While air travel has picked back up, there’s no denying that the past two years have reignited the love of the road trip. Luckily, there are no shortage of destinations within driving distance of every major U.S. region that offer charm, culture and plenty of outdoor activities.
Whether you’re in need of a quick weekend trip, a longer vacation — or simply don't want to deal with airline cancellations — one of these eight road trip destinations is likely to be just a few hours away. Here’s what to see, eat and do in each of them.
Road trip destinations by region
Block Island, Rhode Island
Clocking in at 3 miles by 7 miles, Block Island can be accessed by various ferries. While they run more frequently during the summer, you're less likely to encounter crowds in the off season. Upon arrival, you’ll have plenty of options for hiking (including the 3½-mile Clayhead Trail), bike riding and kayaking. Even if it’s not warm enough to swim, the beach at Mohegan Bluffs is an ideal spot for a picnic and a stroll. If you want to explore the lush, green island, consider doing so by moped. Round out your visit at Kimberly’s, which offers a fresh seafood dinner, and consider The Inn at the Spring House for lodging.
Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts
Mohawk Trail is a former trade route that runs through various quaint historical towns. The entire route is less than 70 miles long and can be seen in a single day or over the course of a week. At Mount Greylock (the highest point in the state of Massachusetts), there are a number of self-guided hikes for all levels and varying distances. The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum is a suitable attraction for both history buffs and young children. Stop in North Adams for lunch at Renee’s Diner before checking out an art exhibit at Mass MoCA.
A bustling city known for its beer and baseball, Milwaukee is also rich in culture and delicious food. Start your day at either the Milwaukee Art Museum or Harley-Davidson Museum. Then, head to the Milwaukee Public Market, which is ideal for both a bite to eat and people watching. The North Point Lighthouse offers scenic views of Lake Michigan, and Lakeshore State Park has walking, boating and fishing. Spend the night at the downtown The Pfister Hotel, which has an indoor pool (and is rumored to be haunted).
Located about an hour and a half west of Chicago, Rockford is a perfect destination for families. If you have young children, the Discovery Center Museum and Burpee Museum of Natural History both offer interactive exhibits. At the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, located on Rock River, you’ll find tropical plants and a sculpture garden — be sure to check out the events calendar before your visit. Rock Cut State Park is a 3,000-acre park that includes two lakes, 40 miles of hiking trails and 23 miles of mountain biking trails. For brunch, check out The Norwegian for a Nordic-themed meal.
Mount Airy, North Carolina
In addition to being the hometown of actor Andy Griffith, Mount Airy was the inspiration behind Mayberry, where his namesake show was based. Mayberry Squad Car Tours offer a fun way to explore the old-timey town — stops include Floyd’s City Barber Shop and Snappy Lunch, which serves a well-known pork chop sandwich. You’ll find an impressive array of collectibles at the Mayberry Antique Mall, and there’s plenty to explore in Yadkin Valley Wine Country. For thrill-seekers, Carolina Ziplines is a short drive away. If you’re spending the night, consider doing so at the family-run Heart and Soul Bread and Breakfast.
Start off your visit to the Lone Star State by visiting the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for rock climbing, hiking or star-gazing. Step back in time at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, located within the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park. The National Museum of the Pacific War is a sprawling property devoted to World War II education and artifacts. Kick back at the end of the day at the Inn on Barons Creek, which has an on-site spa and outdoor pool.
Start off your visit to Biloxi by hopping aboard a Biloxi Shrimping Trip excursion to watch the captain and crew catch a variety of local marine life. For a bit of Gulf Coast history, visit the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. No visit is complete without a day at Biloxi Beach and a plate of fried pickle chips from The Reef. Consider the Beau Rivage for both lodging and entertainment.
Located less than 20 miles from Phoenix and about five hours from San Diego and Los Angeles, Mesa is home to Usery Mountain Regional Park, which has a number of hiking options (check out Wind Cave Trail). The Arizona Museum of Natural History is an ideal spot for dinosaur lovers, and the Desert Belle tour boat cruises on Saguaro Lake are a unique way to enjoy the area seven days a week. Nestled within the Sonoran Desert is Tonto National Forest, which has a variety of outdoor activities. Check out the calendar of live music events and films at the Mesa Arts Center. When you get hungry, grab an omelet at T.C. Eggington’s and barbecue shrimp at Baby Kay’s Cajun Kitchen.
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