Best Road Trip Destinations?
February 22, 2015 7:38 PM   Subscribe

What are the best road trip paths/destinations leaving from the center of the United States towards. . .anywhere else? We're leaving from the Kansas City metro area. We don't know when, and obviously don't know where. We're open to suggestions, and need some help narrowing it all down.

We're two thirty-something shift workers with bonus/tax refunds enough to fund a nice little trip. We have no children or pets to have to work with/around. Looking for something new. Ending up at an ocean view would be a plus. Mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, gambling in Vegas, wine-tasting... we have a lot of ideas here.

My partner has never seen an ocean. He wants to drive out somewhere different than the Kansas City metro where we live. He also has motion sickness. He's an Eagle Scout and likes camping. He has moderate luck at poker. He wants to see a Broadway show, go to museums, gain experiences we can't get here.

I want to fly out to Boston because it's my preferred vacation destination for a host of reasons, all basically encompassing what he said above. I have no scouting background, haven't camped much but would love to see the Milky Way from a clear sky, and am not a strong swimmer.

Family and friends have so far suggested Las Vegas/Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay cruise, and a trip through Wyoming. I have family in Northern Minnesota and suburban New York; he has family in San Diego and Houston.

Help us narrow it down?
posted by RainyJay to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If it's nature and grand views you are looking for, the southwest is best. The lack of humidity really opens up the sky in a way you don't get in more humid locales. If you're not heart set on seeing the ocean, I'd recommend somewhere around Durango, Colorado or Prescott, Arizona. Both are dry enough and small enough to have fantastic skies at close by camping spots and are reasonably entertaining for a few days in town.

If you have to see the ocean, the best rated beach in the US is in Florida. I've had some pretty fun times renting boats in the Keys. Much better for swimming than the relatively cold Pacific, IMO. If you want something closer, Destin has good beaches, but lacks the awesome deco architecture in Miami Beach or the charm of the Keys.
posted by wierdo at 7:50 PM on February 22, 2015

Banff, Canada. So beautiful, it hurts to look at it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:51 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Go to Boston and from there go to Cape Cod.
posted by brujita at 8:00 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

How long do you want to be away?
posted by jon1270 at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2015

Response by poster: At least two days, no more than a week.
posted by RainyJay at 8:11 PM on February 22, 2015

Best answer: Southern Utah has more sights per square mile than any other state besides, maybe, Alaska. And it's remote as all hell - there is nowhere in the US will see as many stars. If your eyesight is good, you can read by them.

See also, Northern Arizona, Northern New Mexico, Southern California. Amazing geography and history and so much to see. Pick a route through those areas to San Diego (better traffic than LA, IMO) and go to the ocean.

If you take I70 through Colorado, stop off in Grand Junction and I'll show you around and buy you beers.

Another consideration - Northern MN. The Gunflint trail from Grand Marais to Canada is a sight to see, and camping in the BWCA can't be beat. Go in early/mid fall to avoid bugs or go in winter to go dogsledding. Amazing country either way.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:14 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: On seeing your answer...

That's sort of short time to road trip to an ocean, unless you head for the Gulf, which.... is big, but it aint ocean.

You can make Denver in a day on I70. I70 West of Denver is amazing and filled with sights. Breckenridge, Vail, and Glenwood have many things to do and see. In Glenwood, the hike to Hanging Lake can't be beat. Glenwood Canyon itself is a treat. From there - Ouray, Gunnison, Telluride, Durango, Grand Junction... it's easy to find things to do in Colorado.

If you want more and better recommendations, you can me-mail me. I've been here 18 months and aint seen it all yet.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For a road trip, heading west is your best bet but you probably won't have enough time to really enjoy it all AND get to the ocean in just a week. But there are still amazing sights (a bit more in the vein of natural wonders and national parks than museums and big cities)...the Grand Tetons and Glacier National Park in early summer, southern Utah (I'm extremely found of out-of-the-way Capital Reef National Monument, go during July-August when their orchards are fruiting) and northern Arizona, New Mexico is a really beautiful place, the folk art museum in Santa Fe and the Heard Museum in Phoenix are both fantastic, Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright's western HQ) if you're into architecture. Ooh, what about New Orleans? Sorry, that's not helping narrow it down.

Alternatively, you could not go wrong (but might surpass your budget) if you flew to the San Francisco Bay Area and road-tripped south to Big Sur or north to the Russian River valley, Sonoma County or further to Redwood National Park. It's pretty different than Kansas (says this Nebraskan!) Plus big city times in the Bay.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another thought - if you're willing to fly and want ocean and mountains... Fly to Portland, OR and take in a few sights, rent a car and then head for the coast. The Oregon/Northern Cali coast is amazing geography - and whales, and sea lions and otters and lighthouses and clam chowder and and and and...

It's steep and rugged and you will rarely ever feel so tiny. Go in April/May or August/Sept to avoid the traffic that the tourist season brings. Even if you don't go this time, go sometime. I promise, it is awesome.

Seattle/Vancouver are great too, but I think Oregon tops it by a bit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another thought - if you're willing to fly and want ocean and mountains... Fly to Portland, OR and take in a few sights, rent a car and then head for the coast. The Oregon/Northern Cali coast is amazing geography - and whales, and sea lions and otters and lighthouses and clam chowder and and and and...

Seconding this - I did a great mini-road trip by flying to San Francisco, picking up a car there and taking it across to Yosemite, then down to San Luis Obispo and driving back up the coast to San Francisco. Took about a week EASILY, and had all the mountains and ocean you could possibly want.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 PM on February 22, 2015

If you leave on a Friday and come back the next Sunday, you can squeak in nine days. I agree with the previous commenters that southern Utah is the place to be. In may, there won't be snow. (google my username and Utah for lots of advice.)
posted by notsnot at 5:55 AM on February 23, 2015

My suggestion for combining the two is to fly to Vegas, rent a car and drive to southern Utah (~3 hours) to take in Zion NP and Bryce NP for reasons that will be readily apparent when you search AskMefi about those places.

On your way home, stay in a hotel in Vegas for a few days...gamble, eat, take in a show, etc.
posted by mmascolino at 9:17 AM on February 23, 2015

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