The Best Places to Stop on an Epic American Road Trip

San Francisco
San Francisco | © Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr
Elizabeth Nicholas

America is famously a country of multitudes, a melting pot of cultures, and incredible geographic and human diversity. And one of the best, and most classic, ways to experience America as a whole is through a road trip. We’ve put together a bucket list itinerary of where you should stop on the ultimate American road trip.

New York City

New York City is one of the most international and culturally significant cities in the world. From learning about the city’s immigrant history at the Tenement Museum, to walking the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge, to checking out world-class art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the city that never sleeps has a little something for everyone.

New York City

Washington, D.C.

Just a four hour drive from New York is the seat of American political power: Washington, D.C. Politics isn’t all D.C. has to offer, though; once you’ve seen the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, walk the beautiful streets of Georgetown and check out one of D.C.’s best restaurants. World-renowned chef José Andres’ restaurant Oyamel is a favorite.

Washington, D.C.

Appalachian Mountains

The Appalachian Mountains offer stunningly beautiful nature, and have a rich cultural history and tradition for any visitor to explore. A drive around the crests of the region’s mountains is an unforgettable experience, as is pitching a tent in one of the area’s gorgeous forests.

Appalachian Mountains

Nashville

Nashville may be the country music capital of the world, but that’s not all it is. This bustling city has become a foodie destination with standout restaurants like The Catbird Seat and Husk, and a has a spate of excellent boutiques, like Emerson Grace. Don’t miss the chance to line dance downtown.

Broadway, Nashville

Memphis

Another musical city, Memphis was the home of American icon Elvis Presley. Graceland, where he resided, is a must-visit. Afterwards, make sure you try legendary Memphis barbecue before heading to Beale Street’s bars to listen to some of the best blues musicians in the world.

Graceland, Memphis

New Orleans

Head south from Memphis and you’ll find yourself in (arguably) America’s funnest city, New Orleans. A unique mix of European, Cajun, and Creole cultures, NoLA offers a seemingly endless array of activities. Visit the famous Café du Monde, have a drink on rowdy Bourbon Street, and take a stroll through the beautiful antebellum architecture of the Garden District.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans

East Texas

East Texas is a remarkable stretch of desert and swamp. Seeing this entirely unique ecosystem is a must for understanding the full scope of the United States. Embrace the open road and keep an eye out for swamps to explore.

Caddo Lake

San Antonio

The Mexican influence is strong in San Antonio, not least because of the Alamo, the famous last battle between the United States and Mexico that resulted in Texas becoming a part of the former. After you’ve visited, stroll along the famous River Walk and have what’s sure to be an excellent meal at one of the city’s many Mexican eateries.

San Antonio

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Explore the enormous Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which is one of the largest caverns in the world, and is still only partially explored. The Caverns are best explored right before sunset, when thousands of bats take flight from the roofs of the caves.

Carlsbad Caverns

Santa Fe

Santa Fe has a distinctly spiritual and magical air about it. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, the city’s architecture is full of adobe houses trimmed in bright turquoise. Have lunch at Geronimo restaurant and stroll the galleries of Canyon Road before heading up to the famous Ten Thousand Waves spa for a massage high up in the hills.

Santa Fe

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park plays host to the largest and best-preserved collection of Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings. For a small fee you can have a park ranger guide you to some of the more hidden (and completely breathtaking) cliff dwellings.

Cliff dwellings

Monument Valley

Monument Valley’s landscape is dotted with massive sandstone structures, giving the entire area an otherworldly feel. The Valley is home to around 200,000 Navajo Indians and has been the backdrop to countless Westerns. Don’t forget to take your camera here!

Monument Valley

Grand Canyon

Another incredible natural landscape, and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is a must on any travel buff or nature lover’s bucket list. The incredible 1.5-kilometer gorge is the result of six million years of erosion from the Colorado River. The area is great for hiking and you can even opt to take a helicopter ride over the Canyon to get a true sense of its immensity.

Grand Canyon

Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The party capital of the United States offers ample opportunities to let loose, whether that’s in one of the city’s many famous clubs, at a top-notch restaurant, or by trying your hand at the slot machines.

Las Vegas

Death Valley

One of the hottest places in the world, Death Valley is dotted with huge rocks, sand structures, volcanic craters, and gorgeous salt flats. Embrace the heat and a wholly unique part of the American West.

Death Valley

Yosemite National Park

Full of hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife, and stunning scenery, Yosemite is one of the United States’ most famous national parks. Take a float trip down one of the park’s rivers and stop for a refreshing drink or meal at one of the park’s many cafés and restaurants.

Yosemite

San Francisco

Your final road trip stop, and a must-visit on any trip to the States, is San Francisco. Although the Golden City has become synonymous with the technology industry, there is much more to the city than Twitter and Facebook. Walk the famous Golden Gate Bridge, take in the buzz at the Marina, and check out the residual hippie culture of the Haight-Ashbury district.

San Francisco

If you are looking to have an unforgettable holiday experience, check out Intrepid Travel.

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