seeing the world. Maybe watching “Dumb and Dumber” during quarantine has inspired you to hit the road with a best friend. Many have been dreaming of being able to hop in a car for an epic road trip across the country with close friends or solo. So get a car, grab a friend, and hit the road.
Here we will be looking at some fantastic routes you could take to see the United States in a new way and make memories that will last you a lifetime.
Nothing screams nostalgia and historical significance like Route 66. This route calls back to a simpler time when mom-and-pop shops ruled the highways and neons signs beckoned travelers to relax and stay awhile.
Route 66 is a whopping 2,400 miles long across most of the United States, starting in Chicago and ending in sunny Los Angeles. This route goes back to 1926 when the Bureau of Public Roads starts our nation’s first federal highway system.
Along this route, you will get the opportunity to see beautiful parts of the United States most only dream of. First, the highway takes you along the meandering shores of Lake Michigan to the wide-open plains of Texas. From there, you will go on to see beautiful mesas in Arizona and New Mexico, finally ending in the City of Angels.
Stops Along the Way
Make sure to see the 30-foot-tall figure standing tall in Wilmington, Illinois. The Gemini Giant is one of the many ‘muffler men’ along Route 66. Companies used these advertisements in the 60s to attract customers as they drove down the highway.
A more kitschy attraction along Route 66 is the Blue Whale found in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The owner initially built it in the 1970s as a gift, but the owners have turned it into a famous stop since that time.
For the outdoors lover, make sure to stop at the Petrified Forest National Park found in Arizona. This national forest offers hiking and more ways to learn about the history of the forest that once stood there.
The Loneliest Road
The name Loneliest Road can seem a little depressing. Still, the majority of the route has beautiful landscapes and is guaranteed to increase your serotonin levels. A long stretch of the highway in Nevada is miles and miles of next to nothing except sagebrush and the wide-open sky, which has given the path the name Loneliest Road.
This road trip starts in San Francisco and finds its end in Ocean City, Maryland. The whopping 3,200-mile drive will allow you to see a dozen states and Washington, D.C. Along the way, you will get to survey several scenic spots as well as landmarks.
Stops Along the Way
Going through a dozen states will give you the opportunity to see a ton of sites along your way across the country.
If you have some extra time, one of the first stops on your journey should be Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Here you’re able to drive 10,000 feet up the mountain and then hike the rest of the way on foot to the summit of Mount Wheeler. This is an excellent stop to get in some exercise and stretch your legs after hours of being in the car.
When driving this route during the first two weeks of September, make sure to stop in Hutchinson, Kansas, for the Kansas State Fair. The fair will give you plenty of things to do, such as going to a concert, bull riding, and of course delicious, greasy fair food. What more could you ask for? But, of course, if you said a celebrity goat milking, well, they have that too.
One of the last places you will pass through if you’re starting in San Francisco is Washington, D.C. Make sure not to pass up the opportunity to stop and see a few of the great things our nation’s capital has to offer. For example, you could stop at the Lincoln Memorial or feed your intellectual side by going to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
The Oregon Trail
Remember in elementary school hopping on the computer and joining a party of pioneers to survive across the Oregon Trail? Well, you’re an adult now, which means you can literally travel the Oregon Trail for yourself.
Lewis and Clark originally paved this trail between 1803 and 1806, if you didn’t know. Missionaries later used the path to travel to Native Americans in hopes of converting them to Christianity. But, unfortunately, the route eventually became defunct by the creation of a railway that shortened the trek to a mere week.
Stops Along the Way
With this being such a historic route, many things to see will be a hit with any history buff out there.
Fort Laramie, Wyoming, is the location of the first stop we will mention. Settlers established Fort Laramie National Historic Site as a private fur trading post dubbed the grand old post. It was also a hot spot for those on their way to find gold and a new home in the west. Here you can see old soldier’s barracks and the Old Commissary used as the visitor center.
Maybe you’re more of a geologist instead of a historian. In Oregon, make sure to stop at the John Day Fossil Beds. Some good news is that entrance to the park, museums, and all its trails are all free. There are also ranger-led talks at the monument to help you better understand the history of the location.
The last site that we suggest you see is Plymouth Rock inside of Plymouth Memorial State Park. We’ve all grown up hearing about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, so why not go ahead and see it for yourself to one-up your old schoolmates. Even though we don’t know for certain that this was the landing spot of the Mayflower, it has held a spot in the mind of the United State’s history for centuries now. That alone makes it a sight worth seeing.
Great River Road
We’ve mentioned many routes so far that go from east to west, so let us end on a road that will take you vertically across the country. Can you think of a great river that splits the country? Conjure up images of Mark Twain, steamboats, and Mississippi. That’s right; this route will take you along the Mississippi River, ending in New Orleans.
This road offers a good balance of scenic views and several developed areas that offer shopping and casinos if you’re into that sort of thing. Ending in New Orleans makes the trip worth it.
Stops Along the Way
An excellent stop to make along the Great River Road is the great city of St. Louis. French fur trappers founded the city in 1764, but it has grown into a sprawling metropolis bustling with things to do since then. One thing in the city you can’t miss is the Gateway National Park that dominates the skyline. Or, if you’re a baseball fan, schedule out some time on your trip to visit Busch Stadium and catch a St. Louis Cardinal’s game.
Another invigorating city to stop in for a while is Memphis, Tennessee. Graceland offers every Elvis fan their dream pit stop to see all the memorabilia they could desire. Memphis is also the home to several music venues that make for a great way to unwind and enjoy yourself. Don’t forget to check out a few museums, such as the National Civil Rights Museum, to see into the lives of those who stood up for what is right and true.
Who could want a better last stop than New Orleans, Louisiana? New Orleans is famous for its selection of food, drinks, and music scene. In addition, its Cajun French culture permeates the city and gives it flavor. A renowned spot to eat in the French Quarter is Acme Oyster House and serves the freshest oysters out there. Then, of course, you will have to stop by Cafe du Monde for a beignet and coffee.
We’ve only mentioned a few of the possible road trip routes you could take across the country, looking at historic options like Route 66 and the Oregon Trail. Or, for those who like to hit the city, the Great River Road is a great option.
Maybe you’re not looking to put all the effort into planning a cross-country road trip and just want to go to a city and see what it has to offer. Renting a car and visiting one city allows you to see a lot more of what it has to offer compared to a pitstop on a long road trip. If that is more your style, check out some of our city guides of must-see spots in major cities across the U.S.
Route 66 Overview (US National Park Service)
Route 50 Ways to See the Country
Celebrity Goat Milking Contest