My Top 10 of Everything: Unforgettable American Road Trips

I know that the notion of ‘driving around’ for ones vacation is anathema to many of you, but, for others (including me!) it evokes the perfect getaway – all the joys of travel with no real time limits or group restrictions, no compromise on itinerary or route and umpteen opportunities to deviate at a whim.

We’ve driven extensively in Europe, but have also rented cars in North and Central America, Africa (Namibia, Morocco), Middle East (Jordan, Oman) and Australia (camper van) and it’s really our vacation of choice. Our ideal trip begins with the touring and ends with a few days of doing absolutely nothing at a beach or pool (but that doesn’t always work out).

The following is just a medley of suggestions rather than detailed itineraries – maybe just enough to sow seeds of an idea in the head!

There’s no particular order or duration…….

1.Arizona / Utah

I think you could return to this region every year for a decade and not see everything. The deserts of south west US are nothing less than a geological wonderland – offering up the amazing National Parks of Southern Utah, Sedona and Grand Canyon in Arizona, not forgetting Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, picturesque Horseshoe Bend…. The difficulty here is being selective because of distance and park fatigue – of course you can always skip across to Vegas when all that natural beauty becomes too much for you!!

We’ve visited all the above but on four different trips (I think!). We’ve used Las Vegas and Phoenix Airports (but only because they offered the best international option at the time of booking). We always visited the area in high summer – yep HOT! – but the only real crowds were at the Grand Canyon and even that was ok..

Monument Valley / Arches N.P. / Grand Canyon

Bryce Canyon / Horseshoe Bend

Zion N.P. / Antelope Canyon / Sunset in Sedona

2.Blue Ridge Parkway / Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This is very accessible from the east coast hubs – Washington or Charlotte airports for us. It’s all very green (a bit like home) and I’d prefer the arid landscapes further west but the area is hugely popular and the GSMNP is the busiest in the country. The route begins at Shanandoah National Park and then joins the Blue Ridge Parkway and on down towards the Smokys, taking in the lovely towns of Charlottesville and Asheville. You can visit Monticello – Jefferson’s Plantation (you’ll recognise the house from the reverse side of the 5 cent / nickel coin) or George Vanderbilt’s country estate – Biltmore House (America’s largest home!)

We didn’t do this as one trip due to time constraints – we spent a week on the Parkway as far as Asheville and on another occasion visited the GSMNP (from the Tennessee side).

Blue Ridge Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park


We sandwiched this drive – to the Everglades and on to Key West – between the Theme Parks of Orlando and our few days at Clearwater Beach before heading home. Who doesn’t want to see crocodiles and Key Largo! It meant retracing our steps – or road miles – to and from Key West but hey – its worth driving it twice!


Florida Keys


The Highway 1 route from San Francisco to LA must be the best known self drive in this part of the world but you can extend it into a great loop incorporating Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Death Valley or even go as far as Las Vegas.

From san Francisco to L.A.

Tahoe / Death Valley / Yosemite

5.Route 66

Ah – something special about this one – and funny contrasts – open road one day and city centre walkabouts the next. This one should not be rushed so you’d need to allow at least two weeks, especially for detours to Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Joshua Tree, etc……

6.Pennsylvania / New Jersey

This region mightn’t spring to mind when planning a road trip but if you’re tight on time…. We’ve spent two short breaks in the area – and I mean short – just a few nights – but we did the brilliant Gettysburg tour and visited the traditional Amish community in Lancaster County on one trip and very recently we’d a few even shorter day excursions in New Jersey….. Newark Airport is perfect – means you can just pick up your car and avoid NYC and off you go…

Gettysburg / Lancaster County / Atlantic City

Wildwood / Princeton University / Cape May

7.The Midwest / West

We crammed far too much into a 2 week loop here – Denver / Salt Lake City / Grand Tetons / Yellowstone / Cody / Devils Tower / Mount Rushmore / Black Hills of Dakota / Badlands….. and that’s just off the top of my head!! But great bucket list stuff!

SLC Temple / Grand Teton NP / Yellowstone

Devils Tower / Mount Rushmore / Badlands NP

I said Ten American Trips – not US Trips….


Very like home – even the accents!!! Outdoor enthusiasts will love it here but there are other surprises – the archaeological site at the Colony of Avalon, the famous Ferryland Lighthouse Picnic and the colourful houses of St. Johns….

We flew in to Deer Lake (from Toronto) and out of St Johns (home via Newark). We just had 7 nights which wasn’t enough – 10 nights would have been good.

Gros Morne N.P. / Whale watching / St. Johns


You can head off on a very accessible loop from Cancun or wherever you are based on the Costa Maya – in just 3 or 4 days, you can search out and swim in a few cenotes, explore the colonial towns of Merida and Valladolid, visit the ancient ruins of Uxmal, Kabah (and others off the usual tourist trail), wander the yellow city of Izamal and linger as long as you wish in the sacred city of Chichen Itza – now imagine enjoying all that but not on a tour bus!

Merida / Uxmal / Cenote

Kabah / Izamal / Chichen Itza

10.Costa Rica

Fly-drive is a hugely popular option here – cloud forest, volcano, wildlife, beach….. It’s as good as it always looks in those brochures!!

There you have it …..the list isn’t complete – I didn’t include Louisiana, Tennessee or our very first one from Connecticut to Cape Cod in 1983! (it’s not that they’re not worthy – I just wanted a roundy ten!!).

And looking ahead….

Hopefully we’ll make it back there for some more driving. If so, these are on the list…


New England in the Fall

Pacific Coast north from San Francisco to Seattle


Disclosure / Attribution

I’m not sending you anywhere I haven’t visited myself but I have cheated a bit (well – a lot!) on the photos. 2 reasons – I’m missing photos from several years so have huge gaps in my travel records but, also – some of these trips go back a bit so I must also admit to laziness and not rooting out the old photos and scanning them (now WHAT did I spend all of Covid doing!).

The following are my own – Arizona / Utah, Blue Ridge Parkway / GSMNP, Route 66, Costa Rica and most of New Jersey. The rest are courtesy of Wikimedia (no restrictions).

38 thoughts on “My Top 10 of Everything: Unforgettable American Road Trips

  1. Another great top ten Marie 😀 We’ve done all the US areas you mention, with California, Arizona and Utah definitely in my personal top ten too. Newfoundland is very much on my radar for a future visit and I’m also hoping to persuade Chris to go to Alaska one day (he prefers places with more reliable good weather these days however!) I was interested that you’ve driven in Mexico – how did you find it? We’re going there next February and are planning to do the Baja California part of the trip as self-drive.

    I definitely recommend the northern stretches of the Pacific coast. We did Oregon years ago and most recently Washington State which I loved – Seattle, the coastline of the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, the Cascades and San Juans! I also suggest you add New Mexico to your wish list as that was another of our absolute favourites – so much variety and stunning landscapes! Meanwhile next year we’re planning to fill in some gaps in California – the coast north of San Francisco, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Death Valley 😀

    1. I’m with Chris on the good weather bit – however, having recently read a post from Linda at Wandering Canadians, among others, I’ve been giving serious thought to Alaska next summer. Tom has declared this week that we should go to New England next autumn – it’ll be his first time not working during that period… we’re unlikely to do both but… never say never!
      We’d no problem whatsoever in Yucatan – not the worst driving conditions by a long shot…I’m sure Baja California will be even better… Where do you fly to? Did you say you were going to Mexico City also? I’d love to go back to Mexico…
      We saw parts of New Mexico on Route 66 but I would like to go back there – esp north of Santa Fe….
      So many plans… so little time!!!

      1. Yes we’re flying to Mexico City and doing some places around there and Oaxaca with guides, also doing the Copper Canyon railway before flying to Baja California.

      2. I’d love Oaxaca – when we were in MC we had to decide between Oaxaca and Palenque and opted for the latter.. of course then we both got violently ill and had to stay in MC for an extra few days and had to cancel that leg of the trip … the joys…

  2. Brilliant. Not 9am and I’ve had my armchair travel fix for the day. Wonderful memories and photos. I certainly wouldn’t pass through Winslow without stopping and standin’ on the corner.

    1. Ha! Good Stuff Roy!!
      Winslow was one of those unexpected joys that travel can throw at you – We’d a small pamphlet size Lonely Planet for route 66 – a page per state almost. So Winslow got one sentence. We almost missed it. Beyond tacky really but who cares! Myself and Tom sang the song much to Stephen’s mortification!

  3. This is a great list! I am not really a lover of road trips, but sometimes they make sense. I just drink too much water for them ha! We did the SF to Lake Tahoe to Yosemite for our honeymoon and it was beautiful!

    1. I think we especially love the US because of the size! If we drive for a few hours here we fall into the sea – you can drive for days!!! Our love of road trips stems from teacher holidays – we used to head off for about 6 weeks (much less in recent years because of elderly dependent parents but we never lost the bug). If we had to live with 10/14 days vacation we’d have a very different outlook for sure..

  4. You certainly have covered some ground in America, and Sarah as well, to judge from the above comment. Great to read all about it and to see the photographs. We only drove some of the California routes including San Francisco to Lake Tahoe where we spent a few days (I didn’t want to leave)!. We also drove from LA to Vegas via the Death Valley which I consider to be the most boring drive of my life! But I loved driving in Louisiana although it was a bit edgy at times and we didn’t always feel welcomed in some of the towns we drove through. Canada I found much more relaxing for driving. I’d still love to do most of the trips you’ve done – maybe not so much in one week though! – but I’ll content myself for now with reading about them. You can be my surrogate for future travels!

    1. You’ve done plenty trips yourself then! I remember in Louisiana (us so familiar with European rivers) driving from New Orleans to try and see the Mississippi meet the Gulf of Mexico – totally misunderstanding the concept of the delta… I often thought we’d drive across Canada but it’s not on the radar for now..

  5. As you probably know, Mike and I are road trippers, and that is also our favorite way to travel. We’ve visited many of the same places you have, and I enjoyed reading about your travels and especially seeing your photos. Marie, you’ve got to do the northern California coast (Redwood State and National Parks!) and the Oregon coast. We haven’t done all of Oregon yet, but what we’ve seen is just breathtakingly beautiful. I would recommend traveling there in September or October. Happy travels.

      1. Makes more sense than the height of summer… We’ve never been able to travel in Sept but in last few years have been away in June and love it… although I come home and still feel I need my ‘summer holiday’!!!😅 😂 🤣

  6. Our California/Grand Canyon trip last year was our first ever US road trip and we absolutely loved everything about it (apart, possibly from the pain it inflicted on the Bank account). But like you the joy of road trips in foreign countries is special…the freedom it brings is so liberating and so enabling. I’ve driven in 24 different countries so far and there isn’t one which wasn’t brilliant.

    1. The big problem is that international flight isn’t it…It’s such a whack of money before we even get started. And we still seem to be travelling mostly in high season so NEVER get a bargain! I love having a car – I love not having to pack a bag in the morning for a day trip! Just throw everything in to the boot – Isn’t it funny how those 2 carefully packed 10kg bags seem to swell once you’ve a car boot and literally fill the space within a day or two!!!

  7. We’re plainly cut from similar cloth, as Mrs P and I have covered very similar ground over a period of around three decades (although we never got to Yucatan). Thank you for bringing back so many happy memories!

      1. My absolute favourite place in North America is Yellowstone. We just couldn’t keep away, re-visiting 5 or 6 times, thereby delaying by several years completion of our self-imposed challenge to visit all 50 US states! Alaska is also great, one big adventure, but allow yourself loads of time. Philadelphia and New Orleans gave us a couple of good city breaks, although we did the latter before hurricane Katrina so I don’t know what it’s like these days.

        Turning to Canada, I can recommend Nova Scotia, which we preferred to Newfoundland. We also had a great time on Vancouver Island, and enjoyed watching polar bears at Churchill in Manitoba.

        So much to see…enjoy!

      2. We loved Yellowstone but only allowed a few days because we were trying to cram so much in…. we said we’d go back but other regions beckon…

  8. You’ve done a fabulous part of Canada for sure. There are lots more amazing sites to see here, though! Sometime you should do a post about your driving Europe trips. Man you are well traveled!

    1. I think I wrote about short European driving trips at some stage but yes – we’ve had many lovely European vacations ( I’ve forgotten far more than I remember!) We will certainly explore more of Canada – would love to visit the western part of the country…

      1. Now that I’d love! Went once to Norway but had a very poor showing – all a matter of luck… and you have it for free!!!

Leave a Reply