Science Says This Is the Perfect U.S. Road Trip

U.S. Road Trip with Major Landmarks
••• Discovery News

What if you took a list of 50 must-see American attractions and plotted a road trip to hit all of them? Your route would likely look like this, says Discovery News, which partnered with a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University and used an algorithm to come up with what they say is the perfect cross-country American road trip.

You may disagree. Though the idea of a best-of-the-best itinerary is fun (if gimmicky), the attractions on this route are very subjective.

Discovery News may rate the Terrace Hill Governor's Mansion in Des Moines as a must-see, yet you might give it a disinterested shrug. There are quite a few places on this list that some experts might consider second- or even third-tier sites (such as the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, Fox Theatre, Hanford Site, and others).

The itinerary is contrived to fit Discovery News' criteria of (a) remaining solely in the United States; (b) including designated national landmarks, historic sites, and national parks and monuments; and (c) including only one attraction in each one of the lower 48 states (except for California, which got two). The White House in Washington, D.C., rounded out the 50 picks. The problem, of course, is that some states are filthy rich when it comes to road trip–worthy national landmarks and other are, well, not so much. This explains why a governor's mansion makes the cut while Zion National Park and Niagara Falls do not.

Methodology aside, this is a pretty comprehensive itinerary that does hit many iconic American landmarks. And if hitting all the states in the contiguous United States is one of your goals, this route accomplishes that. The researchers used an algorithm to come up with a loop that allows you to start this road trip in any state and follow it until you’re back at your starting point.


The Discovery News trip takes in these cultural landmarks:

1. Grand Canyon, AZ

2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

4. Yellowstone National Park, WY

5. Pikes Peak, CO

6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

7. The Alamo: San Antonio, TX

8. Platt Historic District: Sulfur, OK

9. Toltec Mounds: Scott, AR

10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland: Memphis, TN

11. Vicksburg National Military Park: Vicksburg, MS

12. French Quarter: New Orleans, LA

13. USS Alabama: Mobile, AL

14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station: Cape Canaveral, FL

15. Okefenokee Swamp Park: Waycross, GA

16. Fort Sumter National Monument: Charleston, SC

17. Lost World Caverns: Lewisburg, WV

18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center: Kill Devil Hills, NC

19. Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon, VA

20. White House: Washington, DC

21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District: Annapolis, MD

22. New Castle Historic District: New Castle, Delaware

23. Cape May Historic District: Cape May, NJ

24. Liberty Bell: Philadelphia, PA

25. Statue of Liberty: New York, NY

26. Mark Twain House & Museum: Hartford, CT

27. The Breakers Mansion: Newport, RI

28. USS Constitution: Boston, MA

29. Acadia National Park, ME

30. Omni Mount Washington Hotel: Bretton Woods, NH

31. Shelburne Farms: Shelburne, VT

32. Fox Theatre: Detroit, MI

33. Spring Grove Cemetery: Cincinnati, OH

34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

35. West Baden Springs Hotel: West Baden Springs, IN

36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home: Springfield, IL

37. Gateway Arch: St. Louis, MO

38. C.W. Parker Carousel Museum: Leavenworth, KS

39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion: Des Moines, IA

40. Taliesin: Green Spring, WI

41. Fort Snelling: Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN

42. Ashfall Fossil Beds: Royal, NE

43. Mount Rushmore: Keystone, SD

44. Fort Union Trading Post: Williston, ND

45. Glacier National Park, MT

46. Hanford Site: Benton County, WA

47. Columbia River Highway, OR

48. San Francisco Cable Cars: San Francisco, CA

49. San Andreas Fault, CA

50. Hoover Dam: Boulder City, NV

Which American landmarks would be stops on your family's perfect road trip?

You can create your own customized map using a number of online tools, including Rand McNally's TripMakerMapQuest's Route Planner, and Google Maps.