Most people have heard of Route 66. It’s iconic. It’s a classic American highway recognized in pop culture and its expanse covers many U.S. states. The route original passed through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Although officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, many portions of the original road are now National Scenic Byways under the name “Historic Route 66.” This route, or any section of it, is a good way to see the countryside of the U.S.A. You’ll see the vast plains that define the term “big sky.” When you drive through the New Mexico and Arizona portions of the road, you’ll see vivid desert colors in the land juxtaposed with perfect pastel colors in the sky. My favorite thing about Route 66 is that it begins and ends with serene water views. Whether you wind up staring off into the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan, your journey through the desert can be complemented with a well-deserved swim if that’s what you want.You’ll hit plenty of towns along this route. Among the larger towns you’ll pass through are Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque and Los Angeles.
I met up with a childhood best friend of mine a few years ago in Boston. From there we drove to an ocean-side, dog-friendly resort in Maine that we’d decided to vacation at for a few days. Before we began our drive back to Boston, we realized we had all day to kill, so we chose our route back accordingly. Highway 1 isn’t just a West Coast thing – it’s pretty great on the East Coast, too. We took US 1A alongside the Atlantic Ocean down from Maine and through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At different points in time, 1A connects with US Route 1. The names change along the way – in New Hampshire, it’s technically called NH Route 1A – but the direction is clear: follow the road that runs alongside the ocean at every given opportunity. What would have been an under 3-hour trip for us on the highway from Maine to Boston wound up taking nearly 7 hours on these small roads, but it was all for a good cause: gorgeous scenery.Cliché as it is to say, the journey is what matters, not the destination. Quintessential New England beaches and architecture make this drive worth it. Stop in any number of towns for New England staples like salt water taffy or chowder.
You’ll drive straight through Rye Harbor State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, Odiorne Point State Park, Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, Seabrook Back Dunes, Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Salem, Massachusetts.
Last fall we introduced you to the Beartooth All American Road, declaring it “America’s Best Drive,” and lauding it for its breathtaking beauty. The road, which passes through the heart of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, begins in Red Lodge, Montana, and passes briefly into Wyoming, before wandering back into Big Sky Country, passing through the sleepy little town of Cooke City, before eventually ending at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Closed from mid-October to mid-May, the Beartooth re-opened for the travel season last weekend – a travel season that will celebrate the 75th year of this iconic highway.
Construction on the road began in 1931, but due to bad weather, it was often suspended for several months each year. Even with those challenges, the 69-mile route was completed in 1934, officially opening on June 14th of that year. At the time, the road was a monument to modern engineering and construction techniques, and it remains an impressive feat to this day.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Beartooth, both Red Lodge and Cooke City have a number of activities on tap. Red Lodge will begin the festivities with a three-day celebration that gets underway on June 10th and runs throughout that entire weekend. The town will play host to a number of historical presentations and walking tours, a free BBQ, driving tours of the highway, and a parade. For a full schedule of events in Red Lodge, click here.
Similarly, Cooke City will also be hosting events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the scenic highway and its historical roots in mining operations throughout the area. While the town hasn’t completely formalized its plans yet, you can see what they have on tap by clicking here.
If you aren’t able to make any of these celebrations, the Beartooth is always worth the drive any other time this summer as well. It is quite simply one of the most spectacular drives you’ll ever take and you’ll find yourself stopping frequently along the way to snap photos of the amazing scenery. My advice for the best way to experience the road however, is on the back of a bike with Beartooth Bike Tours. If you have the time, there is simply no better way to take in the sights.
Taking an autumn drive to see the leaves change colors is a time-honored tradition in the north and east of the country. While Kentucky might not be the first place you think of as a leaf-peeping destination, the state is full of scenic byways and rolling countryside to be explored. Plus….there’s bourbon.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is composed of eight distilleries scattered around Lexington, Bardstown and Frankfort, which are all about one hour from Louisville. Autumn is the perfect time to visit. The leaves are changing, the crowds are gone, and the weather is mild. You can fly into either the Louisville or Lexington airport, though flights to Louisville seem to be cheaper.
Four of the distilleries are closer to Bardstown. These are Jim Bean, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Tom Moore. Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve are closer to Frankfort. Most are open Tuesday through Saturday (some are open Sundays in summer as well) and offer tours every hour. Tours are generally free, or cost just a few dollars. Tours will often include a walk through the production area, a lesson in the history and production of bourbon, and of course, a tasting session.
You’ll need a car to get between the distilleries, so travel with a designated driver or visit no more than two distilleries per day. You could also book a tour guide and driver with a company like Mint Julep Tours.
Where to Stay
For a more urban experience, look for a hotel in Louisville or Lexington, where you should be able to find a room at a national chain for around $100 per night. You’ll find more bed and breakfast accommodations in the smaller town of Bardstown.
What to Do
Other than visiting the distilleries in the area, you can go also go wine-tasting, visit a Civil War Museum, Kentucky Train Museum, take a two-hour dinner train ride through the vibrantly-colored foliage of the countryside, or visit the Kentucky Horse Park. The Park features a daily parade, equine education, horseback and pony rides, and horse shows.
Another week of summer has come and gone, and we’re just hanging on to those last few certain days of warmth before fall kicks in! Last week we had some great travel reads, and this week will likely be no different. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to catch our normal Gadlinks, for today’s links are in keeping with the “scenic” theme we have going here on Gadling today. Check these out for some scenic inspiration:
- There are plenty of predictably scenic summer destinations. These unexpected summer spots wouldn’t likely top that list, but maybe they should. [via PeterGreenberg]
- Some of the coolest people I’ve met are from Tasmania. After seeing these photos from a scenic trip through Tasmania, I’m starting to think that maybe they’re so cool because of where they’re from. [via Been-Seen]
- Or if mainland Australia is more up your alley, consider taking this scenic road trip along the Sapphire Coast. [via MatadorTrips]
- According to our resident Alaskan, Catherine Bodry, the “Land of the Midnight Sun” is quickly nearing the end of summer, which means nights will grow longer and days far shorter, among other things. This green travel article details the scenic White Pass train and scenic biking and cruise excursions. [via GoGreenTravelGreen]
‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!
More Gadlinks HERE.