There are abundant opportunities to enjoy our nation’s many treasures.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a busy parent or a footloose single person: The classic, American road trip stirs the soul. So when the open road calls, consider heading out to one of these three famous routes:
The Overseas Highway (Florida)
Overseas Highway (a.k.a. “The Highway that Goes to Sea”) covers just over 127 miles along U.S. Route 1, slicing through the Florida Keys from the South Florida mainland to Key West. You’ll cross more than 40 bridges over the Florida Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Savor the colorful, sea-soaked scenery with mangroves, pines and palms dotting the landscape. Don’t be surprised if white herons, gulls and ospreys soar above during your travels.
The highway traces the now-closed Over-Sea Railroad. Highlights include: Key Largo, where the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is a great place for families to learn about species rescue, rehab and release programs in the region; Marathon, where Old Seven Mile Bridge is a National Historic Register Landmark which has been featured in movies such as 2 Fast 2 Furious and Mission: Impossible III; and Key West, a tourist magnet with attractions such as the Harry S. Truman Little White House and (of course) Ernest Hemingway’s former home, which is now a museum.
When to go: You may to avoid hurricane season, from May 15th through Nov. 30th. (Or at least check the weather reports before going there.) Otherwise, winter and early spring are climate-friendly times for Florida.
Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia and North Carolina)
If you love trekking through lush, mountain country, then this nearly 470-mile, two-lane road is for you. It takes you from the thick forest and rolling mountains at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll be disappointed: Maximum speeds are 45 mph and there are plenty of RVs on the road, which often slow down on the parkway’s dramatic inclines. (Fortunately, not many people are in a hurry here!)
If local culture is your thing, then listen to bluegrass at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Check out Appalachian craft displays, expert weavers and woodcutters at the Folk Art Center. Then head into the nearby town of Asheville—it’s actually a funky, hip kinda town. (Among other Asheville destinations: The famous Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club, named by none other than Rolling Stone magazine as one of the best live rock clubs in the country.)
When to go: October and November, peak seasons for watching endless views of leaves turn lovely shades of orange, red and yellow.
Diné Tah Scenic Road (Arizona)
You may at times think you’re in one of those old “Man with No Name” Clint Eastwood westerns while driving here. You’ll be swept away by the majestic red-rock formations, ancient ruins, canyons, forests and wide-open deserts. The name comes from the native Navajo Nation, meaning “Among the People.”
Its 100 miles take travelers along Routes 12 and 64 from Lupton to Chinle. You can stop at the Navajo capital of Window Rock, where the Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park and Veteran’s Memorial recognizes the Navajo soldiers who served as code talkers. You can finish at Canyon de Chelly, a National Park Service monument/park that preserves the Navajo’s 5,000-year traditions of architecture and farming.
When to go: Anytime in fall, winter or spring.