From Sea to Shining Sea: Three Under the Radar U.S. Road Trips to Drive this Summer
The USA is home to some of the most iconic road trips in the world. The vast uniqueness of the nation’s landscape, paired with the road trip nostalgia embodied in classic movies and unforgettable songs continues to inspire travelers today. In fact, according to our research, 47% of U.S. travelers rent a car while traveling because of the freedom it gives them to do what they want*.
Another Booking.com-led study revealed that 58% of U.S. travelers plan to travel to off the beaten path destinations during 2023**. With peak vacation season just around the corner and trip planning in full force, we present three less-traveled road trip ideas to inspire travelers to rent an all American car this summer and turn it into their magic carpet.
Mississippi Blues Trail:
The Mississippi Blues Trail is the perfect getaway for any music enthusiast, history buff or foodie. The 510-mile route takes travelers from Memphis to New Orleans and retraces key historical and cultural markers that played a significant role in forming America’s legacy- from the birthplaces of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll to pivotal battlegrounds of the American Civil War.
Stop 1: Clarksdale, Mississippi
Upon leaving Memphis (think Elvis Presley’s Graceland), drive south for two hours until reaching the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Its label as the birthplace of Blues is well earned with Eddie Boyd and Sam Cooke having called Clarksdale home. At a bird's-eye view, it’s a typical Southern town, but spend some time strolling down the streets and one will hear all types of instruments following your every footstep. A must-see is the Delta Blues Museum, a space focused on presenting the history of Blues and preserving the artform. Make sure to not miss out on an authentic Blues performance at one of the town’s many live music spots.
The Travelers Hotel is perfectly located to experience Clarksdale’s Historic District.
Stop 2: Vicksburg, Mississippi
Continue the drive down the banks of the Mississippi River until reaching Vicksburg, renowned for its historic significance. The town saw the pivotal Siege of Vicksburg in 1863 during the American Civil War when the Union Army held the Confederate Army at Vicksburg under siege for 47 days until they finally surrendered, symbolizing a major turning point in the war. With beautiful vistas of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg is a one-stop shop for Southern charm, a lively historic center, and some history lessons. Don’t forget to check out the area’s beautiful Antebellum Mansions and the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Enjoy a night at the Oak Hall Bed & Breakfast, a home built in 1910 by lifelong philanthropist Fannie Willis Johnson.
Stop 3: New Orleans, Louisiana
The last leg of this route takes three and a half hours and ends in vibrant New Orleans, nicknamed “The Big Easy”. Home to delicious Creole and Cajun cuisine, soulful R&B tunes, the colorful historic French Quarter and the annual Mardi Gras, New Orleans cohesively encapsulates the sensory essence of this entire road trip. Learn about the city’s cuisine and history on this culinary guided walking tour.
Car: Bring this road trip to life by renting a bold Dodge Challenger to take you down the Mississippi.
Local Soundtrack: Live in Cook County Jail- B.B. King; What a Wonderful World- Louis Armstrong
San Juan Skyway:
Colorado boasts one of the most diverse landscapes in the United States, ranging from high mountain peaks to vast forests and breathtaking canyons. 79% of U.S. travelers indicated beautiful natural scenery as an important destination motivator**. Located in the southwestern part of the state, the San Juan Skyway zig-zags through quaint mountain towns and jaw dropping scenery, including a portion known as the Million Dollar Highway- more on that further down.
Stop 1: Ouray, Colorado
Set out towards the town of Ouray (pronounced yur-ay), situated at an elevation of 7,800 feet. Ouray serves as the perfect jumping off point for several outdoor expeditions including exploring Box Canyon Falls, adventuring on one of the area’s many alpine hikes, or simply relaxing in the Ouray Hot Springs. One will soon understand why it has been nicknamed the “Switzerland of America”.
The Ouray Inn offers cozy rooms, complimentary breakfast and happy hour, and of course a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Stop 2: Durango, Colorado
The two hour drive southwards towards Durango passes through the Million Dollar Highway, a 25-mile stretch on US Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton. Why the name? No one knows for sure, but theories include the countless million-dollar views along the drive or the high costs it took to build this majestic pass. Regardless, it will be camera worthy for sure! Durango is the largest town on this route and offers all types of attractions, including the possibility of taking a half-day guided tour of Mesa Verde National Park.
The Strater Hotel is a great option for those travelers wishing to be in the center of town. For those seeking a stay close to the San Juan National Forest, the Club Wyndham Durango offers a privileged location near canyons and rivers.
Stop 3: Telluride, Colorado
After just over two hours of continuing along the San Juan Skyway loop, say hello to Telluride,
uniquely situated in a box canyon. Famous as a ski destination during the winter months, this mountain town is full of year-round outdoor activities, in addition to having a vibrant music, cultural and gastronomic scene. Cool off from the hot summer days by white water rafting on the San Miguel River.
Car: Nothing screams mountain adventure more than a Ford Expedition.
Local soundtrack: Cleopatra- The Lumineers; Love. Ain’t Love- Yonder Mountain String Band
Pro tip: As the starting off point for this roadtrip is a five hour drive from Denver, consider flying into Montrose Regional Airport (code: MTJ) only 45-miles from Ouray. The airport can be accessed by major airlines from various cities across the country.
Oregon Coast Highway:
The West Coast possesses some of the most famed road trips routes including the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and the I-5 Corridor between Seattle and Vancouver. Nestled in between these two routes lies Oregon, a state famous for its rocky coastlines, dense forests and laid-back vibe. Spanning 363 miles, the Oregon Coast Highway winds down the entire Oregon coast through charming towns and picture perfect backdrops.
Stop 1: Cannon Beach, Oregon
Set out from Portland and head west for an hour and a half before arriving at the small coastal city of Cannon Beach. The area boasts a long, sandy shore as well as the iconic Haystack Rock, which by the way is a seasonal hideout for tufted puffins. You will find picture secret coves, serene tidepools and classic lighthouses as you drive around. Check out Ecola State Park for priceless views.
Head three and a half hours straight down the coastline and arrive in Florence, though we completely understand if it takes you longer from all the times you will want to stop to ooh and ah. For the wildlife lovers, in this area you will find the Sea Lion Caves, home to Steller sea lions, as well as seabirds and migrating whales near Heceta Head Lighthouse. The town center is filled with boutique shops and galleries for an afternoon stroll.
Every room at The Overleaf Lodge, located in Yachtas and just north of Florence, offers sea views.
The final part of this road trip will take you inland to Eugene, Oregon’s second major city, offering a dynamic mix of arts and culture. Here, summer nights are synonymous with outdoor live music, craft beer breweries, scenic bike trails and local farmers’ markets. The Willamette National Forest is a stone throw away, where over 380,000 acres are designated wilderness and seven major mountain peaks can be located.
Car: 70% of people in the U.S. said they want to travel more sustainably in the coming 12 months, with 48% of those saying this includes using more environmentally friendly modes of transport during future trips, including electric rental cars***. Why not rent a Tesla for this road trip?
Local soundtrack: Alive at the Village Vanguard- Esperanza Spalding; The King is Dead- The Decemberists
Pro tip: Though this route can be done in either direction, prioritize driving the Oregon Coast Highway from north to south, along the ocean, to have a full view of the coast instead of looking across traffic.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 48,413 respondents across 31 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,864 from Canada, 1,999 from Mexico, 2,003 from Colombia, 2,005 from Brazil, 2,002 from Argentina, 1,020 from Chile, 1,777 from Australia, 818 from New Zealand, 1,999 from Spain, 2,002 from Italy, 1,998 from France, 1,990 from UK, 2,005 from Germany, 2,003 from Netherlands, 985 from Denmark, 999 from Sweden, 910 from Croatia, 918 from Switzerland, 1,986 from Belgium, 998 from Russia, 953 from Israel, 1,999 from India, 1,990 from China, 901 from Hong Kong, 1,775 from Thailand, 1,001 from Singapore, 975 from Taiwan, 1,800 from Vietnam, 1,757 from South Korea, 1,001 from Japan). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once for business or leisure in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2022 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January 2022.
**Travel Trends 2023 research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 42,513 respondents across 33 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,008 from Canada, 2,000 from Mexico, 1,000 from Colombia, 2,000 from Brazil, 1,000 from Argentina, 2,000 from Australia, 1,000 from New Zealand, 2,000 from Spain, 2,000 from Italy, 2,000 from France, 2,000 from UK, 2,000 from Germany, 1,000 from Netherlands, 1,000 from Denmark, 1,000 from Sweden, 1,000 from Croatia, 1,000 from Switzerland, 1,000 from Belgium, 1,000 from Ireland, 1,000 from Portugal, 1,000 from Israel, 2,000 from India, 1,000 from China, 1,005 from Hong Kong, 1,000 from Thailand, 1,000 from Singapore, 1,000 from Taiwan, 1,000 from Vietnam, 1,000 from South Korea, 1,000 from Japan, 500 from UAE). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2023 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January and February 2023.
***Sustainable Travel research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 33,228 respondents across 35 countries and territories (1,019 from USA, 1,002 from Canada, 1,007 from Mexico, 1,005 from Colombia, 1,008 from Brazil, 1,015 from Argentina, 1,008 from Australia, 504 from New Zealand, 1,008 from Spain, 1,002 from Italy, 1,008 from France, 502 from Switzerland, 1,008 from the UK, 1,000 from Ireland, 1,008 from Germany, 1,006 from the Netherlands, 1,006 from Belgium, 1,004 from Denmark, 1,007 from Sweden, 1,016 from Croatia, 1,012 from Israel, 504 from UAE, 1,012 from India, 1,001 from China, 1,000 from Hong Kong, 1,000 from Thailand, 1,020 from Singapore, 1,001 from Taiwan, 1,000 from Vietnam, 1,002 from Indonesia, 1,007 from Philippines, 1,002 from South Korea, 1,009 from Japan, 1,005 from South Africa and 510 from Kenya ). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in the past 12 months and must be planning to travel in 2023, and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in February 2023.