Road trip recommendations in the USA or Canada?
March 18, 2012 6:28 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have just returned from a great trip to West Texas; both back to work tomorrow. In order to keep our sanity, need to start planning the next road trip. Any suggestions? Probably no more than 10-12 days during the summer and we are willing to fly to a start off point. We like to linger. Preferably in the US or Canada.
posted by mwark to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Other than lingering, what do you like to do on your vacations? Go to one place and stay? Drive around to a bunch of places? Mostly stay in the country/towns/villages/parks/big cities? Do you like to include at museums/camping/good food/live music/shopping/hiking?

Give us a bit more info! Otherwise we'll give you nonsense answers like "Go to__________ and stay for 10-12 days, i liked it there."
posted by Kololo at 6:44 PM on March 18, 2012

Since it's a road trip, we like to drive around and get a sense of the place. Scenic, authentic, if there is cultural stuff to do that's good.

We had the ideal scenario in Texas, for example: Started in El Paso, drove down to Marfa and Alpine to do that area over the course of about 4 days and then spent the rest of our time in Big Bend. Something similar in scope. We've talked about Portland in the past or a road trip that starts in LA.

We'll know it when we see it. I trust the hive not to lead us astray.
posted by mwark at 6:53 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Road trips I've really liked:

(1) Badlands/Mt Rushmore/Devils Tower/Little Big Horn/Yellowstone/Crater Lake.

(2) Ellensburg WA/Coeur d'Alene ID/Missoula MT/Glacier NP/Waterton Lakes NP, AB.

(3) We did this all in one, but it would probably have to be split into two to do in 10-12 days: Boise/Salt Lake City/Zion/North Rim of the Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon/Capitol Reef/Arches/Canyonlands/Rocky Mountain/Fort Collins/Denver/Great Sand Dune/Mesa Verde/Black Canyon of the Gunnison/Grand Junction CO/Ely NV/Great Basin

(4) Las Vegas/Grand Canyon/Prescott AZ/San Francisco/Redwood NP/Oregon Coast to Portland

(5) San Francisco/Lake Tahoe/Reno/Mono Lake/Yosemite
posted by MoonOrb at 7:12 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved, loved, loved road-tripping from Atlanta to Louisiana. Oh, the food, the culture, the history was awesome!
posted by SoulOnIce at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anywhere along this route is incredible. I'm still editing the photos, but you can peruse from San Francisco to Utah.
posted by the jam at 7:31 PM on March 18, 2012

Fly into any city in the Northwest, rent a car, drive in a big circle. Possible highlights include Seattle and Portland, the Olympic mountains and rainforests and seashore, Mount Rainier and the Cascades, the San Juan Island, the Columbia River gorge, the Oregon coast, Crater Lake, Bend and eastern Oregon, a ton of funky-arty beach and mountain towns, museums, and native peoples.

If you hit Seattle or Portland on a sunny summer day you will move there.
posted by LarryC at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

San Francisco-Napa-Mt. Shasta area-Portland-Seattle. The drive from roughly Redding up through Shasta is one of the best I've roadtripped through and Seattle is one of my favorite cities.

Fly into Atlanta. Drive up to Chattanooga (it's tourist as hell but I love it), possibly venturing to Knoxville if you're so inclined. Drive through the mountains to Asheville, NC. Drive down to Charleston (one of my favorite cities). Drive down to Savannah. (Another of my favorite cities). Drive back up and leave through Atlanta.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:10 PM on March 18, 2012

Fly into Detroit (or chicago or grandrapids or ever somewhere in wisconson and take a ferry across). Explore Detroit metro if you've never been there or like that kind of thing. Head for sleeping bear dunes; stay in Petosky; head for Mackinaw Island; head into the upper peninsula. Hang a left and stay in the UP, or hang a right and head for Canada. You could loop to the right and go to Toronto if you like cities; or travel home along the candian coast of lake huron. Or you could go back through Michigan. Or through Wisconsin. Beautiful. You could camp the whole time, or stay in B&Bs, or super nice hotels. possibilities are endless, especially in the summer.

otherwise, you can't go wrong with the CA coast.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:17 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

San Francisco-Napa-Mt. Shasta area-Portland-Seattle. The drive from roughly Redding up through Shasta is one of the best I've roadtripped through and Seattle is one of my favorite cities.

heh, I was coming in to say Seattle to San Francisco, along the coast. The Oregon coast is spectacular, and driving southbound makes it easy to pull off and take in the jaw-dropping scenery.

Alternatively, southern Utah: St.George/Zion/Bryce then down to Arizona and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Creepy bonus: Colorado City.)
posted by ambrosia at 8:18 PM on March 18, 2012

Provided you start in Chareleston, SC, HIT SAVANNAH, GA (or start there!) and then end in New Orleans - that might be awesome.

Places to go starting in LA...

- 2 hrs down south to Palm Springs, and nearby Joshua Tree.

Hotels, motels, and small inns w/ Hot Spring Baths! Take the largest (?) tramway up to the top of Mt Jacinto - great restaurant, mountain top features are surprising and unexpected (even to this experienced hiker!) and the view of the Coachella Valley is UNBELIEVABLE. Joshua Tree state park is magical.

Also start this trip from San Diego and head north. If you do, make sure you stop at The Salton Sea, stay at the Downtown Gaslamp Hilton in SD, and memail me for the BEST secret beach in SD, and also restaurant info. Should you instead stay at The Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island in SD - bonus points!

From Palm Springs, head back (or for the first time) through LA. Lots of great stuff in LA.

Griffith Observatory (FREE, except for the planetarium show, which is $7!) you need to get there about two hours before sunset on a clear night to assure parking. Great views of the skyline, out to the ocean, of all Los Angeles, but especially a look into life in the famous Hollywood Hills. Good food in the cafe. When it gets close to dark - head to the roof and get on the line for the telescope! Pray you look at something cool like the Orion Nebula. Line too long? There are smaller telescopes they put on the lawn at night that have equal the viewing power of the much older big telescope. Make sure you ask the Science Heros on staff lots of questions. Bonus points if there is a waning or waxing moon - if you can talk the staff into switching the view through the telescope towards our closest celestial body, you will not be disappointed.

Next day, head out to Malibu. Then choose a route (we do Pacific Coast Highway and then pick up the 101 around Ventura (check the map) and head up to San Luis Obispo or a little gem called Moon Stone Beach, just below Hearst Castle. Do the Hearst Castle tour.

From there, keep driving. Get back on the PCH. Great drive. Don't miss THE MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM, also a heap of other famous stuff you no doubt already know about. Get to SF. Enjoy.

Above SF, there are also giant redwood forests, but there's one out in the desert, too, north east of LA, just above what is known as "Lake" Isabella.

Let's say that out of LA you head back inland from there towards Lake Isabella and the Kern River Valley....

From Lake Isabella you can do an AWESOME loop into Death Valley. Death Valley changed my life, I've been back many times. Go ahead an memail me about this one, too. It's special. There are views, hot springs for soaking, ghost towns, cool people (locals and then mostly Europeans on vacation) and very strange and welcoming places to stay. If you do Death Valley, you can pick up a highway on the other side near Shoshone, CA, and head to Las Vegas, which is like 1.5 hrs further east, through Henderson, Nevada.


In short, driving from LA to Portland or Seattle requires that you skip heaps along the way.

For example, just above Malibu and Ventura, the next big city is Santa Barbara - heaps of spas, restaurants, beaches, and super posh. Above that is Jalama Beach - isolated, a great place to camp, high winds but well worth it!

Ojai is also supposed to be wonderful, also along that route.

I'll stop here because I could go on. Let me tell you about the time I camped out illegally on the beach off the PCH at the base of a cliff near Big Sur...
posted by jbenben at 8:38 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Being metafilter you're going to get a lot of west coast / north east answers (and I'm sure you'll end up there, and I can understand why), but if you really want culture, food, and a variety of landscapes, you can't beat something along louisiana to mississippi.

Yes, it's more subtle than seattle to portland, but it's amazing, and dying in some ways, and unforgettable, and culturally diverse, and challenging, and the food... well, enjoy the views off the Oregon coast, because the food will be abysmal in comparison.

I've always thought of trips as not necessarily visiting places you would live, but places you should see. But I'm probably in the minority with that view.
posted by justgary at 8:46 PM on March 18, 2012

While we're on the subject of Portland and Seattle... I'm originally from NY, have traveled a bit, and I suggest you skip it.

Seattle is OK. Portland has a weird, cool, but mysterious and somewhat dark energy - search the askme's concerning people considering a move there - I think it is LOVELY in the Spring, and otherwise, the depressed nature and economy overtake the vibe. Mt St. Helens is cool viewed from a distance, but I've actually hiked better active and non-active volcanos in NZ - seeing something that resembles a snow-capped mountain out your car window is not quite equivalent. We have views of snow-capped mountains here in LA. There was a neat park below Portland with a waterfall - but again - I've seen and experienced better waterfalls (and actually swum in them, not just seen them from a park designated view spot) in other locales. Ditto, rainforest.

Death Valley is a once in a lifetime, and unique place. Jumping from LA up the CA coast is unique because of the variety there. I love Savannah, Georgia, in a way I can't explain. Like Shoshone on the edge of Death Valley, Savannah is curiously popular with Europeans, I assume for similar reasons even though both places could NOT be more dissimilar. There's magic and uniqueness.

Go for magic and uniqueness for your next destination - the rest is window-dressing you've undoubtedly seen before!
posted by jbenben at 9:05 PM on March 18, 2012

Please Google "low country cuisine" to understand why you are getting so many recommendations for Louisiana and adjacent. The culture and food - YES.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on March 18, 2012

I see PCH is mentioned several times - add in a convertible and that's a great option but I think I'll offer you the prospect of a great two/three centre trip to Canada. I'm not sure where you live but if you gave yourself 2-3 weeks you could have a blast doing the following:

Fly into Toronto and give yourself a couple of days to see the Toronto area. You can buy day passes on the TTC and basically sit on the Queen St Car and see most of the good bits - hop on and off as you please but I'd say the essentials in Toronto include: The Distillery District, The Beaches, Kensington Market, Bathurst and Bloor Area, St. Lawrence Market, Riverdale, China Town and Little India. I've skipped over the obvious tourist stuff that is covered in every single guide book simply because they are obvious - sure pop into the Eaton's Centre, walk around Dundas Square and go up the CN tower - you should do it once I guess. The ROM is great if you are into Museums and the AGO is better if you are into art.

Rent a car and drive down to Niagara Falls. There is a great drive that takes you out to many wineries along the parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Beautiful drive, beautiful food, beautiful wine. Absolutely stop by at the "Big Avondale" to get ice cream and then head over to the Welland Shipping Canal to watch huge ships go through the locks - you can actually reach out and touch the ships in many places as they pass through. And yes, do all the stuff around the falls - the big ferris wheel, Clifton Hill and of course the Maid of the Mist.

Drive your car back to Toronto Airport and hope on board a plane to Calgary. Pick up a car as soon as you land and get the heck out of that town - others will argue but I have no need to spend time in Calgary. Within 2 hours you can be in Banff National park - beautiful but can be crowded. For an amazing experience drive up to Jasper from Banff and stop off at the many wonders along the way including Lake Louise and Columbia Ice Fields. It's one of the most beautiful drives in the world!!!! You can decide if you want to do a loop that would take you through Kicking Horse, Field, Golden, Invermere, Windermere, Radium Hotsprings and back to Calgary via Canmore OR you could continue driving west.

If you choose to go West you open yourself up to the opportunities awaiting in Nelson BC - probably the best small town on the planet and then on to the wine making areas of Osooyos and Penticton. In another 4 hours from there you hit Vancouver. Honestly, where do I start highlighting BC. Wineries, organic food, arts, culture, lakes, hiking, salmon runs, beaches, sun, forests, mountains, wildlife - seriously amazing stuff. I've done so many trips down this way and have slaved over travel itineraries year after year - me mail me if you want specific details.

If you're up for it the Yukon Territory and Alaska have a lot to offer especially in the summer when the sun doesn't set. Whitehorse, YT offers loads of fun and there are $99 flights from Vancouver on Westjet this summer. Try the Golden Triangle for a taste of Alaska and Yukon on a trip that you could do in as little as 7-10 days. Haines Alaska is my favourite place in Alaska to visit - just 5 hours from Whitehorse and not on the tourist map.

I could spend my life planning my next road trip!
posted by YukonQuirm at 11:02 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might get some great ideas from this AskMe: Tell me and my partner where to go (politely).
posted by Houstonian at 5:42 AM on March 19, 2012

Nova Scotia - up and around Cape Breton especially. If you time it rich thou can see the Highland Games and hear more keiligh(sp?) music than you can shake a stick at. And it's beautiful.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:21 AM on March 19, 2012

It's not long enough for a 10-12 day trip, but if you happen to find yourself on the road near Trinidad, CO, the Scenic Highway of Legends is a fantastic drive.
posted by ThisKindNepenthe at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2012

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