The American road trip is a thing of beauty. It has so many weird permutations, so many serpentine variations. It’s an adventure that offers a chance for young and old to experience our country’s nature, cultures, and people. Best of all, the United States is so vast that seeing the entire country in one go is just about impossible, even if you live the #vanlife. There will always be another corner of the country to be explored.
Here are some of the best road trips you can take this summer, or next summer, or the one after that. We can’t cover everything, but it’s a start.
SOUTHERN MUSIC TRAIL
Blues, jazz, country, folk, and gospel were all born in the American South. One could start out in Athens, Georgia, then take the road across Tennessee to Nashville and Memphis, mosey on south to Oxford, Mississippi, and then end up in New Orleans. A quick 950-mile trip around the American South is a syllabus for a master class in American music and culture. You’ll meet some seriously awesome people. You’ll collect some great vinyls. You’ll hear amazing music. You’ll eat some decadent and delicious food. And you’ll drink a lot of sweet tea and bourbon. Sounds like a dream.
Athens is one of the iconic college band towns — giving us greats like R.E.M. and the B-52s. It’s a city full of great venues and amazing musicians. Nashville and Memphis are landmarks of American folk, country, and rock and roll to this day. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton and a whole mess of other influential musicians have called Tennessee home.
As you head south on the I-55 toward NOLA, a stopover in Oxford is a must. Oxford may be best known for its literary scene, but it’s also a major player in the blues scene. Sweet Tea Recording Studios has hosted a long line of talented acts from Modest Mouse to Elvis Costello to the Black Keys. There’s a burgeoning hip-hop scene that’s worth checking out as well. Then, it’s on to New Orleans — the jazz capital of the world. New Orleans oozes music from its pores. Finding the right venue is as easy as walking down Frenchman with your ears and eyes open.
THE PACIFIC COAST
Although this trip only covers three U.S. states, it’s amazingly diverse. Starting off in Seattle, you’ll find a beautiful city stuck between the sea and mountain ranges. As you head down the I-5, veer off onto Highway 101 and drive all the way around Olympic National Park and all its rainforest and alpine beauty. You can even catch your first set of waves on the park’s western edge.