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Show us your adventurous spirit and we’ll show you America. Numero uno for epic road trips. It’s the wrong side of the road but the right side of freedom, so if you’ve got the wanderlust, we’ve got the wheels.
But which trip is right for you?
1. Canyon Adventure
For: The work hard, play harder traveller.
Characters. Las Vegas is full of them and everyone’s got a story to tell (or sell) in the city of infamous sin. Prepare to empty your wallet (because the house always wins), park up your wheels, sling back a Bourbon and hit the Black Jack table until the sun sets, rises and sets once again. When you’re all out of luck, lunacy or money, jump in the car and make tracks to the USA’s largest canyon. Yup, that’d be the Grand Canyon. Aptly named don’t you think? From gambling highs to valley lows, the Grand Canyon Skywalk sits 610 metres above the ground, meaning there’s nothing but a thin sheet of glass between you and your maker. This trip really is a roadie of dramatic vistas, as well the big GC, you’ll find crimson-coloured hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park (hoo dooing what now?) they’re the spire-shaped pillars of rock sculpted by erosion and Mother Nature. In Canyonlands National Park the desert landscape is almost post-apocalyptic and in Mesa Verde National Park the fascinating cliff dwellings, including the enormous Cliff Palace, are really quite surreal.
Don’t miss: It’s not all about the card tables and canyon, see some of the world’s best preserved Native American cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.
Remember to pack: Water. You’re in the desert now.
2. Historic Route 66
For: The road trip traditionalist.
It goes without saying it’s iconic, it goes without saying the landscape is jaws to the floor, eye-popping, drool worthy fantastic, but for all its marvellous Kodak-moments, the infamous Route 66 is also crazy. We’re talking about the roadside ‘forest of bottles’ owned by a guy called Elmer. A man who’s spent a lifetime attaching empty glass bottles to large metal pipes, and the Cadillac Ranch, with its rows of garishly painted cars, all nose-diving and protruding from the dirt. Then there are the countless ‘shoe trees’ that you’ll be compelled to add to, and an even larger number of highway cafes, all serving “The World’s Best Coffee”. What’s so crazy about that you ask? Nothing (except none of them do), but the truckers you sit beside will no doubt have some truly bizarre stories to thrill you with. Order a slice of pie and pull up a pew.
Don’t miss: One of only two remaining Wigwam Motels. Back in the 30s there was an entire chain of these tepee-shaped abodes, but now they’re almost extinct. A bonafide Route 66 landmark, keep an eye out.
Remember to pack: A lot of these places are off-the-beaten track and they need a suitable soundtrack to suit the mood. Don’t forget to make (and take) a feel-good playlist.
3. Artisan Adventures in the Northwest
For: People who like things that look good.
Oh San Francisco, you little pocketful of sunshine, you. With charming houses, a golden bridge and a former prison that’s so aesthetically pleasing, it’s almost more enticing than a shiny hotel. And we haven’t even mentioned the delicious Ghiradelli chocolate. San Francisco is an all-round happy chappy with an addictive personality. Five hours north and you’ll find Redwood National Park; home to the tallest trees on earth, with walks that last as little as an hour or as long as an entire day. For small town vibes with all the perks of a glitzy city, Portland specialises in both. Notably leafy, this is a picnic-lovers paradise, with plentiful parks and the lazy Willamette Rivers slicing through its metropolis. And then there’s Seattle. Ah Seattle, it’s hard not to enjoy the sleepy loveliness of a city that sits so closely to Canada. The home of a good brew, unlike all the cafes dotted along Route 66, Seattle really does pour an impressive cup of coffee.
Don’t miss: San Francisco’s Ghirardelli chocolate shop at Ghirardelli Square. Swing by a few times for the free samples. We reckon you can collect at least six before they start to get suspicious.
Remember to pack: Comfortable walking shoes. US cities are easy to explore on foot but you’ll certainly cover some kilometres.
4. American Rhythms
For: Those with a musical soul, or those who are in search of one.
New Orleans is an absolute crack up. A mad hatter, with a pocketful of tricks and a colourful past, it’s a spellbinding mix of tap dancing kids and busking jazz enthusiasts. The difference here is that even the street performers possess more talent than your average mainstream musician. But then, this is the Deep South and you’re in the realm of legendary greats. Once you’ve explored the New Orleans district of Treme (and the very birthplace of jazz), head to Nashville for country music moulded from a hypnotic southern drawl. In Memphis you’d be a fool to miss Graceland, AKA Elvis Presley’s former home (and final resting place), and for talent that’s still alive and kicking, Beale Street is the playground of musical history-makers, and remains one of the best places in the US to find staggeringly talented rockers, poppers and crooners.
Don’t miss: Sun Studio in Memphis, where The King recorded his very first record.
Remember to pack: Your trainers. They make the best cup holders.
5. Self Drive USA: Colonial America
For: American history aficionados with a penchant for presidents and politics.
Washington DC. The former home of the United States’ greatest leaders; Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and J.F.K. And now of course, President Trump (ahem). Perhaps swing by the White House and see what he and Melania have done with the décor.
All cynicism aside, in Washington you truly are in a capital of greats. Visit the shrine to Abraham Lincoln where he sits and stares ponderously across the Reflecting Pool, and stand by the steps where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his powerful 'I Have a Dream' speech. (HOP tip – an engraving marks the exact spot and it's 18 stairs from the top).
From Washington DC, drive 75 miles to Shenandoah National Park, where The Skyline Drive runs its jaw-dropping length. With 500 miles of trails, nature will blow you away here. A year-round stunner, it astonishes come rain or shine. Look out for white-tailed deer, bobcat and if you’re really lucky, a black bear.
Don’t miss: Ahh colonial America. So much to see, such little time. We can’t cover it all here, but another highlight we must mention is Virginia Beach. Sure there are shimmering high rises and boulevard posers with equal amounts muscle and bravado, but there’s also 35 miles of sandy beaches, parks and nature sites. And anyway, people watching on the glitzy strip is all part of the fun.
Remember to pack: Bill Bryson's 'Made in America' book. A comical insight into the history of the English language in the United States. If you're not the driver for the day, it's a great read while you brush past the east coast's beautiful scenery.
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