Ahh, the open road. Symbolizing freedom, spontaneity, and adventurousness, there's nothing quite like a road trip with your friends. And I stress the friends part, because family road trips can be a nightmare. Just ask Clark Griswold.
Anyway, you make up a special playlist, cram every last thing you might possibly need into the car, and set off for parts unknown, ready for adventure around every turn.
But where are you going? That's the all-important question. And I'm not talking about the destination so much as I'm talking about the journey. The stops along the way are what make the road trip a road trip.
Stumped? Here are some ideas:
1. Route 66 — 2,300 miles
The highway that is officially not a highway (as of 1985), Route 66 is known as "The Mother Road" for a reason. It literally traverses the heartland of America, beginning in Chicago and ending at the Santa Monica Pier, just west of downtown Los Angeles.
Highlights along the route include Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri; this restored Kan-O-Tex service station in Galena, Kansas, complete with a very-real replica of Mater from Disney's Cars; the Blue Whale of Catoosa and POPS Soda Ranch in Oklahoma; Palo Duro Canyon State Park and the MidPoint Cafe in Texas; among many others, of course.
Step back in time and travel on the Mother Road with the help of Roadtrippers' Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip guide, which suggests 41 stops in total for a week-long trip.
2. The Longest Road in America (U.S. Route 20) — 3,579 miles
U.S. Route 20 is an east-to-west, coast-to-coast highway that book ends in Newport, Oregon, and Boston, Massachusetts. Roughly paralleling Interstate 90, the route officially covers 3,365 miles, making it the longest road in America.
You'll hit 12 states along the way, with numerous scenic stops, undoubtedly cherry-topped by Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming. Other can't-miss places along America's longest highway include the baseball diamond used in the movie Field of Dreams; Michael Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
If traveling west to east, from Oregon to Massachusetts, you can end the trip at the Old North Church in Boston, which might call to mind the phrase "One if by land, two if by sea," for you history buffs.
Find a full guide from Roadtrippers here.
3. Dixie Overland Highway (U.S. Route 80) — 1,966 miles
Like its more well-known cousin Route 66, the Dixie Overland Highway does not technically exist anymore. According to the Wikipedias, the highway was an auto trail connecting Georgia and California between 1914 and 1925.
The good news is that U.S. Route 80 largely follows the route of this defunct highway, though it stops much short of California in the vicinity of Dallas, Texas. The road trip we're talking about here — the one that covers 1,966 miles, as opposed to Route 80's official 1,032 miles — will see you from Tybee Island, Georgia, to El Paso, Texas.
Highlights include the ghost town of Cahaba (also spelled Cahawba), the first permanent state capitol of Alabama from 1820 to 1825; the city of Selma, Alabama, which is famous for the role it played in the Civil Rights Movement; the site where Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down by police in Gibsland, Louisiana; and the Wyler Aerial Tramway in El Paso.
Of course, that's not all. Roadtrippers' guide lists a whopping 47 places to make a pitstop at along the Dixie Overland Highway.
4. Pacific Coast Highway (Calif. State Route 1 & U.S. Route 101) — 1,540 miles
If you love ocean views, this is the road trip for you. Here's the deal: California State Route 1 is known as the Pacific Coast Highway, traversing almost the entire Californian coast from Dana Point in Orange County up to Leggett in Mendocino County. It stretches 655 miles in total.
Then you have U.S. Route 101, also known as El Camino Real, which goes from Los Angeles all the way up to Olympia, Washington (1,540 miles). The two highways merge at different points — for a 54-mile stretch in California's Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, for example, and across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
There is obviously a lot to do and much to see along this coastal route, so I offer you but a handful of entertaining diversions: the Santa Monica Pier outside of L.A.; McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Monterey; the Avenue of the Giants (giant Redwood trees, that is) in Humboldt County; Cannon Beach in Oregon, where scenes from The Goonies, Twilight, and Point Break were filmed; and, of course, Seattle's Space Needle.
5. U.S. Route 1 — 2,369 miles
Fresh off your trip up or down the West Coast, it's time to do the same on the East Coast, traveling along America's longest north-south highway, U.S. Route 1. This mammoth roadway goes from Fort Kent, Maine, at the Canadian border, all the way down to Key West, Florida, cutting through plenty of major cities on the eastern seaboard as it does so.
These are some of the places you might consider stopping at: this Bamboo Forest in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, for some Civil War history; the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the Art Deco District in Miami's South Beach area; and Biscayne National Park, also near Miami. Seven Mile Bridge and the buoy marking the U.S.'s southernmost point are essential parts of the experience, as well.
Now, make like Jack Kerouac, and get on the road!