The truth be known, a cross-country trek by car is probably a featured vision on many more bucket lists than the ones that actually come to fruition, and this is kind of sad, because there are so many wondrous, inspiring and fascinating destinations right within the U.S. that simply should not be missed. There might be more dreamers who get to live out this one, if there were more of a clear-cut POA (plan of action,) to help anyone feel armed with the right info, landmark destinations and best routes.
Identifying the Prerequisites for the Ideal Cross-Country Trek
Because any unique endeavor improves with a solid strategy (paired best with an appropriate level of flexibility,) it’s good to establish some criteria in advance. Are you interested in historically-rich places? What about national monuments and parks? Are you more of an off-the-beaten-track trekker? What about a foodie-inspired voyage? If you were to visit at least one Nationally recognized landmark, park or monument stop in every one of the 48 contiguous U.S. States and our nation’s capitol, DC., such a journey would require a time commitment of around two months. Since most travelers are spending vacation time, the number of destinations can be cut as called for. Here are some you really ought to experience:
- Route 66: Running all the way from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean, Route 66 is truly a must-see, must-experience journey, full of all kinds of distinctive fun and surprises. Crossing 8 states and all three time zones, Route 66 takes you through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, with famous and infamous points of interest all along the way. Portions of this road include original sections paved by bricks. Discover the Big Blue Whale of Catoosa, numerous period-styled soda fountain shops and drive-ins, Cadillac Ranch, the 76 feet tall Golden Driller Sculpture, Texas’ 1930s Conoco Gas Station and the “66 Diner. The beautiful city of Santa Fe, NM, with its beautiful adobe buildings is the oldest city in the west and on this road. You’ll want to visit Meteor City, AZ, location of Meteor Crater. This 4,000 ft. wide, 570 ft. deep crater was made 49,000 years ago, with all life destroyed within a 90 mi. radius. Also, you can visit the Grand Canyon and Twin Arrows Resort while in Arizona. A true, must-see is the WigWam Motel. The end of the road (66) is the Santa Monica Pier. What a journey!
- The Smithsonian, Washington DC: With its 19 world-class museums, 9 research centers, numerous seasonal garden exhibitions and a zoo, the Smithsonian is located in DC and NYC. Founded in 1846, it is the largest museum in the world. Visitors will find an immense collection representing our national heritage, global installations of art and history, and a richly diverse volume of natural and cultural exposure. Here rest the original Star-Spangled Banner, a 3.5 billion year old fossil, ancient Chinese bronzes, the actual Apollo lunar landing module, tons of personal presidential artifacts, Archie Bunker’s chair and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz–just to name a tiny trace of what is contained in this amazing assemblage. With its location in DC, the Smithsonian is a complete destination all its own, and could absorb a stay of any duration, without ever getting to the national treasures of DC.
- Biltmore Estates, Asheville, NC: Originally the 1895 home of George Vanderbilt, Biltmore stands majestically amid the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. This 250-room French Renaissance chateau is still the largest-ever undertaking in residential architectural architecture, taking a full six years to complete. Vanderbilt’s country home consists of over four acres of floor space that include 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. Still under family ownership, a winery was their first venture in creating some much-needed self-support for Biltmore, and now, with numerous public and privately hosted events and a four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate as well as the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, that self-sufficiency has expanded to become a major source of revenue for Biltmore and Asheville.
- Food Stop–The Turtle Club, Naples FL: A foodie’s dream come true, the Turtle Club Restaurant is a one of a kind intimate and gracious coastal cuisine dining experience in an upscale casual atmosphere. Guests dine directly on the beach, with spectacular ambiance, courtesy of masterpiece sunsets and ocean sights and sounds. Old World and New World Culinary merge here, with a wonderful array of Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asian and South American mouth-watering dishes.
- Food Stop–Wyebrook Farm Market & Cafe, Honey Brook, PA: Set in pastoral surroundings, this lovely 18 century stone barn and open courtyard offers meat raised right there, on their own farm, along with locally produced organic vegetables and cheeses. There are nothing but rave reviews for this restaurant serving American Cuisine. A must-try stop!
- This Bonus Spot Deserves a Mention–Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Southeastern Idaho: Created by volcanic eruptions that happened thousands of years ago, it provides visitors with a rich, “weird science” experience of great intrigue and discovery. With no recent (2 millennia) eruptions, the spot is still geologically active.