When it comes to vacationing in America, nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip. It’s a concept that has been immortalized in movies and pop culture literally dozens of times for good reason. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. families pack up the family truckster each year and hit the road for their annual getaway.
It makes sense, of course. Road tripping isn’t nearly as expensive as flying and not only can you shed the airport hassle of baggage claim, security check, and luggage fees, you also have the flexibility to come and go whenever and wherever you want in the comfort of your own car.
The only question that remains when planning your road trip then becomes, “Where should we go?” Thankfully, the U.S. is a big country and there is no shortage of options. Here are a handful of sights and destinations you can check out the next time you decide to unleash you inner Griswold.
Parks and recreation
Can you even begin to fathom the breathtaking natural beauty of some of the national parks in the United States? Most of them truly need to be seen to be believed. If there’s anything worth getting in your car and driving hundreds of miles to see, it’s a 277-mile hole in the ground created by millions of years of erosion from the Colorado River.
While the Grand Canyon may be the most famous national park in the country, it certainly isn’t the only one worth checking out. There are the other big ones—Yellowstone, Yosemite, Olympic, just to name a few—but there are plenty of other lesser-known national parks that are just as stunning. There are more than 500 lakes and ponds at North Cascades National Park in Washington alone, featuring some of the most pristine blue waters you’ve ever seen in your life.
And if you’re really ready to put some miles on your car, Alaska features more than its share of natural gems, including the Gates of the Arctic National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and Kobuk Valley National Park.
The shape of water
Summer vacations in the U.S. are all about the water. Sitting on the beach, be it on a lake or by the ocean, truly epitomizes the vision we all imagine when we want to get away from it all.
So why not hop in your car and head to the best body of water you can find?
If catching some rays at the beach is your thing, you could certainly do worse than driving to Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota County, Florida. It’s consistently voted at or near the top as one of the top beaches in the U.S. and features a fine white sand that almost never gets too hot no matter how long the blazing Florida sun shines on it.
From Myrtle Beach to Monterey, there are obviously plenty of attractive beaches in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean you have to head to a coast to enjoy the water on your road trip. Each state in the country features a lake, river or some other beautiful body of water. There are the Finger Lakes in upstate New York and, of course, the Great Lakes across the Midwest. And there’s a reason they call Minnesota “the land of 10,000 lakes”—there are actually closer to 12,000 in the North Star state. It’s certainly not due to an oversized ball of twine. Although, more on that in a minute.
Do I amuse you?
You’ll recall that in the classic comedy “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” Clark Griswold (played to perfection by Chevy Chase) and his family embarked on a cross-country road trip to visit the fictional amusement park Wally World, running into endless hijinks along the way.
We’re certainly not asking anyone to strap any deceased relatives to the top of the car or accidentally tie the family dog to the car’s bumper. We’d like to think your road trip to an amusement park can go much more smoothly. Assuming you like roller coasters.
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is widely recognized as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, with no fewer than 18 roller coasters and one ride that launches you at 120 MPH in less than 20 seconds.
But if having your brains going into your feet isn’t really your thing, there are countless other theme parks where you can land on your road trip. The country’s oldest amusement park, Lake Compounce, is still up and running in Bristol, Connecticut. There’s Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, Knott’s Berry Farm in California, and Schlitterbahn Water Park in Texas, which features water rides and beaches across a whopping 65 acres.
We also hear there’s at least one amusement park out there featuring a mouse of some kind that’s a popular road trip destination.
Take me out to the ballparks
What better way to enjoy a huge part of American history and catch a game along the way than a road trip tour of the nation’s baseball stadiums? Even if you’re not a big baseball fan, many America’s ballparks are works of art featuring rich traditions and history.
From Boston’s Fenway Park’s Green Monster to the ivy-covered walls at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, many ballparks are basically museums. Of course, there are many newer ballparks with modern amenities to make this road trip worth your while.
Heck, the food alone is often worth the price of admission. And we’re not just talking about hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks. Wrigley Field offers a giant pork shoulder at its concession stands while at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, you can order an 18-inch hot dog covered in carne asada, guacamole, and salsa.
Just be sure to roll down the window once you get back in the car for your road trip.
Get your kitsch on
Yes, there really is a giant ball of twine in Minnesota. It’s not just a song by Weird Al Yankovic.
A man created it in the 1950s—starting by rolling twine in his basement and now people come from all over just to see it. Sound like a fun road trip? We thought so.
And it certainly isn’t the only kitschy attraction you can see in the U.S. If roadside oddities are your thing, be sure to check out the world’s largest brick in Alabama. There’s also the world’s largest ball of stamps (4.6 million of them to be exact) in Nebraska. And who could possibly turn down a trip to the Jell-O Museum if you happen to be passing through LeRoy, New York?
We haven’t even mentioned the world’s largest man-made turtle constructed entirely out of tire rims in North Dakota.
As you can see, road trips aren’t all about counting silos and playing the license plate game. There’s usually something fun waiting at the end and you get to take in the country’s unique joys along the way.
And you don’t even have to wait at baggage claim.