Best Road Trips to Take in the USA
The road-trip resurgence is here. Last summer, flight restrictions and pandemic fears sent travelers off to drivable locations rather than far-flung locales. While airlines and cruise lines are returning to distant destinations in 2021, the desire to drive remains strong as people explore our nation’s scenic highways, coasts and national parks. These are a few of our favorite routes and recommendations for a road trip to encourage your faith and make unforgettable memories.
Southern Music Cities
Fans of American music immediately know the appeal of this Nashville-to-Memphis-to-New Orleans drive. Start with visits to Nashville’s iconic Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry, along with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Then hit Interstate 40 for a three-hour drive to Memphis, the “birthplace of blues” and home to Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
While you’re there, try to visit Beale Street Baptist Church, the first and largest African American church built by a congregation of freed enslaved people after the Civil War. Afterward, grab a plate of the city’s famous barbecue, then drive south along U.S. Highway 1, the “Blues Highway.” For those who want to skip driving themselves to travel with other believers, join one of our America’s Music Cities Christian Guided Tours.
Interstate 55 may make for a faster route, but we prefer the historic drive through the Mississippi Delta, which includes sites like the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi, plus Vicksburg and Baton Rouge. You’ll end up at the French Quarter, in New Orleans, home to countless jazz venues and some of the best food in the nation.
Blue Ridge Parkway
There’s no better stretch of pavement for gorgeous Appalachian scenery than the 469 miles of road winding through Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains. It is particularly stunning in the fall months when the trees display a cascade of colors. An itinerary that starts in Charlottesville, Virginia, and heads toward Asheville, North Carolina, will take you past soft green meadows and craggy ridges.
We love stops like the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, and Dollywood near the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, featured on our Bluegrass Country & the Smoky Mountains Christian Guided Tour. While checking out the sprawling 150-acre theme park, stop by its Southern Gospel Museum and learn about the origins of the genre’s most influential songwriters and performers. Praise God for the incredible artists and songs that have encouraged your faith.
Ten miles north of Gatlinburg, in Pigeon Forge, you’ll also want to visit the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens, located in the Grand Smokies Themeplex and featuring life-size representations of scenes from the Gospels. In Asheville, be sure to experience the historic, manicured grounds of the Biltmore estate.
The Old Route 66
The legendary “Mother Road” got its start in 1926. Having been realigned multiple times since then, as much as 15% of the original path is gone. This classic American drive from Chicago to Los Angeles can be traversed by car and passes through iconic cities like Pontiac, Illinois (the Route 66 Museum), Amarillo, Texas (Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan Steak Ranch) and even Santa Fe, New Mexico.
East of Amarillo, make sure to stop at the giant Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Groom, Texas. It is 19 stories high and visible for miles. The San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe is also worth a visit. It’s the oldest church in the United States, built by Spanish explorers in 1610. Reflect on the roots of our faith and pause to draw closer to God as you drive and explore these sites.
Beyond these highlights, you’ll enjoy the wide-open spaces of the American Midwest, the southern elevations of the Rocky Mountains and the expanse of the desert Southwest before arriving in Hollywood.
Pacific Coast Highway
You won’t cross as many states, but this stretch of highway up (or down) the West Coast is filled with spectacular ocean views and some of the best dining in the United States. There’s a reason this is one of the most famous drives in the world, and it is frequently featured in movies too.
The most famous stretch of Highway 1 runs from San Diego to San Francisco, though you can also plan an itinerary that takes you farther into Oregon and Washington. Don’t miss the scenic photo opportunities from the bluffs at Big Sur, the elephant seals in San Simeon and the sun-drenched hills around Santa Barbara.
California is filled with Spanish missions, many of which are accessible near the Pacific Coast Highway. Established by Spanish Franciscans in the 18th century, these frontier outposts offer beautiful views and historic buildings. The Carmel Mission Basilica, founded in 1771, has been painstakingly restored and is particularly beautiful.
East Coast to NYC
The compact population centers along the eastern United States have kept any particular drive from reaching iconic status—there’s no scenic Atlantic equivalent of the Pacific Coast Highway—but we love the history along this stretch of Interstate 95. We recommend starting in Richmond, Virginia, then driving through iconic cities like Washington D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia before arriving in New York City.
Start with the historic Maymont in Richmond, a 100-acre estate filled with beautiful gardens and wildlife. In D.C., of course, you’ll want to visit the usual museums and monuments. On our Heritage of America and The Foundation of Faith guided tours of our nation’s capital, travelers love exploring places like the innovative Museum of the Bible and the stunning National Cathedral, which always lead to invigorating conversations about the impact of Christianity on our nation’s founding.
Enjoy the Riverfront district of Wilmington and Independence Hall in Philadelphia before arriving in New York City. Though known for its museums, theater and fine dining, NYC is also home to beautiful churches like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, a site that has become meaningful for an entirely different reason.
San Juan Scenic Skyway
The San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado are some of the most rugged and remote in the contiguous U.S., offering spectacular views of wildflower meadows and dense forests as well as charming mountain towns. The 233-mile skyway loop covers four paved road sections—Highways 145 and 62 and Interstates 160 and 550—that curve through iconic mining towns like Durango and Silverton.
Don’t miss the unforgettable village of Ouray, the “Switzerland of America.” Waterfalls and near-vertical mountains surround this hot springs-fed town. Note: Only attempt this drive in the summer. You won’t want to risk these passes in the snow.
U.S. 1 (Florida Keys)
There are 2,000 miles to explore from Maine to Florida along the Atlantic coast, but the part we love most is a lot shorter. Miami to Key West is a 160-mile journey where God’s artistry is on full display. The drive stretches over sparkling blue oceans sure to be one of the best oceanside views you’ve seen.
During this road trip, stop to snorkel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, or visit the pint-size inhabitants of the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key. The road ends—literally—at Key West, a fabled destination that rivals even the most stunning of God’s glorious creations. Its crystal-clear waters, epic sunsets and pristine beaches offer views that people spend big money to see.
Cruising may be the best way to see Alaska, but it’s not the only option. The historic 1,400-mile Alaska-Canadian Highway stretches through the Pacific Northwest all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. We recommend starting in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
As you drive, be sure to stop at Milepost 1221 for a photo: You’ve reached the Alaska/Canadian border! The rest of the drive takes you through wildlife refuges, past glacial rivers and alongside stunning mountains before you reach Delta Junction, the highway’s end. From there, it’s another five hours southwest to Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska.
Whether you journey a thousand miles or a short drive to a new city, we encourage you to explore new places in your region. Every city and state are pieces of God’s intricate puzzle that make up the world. They are all filled with beauty and a uniqueness that you must experience firsthand to fully appreciate. All signs point to road trips continuing for years to come—and we’ve even added new domestic travel experiences to our guided tour itineraries.
Where will your next road trip take you?