Best America fly drive holidays
* Classic way to discover the USA
* Find the best routes and holiday deals
By Donna Dailey and Mike Gerrard, Editors of 101 USA Holidays
Whether you want to hug the cliffs along the awesome Pacific Coast Highway, cross the Continental Divide atop the Rocky Mountains, or tear through the wide open spaces like Thelma and Louise, there’s no better place for a fly-drive holiday than the USA.
On a practical level, driving is straightforward in the USA. The country has an excellent system of national highways and interstate freeways (motorways), good signage, and plentiful parking outside the major cities. And with the price of a gallon of petrol less than half the cost in the UK, driving is economical too. It’s often cheaper to drive than fly between US destinations, for couples as well as families.
* Note: car hire fees in the US are often quoted without insurance, which is essential to have and can double the cost of your booking when added to the total. It’s generally best to book a fully inclusive deal with CDW cover in the UK before you travel.
If you’re planning a major road trip or simply seeking a scenic route between your chosen cities and attractions, there are countless books, films and TV shows to inspire your journey. Look out for National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, which are special designations for routes of historical, archaeological, natural, cultural, recreational or scenic importance. The official America’s Byways website lists more than 150 of these roads in 46 states.
Below, running roughly from east to west, are some of the best options for an American road trip.
From the historic city of Boston, head out to the idyllic beaches and coastal villages of Cape Cod. Then meander through the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts into Vermont, with its whitewashed churches and covered bridges, across the White Mountains of New Hampshire, to the pristine forests of Acadia National Park and back down the rugged coast of Maine. Try this two week New England classic fly-drive.
Upstate New York
After the urban buzz of the Big Apple, explore the beautiful scenery of upstate New York, from the tranquil lakes and forests of the Adirondack Mountains, through the lovely rolling hills of the Finger Lakes wine region, to the stupendous natural wonder of Niagara Falls. Try this New York State fly-drive.
Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
South of Washington D.C., Skyline Drive is a 105-mile scenic byway that runs along the crest of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park. The views are spectacular. You can extend your journey along the full 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, through North Carolina into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Try an 11-night fly-drive in Virginia, or a drive through North Carolina.
There are numerous interesting back roads that take you through the timeless landscapes of the Deep South. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, drive the narrow Florida Keys Scenic Highway from Key Largo to Key West. Try a 14-night Florida Favourites fly-drive.
The historic Natchez Trace Parkway runs for 444 miles, from the antebellum jewel of Natchez, Mississippi to just outside Nashville, Tennessee, through an unspoiled southern landscape of cypress swamps, cotton fields and rural countryside. Music lovers can follow a route that takes in Orleans, through the heart of the Delta Blues at Clarksdale, Mississippi, and on to Memphis and Nashville. Try this 13-night self-drive Music & Movies Trails road trip from Chicago and back via St Louis, Memphis, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Nashville and New Orleans.
From Chicago, a journey through the Great Lakes region offers a variety of experiences, from America’s largest shopping mall, to the water parks of the Wisconsin Dells, to the beauty of northern forests, pristine lakes and a wealth of outdoor activities. Check out this Great Lakes fly-drive with Trailfinders.
Almost any road in the Rocky Mountains is a scenic road, and Denver is the starting point for some of the most awesome scenery in the West. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America, crossing the Continental Divide through Rocky Mountain National Park. Or head north through the wide open spaces of Wyoming to the Grand Tetons and the spectacular geysers and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park. See a selection of fly-drive itineraries in Colorado.
A tour of the western national parks is the ultimate fly-drive experience. A circuit from Denver or Las Vegas could take in such wonders as Arizona’s Grand Canyon; the monoliths of Monument Valley where many Westerns were filmed; the spectacular rock formations of Utah’s Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks, or the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. Try the Grand Circle fly-drive.
California and the Pacific Coast Highway
From Death Valley to Yosemite, California is also blessed with fantastic national parks, and there are beautiful drives through the wine country of Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles. But the classic road trip has to be the magnificent Highway 1/101, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Beginning just north of San Diego, it runs through the Southern California beach towns, hugs the dramatic coastline through the mountains of Big Sur, and carries on across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to the laid back towns of northern California. You can follow it right on up the coast along Oregon’s shoreline to the end of its 1800-mile run at Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Try this 17-night California fly-drive for example.
For music to drive by, check out Mike Gerrard’s article on the top 10 American travel songs.