Taking a road trip is one of the best ways to see America. Maybe even the best. Stop wherever and whenever you want. See something cool a quarter mile down the track? Just pull in, stretch those legs, grab a bite, and snap a pic. As great as train or plane travel is, neither can match that level of freedom.
Having long ago proven our abiding love for the open road, we thought we’d attempt the impossible and pick the very best road trip stops along the highways, byways, and back roads of America. One experience for each state that could capture something of its essence and maybe even better our collective understanding of the country as a whole.
These are must-eat food stops, breathtaking natural wonders, and historical monuments that help to make this big mixed-up nation what it is. Our final list — debated over vigorously — features a little bit of everything America has to offer, from sea to shining sea and all points in between.
ALABAMA — Edmund Pettus Bridge
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama is one of the most important landmarks in America. Back in March of 1965, peaceful protesters, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., were attacked by law enforcement in what’s now called Bloody Sunday. This event was a crucial moment in the Civil Right’s Movement and spending a moment with that history is essential for all of us.
Get there: Follow Highway 80’s Business Route through Selma.
ALASKA — Talkeetna Roadhouse
Talkeetna, in general, is a great place to visit. The town was the original inspiration of Cicely, Alaska in the 90s hit Northern Exposure. The Roadhouse is an institution where massive blueberry pancakes, homemade pies, bowls of chili, and cozy cabins await. This place is all character and a definite must-stop for the lonely wanderer.
Get there: Take the Talkeetna Spur Road off Highway 3 and follow until you hit Main Street.
ARIZONA — Horseshoe Bend
On the Navajo Nation, you’ll find plenty of beautiful stretches of the Colorado River. The most famous, by far, is Horseshoe Bend. This is where the winding river with massive ruddy canyon walls takes a drastic U-turn. It’s a few million years of geology at its most dramatic.
The view is stunning (and highly Instagramable) — red rock against blue skies. If you’re driving through the Navajo Nation, this is an essential pit stop where you can stretch those legs.
Get there: The trailhead is directly off Highway 89.
ARKANSAS — Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park in the U.S. The mostly wooded area is peppered with baths, natural springs, and miles of trails. This is a great place to take a dip or a stroll. It’s also a chance to check another national park off your bucket list.
Get there: Take Highway 7 (Central Ave.) north through Hot Springs, AK.
CALIFORNIA — Avenue of the Giants
The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of road winding straight into the mystic. The detour takes you through some of the most dramatic groves of Redwoods in California. The road is free of anything touristy. There are no roadside huts selling trinkets here. It’s just you and the ancients.
Pro tip: Bring a skateboard and cruise a few miles on the gradual incline.
Get There: Take Avenue of the Giants exit off Highway 101 going north (exit 645) or south (exit 674).
COLORADO — Red Rocks Amphitheater
There are few outdoor music venues in America more iconic than Red Rocks in Colorado. The small amphitheater is surrounded by tall red rock walls, giving this place a unique look, sound, and energy. Though the concert experience is truly astounding, the venue is open to visitors all the time. You can stop off and climb the stairs or just stroll around the place, screaming into the void and listening for the echo.
Get there: Take Red Rocks Park Road off Highway 74 heading west out of Morrison.
CONNECTICUT — Mark Twain House & Museum
Mark Twain changed the face of both American prose and humor. He was a traveler, a thinker, a rabble-rouser, and one of America’s greatest writers. And he was born in Hartford, Connecticut. The Mark Twain House and Museum is a must-stop if you’re driving through the state.
The tour is small and won’t take up a lot of time but you’ll leave knowing a little more about a man who was instrumental in American literature and comedy.
Get there: Take exit 46 off I-84, turn right on Sisson Ave. and left on Farmington Ave.
DELAWARE — Dewey Beach
Delaware is a small state, sure. Don’t discount it though. There’s a lot here. One of the best aspects of Delaware are the beaches. Spots like Dewey Beach where small summer towns meet miles of postcard-perfect beaches are always worth your time.
Pro tip: It’s definitely worth waking up (at least once) for one of those epic east coast sunrises.
Get there: Take Highway 1 off I-95 and follow it until you hit the beach.
FLORIDA — Dry Tortugas National Park
The Florida Keys might be one of the best road trips in America. Any road that takes you deeper and deeper into a Caribbean paradise has our vote of approval. When you’re down that way, make sure to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. The site is centered around an old fort that’ll give you pure pirate vibes. Then there’s seemingly endless crystal clear water to enjoy, with plenty of rum and great food never too far away.
Get there: Drive Highway 1 to Key West and take a ferry.
GEORGIA — New Echota Historic Site
American history is full of triumphs that spelled tragedy for others, especially for the Indigenous and African (and later African American) populations of the Americas. One place you can glimpse the world without colonial influence is at New Echota Historic Site. The park highlights the remnants of the Cherokee’s capital city. You’ll leave with a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture and the ability to imagine a timeline in which America’s first people weren’t ethnically cleansed along the Trail of Tears.
Get there: Take exit 317 off I-75 and follow Highway 225 east for less than a mile.
HAWAI’I — Waiahole Poi Factory
Taro root is the cornerstone of Hawaiian cuisine. That makes a visit to O’ahu’s Waiahole Poi Factory an essential stop to understanding Indigenous Hawaiian culture and food. The factory started over 100 years ago. Today, it’s an incubator for Hawaiians to engage with the food of their ancestors and take it to new heights. This is a great place to take a deep dive into the delicious array of Indigenous Hawaiian cuisines, with local families cooking, teaching, and eating right alongside you.
Get there: It’s right off the Kamehameha Highway (Highway 83), a few minutes north of Kahaluu.
IDAHO — Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
There’s no place in America quite like Craters of the Moon National Monument. It’s very easy to throw around terms like other-worldly when talking about unique places on the planet. This corner of Idaho deserves that moniker. This is where NASA sends astronauts to train due to the all-out weirdness of the natural terrain. It’s a true wonder.
Get there: Follow Highway 26 (off I-15) for about 60 miles.
ILLINOIS — Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
One of the largest cities in the Americas before Columbus showed up was across the banks of the Mississippi from what’s now St. Louis. 50,000 people were living in Cahokia in beehive-shaped homes when the Spanish showed up with canons in the 1500s. The whole area is a massive archaeological site with an eye on preserving what’s left of the long lost city.
Get there: Take exit 9 off I-55/I-70 and follow Black Lane to Collinsville Road. Turn left onto Ramey Street.
INDIANA — Levi and Catharine Coffin House State Historic Site
The Coffins moved to Indiana as abolitionists and helped create a movement. At their home they only sold items they knew weren’t made by the hands of a slave and, eventually, the property became a crucial stop along the Underground Railroad, where three escape routes converged. This is another essential piece of American history worth a few of your road tripping hours.
Get there: Take Highway 27 north off I-70 until you reach Fountain City
IOWA — Field of Dreams Movie Site
This is an easy home run. A baseball field in the middle of corn fields is as cool as it sounds. This is a nice slice of movie history where you can literally run the bases if you want. When you’re driving through the flatlands of Iowa, stopping off at the Field of Dreams diamond will be a welcome respite. Plus it’s a chance for you to whisper the iconic line, “If you build it, they will come,” on the very site!
Get there: Take Highway 20 to Dyersville and follow the signs.
KANSAS — Monument Rocks
There are a lot of “biggest” things in Kansas: Rolls of twine, corn cobs … you get the point. Let’s skip those and instead focus in on a natural wonder everyone should see if they’re crossing the state. Monument Rocks are huge rock towers in the middle of nowhere, and they’re definitely worth stopping at. This is the perfect spot to grab an Instagram of a place few visit or even know about.
Get there: Follow Highway 83 south off of I-70. Turn right on Jayhawk and left on Gove 16 (dirt roads).
KENTUCKY — Heaven Hill Distillery
Bourbon and Kentucky are inseparable. Hitting Heaven Hills is a must if you’re driving through the state. The distillery is a whiskey lover’s haven with barns full of barrels and fields full of horses. This is such a beautiful corner of Kentucky that even if you don’t drink, it’s still worth stopping by to experience the property.
Get there: Take Highway 150 (E Stephen Foster Ave.) east out of Bardstown and turn right on Parkview Ave.
LOUISIANA — Chicot State Park
The bayou of Louisiana is a wondrous place of inky swamps filled with gators, mossy trees, and a dank darkness that’ll draw you in. Chicot State Park gives you a chance to experience a slice of those black waters and funky trees with ease. There are easily accessible trails and boardwalks through the swamps, making this the perfect spot to stretch those legs.
Get there: Take I-49 to Highway 106 west and turn onto Route 1173 into the park.
MAINE — Portland Lobster Co.
You can go to Maine and not eat lobster. But — in our opinion — that’d be a waste of a trip to Maine. The thing is, there are a lot of options along Maine’s coast to sample one of the state’s biggest resources. Our advice is to stop off at a lobster shack when you get hungry.
Pro Tip: If you need a recommendation, Portland Lobster Co. always gets the job done. Though just about any local joint along the docks is a safe bet.
Get there: Take Highway 1 along the coast.
MARYLAND — Appalachian Trail
There’s a lot to do in Maryland — from the Atlantic coast to the Chesapeake to the DC Metro area, Baltimore, Annapolis, and into mountains. Let’s focus in on those mountains. Maryland has a short (40 mile) and very accessible stretch of the Appalachian Trail on offer. This gives you a great chance to jump out of the car and spend an hour or two walking one of the most iconic trails in the country. Truly, this is a bucket list spot that’s perfectly set up for some road tripping.
Get there: Take exit 90 off I-81 and follow route 72 a few miles to the trailhead.
MASSACHUSETTS — Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth Plantation is one of the most important sites in Americana. The recreation of the English colony and Indigenous town has been built in painstaking detail. The plantation employs descendants from both the English and the Wampanoag, who tell their respective sides of the Plimoth story. There’s no place quite like this in America.
Get there: Take the Plimoth Plantation Highway off the Pilgrims Highway (Highway 3).
MICHIGAN — Mackinac Island
Michigan is a huge state that’s surrounded by Great Lakes. There’s a lot to see and do. Park your car and take the ferry to Mackinac Island. The car-less island has quiet beaches, a preserved Victorian town, old-school Grand Hotels, and huge swaths of nature to hike through (usually with a pub at the end of the trail).
Get there: Take the I-75 to Mackinaw City and jump on a ferry.
MINNESOTA — Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park is a fascinating site. It’s the home to a wild herd of buffalo that graze on one of the last stretches of truly wild prairie. It’s also home to a 1,250-foot rock wall built by Indigenous people that marks the fall and spring equinoxes. The small park is easily walkable along well-marked trails and there’s even a reservoir in case you want to go swimming.
Get there: Take Highway 75 north off I-90 for about six miles.
MISSISSIPPI — Ground Zero Blues Club
You can’t really go to Mississippi and not hit up a blues joint. Ground Zero Blues Club is a cool place to hang out, listen to some tunes, and fill up on southern-fried delicacies. You might want to plan on staying the night because you’re sure to have a great time and very unlikely to end up sober.
Get there: Follow Highway 49 to Clarksdale.
MISSOURI — Onondaga Cave State Park
Hitting up a cave can be hit-or-miss, depending on the traveler. We understand. Being underground is a little weird. If you do dig it, then hit up Onondaga Cave State Park. This is an easy hit from the freeway and will give you chance to see something unique.
Pro tip: If anyone you’re traveling with doesn’t like caves, there’s a great park full of trails topside. Win-win.
Get there: Follow Highway H south off I-40 to the park.
MONTANA — Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
The Battle of Little Bighorn was a pivotable moment in U.S. and Lakota history. The defeat of Custer’s marauding Seventh Cavalry was momentous and would change the path of the war. Stopping off at this graveyard/memorial on the Crow Agency in southeast Montana will give you a moment to reflect and ponder the history of our country and hopefully come away with a little bit deeper understanding.
Get there: Take Highway 212 off I-90 and follow the signs.
NEBRASKA — Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimeny Rock is one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in a whole state full of beautiful vistas. The ancient rock sits as a sort of 300-foot tall signpost in the middle of the flatlands. In another era, it was mysterious. Today, it’s a geological wonder worth every effort to visit.
Get there: Take Highway 26 northwest from I-80.
NEVADA — Lake Mead
It’s hot in Nevada. It’s even hotter driving through Nevada. If you’re on that legendary drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, you’re going to need a place to cool down and stretch those legs. Lake Mead is your oasis. The lake spiders out from Hoover Dam into the Nevada desert, creating a breath of cool, fresh air. You can hike rock formations, swim in the lake, cliff dive, or float around on a boat and BBQ. If all else fails, you can just take a breather and enjoy the sweet views.
Get there: Take the I-11 east out of Vegas and take the Great Basin Highway (Highway 93) west until you hit Lake Shore Road.
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Mt. Monadnock
Mt. Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in America. There are a few factors at play here. One, it’s a very low peak and easily doable in the morning or afternoon. Two, it’s within striking distance of Boston, meaning a lot of people head out there on the weekends. Three, it’s absolutely gorgeous nature. This is an easy hit when you’re driving through the Northeast.
Get there: Follow Highway 202 and take route 124 east at Jaffrey.
NEW JERSEY — Atlantic City Boardwalk
There’s a sweetness to the kitsch of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. The smell of the popcorn and cotton candy mixed with sea foam and hotel disinfectant has an odd comfort to it. The neon lights, loads of boardwalk games, casino rattles, and street hawkers all blend into something nostalgic and surreal. There’s nothing else quite like it and that’s what makes it a worthwhile pitstop through New Jersey.
Get there: Take the Atlantic City Expressway, park, and head towards the sound of crashing waves and carnival games.
NEW MEXICO — Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the Americas and the oldest in the U.S. People have been living here for over 1,000 years. The ancient structures offer us a glimpse into the past while being grounded in the present. There’s a beauty here that marries history, the natural world, and community.
Get there: Take the Highway to Town of Taos from Highway 64 in Taos.
NEW YORK — Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow
Taking a trip up the Hudson River Valley from New York is essential road tripping. One of the first stops to make are Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Yes, that Sleepy Hollow from the iconic Washington Irving tale. The small towns are quintessential New York colonial with bars, shops, restaurants, galleries, and historical buildings, making them the perfect place to stop on a long journey up river.
Get there: Follow Highway 9 north from New York City.
NORTH CAROLINA — Roanoke Island
North Carolina’s Outer Banks are beautiful and massive. You’ll need a break while driving from sandy beach town to sandy beach town. Stop off at Roanoake Island. It’s a quiet place with a lot of history. This was one of the first British colonies (the one that famously disappeared). There are marshes to explore, small towns to stroll through, and a beach or two for a walk.
Get there: Take Highway 64 towards the Outer Banks and Nag’s Head.
NORTH DAKOTA — Killdeer Mountain Four Beers Scenic Byway
The Killdeer Mountain Four Beers Scenic Byway is a 64-mile stretch of gorgeous driving with a lot of chances to stop off and enjoy the beauty of North Dakota. Crow Flies High Butte Overlook, Little Missouri State Park (North Dakota’s Badlands), and the Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge are highlights along the road and worth your time when you’re traversing North Dakota’s plains.
Get there: Follow route 200 (west) to route 22 (north) through Killdeer.
OHIO — Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park is a great spot to pull off the road and take in some beautiful waterfalls. Several falls, caves, and rock formations make this a dope park to spend a few hours wandering through. There are also plenty of inns and cabins around the park in case you get too tired to get back on that open road.
Get there: Take route 664 south from Highway 33.
OKLAHOMA — Cherokee Heritage Center
If you’ve been to New Echota Historic Site in Georgia, the Cherokee’s old capital, a trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma will help close the circle. Seeing where the Cherokee were sent, their struggles to find a new home, and how they’re living now (and holding onto their culture) is crucial to understanding America and U.S. history. There are museum tours, educational seminars, and live art and cultural performances nearly every day.
Get there: Take Highway 62 to Park Hill.
OREGON: Terwilliger Hot Springs
Terwilliger Hot Spring and falls create the perfect hideaway to rejuvenate after a long drive. The dark forest and warm water go hand-in-hand in this idyllic Pacific Northwest spot. This one is a little off the beaten path but 100-percent worth the extra effort once you’re there soaking in that water.
Get there: From the I-5 take the McKenzie Highway (126) and turn right onto Aufderheide Drive.
PENNSYLVANIA — Independence Hall
Okay, Independence Hall is in a city. That’s not exactly a pitstop on a road trip. Bear with us. This is a must-stop simply because of the history. The United States was born in this spot and whether you find it hallowed or harrowing, it’s still important to who we are as Americans. Plus, it’s literally five blocks from an interstate.
Get there: Take the Calowhill Street exit off the I-95 then turn left on S Sixth Street.
RHODE ISLAND — Ocean Drive Historic District
Rhode Island is our smallest state but boy is it blessed with fine coastlines. Take an hour break from the road and cruise Ocean Drive. You’ll see Newport, some crazy old houses from robber barons, and beautiful views of the Atlantic. Maybe jump out at Gooseberry Beach and go for a stroll. It’ll be a nice break.
Get there: Head to Newport and take Ocean Ave.
SOUTH CAROLINA — Husk
Great cooking should always warrant a stop while you’re on the road. Charleston is one of the U.S.’s great food cities. It’s where Indigenous, colonial, and African ideas melded into one brilliant food culture. One of the best places to check out that culture is at Chef Sean Brock’s famed Husk. Drop by at lunch and try the shrimp and grits. You won’t be disappointed.
Get there: Head down Queen Street in Charleston.
SOUTH DAKOTA — Crazy Horse Memorial
South Dakota is another vast state with a lot going on. The plains, the Missouri River, and the Black Hills all offer something unique. The one place everyone should hit when driving through is the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. The massive monument being carved out of a mountain honors Chief Crazy Horse and the local Lakota people. There’s also a large museum on site, dining hall that serves one hell oan a Indian Taco, and plenty of chances to hike (even up to the face of the monument).
Get there: Follow Highway 16 (south from Rapid City) to Highway 385 south.
TENNESSEE — Beale Street Historic District
There’s a lot of heat on Nashville at the moment. It’s deserved. Nashville rocks. But we’d argue that it’s time to shift some of that focus to Memphis and the glory of the Blues on Beale Street. The short stretch of city street leading down to the banks of the Mississippi River is living Blues history and worthy of an afternoon (or evening) bar hoping and listening to tunes.
Get there: Go to downtown Memphis.
TEXAS — Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is goddamn big. There are canyons, rivers, deserts, and plains all in one place. There’s an arid beauty where the line between the U.S. and Mexico disappears. Hike, camp, climb, chill. It’s all good.
Get there: Take Highway 385 south from Marathon.
UTAH — Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument
Utah has a lot of natural beauty for one state. High mountains, extreme desert, endless canyonlands, and deep forests are all easily found, right along the road. So picking a spot to stop off is not going to be hard. In a place this vast, where you stop should be unique. Newspaper Rock is that spot. The petroglyph site dates back thousands of years. This is an amazing spot to get a window into the distant past.
Get there: Take route 211 west from Highway 191.
VERMONT — Shelburne Farms
It’s hard not to think about cheese when you think about Vermont. So why not indulge in some great cheese while you’re driving through? Shelburne Farms is one of many great stops where you can gorge on cheese, sample a little charcuterie, and drink some fresh apple cider before getting back behind the wheel. Maybe take a long walk around the farm and say hello to animals first though (to walk off those cheese calories).
Get there: Take Shelburne Road (Highway 7) south from Burlington and turn right on Bay Road.
VIRGINIA — Mount Vernon
This is another slice of Americana that remains important. Mount Vernon was George Washington’s plantation. You enter the grounds by walking through the slave’s quarters. This allows you to understand that history is often much murkier than we want it to be. Had the people who run Mount Vernon wiped away that history, this place wouldn’t be on the list. But it’s here as a testament to the dichotomous nature of our nation.
Get there: Take Highway 1 off the I-495 south. Take the exit for the Mount Vernon Highway (route 235).
WASHINGTON — Hama Hama Oyster Saloon
Taking Highway 101 around the Olympic Peninsula is another of America’s great road trips. An essential stop along the way for any shellfish lover is Hama Hama. This is a family operated oyster farm and old growth forest right on the Hood Canal. You can drop into the saloon and order up all the oysters (maybe a Dungeness crab and some steamer clams too). It’ll be the best break you can get from driving and hard to top.
Get there: Follow Highway 101 north from Olympia.
WEST VIRGINIA — Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park
Harper’s Ferry sits at the meeting of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers where West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania meet. The rivers have created a dramatic valley that’s perfect for hiking and camping above a small town with good diners never too far away. That’s the best of both worlds if you ask us.
Get there: Take Highway 340 from Charles Town.
WISCONSIN — Little Manitou Falls
Wisconsin has a lot of great outdoors and, checks notes, cheese. These are both good things. But, let’s focus on the great outdoors. Little Manitou Falls is a great pitstop for a stretch of the legs and a rad photo for the ‘gram. There are trails all around Pattison State Park, making this an easy way to spend an afternoon, wandering from falls to lakes and back again.
Get there: Take Highway 35 south from Superior until you hit the park.
WYOMING — T.A. Moulton Barn
The Grand Tetons in Wyoming are spectacular mountains. These are the sort of mountains that you don’t think really exist until you see them with your own eyes. The ragged peaks jut into azure skies like the teeth of a bear gnawing at the heavens. One of the best spots to get the full atmospheric view is from the T.A. Moulton Barn. That picture above speaks for itself. Go at sunset for the best shot.
Get there: Take Antelope Flats Road from Highway 191 heading north from Jackson.