10 Post-COVID Summer Road Trip Destinations
With border closures. travel bans, and cities on “lockdown,” road trippin’ is one of the safest forms of travel this summer. Check out our treasure trove of must-see driving destinations in the United States, with an emphasis on our rich cultural heritage and natural landscapes. (And some kitschy Americana for good measure!) As coronavirus-related restrictions change without notice, prepare for unexpected closures, delays, and interruptions. Welcome to the post-COVID travel era!
#1. Jackson, Wyoming
Best for social distancing-compliant skiers
Jackson, Wyoming, located in the isolated Rocky Mountains, is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, making it a utopia for serious “social distancers.” A few miles south of Yellowstone National Park, Jackson — a tiny town in the wider touristy-heavy Jackson Hole Valley, which spans 80 miles — boasts three ski areas, luring ski-enthusiasts from everywhere. Pack your boots!
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort, and Snow King Mountain Resort are all easily accessible by road, including the fabled Highway 130 — dubbed the “Snowy Scenic Byway” — and Highway 287, which connect Laramie to Jackson Hole. Stop for a bite to eat in one of the cozy roadside restaurants on the route. We recommend Gannett Grill, named after the highest peak in Wyoming.
#2. Lake Tahoe, California
Best for a moment’s peace after a crazy few months
The inspiration for countless poems, Lake Tahoe is a marvel, with its pristine blue waters and misty mountain reflections. Best explored by kayak from nearby Emerald Bay, this 6,225-foot freshwater lake is a Californian cultural icon — and a serene spot for calm and reflection after a difficult few months.
Get here via Highway 50, which slices across the U.S. and borders the south of the lake.
#3. Dripping Springs, Texas
Best for a quick dip
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including its natural wonders. Dripping Springs, in Hays County, smack-bang in the middle of the state, brims with stunning vistas, but Hamilton Pool Preserve (technically in neighboring Travis County) provides the best one. Here you’ll find a natural swimming pool in a craggy canyon below a 50-foot waterfall. Make the 25-mile trip from Austin via East Highway 90.
If swimming’s not your thing, there’s plenty of other must-dos, including some of the best restaurants in the “Lone Star State.” Pull up a chair and gulp down local classics like chili and chicken-fried steak.
Need to hire a car for your road trip? Get up to 15 percent off daily rates at Hertz.
#4. Ecola State Park, Oregon
Best for history buffs
We associate Ecola State Park with the Tillamook people — a Native American tribe from the Oregon coastal region. Here you’ll find artifacts from yesteryear such as centuries-old villages and rugged cliffs which jut out into the Pacific. For the adventure-seekers, nearby Oswald West State Park is a hiker’s paradise, with twisty trails that snake along the shoreline. Other attractions include the tide pools at Hug Point State Park. (Come here at low tide for spectacular ocean views.)
The road trip to Ecola is just as breath-taking, with postcard-perfect coastal towns that border this striking stretch of Highway 101. Cannon Beach, an artist’s hangout, is our fave.
#5. Finger Lakes, New York
Best for nature lovers
After months of lockdown, explore the great American outdoors at Finger Lakes — 11 narrow lakes that make Mother Nature proud. The perfect landscape for an Insta selfie or just some quiet reflection, Finger Lakes is a picturesque patch of the eastern U.S. that’s ready to welcome visitors again.
Finger Lakes is accessible from three major New York cities — Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo — making it the ultimate summer weekend road trip. Just don’t forget roadside assistance cover, which provides you with a safeguard in an emergency. NMC has you covered if you run out of gas, need a jump, or have a flat tire. Learn more here!
#6. Hammer Museum, Alaska
Best for curious minds
Taking an Alaskan trip this summer? Plan your journey around the Hammer Museum, home to more than 2,000 hammers, including some from Roman times. There’s even a 20-foot hammer outside the building. It’s kitschy, but all good road trips are.
The Hammer Museum is just off Haines Highway, which connects its namesake with Yukon, Canada.
#7. Leaning Tower of Niles, Illinois
Best for people who don’t want to travel to Italy
Italy has Pisa; Illinois has Niles. While Niles’ 94-foot leaning tower isn’t as tall (or impressive) as its Italian counterpart, it’s well worth the journey if you’re zooming through Illinois. Built in 1934, this very local landmark is kitschy Americana at its best.
Get here: I-94 toward Niles. Exit 39A. Drive westward on Touhy Avenue for 2 miles.
#8. The Paper House, Massachusetts
Best for digital-phobes
With the rise of digital technology, most of us don’t use paper anymore. Those who miss the good ol’ days should visit the Paper House in Rockport, Massachusetts — a real house made from 100,000 newspapers. Built by mechanical engineer Ellis Stenman in 1924, this summer house has become something of a local landmark, attracting people from across the U.S. and beyond.
Get here: I-95 to Highway 128 toward Gloucester; MA 127 toward Rockport.
#9. Charleston, South Carolina
Best for weekend getaways
We’ve included a couple of cities to round off our countdown of the best road trips, starting with Charleston, recently voted the “best” city in the U.S. for 2020. This South Carolina port city bustles with culture, luring visitors with its cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages.
Interstate 26 runs through Charleston, making it an accessible city for most of us.
Looking for a Charleston hotel? Get 20 percent off the best available rate at participating Wyndham Group Hotel locations.
#10. New Orleans, Louisiana
Best for culture and food
New Orleans has long been one of the most popular road trip stop-offs. The new world meets the old world in this food-loving city: Creole-style buildings and modern high-rises jostle for skyline space. Getting here is (the big) easy, with a well-connected highway system.
Pro-tip: Visit the French Quarter and take in a jazz club on Bourbon Street.
Planning a post-COVID road trip? NMC provides you with emergency roadside assistance cover that could save you thousands of dollars. Learn more here.