17 Ultimate Road Trips for 2017

Here are 17 great ideas for the best road trips for your family. Let’s go!

14 Ultimate Road Trips for 2017 | CarMax

It’s nearly summer! This means sun and sand (if you’re near the beach), and, of course, scenic family road trips and cross-country road trips!

What, you don’t live near the beach? Plan a trip to check one out! Pack yourself and your family into one of our best family cars or best high-MPG vehicles and hit the road for adventure. The open road is waiting! Here's a list of road trip ideas and destinations to help you plan the best road trip ever.

SCENIC ROAD TRIPS

  • East Coast: For a great East Coast drive, check out North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway, or Skyline Drive in western Virginia. Skyline Drive is, in all, 100 miles of gently curving road that carves through the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains. Stop along the way at scenic overlooks above the Shenandoah Valley. There are plenty of places to pull off and pitch a tent for the night, too. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Asheville, NC in between — in all, close to 500 miles of nature. Sign the kids up to become Blue Ridge Parkway Junior Rangers!
  • 14 Ultimate Road Trips for 2017 | CarMax
  • Route 1 to Key West: Head south from Miami to Key West, FL, a 150-mile road trip that takes you along the Overseas Highway and the Seven-Mile Bridge — an uninterrupted span over the water. We recommend a larger family vehicle with plenty of windows, like a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, for this kind of scenic trip. Key West is a laid-back party town that’s also the southernmost tip of the United States. It’s the furthest south you can get by car without needing to pack your passport!
  • Go cross-country: One of our dream trips starts at CarMax headquarters in Richmond, Virginia and takes us west — all the way west — to the Pacific Ocean. If you’re looking for a trip out west, why not plan a cross-country trip that ends at the Big Wednesday drive-in? If you’re nuts about cars like we are, you’ll love this gathering. Drivers of old Volkswagen buses and Beetles meet one Wednesday every summer to skip work and surf! Usually held in the middle of August at San Onofre State Beach, in San Clemente, CA. If you don’t have a Bug or a bus, you can still lash a surfboard to the roof and take in all the sights while you surf.

GOURMET GALLOPS

Are you a foodie? Are you always on the lookout for the best-tasting local savory snacks? Try a gourmet gallop around the country to hit the best foodie spots, including these locales:
  • San Francisco’s Pier 39: As the most-visited attraction in San Francisco, Pier 39 features homegrown, small-batch-raised fruits and veggies, and freshly-baked goodies inside a converted warehouse, which coincidentally turns 39 years old this year! Sample oysters on the half shell while you watch the streetcars go by!
  • Seasonal farmers markets: From Bar Harbor, ME to Portland, OR, there are hundreds of farmers markets that open for business each and every Saturday morning, including those on the Fodor’s list of the best farmers markets in the US. Pack your shopping baskets and prepare to sink your teeth into fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables — or pick some fresh herbs and ingredients to cook up your own concoctions at the end of your return trip.
  • BBQ road trip: How about following the brisket-filled byways that run between Virginia and Texas? Now that’s saucy! Here’s one (subjective) rib-smoked road trip map from 2013 that includes stops in Kansas City and St. Louis.
  • New Orleans French Market: Start with sugary beignets (bain-yays) at Cafe du Monde and then wander on down through the French Market for pralines, alligator sausage, and other culinary creole and Cajun delights. Pick up food "to geaux," like a po' boy from Johnny's on St. Louis street, and stroll to the Moonwalk to watch the Mississippi River roll by.

PARK TO PARK

The US has a huge destination list of state and national parks for you to check out with your family. For the most part, admission is affordable or free, allowing you to experience our natural wonders in person, and in real time.
  • Grand Canyon: Arguably, the big daddy of national parks. But who wants to argue this? Once you’ve been there and had your breath taken away by the vistas and sheer size of this park (10 miles across and more than a mile deep!), you’ll never forget the Grand Canyon. Close by is the nearly-as-spectacular Zion National Park; with 90 miles of backpacking trails and outdoor activities, this is a hot spot for adventuring families (check ahead for hiking permits). 
  • 14 Ultimate Road Trips for 2017 | CarMax
  • Adirondack Park: This is actually the biggest publicly-protected forestland in the US, encompassing close to 10,000 square miles. With thousands of miles of streams and rivers and 3,000 lakes, the Adirondack Park is the biggest state park on the country’s right-hand side. It’s technically a mix of publicly-protected and private land; kit out a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Ford Escape with outdoor gear and visit one of the area’s hundred or so picturesque towns, many beside lakes with names like Old Forge, Saranac Lake, and Lake George, during the fall foliage season and you’re in for a real treat. This area is a paradise for canoers, kayakers, and hikers.
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park: Surf the dunes and play in the Medano Creek beach waves for a remarkable Colorado national park experience. And just two and a half hours away near Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods, where you can rock climb, hike, and photograph the sculptural terrain. Keep an eye out for wolves and mountain lions, too!

CITIES & TOWNS

If you’re looking for famous cities and towns to visit and take in the local flavors, here are some ideas!

14 Ultimate Road Trips for 2017 | CarMax
  • Boston, MA: A great American city, especially in the summer, for all its sights and sounds plus its proximity to the beautiful seaside landscapes of nearby Cape Cod as well as Newport, RI and Portland, ME. If you’re on the road to Boston this summer, plan a stop around July 4 so you can take in the biggest July Fourth celebration in the country. This celebration, produced by the Boston Pops, is free!
  • Nashville & Memphis, TN: Two great music cities in one road trip! Pack your onboard entertainment library with country, blues, and rock and roll and hit the road for Tennessee, with stops in Memphis that include the always-rocking Beale Street, Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, and Sun City Studios. Continue on to Nashville and check out the CMA Music Festival in early June, then decompress with a mess of hot chicken or a ‘meat and three.
  • Las Vegas, NV: We suppose you could bring the kids … but if it’s just you and your significant other, Las Vegas could be calling out to you. It’s only 250 miles from Los Angeles, a distance that’s neither too long nor too short — a great distance for a road trip. Jump into a sporty highway machine, like a 2016 Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro and take in the crazy sights and sounds of America’s playground for grownups. 
  • Roswell, NM: Do you believe we’re not alone in the universe? Extraterrestrial aficionados  won’t want to miss the 2017 UFO Festival in Roswell in late June/early July. Pack your alien costume and take part in the Alien Chase 5K and other family-friendly talks and workshops. Then, once you’ve had your fill of UFOs, drive 200 miles west to Socorro, NM, to visit the home of the Very Large Array radio telescopes. If aliens are indeed out there, the VLA folks will probably be the first to know about them. 
  • Eureka Springs, AR: Wind up the mountain roads to this arts town tucked between peaks and river bend. Spend a day knee-deep flyfishing in the White River and then roll into town in the afternoon to explore art galleries and nosh on chocolate-dipped blueberries from the oldest candy store in town, Sweets Fudge Kitchen.

In the end, your road trip memories will be measured by the friends you make and the relationships you build along the way. In other words, the miles you cover aren’t as important as the company! When you take your road trip, be sure you bring along your family and friends to share the happy trails.

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