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:
5. Pikes Peak, CO
7. The Alamo: San Antonio, TX
12. French Quarter: New Orleans, LA
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station: Cape Canaveral, FL
16. Fort Sumter National Monument: Charleston, SC
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center: Kill Devil Hills, NC
26. Mark Twain House & Museum: Hartford, CT
27. The Breakers Mansion: Newport, RI
28. USS Constitution: Boston, MA
41. Fort Snelling: Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN
46. Hanford Site: Benton County, WA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
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 TripMaker, MapQuest's Route Planner, and Google Maps.