Who doesn’t love a good road trip? It’s a popular way for Americans to travel and it’s a great way to get to know the country. But it’s also true that most how-to articles on road trips stick to a similar script. That is, you’re given suggestions for doing a grand tour of national parks, perhaps, or for following famous roads. There’s nothing wrong with these classic journeys, but I’m also interested in breaking out of the box and not being confined by these traditional trips.
It’s possible to go beyond the tried and true routes and to craft almost any type of journey that your mind can imagine. A trip that is not only scenic, but which also enables you to focus on topics that interest you. With that premise in mind, I’ve created a series of themed road trips in North America. Some of them focus on aspects on American culture, such as literature, music or baseball. Some allow you to indulge your interest in history. And others are designed so that you can appreciate the wonders of nature and of the diverse American landscape.
Here are some of these trips, with links to published articles and blog posts. So let’s hit the road…
Literary New England, Literary California and Literary Midwest – If you enjoy a good book, you’ll love these dual road trips through the homes of some of America’s greatest writers. Just a few of the places you’ll explore are the transcendental roots of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts; the Hartford and Hannibal homes of Mark Twain; the quintessential New England homestead of Robert Frost; the birthplace of John Steinbeck in Salinas, California, the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads in the Midwest, and the San Francisco literary hangouts of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other members of the Beat Generation.
Journey into the roots of American music – A lot of remarkable music was born in the United States and this two-part road trip enables you to do a pretty thorough job of exploring the roots of jazz, blues, soul, bluegrass, country and rock and roll. Among other destinations, it will take you from the birthplace of jazz in New Orleans to the Mississippi home of the blues, and from the country music capital of Nashville to the Detroit source of the Motown sound.
Ultimate baseball road trip– Are you a baseball fan? Then you’ll enjoy this trek, which takes you into the heart of some of the country’s most passionate fan bases as well as to places that shed light on the early history of baseball. You’ll see the site of the game’s first official ballgame in New York and the location of the game’s first World Series in Boston. You can explore the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City. And along the way, you can take in games at Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and other famed ballparks.
Pizzas of America – This mouth-watering road trip will give you a chance to sample some of the many ways that pizza is tossed and baked in America – from New York’s foldable slices to Chicago’s deep dish pizzas, from Providence’s grilled pizza to Detroit’s square Sicilian style, and from the clam pizzas of New Haven to the tomato pies of Trenton.
History of American Football – If you enjoy the autumn ritual that involves colliding shoulder pads and barbecue-scented tailgate parties, you’ll appreciate this road trip into the history of American football, which takes you to classic stadiums, historic sites and halls of fame.
Volcanic tour of the Pacific Northwest – The Pacific Northwest has been significantly shaped by its volcanic history. There are stunning calderas, lava tube caves and and bubbling hot springs throughout the region – all connected to the area’s volcanic activity. And the Cascade Range is home to a 700-mile string of active volcanoes, from Mount Rainier to Mount Hood to Mount Shasta. As a result, it’s possible to put together a road trip that takes in some of the continent’s most spectacular volcanic scenery.
Fall foliage tour through quintessential New England – There are many spectacular fall foliage drives, but the destination most associated with the beauty of autumn is New England. Visitors who come for the colorful leaves also enjoy sampling the local culture, as they wander through colonial towns, take photos of covered bridges, and warm up with cups of steaming cider. So take a fall foliage driving tour of New England that also enables you to discover some of the region’s most picturesque towns and traditional experiences.
Stargazing the Southwest – A dark sky filled with thousands of glittering stars is one of the most sublime sights in nature. The region from West Texas to Southern California boasts some of the best stargazing locations in the world, and Arizona has more observatories than any other state or country. You can spend your days seeing the sights of the Southwest and your nights enjoying the majesty of the universe.
Wonders of California’s Central Coast – Although Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco get much of the attention, don’t dismiss California’s Central Coast as a travel destination. The region has an abundance of natural wonders and you can piece together quite an enjoyable road trip there. It’s also not an exaggeration to say the journey from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.
Atomic tourism: Road trip through Cold War history – In New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, it’s possible to construct a unique road trip through an era of 20th century atomic history. This journey will take you to the New Mexico site where the first atomic bomb was tested, to an underground Titan missile complex in Arizona which once had missiles pointed at the former Soviet Union, and to numerous other sites representing the Cold War and the dawn of the nuclear age.
Presidential tour of Virginia – If you’re a fan of politics, presidential history, or even just American history, then you should spend some time in Virginia. Of the country’s 44 leaders, seven of them have firm roots in Virginia, including such Founding Fathers as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Virginia has more presidential landmarks and homes than any other state, so it’s possible to construct a nifty little road trip that will enable you to take in a treasure trove of American history.