There's nothing quite like the feeling of being on the open road with the wind blowing in your hair for miles. Let's be honest: Traveling by car gives you a sense of freedom you don't get elsewhere. Want to change direction at the last minute or stop to see something that wasn't on your itinerary? Go right ahead.
We've always been proponents of the weekend road trip when time is of the essence. But if you're able to go on a cross-country road trip, you can tailor your journey based on what you want to experience—whether that's a certain monument, state park, or even a restaurant.
Buckle your seat belts, because we've rounded up five cross-country road trips that everyone should take at least once in their lifetime. Scroll through, and then get packing.
Los Angeles to Chicago
You may be venturing from one major city to another, but there's a heck of a lot to see in between as well. Drive a little more than four hours for a stop in Las Vegas where you can take a hot-air balloon ride for the best views in town. Or head to Spa Aquae for a luxurious massage (they even have a couples' room if you're with your S.O.). Next, head to Zion National Park in Utah where you'll go bird-watching to see more than 200 exotic species (if you'd prefer to bike the trails, that's an option as well). Stay overnight at the campground, and then head to Vail, Colorado, for some skiing fun. (If you're with the kids, they can ride free on the scenic gondola rides with you.) Make one more pit stop in Omaha, and you'll be in the Windy City before you know it.
San Francisco to Chesapeake Bay
They call the Nevada section of this 3200-mile stretch the "loneliest road," but it doesn't have to be lonely if you have some company. Although the route stretches across 11 states, highlights include Lake Tahoe, the Great Basin, and the Santa Fe Trail. It's here that you'll take in breathtaking views of water towers and windmills and everything reminiscent of the past. Next, you'll cross the Mississippi River and eventually West Virginia, followed by our nation's capital. Finally, you'll end up in Chesapeake Bay, the tiny fishing village in Maryland where you can eat some local blue crab.
The Canadian Rockies to the Sonoran Desert
We like the idea of a border-to-border cross-country road trip starting in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains near Jasper National Park. You'll be taking Highway 93, which is meant for adventurous types, as you'll be navigating mountains, valleys, rivers, and more along the way. There's much to see, and high points include valleys explored by Lewis and Clark, and a trip to the elite ski resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. (This might be worth an overnight stay so you can hit the slopes.) Continue on, and stop at the Grand Canyon, and then pass through Phoenix and Tucson on your way to the Mexican border.
Provincetown to Inyo County
If you're going this route on your cross-country road trip, you're literally taking Route 6 from the charming tip of Cape Cod all the way to Inyo County, California, on the West Coast. You'll get to see a little bit of everything along the way including The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, several breweries, and one musical road in Lancaster. (The road causes your car to vibrate to the tune of a famous song.) This is one of only three musical roads in the world, so this is not the time to snooze if you're not driving.
New York City to Key West
You'll start this 2000-mile journey in the bustling center of Times Square in Manhattan. Soon enough, you'll escape the city and drive through many beaches and old-timey seaside towns. Then, you'll pass through several resort towns from the swanky (Cape May) to the quirky (Myrtle Beach). (PS: Don't forget to pick up some saltwater taffy.) If you want to take in some historic sights, try visiting Roanoke Island in North Carolina, where the first English-speaking colony vanished in the 1600s. If you keep driving, you'll finally hit Key West, but this trip is all about the little things. Don't forget to make a trip to a general store and eat some fried chicken from a roadside stand before you reach your destination.
Which of these cross-country road trips do you want to take first? Up next: things to do on the all-American road trip.