Seriously, You Have to Do This U.S. Road Trip at Least Once in Your Lifetime

by Michelle Guerrere

Most of the time, we’re just itching to go on a vacation. We make the excuse that we can’t afford the flight or it’s just not good timing. But guess what? There’s so much to explore right in our own backyards. Taking your next trip doesn’t mean you have to leave the States (or even your own region). All it takes is a little imagination, some gas in your car, and a companion with whom you can sing along to the radio. The next time you’re experiencing wanderlust, pack your bags and hit the road with one of our top U.S. weekend road trips. Scroll through to see our favorite little-known destinations—all you need is 48 hours.

New Paltz, from New York City

If you’re the outdoorsy type, this trip to upstate New York is for you. This cozy town just 80 miles north of Manhattan is home to one of the best rock-climbing spots in all of North America (it’s called Shawangunk Ridge). If you’re up for camping, the campsite at Minnewaska State Park is open from mid-May to November. (It’s not exactly glamping, but there are bathrooms, showers and a spot to cook!) Those less inclined to spend their time in the forest will be equally as thrilled wine tasting at Robibero Family Vineyards, which even has live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Bar Harbor, from Boston
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It will only take you around a five-hour drive to go back to the Victorian era when you check into the historic Primrose Inn, built in 1878 by Col. William F. Holland from Savannah, Georgia (it was his summer home). Bar Harbor, a coastal town in Down East Maine, is still a great place for a getaway, particularly for its close proximity to Acadia National Park, which boasts 130 miles of hiking trails (other outdoor activities include whale watching and trolley tours). But if you’re anything like us, the fresh Maine lobster and popovers with strawberry jam from Jordan Pond will be just as enticing.

Idyllwild, from Los Angeles
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This California town is known for both its access to the outdoors (read: hiking and rock climbing) and access to the arts (galleries and music). It’s only about a two-hour drive outside of L.A., and every summer, top musicians come to play on three big stages during the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines Festival. Perhaps the best way to get to see all of this idyllic destination is by taking a romantic hot-air balloon over nearby Temecula (it’s known for its hot air balloon and wine festival).

Mackinac Island, from Chicago
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When you really want (need) an escape, you go to the ever-charming Mackinac Island, Michigan. Once on this island between the northernmost part of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, the only mode of transportation is bike or horse-drawn carriage. Splurge on a waterfront stay at the breathtaking Hotel Iroquois, which is right near everything you’ll want to see. Speaking of things you’ll need to take in, indulge in the island’s world-renowned fudge—Joann’s has a whopping 29 flavors to choose from.

Marianna, from Miami
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Marianna, a town in the Florida Panhandle west of Tallahassee, is called “The City of Southern Charm.” Still little known by tourists, it’s most acclaimed for its natural beauty, including several rivers, lakes and ponds. Enlist the help of Bear Paw Escape to float down the lazy river on tubes and take in the surroundings. You must check out Florida Caverns State Park, where you can go spelunking and take a tour of Florida’s only dry caverns (pack a picnic to enjoy on the grounds post-tour).

Mystic, from Philadelphia
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Reyna Breuring/500PX

You may remember this tiny Connecticut town as the backdrop from the Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza, but there’s much more to it than that. A visit to the Mystic Seaport will take you on a time warp back to the seaside village circa the 1800s. (Side note: Kids will be delighted by the storytelling and reenactments and you’ll be intrigued that the buildings are actual trade shops and buildings from way back when.) From March to mid-May and May to August, you can ride aboard the Sunbeam Fleet ship to see the harbor seals and the lighthouse.

Port St. Joe, from New Orleans
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George Taylor/500PX

Leave the Big Easy for some fun on the peninsula between St. Joe’s Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. One tourist even calls the area “quaint, old World Florida” on TripAdvisor. We won’t disagree. Even though it’s only about five-and-a-half hours from NOLA, this town nestled in the seaside is a far cry from the city’s hustle and bustle. Those with a love for sailing will enjoy the many marinas nearby (and the delicious smell of the beach). The best way to do Port St. Joe is to stay at a cottage with a kitchen from June to September. We’ve heard it’s a good idea to rent one of the Barefoot Cottages through RealJoy Vacations—and then catch (and cook) your own fresh oysters for dinner. 

Be sure to read about the things you should do on a road trip, and tell us which vacation you’re dying to take in the comments!

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