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Great American Summer Road Trips

Hitting the Highway

You might not have room in your budget for a plane ticket to Europe or a fancy hotel stay, but there are plenty of U.S. destinations reachable by car for adventurous types itching to hit the road.

And your ultimate destination isn’t the only place of interest. There are plenty of sights to see along the way.

Here are some of the best American road trips to consider this summer and beyond, whether you’re interested in scenery and national parks or beer, bourbon and barbecue.

Photo Credit: .Bala

Cost

How much you spend on a road trip can vary greatly, depending on whether you’re in a compact car, minivan, RV or motorcycle; where you’re coming from; where you’re going and how many mouths you’ll have to feed along the way.

Some summer travelers might find it easier to rent a car and drive one way and take a train, plane or bus back, but for our purposes, we’ll assume you’re a true road tripper planning to go the whole way there and back by car and drive about 10 hours a day.

For more specific mileage estimates, Rand McNally provides a helpful tool.

Photo Credit: Micheal ? Peterson

Hitting the Bourbon Trail

The Bourbon Trail in Kentucky is where all the great bourbon is made, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey. Not only is it a great road trip, but car enthusiasts can take a side trip (when they’re sober) to the National Corvette Museum, suggests Examiner.com.

Miles traveled round-trip: Traveling from Cincinnati, for example, you’ll be traveling about 488 miles total.

Travel time: Round-trip from your starting point to where you’ll get on the Bourbon Trail, you might spend about four hours on the road. The Kentucky Distillers Association suggests taking at least two days to travel the trail.

Photo Credit: Kyle May

Great River Road

The Mississippi River runs from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico via Louisiana. But the Great River Road zig-zags along it, passing scenic parks, forests, farms and even casinos.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 2,968 miles

Travel time: 5 days (About 47 hours total)

Photo Credit: syntheticaperture

A BBQ Tour

The South is also a destination of choice if you’re a fan of barbecue, but not necessarily bourbon. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have their own styles of sauce, but North Carolina has made pulled pork popular, and the North Carolina Barbecue Society has designed a historic barbecue trail stretching from Eastern North Carolina to Tennessee with visits to a series of restaurants that use distinctive barbecue styles.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 892 miles

Travel time: 2 days (About 15 hours total)

Photo Credit: dyobmit

The Loneliest Road

This coast-to-coast road trip running from San Francisco to the eastern shore in Maryland takes travelers to colonial towns suspended in time. The route partly runs along the old pony express and goes through Nevada along what’s known to some specifically as the Loneliest Road in America.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 5,902 miles

Travel time: 9 days (About 88 hours total)

Photo Credit: kla4067

The Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere might be the fastest way to travel the country from north to south. It runs virtually straight from Manitoba, Canada, to Brownsville, Texas, through the Great Plains, the Texas-Oklahoma panhandle and several small towns that seem to pop up between stretches of open fields.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 3,836 miles

Travel time:6 days (About 60 hours total)

Photo Credit: Paraflyer

Route 66

By traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago on historic Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America (which has a special place in our hearts), road trippers can get a glimpse of small towns and old truck stops as part of the great American experience.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 4,030 miles

Travel time: 3 days (About 31 hours total)

Photo Credit: puroticorico

The Pacific Coast

Road trippers driving along the Pacific Coast between Olympic National Park and San Deigo, Calif., can stop along the way at destinations like Cape Perpetua, a scenic area where visitors can look south down the Pacific Ocean, as well as San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 2,632 miles

Travel time: 4 days (About 42 hours total)

Photo Credit: di_the_huntress

The Atlantic Coast

Travelers follow the Atlantic Coast starting at the Statue of Liberty and ending up in Key West, Fla. This road trip has something for everyone: Atlantic City for gamblers, Virginia Beach for sun-bathers and Savannah, Ga., for Paula Dean admirers.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 2,876 miles

Travel time: 5 days (About 48 hours total)

Photo Credit: ajagendorf25

Grand Canyon

A Grand Circle road trip may start in Vegas and end in Vegas, but stops at a number of tranquil national parks in additional to the popular road trip destination, the Grand Canyon. You’ll pass by Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Monument Valley Tribal Park. What better way to enjoy a road trip than taking pit stops in some of America’s most beautiful natural wonders.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 1,187 miles

Travel time: About 10 days

Photo Credit: Fundenburg

Oregon Trail

You aren't likely to get diphtheria or a rattlesnake bite while you travel this trail, despite what you might have learned on the computer game.

Heading west on the historic Oregon Trail means an opportunity to stop at two great wonders of the world: Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. Plus you can pass through Boston, Chicago and Cleveland (baseball season, anyone?).

Miles traveled round-trip: About 6,216

Travel time: 10 days (About 93 hours total)

Photo Credit: seannaber

Appalachian Trail

This East Coast road trip takes travelers from the woods of Maine to Atlanta with Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia along the way. And an extra day can mean kayaking, canoeing and camping at the Delaware Water Gap.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 2,520 miles

Travel time: 4 days (About 41 hours total)

Photo Credit: Nicholas_T

A Desert Road Trip

If you’re not too afraid of the heat this summer, a trip through the natural beauty of the desert via highways and winding dirt roads can make for a nice, short trip with some campgrounds along the way. This route starts at Cedar Mesa, Utah and runs through Monument Valley, Utah.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 938 miles

Travel time: 2 days (About 17 hours total)

Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe

Antiquing

Shoppers with a weakness for antiques can rummage through a number of shops in the eastern U.S. to complete their collections, for instance, on a road trip from Philadelphia to the Berkshires.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 572 miles

Travel time: 1-2 days, (About 11 hours total)

Photo Credit: ken2754@Yokohama

West Coast Wineries

Wine lovers can stick to the West Coast to get a good taste of different domestic wines from Glacier Peak Vineyard in northern Washington State, to Oregon wine country, through Sonoma, Napa and San Diego, among other Southern California destinations.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 2,456 miles

Travel time: 4 days, (About 40 hours total)

Photo Credit: kkimpel

Fall Foliage

If you enjoy the fall foliage and like to plan early, you might consider a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 754 miles

Travel time: 1-2 days (About 12 hours total)

Photo Credit: taberandrew

Beer

The Wisconsin cities of Madison and Milwaukee are both meccas for beer lovers in the United States. Just remember to bring a designated driver with you.

Miles traveled round-trip: About 320 miles from Chicago to Madison, Milwaukee, then back to Chicago.

Travel time: About six hours, total, but give yourself extra time to sober up.  And if you have more time, the Wisconsin tourism board suggests two different two-day beer-related road trips, one in northern Wisconsin and one in the southern part of the state.

Photo Credit: qwrrty

Learning From Others' Mistakes

Before you pack up the car and it hit road, you may want to prepare yourself by taking a look at the lessons in MainStreet's Road Trips Gone Wrong.

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