Traversing the diverse landscapes of the United States by road has been a popular pastime since the early 20th century and driving vacations continue to capture the passions of Americans today. In fact, a 2019 Ford study conducted by OnePoll found that 73 percent of Americans would rather drive to their holiday destination than fly. So, why not take on the nation's longest road?
Most people know about the classic road trips—Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)—but the northern half of the U.S., especially the Midwestern states, often falls off the radar. Route 20 (US-20) runs right through this region, bookended by Newport, Oregon, and Boston, Massachusetts. The route is 3,365 miles long (Route 66 is 2,448 and the PCH is 665) and passes through 12 states. Most people allocate at least a week to traverse Route 20, which takes 52 to 60 hours just to drive.
South Beach State Park: Lincoln County, Oregon
If you plan to cross the country from west to east, then you'll begin your journey at Oregon’s South Beach State Park on the Pacific Coast. South Beach offers plenty of camping (including electrical hookups, hot showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and an RV dump station), so you can stay over the night before and get an early start. This Lincoln County patch of coast also features miles of hiking and biking trails, a playground, disc golf, kayak tours, and more. If the weather is terrible (as it often is on the Oregon coast), you can visit nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center or the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks: Montana/Wyoming
Though two separate parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are often included in the same itinerary for their close proximity (about an hour's drive). Yellowstone, located at the corners of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is America’s oldest national park. It's packed with hiking trails, geologic features like geysers and pools, rolling meadows filled with wildflowers, and wildlife (grizzlies, wolves, and bison) you're unlikely to see anywhere else. You could while away weeks in Yellowstone, but at least dedicate a day to this pit stop on your Route 20 tour. After you're done, head toward the jagged peaks of Grand Teton National Park, a mountainous region of Wyoming. For camping, Fishing Bridge RV Park in Yellowstone offers electrical hookups, but it can't accommodate large RVs. Many road trippers camp in a nearby privately-owned park like Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park instead.
Boise River Greenbelt: Boise, Idaho
Boise is an outdoor lover's paradise. It is home to the Bogus Basin ski resort, the Idaho Botanical Garden, hiking trails at Table Rock, and a portion of the ever-famous Oregon Trail. Perhaps its most stunning natural feature, however, is the Boise River Greenbelt, a 25 mile-long waterway that the Boise Parks and Recreation Department has worked laboriously for years to make as scenic as possible. What was once a runoff river is now lined with lush trees, walking and cycling paths, wildlife viewing areas, and wetlands. Walk or cycle (there are nearby rental kiosks) as little or as much as you want along the Greenway; it's the perfect way to stretch your legs after a long stint of driving.
Fort Robinson State Park is home to the Fort Robinson Museum and History Center, but there’s much more to this 22,000-acre space than Old West history. Here, you can hop on a Jeep or horse-drawn tour of the historic preservation site, play golf, go swimming in the indoor, Olympic-size Lindeken Pool, dine at the Fort Robinson Restaurant, go for a picnic, or go exploring by way of kayak or canoe. The on-site Post Playhouse puts on eight theatre shows per week (rotating between several musicals), which makes for great evening entertainment before turning in for the night in this small, often-overlooked Nebraska town.
Carhenge: Alliance, Nebraska
Route 66 has the colorful cars of Cadillac Ranch, but US-20 offers another bizarre twist on "car art" with Alliance's Carhenge. As the name implies, Carhenge is a quirky roadside attraction where several cars have been painted and stacked to resemble England’s famous Stonehenge. The monument to motoring was built in 1987 by Jim Reinders to honor his late father. Reinders studied Stonehenge while traveling in England to replicate the structure with 38 vehicles forming an almost 100-foot circle. There is a secondary exhibit at Carhenge where stoppers-by can paint their mark on the vehicles.
Millennium Park: Chicago, Illinois
Get your picture taken in front of Chicago's famous Cloud Gate (i.e. "The Bean") and take a break from the car in the Windy City. Millennium Park, operated by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, plays the dual role of park and museum, featuring interactive exhibits throughout the 24.5-square-mile urban sanctuary. You'll find prominent artworks and features like Lurie Garden and Crown Fountain, and because Millennium Park sits on top of a parking structure, it’s actually considered the world’s largest rooftop garden. If you're traveling in a camper, park on the outskirts and take the "L" (the rapid transit system) into town.
RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame: Elkhart, Indiana
Many who attempt this 3,300-mile road trip do it in a recreational vehicle. So, what better way than to honor your ride than by visiting the RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana? This Midwestern town is, in fact, where many American campers are built. Its 100,000-square-foot museum illustrates the history of traveling by RV and reflects on early industry giants like Airstream and Winnebago. Here, you'll see the oldest Winnebago, the smallest Airstream, and some of the more bizarre RVs to ever hit the market.
Cedar Point: Sandusky, Ohio
The U.S. is filled with amusement parks, but few can hold a candle to Cedar Point. This park offers entertainment for all ages, from easy rides to some of the world’s most adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Cedar Point bills itself as the "Rollercoaster Capital of the World," and considering it has six different coasters surpassing the 200-feet-high mark, it would be tough to refute that claim. The Sandusky, Ohio, park encompasses 350 acres of thrill rides (17 coasters in total), water parks, dining and shopping complexes, and more. However, the park is only open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland, Ohio
About an hour from Cedar Point is the bustling city of Cleveland, whose crown jewel attraction is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Officially opened in 1985, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame showcases the history of the musical genre across seven levels of exhibits. You can stand just a few inches from some of the most iconic items in rock history, including instruments and memorabilia that once belonged to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. You can even learn about what it takes to record a hit song. On the other hand, it may be best to avoid a trip to the Hall if the Cleveland Browns are playing a home game. The massive NFL crowds like to frequent this attraction, too, which could compromise the experience.
Erie Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Erie, Pennsylvania
You don’t have to choose between visiting gardens or the zoo when you visit Erie, seeing as this Pennsylvania town has rolled both into one highly-rated venue. At the Erie Zoo and Botanic Gardens, you can marvel at equally exotic flora and fauna. Exhibits include a children’s zoo, the Michele Ridge Rose Garden, a tropical greenhouse, African lions, river otters, and alligators. Between the exhibits, you can set the kids loose on the many carnival rides scattered around the park. You can also pack in a picnic lunch and eat it at Glenwood Park.
Baseball Hall of Fame: Cooperstown, New York
No drive through upstate New York would be complete without a visit to the museum that honors America’s favorite pastime. Stand in the shoes of baseball’s greatest sluggers and view items that are forever etched into Americana, such as the gloves Ricky Henderson wore when he swiped his 939th base or a baseball that was smacked more than 500 feet by Babe Ruth. The Hall is filled with exhibitions like Baseball at the Movies, which reflects on baseball’s role on the silver screen, and the Sandlot Kids Clubhouse, where your little ones can blow off some steam. Cooperstown, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located, is right next to Otsego Lake, which offers kayaking, boat tours, and fishing.
Freedom Trail: Boston, Massachusetts
The long journey ends in Boston, on the city’s famous Freedom Trail. First established in 1630, Boston is filled with history on America's founding fathers. The Freedom Trail directs you through downtown Boston on a 16-stop, 2.5-mile historical walk that passes by Park Street Church, the site of the Boston Massacre, the Paul Revere House, and Old North Church, Boston's oldest surviving church. Stop by the National Park Service-operated visitor center in Faneuil Hall to grab a map of the trail or start a guided tour.