The USA is one the most drivable countries in the world. Interstates connect every major city, even making most of Alaska accessible to anyone with gas in their car. When it comes to the cities in the USA, each one is very different. Some are bus friendly, some are car friendly, some are subway friendly. The best cities in the USA for a road trip are the ones that are easy to get to via car, have ample parking, and are worth the trip into the city. Which ones meet all of these criteria? Read on to see ten of the best places in the USA to plan a road trip, and see if you agree!
1. Boston. Before the Big Dig tunnel, driving into Boston was a nightmare. Now, it’s a little less of a nightmare. Driving into Boston isn’t for the weak of heart, but taking your car into the city is probably the quickest way to see the city. Parking isn’t always plentiful, but the sights are. Try eating in the famous North End, taking a Boston Harbor Islands cruise, or walk the famous Freedom Trail of historic sites in the city.
2. Seattle. This city was created with driving in mind. Unlike many of the older cities on the east coast that fall victim to poorly laid out highways, Seattle has an excellent highway system to get in and out of the city. Like any major city, you’ll have some traffic, but it’s a piece of cake next to traffic in New York or LA. Highlights of Seattle include Pike’s Place fish market, the Space Needle, and sightseeing cruises through the Seattle Locks.
3. San Diego. California’s southernmost major city fairs a little bit better than it’s metropolis to the north, Los Angeles. Yes, the I-5, I-8, I-15, and I-805 all converge within San Diego city limits, but the 8 lane highways are big enough to accommodate most of the traffic, most of the time. If you’re headed to San Diego, try visiting historic Old Town for authentic California style Mexican cuisine and architecture, the Gaslamp Quarter for the best shopping, and whatever you do, don’t miss the San Diego Zoo, the best zoo in the country.
4. San Francisco. On TV, it seems that San Francisco was made for trolley cars and walking. Spend a day there walking up and down the hills and you’ll realize that you’ll soon become exhausted, or broke from the cab fare! Luckily, if you’re staying San Francisco, most of the hotels have inexpensive parking, and sometimes free parking. If you stay along Fisherman’s Wharf, you can easily walk to most of the attractions along the waterfront.
5. Kansas City. Smack dab in the middle of the USA lies Kansas City, spreading itself over two states and the Missouri River. Nicknamed the city of fountains, Kansas City actually has the most fountains in the world outside of Rome. With a revitalized downtown area, and some of the best BBQ you can find in the country, Kansas City is home to some interesting architecture new, like the American Jazz Museum, and historic, like the Liberty Memorial (which houses the World War I Museum). In terms of drivability, the city couldn’t have been set up any simpler. I-70, I-35, and I-69 all are easy routes that head into the city, while I-435 makes a giant loop around the city.
6. San Antonio. Besides flying into San Antonio, you don’t have many other options to see this inland Texas city. San Antonio is located in the epicenter of Texas, and is a true cross-section of Texan life. As you approach the city from I-10, the sudden shift from rural landscape to major city is abrupt. The city’s lack of a major metropolitan area sets it apart from many other US cities. Heading to the west of the city, the terrain starts to get rockier and more mountainous. Driving into the city is simple, with I-10 heading east-west, and I-35 heading north to south. San Antonio is home to the historic Alamo, and the beautiful Riverwalk area. Most hotels have free or reasonably priced parking. The best way to see the city’s major attractions are by foot, but you can easily navigate the grid-style streets of the city if you need to drive.
7. Portland. One of the most beautiful riverfront cities in America, Portland lies on the banks of the Columbia River and Willamette Rivers in Oregon. The city is known for its fine arts, some of the best art galleries in the country, abundance of microbreweries (they call it “Beertown”), an active bike racing scene, and a booming restaurant scene. While the city has excellent public transportation, you can also easily navigate the backstreets and highways of Portland through the I-5, which heads north towards Vancouver Washington, and south towards coastal Oregon and California. I-84 heads east towards Idaho and Salt Lake City.
8. Denver. Chances are, you don’t live near Denver. That’s precisely why it makes a great road trip destination. Denver isn’t just a great city to stop though, it has some incredible scenery just to the north that make planning a road trip here well worth it. Rocky Mountain National Park, around 52 miles to the northwest, is best seen during the warmer months of the year, when the roads aren’t covered in boulders and snow. At the foot of the Rockies, you can find the booming art town of Boulder, Colorado. Denver itself is home to annual Great American Beer Festival each fall, and has plenty of art museums, clubs, and parks to keep visitors occupied. A road trip to Denver is easy planning. I-70, I-25, and I-76 being the major routes into the city. If you travel to the west of the city on I-70, check your brakes, you’re in for a mountainous journey!
9. Las Vegas. A road trip to Las Vegas might just be the road trip of all road trips. Heading into the secluded, barren landscape that surrounds Las Vegas offers up incredible scenery that seems to wrap itself beyond the horizon. The heat pounds the pavement and produces heat lines (just like you’ve seen in the movies), and the journey seems endless. Without notice, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Las Vegas, if headed north on I-15, tens of miles before you get there. What seems like a dot on the horizon will get bigger and bigger, until you run alongside the famous casinos and towering hotels Vegas is known so well for. It’s next to impossible to get lost in Las Vegas. There’s one major road in, and one out. Once you’re off the highway, you can take the cruise of all cruises, down the Las Vegas Strip. For a truly unforgettable experience, drive the 3.8 mile long strip at night, when the city really comes alive.
10. Salt Lake City. Like Las Vegas, a road trip to Salt Lake City is like an optical illusion. After driving on miles of dry salt beds (Bonneville Salt Flats State Park), heading east on I-80 will run alongside the intriguing Great Salt Lake, and lead to beautiful Salt Lake City. The skyline of Salt Lake City is set strikingly against a backdrop of tall snow-capped mountains. The city itself is sloped, and has an interesting feel unlike any other in the country. The city stays relatively cool all year long, and has some world-famous skiing nearby. You might recognize the city from the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. If you’re staying at any of Salt Lake City’s hotels, parking usually isn’t a problem. However, destinations within the city usually must be driven to, since they are spread far apart.
You’ve probably noticed by now that there aren’t many east coast cities on this list. The east coast has some tremendous sights to see, but many of those are small towns, coastal peninsulas, islands, and hard to navigate cities that were built hundreds of years ago. That makes taking a road trip to cities like New York a little more difficult. The newer cities of the west coast kept driving in mind when the population really started to take off, setting them at a slight advantage for road trip goers.