The 10 Best US Road Trips to Take This Summer 2021
My article was originally written and published on PopSugar.
Are you dreaming of getting in the car and driving to your next adventure? So are we. While the CDC recently announced that fully vaccinated people are at a low risk for travel this summer, it's still not encouraged unless necessary, which is why domestic road trips remain at an all-time high. There's something so freeing about getting in your car and going . . . wherever. You can take your time, see unexpected sights, roll down the windows, soak up the sunshine, and just relax. Oh, and did we mention the many, many road-trip snacks? Those are always the best.
There are so many hidden gems to explore right here in America, and a road trip is the best way to check multiple states off your bucket list while keeping yourself and others safe. From relaxing lakeside spots in New York to foodie jaunts in South Carolina, here are 10 underrated US destinations to add to your road-trip route this summer.
1. Finger Lakes, NY
A short drive from major East Coast cities, the Finger Lakes region of central New York is an ideal summer destination with socially distant outdoor experiences. After taking a refreshing dip in one of the 11 crystal-blue lakes, visitors can sample their way through the region's cideries and distilleries, breweries, or the 130-plus wineries (follow America's First Wine Trail, the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail, or the Seneca Lake Wine Trail) while taste testing local cheeses and homemade ice cream. Going with a group? You can even buy out one of five boutique inns at the Inns of Aurora for a private lakeside retreat for total privacy.
2. Destin-Fort Walton Beach, FL
Conveniently located in northwest Florida, an easy road trip from states including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and more, Destin-Fort Walton Beach is a standout destination that invites you to experience unique water-based adventures. The sugar-white sand beaches, vibrant emerald-green waters, and warm weather offer an inviting place for visitors to rediscover nature, connect with locals, and enjoy small-town charm that celebrates fresh gulf-to-table cuisine daily.
3. Estes Park, CO
If you love the great outdoors, head to the heart of the Rocky Mountains in the quaint town of Estes Park, CO, for an off-the-grid nature adventure. Want to stay at the basin of a national park? Check in to WorldMark Estes Park, which is ideal for families or groups of friends. You'll get multibedroom suites, full kitchens, separate dining spaces, and outdoor hot tubs. The member-based travel club WorldMark by Wyndham is unlocking free entry to all national parks this summer for stays booked at select properties, so your road trip doesn't have to end here!
4. Reno Tahoe, NV
For sunshine and adventure, Reno Tahoe, NV, is an underrated road-trip stop. Travelers heading to the "Biggest Little City" this summer can go to the Reno River Festival from June 12-13 for whitewater competitions, eclectic food and beverage vendors, and live music from local Reno favorites. Reno's vast art scene is booming, and visitors can experience it for themselves during the entire month of July at Artown. The city-wide arts festival features over 500 artists covering music, dance, theater, visual arts, art walks, and more from world-renowned artists and local talent. And adventurers can take a drive out of the city to the nearby crystal-clear waters of the largest alpine lake in the country, Lake Tahoe.
5. Jackson Hole, W
Jackson Hole, WY, has everything from whitewater rafting to wildlife safaris to fly-fishing to biking — all through 115 miles of mountain-bike trails and world-class national parks. While it's a destination in and of itself, the journey to Jackson can be just as spectacular. If your road trip takes you through Idaho, Montana, Colorado, or Utah, there's no shortage of mountain ranges, national parks, and quaint mountain towns along the way. Opening later this May, summer travelers will be among the first to experience The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection, the only hotel on Jackson's Town Square. It's a prime spot, located at the gateway of Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone National Park.
6. Newport, RI
For East Coasters, it's just a quick drive to mountains, islands, and a multitude of great museums and attractions along the route to Newport. A New England coastal tour will bring travelers a wealth of heritage, beauty, and culture accessible without having to travel too far. A vintage Newport mansion turned luxury boutique hotel, The Chanler at Cliff Walk sits at the start of Newport's famous cliff walk with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. With a reputation as one of the most romantic hotels in the US, the property is the only hotel on the cliff walk and features two restaurants: Cara, a fine-dining restaurant, and The Café, a more casual venue for shared dishes with New England-inspired flavors.
7. Rapid City, SD
A unique destination for breweries, local restaurants, and affordable accommodations ranging from campsites to lodges to hotels, the small town of Rapid City, SD, is the perfect home base for exploring the Black Hills, making it one of America's must-see road-trip stops. While in the city, visitors can explore the bronze statues of our nation's past presidents on a free City of Presidents walking tour; grab a bite to eat at one of South Dakota's oldest operating breweries, Firehouse Brewing Co.; bike along the Rapid City Skyline Drive & Wilderness Area trail; take a stroll through the historical Main Street Square; or learn more about South Dakota's Native American culture and history at Prairie Edge or Journey Museum.
8. Encinitas, CA
Once named among the 20 best surf towns in the world by National Geographic, Encinitas wears its surf history proudly. Located along six miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, Encinitas is a reminder of the historic Highway 101 beach culture that thrived in the mid-1900s. While the city's eclectic downtown has long drawn surfers and hippies with its unique and dynamic blend of San Diego's top surf shops, coffee houses, and record stores, with new restaurants, eclectic shops, and the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas popping up, the town has solidified itself as a national sought-after destination in Southern California.
9 Greensboro, GA
Set along 30 acres of shoreline, cradled by the Georgia pines, and just 90 minutes from Atlanta is peaceful Lake Oconee. Travelers can enjoy a variety of relaxing or recreational activities for the summer including mountain and water biking, boating, fishing, golfing, and more. Splurge at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee for the ultimate lakeside retreat and a nature-inspired experience for the whole crew. New in 2021, guests can enjoy transformed two- or three-bedroom cottages or the ultraprivate, three-story Lake House.
10 Charleston, SC
Charleston is the ultimate summer destination for foodies. Travelers can enjoy the Holy City's hot spots including barbecue joint Swig & Swine, high-end seafood spot The Royal Tern, or Bill Murray's Container Bar, a food-truck hub built inside of an old auto-body shop where rotating food trucks are featured daily. For a day trip, head out to Firefly Distillery, South Carolina's first and largest distillery that resides in a new location. Foodies looking to stay in the heart of the Historic District can book a room at the French Quarter Inn and try out its new cocktail corner located in the lobby just along the spacious outdoor terrace.