There’s nothing quite as liberating as getting out on the open road. Swapping the chaos of the city for the charm of a small town, viewing the wide-open skies along a scenic highway… The great American road trip is like a national rite of passage; whether it’s the path to self-discovery you seek or just the thrill of adventure, there’s a freeway to take you there. But you don’t have to take time off from work to hit the trail either: The tarmac is calling your name to a local town this weekend. Scroll down for a few of our favorite mini road trips.
Driving along California’s Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is probably the most iconic American road trip. It’s one of the few trips that are just as scenic in the car as out of it. Crossing the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge is a definite highlight; make sure you have your camera ready to snap the rugged cliffside and breathtaking ocean views. Once you reach your destination, there are plenty of state parks to explore, with great hiking, camping locations, and beachcombing.
For a cute bed and breakfast option, stay at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, or if glamping is more your style, then check into the Glen Oaks Big Sur Cabin. Campers can check out the Tree Bones Resort, which even has yurts and a sushi bar. When your stomach calls, drop into the Big Sur Bakery for coffee and pastries. But if it’s food with a view you’re after, you simply can’t miss Nepenthe. The restaurant even have a bar running along the side of the cliff so you can overlook the ocean.
For New Yorkers looking for a spectacular road trip this fall, head north. Trade the grit and grime of the five boroughs for the spectacular autumnal colors of the Hudson Valley region. Extending 150 miles above the tip of Manhattan, you can trace your way down along the Hudson River and enjoy the natural beauty of this magnificent region. There are plenty of reasons to plan a weekend trip, from hiking to apple picking, or visit one of the many vineyards. Stay at the Mohonk Mountain House, which is actually more like a Victorian castle, with vine-covered walls and loads of old world charm. You’ll feel like you’re in Europe.
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We can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend than sipping on a crisp glass of vino in California’s wine country. Located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles is renowned for producing award-winning, premium wines thanks to its unique climate of warm days and cool nights. There are 32,000 acres of vineyards to explore and more than 40 grape varieties grapes, including Spanish, Italian, Bordeaux, and Rhône styles as well as Paso Robles heritage variety Zinfandel.
Complete your stay at the iconic Hotel Cheval, located in the heart of Paso Robles, and then wake up early to explore the historic Hearst Castle, complete with gothic study and breathtaking indoor Roman Pool with mosaic tiled patterns and eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.
Pinetop is the perfect weekend escape from the intense heat of the valley. Not only is it cooler, it’s also an incredibly beautiful, quiet and scenic region that’s worth the three-hour drive. Located in Navajo County, Arizona, Pinetop was only founded in 1984 so it’s still relatively new with a small population, which just makes this town all the more charming.
Take a small boat out on one of the many lakes for a spot of fishing, take a trail ride on horseback, dine at the scores of local restaurants, or hit up one of the local cowboy bars. The Lion’s Den always has a great live band on the weekends and you can even play life-size Jenga out the back. Take your trip to the next level and stay at one of the gorgeous log cabins.
If a trip back in time is what you’re after, then the Carlsbad Caverns are sure to quench your historic thirst. The world-famous limestone caverns are truly a sight to behold. There are even prehistoric ocean plants and animals fossilized in the rock from before the dinosaurs, when the southeastern corner of New Mexico looked like the Florida Keys coastline. Then once you’ve toured the caves, head out into the Carlsbad Caverns National Park with over 46,000 wild acres of incredible Chihuahuan Desert to explore. When your feet eventually give up, retire them at the heritage Trinity Hotel. Originally built in 1892, the hotel was restored to its former beauty in 2007 and features first-class dining and lodging.
This stunning enclave is part of the beautiful Golden Isles in Georgia that include St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and Cumberland Island—where wild horses roam. This beautiful region is just 40 minutes from Jacksonville, Florida, and worth every minute of the drive. Get your feet in the sand at the famous Driftwood Beach that resembles a tree graveyard with large driftwood trees sprawled across the coastline. It’s become a popular destination for weddings. Don’t miss the Horton House Ruins, the original tabby house of top military aide Major William Horton. Constructed in 1743, the beautiful structure has been meticulously preserved and now stands as one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state. Then wind down with an afternoon session at The Rah Bar, with an amazing wharf view, fresh crab, shrimp, and cold libations.
This short drive inland is probably one of the most scenic you’ll ever take. The spectacular views from your car window of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming will take your breath away, but try taking your finger off the camera trigger during this trip. It’s simply a beautiful part of the world. This has all the Wild West character you could want, complete with rustic wooden barns set against a backdrop of magnificent mountains. For the complete experience, drop into the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, if not for a drink, then for the largest collection of Western memorabilia, architecture, cowboy murals, animal mounts, and saddle barstools.
No matter what time of year, the sky in Taos, New Mexico, is always blue. The interesting architecture sets this destination apart, including the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, made famous from the Georgia O’Keefe paintings. A mile north, you’ll find the 1000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site Taos Pueblo. This significant landmark is still home to the Tiwa tribe of the Pueblos.
Then take a break at the famous Taos Mesa Brewing, famous for its specialty craft beers, live music, and simply the best mountain sunsets of the region. For authentic dining, head to the quaint Taos el Meze restaurant, featuring fresh, seasonal, “rustic-inspired” cuisine, or as they term it, la comida de las sierras (the food of the mountains).
If you had a place as cute as Key West around the corner, why wouldn’t you go for the weekend? This is one of the best Florida road trips, with the Atlantic Ocean to the left, the Gulf of Mexico to the right, and the awesome Seven Mile Bridge, which has to be driven across at least once in your lifetime.
When you’ve had enough swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and shopping, head over to the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. This beautiful landmark is situated on a Civil War–era fort built to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline. You can take a guided tour or just stroll through the ancient walls enjoying the patina of the fort walls.
If you’re looking for uninterrupted stretches of coastline, beautiful beaches, and history, then look no further than Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The affluent coastal village is also home to Taylor Swift—where she spent her Fourth of July weekend.
If you do go, then you simply must stay at the Ocean House. The 1868 Victorian oceanfront hotel underwent a $146 million rebuild that doubled the windows and the light. Those looking for the ultimate indulgence should book the Grand Deluxe Room 301, complete with ocean views, soaking tub, and blue-tiled fireplace.