It has often been said that “getting there is half the fun.” While that old adage may be true, it does leave out a key distinction: The journey doesn’t necessarily stop once you arrive. If you’re a fan of road trips and hitting the highway, then your destination is just another starting point — for an adventure on wheels. America is criss-crossed by an amazing tapestry of paved roads; some traverse the distance between cities, others seem to follow a dreamer’s path – one where scenic marvels are more important than miles. It is on these beautiful byways where you can get wonderfully lost, even if you know exactly where you are. Here are a few spots that, with their proximity to romantic ribbons of asphalt, will definitely get your motor running:
- Bluebonnet Trail (Austin/Houston). Between the two lies the Lone Star State’s most beautiful scenery, especially from March to May when the wild bluebonnets are in bloom. From Austin, you’ll pass a chain of seven interconnected lakes on the Colorado River, including Lake Buchanan, a wilderness resort area popular with fishermen and artists. To admire even more of the state’s native flowers, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, named for the First Lady who made national beautification a priority.
- Olympic Peninsula Loop (Seattle). Highway 101 loops around the largest road-free area in the continental U.S. Starting in Seattle, head northwest to climb into the Hoh River rainforest, dominated by ancient Sitka spruce and western hemlock. You can spy the San Juan Islands from the top of Hurricane Ridge, and at low tide, the pools on Olympic beaches are rife with starfish, sand dollars, and crabs. While out this way, you can take a break at the spooky logging town of Forks, a must for fans of the “Twilight” books and movies.
- Great River Road (New Orleans). There are tons of entry and exit points along the Great River Road, which follows both sides of the Mississippi through 10 states. But when it hits Louisiana, the road offers a special peek into the world of antebellum southern living. Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, drive under broad oak canopies and forests dripping with kudzu to view the colonnaded, plantation-era “Big Houses.” On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can take a tour of Oak Alley to hear “The Colonel” recount the effects of the Civil War on the lives of plantation families.
- Cades Cove Drive (Gatlinburg). An 11-mile, one-lane scenic loop around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Free and open to the public, from sunrise through sunset, the drive brings riders deep into a region where bears and deer roam free. Along the paved road, you’ll pass deserted yet well-preserved cabins, stores, barns and mills that dot the way. Pick up the guidebook at the beginning of the loop for an informed tour as you cruise along. As you go through the loop, keep your speed in check – somewhere around 10 mph is recommended – to optimize wildlife sightings.
- Red Rock Scenic Byway (Sedona). This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 179, earned the distinction as Arizona’s first All-American Road. It begins shortly after you exit off Interstate 17 and winds through the evergreen pinion-covered Coconino National Forest, with several scenic pullouts. You can also discover the extraordinary, prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking and all levels of hiking and biking trails. Although it’s only 7.5 miles long, the byway is home to three public golf courses, as well as the largest petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. So much to see and do!
- Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas). A different kind of beauty can be seen in the neon phenomenon that lights up the night. The Strip – which, technically, isn’t in Las Vegas, but rather the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester – is a 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Most of it has been designated an All-American Road, and it is considered a scenic route at night. One of the most visible aspects of Las Vegas’ cityscape is its use of dramatic architecture and lights. The rapidly evolving skyline and constant modernization of hotels, casinos, restaurants, residential high-rises and entertainment offerings have established the Strip as one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States.
To educate yourself on the many picturesque destinations – around which you can create your own road trips, visit our website at www.takethreenights.com. If you have questions, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. To explore and get additional information about all of our road-worthy vacation spots, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!