Forget the bald eagle or the Statue of Liberty. In America, the car is still the ultimate symbol of freedom, empowering us to shift our daily routines out of idle and "go anywhere" -- as long as we make peace with the traffic report before we go.
But this summer, as cable news pundits have endlessly bellowed, a sinister villain threatens this freedom: Steep gas prices are spooking Americans away from the wheel. Over half of the 2,500 Americans surveyed by the U.S. Travel Association said that an increase in fuel costs would make them rethink their summer road trip plans, with 37.5 percent indicating that they'd drive shorter distances.
Determined to prove that shaving off a few miles from your drive doesn't herald an apocalypse of summer freedom and fun, the ShermansTravel.com experts mapped out 15 short weekend road trips that will get you from point A to points B, C and D while burning less than a single tank of gas -- and we still took the scenic routes.
Follow the Lighthouses to Maine’s Culture Capital The Route (123 miles) Avoiding I-95 in favor of Route 1 will take you closer to the coast and let you meander through quaint Maine towns like Ogunquit and Kennebunk. Get the Map Roadside Attractions After 70 miles of driving, stop at Maine's Cape Neddick “Nubble” Light, one of the world's most photographed lighthouses, in York, and Portland Head, the state's oldest lighthouse, in Cape Elizabeth, just before you reach Portland. In between, the town of Saco will fete its sesquibicentennial (250th anniversary) this summer with five weekends of celebrations, including a citywide scavenger hunt and guided walking tours, kicking off June 9. Once in Portland – the state's largest city and its cultural capital – check out attractions like the Portland Museum of Art (Maine's oldest and largest art museum), the Shipyard Brewing Company (with free daily tastings), and whale-watching cruises (offered May-October). Pop up to nearby Freeport for the L.L. Bean flagship store and outlet and the bizarre Desert of Maine. Stay the Night An eco-friendly bed-and-breakfast in downtown Portland, the Wild Iris Inn comprises seven unique rooms in an historic home. Rates from $149/night. See more Northeast Road Trips on ShermansTravel.com. Photo: Flickr/sskennel
Blaze an Appalachian Trail through Western North Carolina The Route (129 miles) From Charlotte, take US-321 North out of the hustle and bustle of the city to the winding and forested I-40 West. Get the Map Roadside Attractions Stop in Hickory, N.C. after 54 miles for one of the best German restaurants in the United States, Old German Schnitzel Haus (From US-321, take exit 44 to merge onto US-70). Nestled in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has blossomed into a hip cultural hotspot (Rolling Stone magazine even named it the "New Freak Capital of the U.S."). A thriving arts district (ballets, operas, concerts), unique restaurants using local ingredients (dine at the Laughing Seed Cafe, which features vegetarian, vegan, raw, and gluten-free options like spinach-pesto manicotti, and miles of scenic hiking trails (check out Chimney Rock State Park) make Asheville a refreshing destination. But if dystopian teen fiction is more your thing, check out the Charlotte-to-Asheville Hunger Games tour and read our own guide to Western North Carolina’s Hunger Games attractions. Stay the Night The Reynolds Mansion is a cozy, elegant, Colonial-style B&B with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it's even on the National Register of Historic Places. Rates start at $155/night. See more Southeast Road Trips on ShermansTravel.com. Photo: Bill Russ/VisitNC.com
Motor from Midwest Metropolis to Man-Made Lake The Route (163 miles) From Kansas City, take I-71 to Harrisonville, then SR-7 to Lake of the Ozarks. Although the route starts out with the flat farmland you might expect from the Midwest, the closer you get to the Lake of the Ozarks, the more exciting the terrain. Fields give way to trees as the road gradually begins to wind. Keep an eye out for strange town names along the way – you'll pass both Peculiar and Tightwad. Get the Map Roadside Attractions Make your first stop in historic downtown Clinton, where you can grab lunch before doing a bit of antiquing. Stretch your legs on a mile or two of the Katy Trail, which begins (or ends, depending where you’re coming from) in Clinton. The nation's longest rail corridor turned hiking and biking trail follows along tallgrass prairies teeming with meadowlark and killdeer. Later, the man-made Lake of the Ozarks, with a shoreline longer than the coast of California, offers endless opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, and camping, as well as a healthy host of restaurants and shops. Time your trip so you can enjoy some of Missouri's more peculiar annual events, like the Testicle Festival on June 2 (a day of deep-frying turkey testicles, celebrated with dancing and carnivals in Olean) or the Magic Dragon Street Meet Nationals car show from May 4-6. Stay the Night Although not located on the lakefront, the Inn at Harbour Ridge in Osage Beach is a delightful five-room B&B with modern furnishings, at a price point that won’t break the bank. Rates from $139/night. See more Midwest Road Trips on ShermansTravel.com. Photo: Missouri Division of Tourism
Step Back in Time to the Old West Before Sidewinding Through Zion The Route (67 miles) The visually stunning road trip through "Utah’s Dixie" takes you from St. George through Zion National Park and then turns you back to Springdale, Utah. Take I-15 to UT-9. Don't worry about getting lost, as you won't hit too many intersections along the way. Get the Map Roadside Attractions St. George's new municipal airport offers direct service from Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, making southern Utah more accessible than ever before. Virgin, Utah is just 27 miles from St. George and is home to a replica Old West town. Pick up some jerky for your trip, enjoy a few scoops of ice cream, and feed llamas in the petting zoo. You'll quickly find yourself in Springdale, Utah and Zion National Park, so keep your eyes peeled for the ostrich farm along the way. Zion features some of the world's most gorgeous terrain for hiking, mountain biking, and 4x4 tours, which you can arrange at Zion Adventure Company. Drive through the park so that you can enjoy the views from the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Built in the late 1920s, the tunnel features cut-outs that allow you to see vistas of red canyon walls. From there, double back to Springdale for barbecue at Wildcat Willies. Stay the Night Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens offers a wide array of rooms, exquisite gardens, and a heated pool with views of the cliffs. Stock your room with snacks at nearby Sol Foods or enjoy any of the restaurants within walking distance of the Cliffrose. Rates from $159/night. See more Southwest Road Trips on ShermansTravel.com. Photo: Utah Office of Tourism
Hit Highway 1 With the Top Down, and Don’t Miss the Dolphins The Route (100 miles) The pragmatist in you will suggest taking U.S. 101 out of Los Angeles, but we prefer to keep an eye on the ocean along the drive to Santa Barbara by taking Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. The scenic ride is one of the perks of this road trip. Get the Map Roadside Attractions Ventura, just 67 miles from Los Angeles, is a great place to stretch your legs. The San Buenaventura Pier is one of the oldest in United States; take a walk to the end of the pier to snap some photos and enjoy the ocean views. From there, it's a quick walk to Mission San Buenaventura, which was built in 1782. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the gardens and the artifacts housed in the museum. From Ventura, you can hop on a boat to Channel Islands National Park. Camping, whale and dolphin watching, and hiking are just some of the many adventures available on "the American Galapagos," which are home to several rare animal species. Once you're back on land, it’s only 27 miles to Santa Barbara, where you can take a self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour (PDF) through most of the town’s major landmarks. Be sure to stop at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to enjoy their "Van Gogh to Munch" exhibit. Stay the Night Built in 1931, the 18-room Villa Rosa Inn puts you across the street from the beach and provides views of the ocean and nearby Santa Ynez Mountains. Take advantage of the complimentary breakfast, as well as the evening wine and cheese events. Rates from $259. See more West Coast Road Trips on ShermansTravel.com. Photo: Derek Lohuis/National Park Service
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