Sometimes it’s the getting there that’s the best part of the trip, especially when it comes to these 8 famous American Highways. Whether you’re headed down the Pacific Coast or traveling cross-country on the iconic Route 66, check out these historic highways for some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and historic landmarks.
8. Alligator Alley
If you’re looking for a more authentic Florida experience, jump on Alligator Alley, the historic highway that leads civilization to the Everglades. Baby boomers or film buffs will recognize the famous highway from a scene in Clambake, the 1967 musical featuring a crooning Elvis driving to the swamp in a red Corvette. Since then, the highway has been updated with a merging of I-75, a fast track to the swamp. From Sarasota, head west to reach the Everglades Skyway for an airboat tour and local delicacies like fried alligator and frog legs. On the way back, take Tamiami Trail, a scenic highway dating back to the 1920’s for the road less traveled.
For the complete Florida experience, start in Jacksonville on A1A to begin the journey south along the Atlantic coast. Along the way, you’ll pass by St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country. It’s worth an afternoon of sightseeing in the historic old town with quaint shops on cobblestoned streets and Spanish forts from the 17th century. Then continue on the famous beach highway for a stop in Daytona for a walk on their renovated boardwalk and to experience Florida’s epic biker culture. Continuing on the scenic and historic coastal highway, you’ll reach Ft. Lauderdale, a sprawling metropolis among a concrete jungle. After recharging with shopping and dining on Las Olas, head to Miami and Key West via US 1 for the final leg of the road trip.
6. Overseas Highway
The Overseas Highway is the only way off Florida’s mainland to the Keys and the southernmost point of US 1. The “magic carpet” dates back to 1912 and Henry Flagler’s expansion of the Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West. Now all that’s left is a few crumbling railroads from the old days. Fuel up the wally wagon, get the camera ready, and head out onto the Seven Mile Bridge. The first stop is Key Largo for snorkeling in the reefs at John Pennekamp State Park. Keep going and you’ll end up at Key Islamorada, a great spot for boating, fishing, and water sports. After you’ve had enough nature and fresh air, head to the final stop, Key West, a lively strip of restaurants, bars, and French colonial mansions.
5. Blues Highway
Starting in Nashville on US Route 61, stop at all the hotspots for blues, classic country, and Rock n Roll and end up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the way, make a pitstop for the afternoon and indulge in Southern comfort food and Music City’s many live venues with crooning legends and homegrown sounds. Then stop in Memphis, the birthplace of Rock n Roll, and tour Sun Studio where Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis made their start. Keep heading south and you’ll reach Tunica, Mississippi, also known as “The Gateway to the Blues.” Discover the best of the Delta Blues landmarks and then head to Clarksdale for live blues at Ground Zero Blues Club, a celebrity owned venue. Finally, you’ll reach New Orleans where you can wander around the funky, historic French Quarter and find music on every corner.
4. Blue Ridge Parkway
During the peak season for the changing colors of the leaves (mid October), the purple, red, and orange hues can be seen from space, so it’s no wonder that this spectacular scenery inspired “purple mountain majesties.” Starting at Afton Mountain in the Ridge District and continuing onto Rockfish Gap, experience ridge-top driving, magnificent views of the Appalachian forests, and vistas of the Great Valley of Virginia. If you want to see the expansive vistas of Roanoke Valley, head to the Plateau District and Milepost 120, the peak area of the Blue Ridge landscape. Stop by the quaint rural towns for local Bluegrass, Southern comfort food, and red barn photo ops.
3. Red Rock Scenic Byway
Starting at the National Forest of Sedona, explore the unique redrock banks of Oak Creek, the canyons, and rock formations of the magnetic vortexes. The natural beauty causes quite a stir so it’s no surprise that Sedona is one of the most widely photographed areas in the country. The area is often packed with sightseers soaking up the view and artists and photographers capturing the breathtaking scene. Then, head to Bell Rock Vista and Courthouse Butte, two glorious redrocks from the magnetic vortexes. If you still have enough energy, channel your ‘Last of the Mohicans’ spirit and hike the Little Horse Trail further down the parkway.
2. Route 66
Get ready for roadside nostalgia and kitsch from the days of classic muscle cars and the American Dream. Also called the “Mother Road”, Route 66 was popular after World War II among motorists heading out in Chevys to the Pacific coast. Starting in St. Louis, stop in for a treat at Ted Drewes Frozen Yogurt before touring the monuments. Then, Route 66 parallels with I-41 from Afton to Tulsa. Along the way, try some comfort food at Clanton’s Café in Vinita. Continuing west, you’ll pass the world’s largest totem pole near Foyil. Here you can pay your respects to Will Rogers in his hometown of Claremore, and then stop in Oklahoma City for cowboy regalia at Stockyards City. Finally, continue 63 miles west to Tucumcari for bohemian coffee shops, old school neon, and historic landmarks on Central Ave.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
With 850 miles of magnificent, sparkling coastal views, redwood forests, and small beach towns, Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most popular scenic highways in the country. Also known as US 1, it’s more scenic than its faster more practical neighbor US 101. Starting in San Diego, take I-5 to North County and take advantage of warmer ocean temperatures with a swim after a seaside lunch. Then continue on to Huntington Beach to recharge and see the sights before the final leg to Long Beach for a ride on the famous Queen Mary ocean liner. You could also take the highway from the north starting at the cliffs of Fort Bragg and Mendocino, then finally to the bustling San Francisco and the coastal gems of Big Sur.