When I was in high school, I always dreamed of taking a road trip with my friends the summer before we began our freshman year of college. Unfortunately, this never happened. But I still feel the urge to traverse across the country. I can just imagine driving in a car with friends, music blaring and windows rolled down as we speed along country roads to whatever destination we had planned.
As junior year approaches, I’m reminded once again that time is short. Soon, I’ll be working professionally full-time. I’ll have bills and student loans to pay and other important responsibilities that I can’t put off. This summer, I’m going to plan another road trip and I hope to actually go on it. As I’m thinking about it now, I realize that I don’t want to go anywhere really well-known. There’ll be too many tourists and too many kitschy baubles to buy as souvenirs. Also, many of my friends have already visited some of these major sites, like Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and LA. Instead, we could visit unique, not as well-known places. There are a number of really beautiful and fun places to visit that are off the beaten path. For anyone who would also like to take a road trip and visit someplace new, here are several stops I think are really great.
Maine is one of those states that has a ton of little-known destinations. Harpswell, located in Cumberland County, is one of these. It rests along Maine’s coast and is the access point to three islands: Sebascodegan Island, Orr’s Island and Bailey Island. Here, you can bike a number of trails, spend the day at the beach, seal or whale watch, climb the Giant Staircase or buy handcrafted souvenirs. There are also several excellent restaurants where you can try Maine’s fresh lobster.
Asheville, North Carolina is the perfect destination for a road trip. There’s something to do for everyone. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, lying just outside the city’s border, spans 500,000 acres. Hiking the trails at dawn or dusk gives you the best opportunity to see elk, bear, wild boars, turkey and deer. If you aren’t interested in wildlife, eat, drink and listen to live music at the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club. In 2008, Rolling Stone named it as one of the top five rock clubs in the country. For book lovers, you can visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site. This was the author’s childhood home and setting for his novel Look Homeward, Angel.
Looking for a beach town without the over-flooded tourism? Cumberland Island has miles of empty beaches and dunes to walk along. This nationally protected seashore is nearly untouched. While visiting, you can watch wild horses graze, take photos of the Carnegie mansion’s ruins and picnic on a deserted beach. To get onto the island, you’ll have to first go to St. Mary’s, Georgia, a small town nearby. You can then take a ferry onto the island, but beware, officials only allow 300 people on in a day. One way to plan ahead is to make a ferry reservation, which can be done six months in advance.
If you’d rather ride horses than watch them, visit Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, Arkansas. This dude ranch is located near the Buffalo National River and has been featured on HGTV and in Midwest Living magazine. The owners and operators, Barry and Amy Johnson and their four children, will give you an authentic western experience. For those of you who don’t know, a dude ranch is a ranch/farm that offers “western” activities. Some of the activities offered at Horseshoe Canyon include horseback riding, zip lining, rock climbing and target shooting.
I try not to be superstitious, but sometimes I wonder about life in space. Are there aliens or other life forms beside the ones on Earth? Is Area 51 real? If you’re curious, why not take a ride down the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada? The Extraterrestrial Highway runs 98 miles and received its name—the official name is Nevada State Highway 375—in 1996. This highway is near the supposed Area 51 and visitors have reported seeing UFOs. The best place to start this journey is Rachel, Nevada. It’s the town closest to Area 51. However, since there’s no gas station in the town, your best bet would be to stay in Las Vegas, which is about 115 miles away, or camp at Horney’s Rest Stop. Remember to fill up the tank just before you reach Rachel.
Deadwood, South Dakota is an often overlooked vacation destination, but it’s actually a great place to soak in history and nature. Here, you can view re-enactments of Wild Bill Hickok’s murder by Jack McCall and partake in Deadwood events, which include costume contests and pub crawls. Also nearby are Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, The Black Hills and The Badlands.
This list has something for everyone. Personally, I know I’d definitely want to visit Cumberland Island. I also know that there are many more places that are just as enjoyable to visit. These are just a few I found on a list of fifty most underrated summer vacations spots in North America on brobible.com and on tripadvisor.com. All of the destinations listed above are not close enough together to visit in a week’s time or even in one road trip if you don’t want to do an unbelievable amount of driving. However, you could always choose one and then move on from there. Also, if you find yourself vacationing in a nearby area, say with your family, you can take a day trip to one of these. As for planning your own road trip, find places that you want to visit. Map it out on a road trip planner like roadtrippers.com. Just remember to take turns driving, split gas money, and most of all, have fun.