Traveling the United States in a car can be one of the most informative (and memorable) vacations you ever take. There are literally hundreds of historical sites, interesting landmarks, and natural wonders to see scattered over the contiguous 48. If you've ever stared at a map with a bit of wanderlust, you'll want to check out our list of the best routes you can take to maximize your time in the car.
Each of the routes listed has some historical significance which should be enough to add them to your bucket list. In addition, each route touches on a few fun places you and your family or friends can stop to enjoy on your journey.
1. Route 66
If crooners like Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, and The Rolling Stones are to be believed, you'll "get your kicks on Route 66." Route 66, formally known as the Will Rogers Highway, is one of the oldest highways, dating back all the way to 1926, according to National 66.
Snag details for this route at Driving Route 66 and you could see sites like 360 Chicago (The John Hancock Observatory), Abraham Lincoln's Home, Sky City, The Tower Theater, The Vrooman Mansion, Route 66 Auto Museum, and the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, among others.
2. The Oregon Trail
If the only Oregon Trail you've been on involves a grainy computer screen, oxen and battling dysentery, you might want to consider the real deal. The Oregon Trail was used by gold seekers and travelers as early as the 18th century. Travelers took six months or more to travel from Independence Missouri to Oregon and California (and those who survived battled disease, confrontations with Native Americans, and low rations). Thankfully you can safely traverse the same route from your car.
You'll get to see sites like the National Frontier Trails Museum, Craters of the Moon, Council Bluffs, Devils gate, Oregon City, Rock Creek Station, Chimney Rock, Courthouse Rock, Fort Vancouver and Whitman Mission.
3. Great Northern Route (US-2)
If you want to tackle the northern part of the country, head to the Great Northern Route which travels between Seattle Washington to the coast of Maine. While you can take the entire trip within the United States, an alternate route heads a little further north and explores bits of Canada. You will need a passport, but staying on the US-2 takes you between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, a sight many say should not be missed.
This route is named after a pioneer railroad that runs along the western half of the route, according to Road Trip USA. You'll get to explore sites like the Space Needle, The Great Lakes, The Paul Revere House, Niagara Falls, Chicago Skyline, Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.
4. Southern Route (US-180 and US-80)
Get up close and personal with the southern states via an interstate that traverses more than 1,000 miles of country. Head east on Route 80 from San Diego. You'll have to split off onto Route 180 during the second half of your trip before landing in SavannahGeorgia. This route takes you near some interesting historical sites, including the scene of Bonnie and Clyde's historic demise.
Red River Historian gives more detailed instructions for staying on the original Interstate 80, hitting places like Division Street, Mineral Wells, Bankhead Highway and Mingus. Follow Road Trip USA's guide to view sites like the hometowns of Buddy Holly and Little Richard, Algodones Dunes and the Civil Rights Movement National Historic Trail.
5. The Loneliest Road
If the idea of an open highway for miles upon miles upon miles, thrills you to the core, Route 50, also known as the Loneliest Road, may be just the trip you need. Route 50, stretches for more than 3,000 miles from Maryland to California. The route is so dubbed because the highway hits mostly rural towns, specifically in Nevada.
Unusual Places promises unparalleled views of natural beauty undisturbed my big towns. Instead, your eyes will be treated to views of mountains, sand, and sky. Keep an eye out for old gas stations and diners for a unique view into the past. You may want to make a pit stop at the shoe tree and add your own footwear to the collection. Find more information about the route here.
Do any of these road trips peak your interest? Have you ever traveled one of these routes? Share your adventure in the comments below.