Don’t have time to read through a month worth of articles? Check out this Best of list for the entire trip.
Twenty-three states in twenty-nine days and about 9,000 miles made up one amazing road trip during the Summer of 2014. Here’s a list of my favorite stops along the way:
Best City: Charleston, South Carolina
When I first arrived in Charleston the rain was pouring down so hard that I thought I wouldn’t get to see more than flooded streets. The skies cleared for a mere three hours, but even this short amount of time was enough to push this city to the top of the list. Take a stroll down the streets and admire the mansions, iron work, gardens, twisted oak and towering palm trees. Walk along the river, relax in a park, or buy yourself a freshly made ice cream or block of fudge so thick it looks like pound cake. Charleston is the quintessential city of southern charm.
Best Beach: Pensacola, Florida
Soft white sands, clear blue waters, sand dollars as large as your hand, multi-colored shells, and plenty of space to call your own, Pensacola Beach Florida is the ultimate destination for any beach lover.
Best Hike: Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Even though I didn’t make it to the peak where angels land, I can say without a doubt that this was the most beautiful hike of my trip. It is strenuous from the start as you wind up a steep switchback, but the views get more magical with each step. The latter portion of the trail involves scaling up the side of the mountain with the help of iron chains. Do what you can, it’s well worth the effort, even if you don’t make it all the way to the top.
Best Sunset: Sedona, Arizona
A good friend told me that Arizona has the most beautiful sunsets in the US. After seeing this one in Sedona I can’t imagine otherwise. Head up Airport Road and be on the look out for a small lot to the left. Get there early to find a spot, then hike up the rocks to the highest point and you’ll not only witness the beauty of a southwestern sunset, but you’ll also be sitting on top of one of Sedona’s famed vortexes.
Best Waterfall: Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls is the second largest waterfall in the US (after Niagara of course.) Visit in the day to enjoy the soft mist as you hike down toward the blue pools or stay for the night and hope to catch a glimpse of the moonbow (a rainbow that appears only in the moonlight under the right conditions.)
Best Park: City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
Who would have guessed that the best park could be located just miles outside of the center of a town famed for its parties? City Park, New Orleans was a true hidden gem and well worth the visit if you’re in town. Miles of walking and biking trails, canoe rentals, a gentle pond home to ducks and swans, palm trees, twisted moss draped oak trees, a story-book character themed adventure park for kids, mini-golf, regular golf courses, tennis, the city museum, and a free outdoor sculpture park. Pack anything more into this urban paradise and it would be a city of its own.
Best Art: Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you are an art lover or collector, you must add Santa Fe, New Mexico to your destination bucket list. Every inch of the town’s center is a form of art. From the posh art galleries that line the length of the mile long Canyon Road, to the center of town filled with stores selling jewelry, paintings, basketry, hand-crafts, and every other art form you can imagine. Street salesmen with makeshift cloths laid out on the sidewalks to beautifully carved metalwork bus stop overhangs. You don’t have to be a millionaire to window shop. Invite yourself into the free art galleries and stare in awe at the local talent.
Best Museum: The Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
I was left stunned and shaken after taking a walk through the United States Holocaust Museum. Though pictures are not allowed indoors, you won’t forget this powerful experience. From the ride up the elevator made to resemble a gas chamber to the fourth floor filled with exhibits chronicling the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. The museum continues on down three stories and features not only moving quotations, historical passages, artifacts, and videos, but you’ll also walk through one of the train cars used to transport Jews to concentration camps, over cobblestone streets that lined the camps, and past piles of shoes taken from victims. There’s no admission fee to the museum and no reason not to make this a stop if you’re headed to D.C..
Best Radio Stations: Arkansas
I realize this is a little silly to add to the list, after all, Arkansas didn’t even get an article of its own, but the radio here was worth mentioning. Arkansas was a gateway between Oklahoma and New Orleans and I was determined to get through it as quickly as possible. Lucky for me, the awesome radio stations made it easy to extend my drive well past my usual six hours. I was lucky enough to begin my drive on a Sunday morning where I enjoyed the soulful sounds of gospel music. You don’t have to be a regular church goer to be moved to raise your hands to the Lord from these powerful voices. When the services ended, I was happy to hear three different rock stations broken into time periods– the 50s, 60s, and 70s made up one station and the 80s, 90s, and today another. A third played a mix of the half-century worth of music. I drove through Little Rock, Bill Clinton’s home town, and enjoyed his favorite jazz music along the way. This state has something for everyone and no annoying static to get in the way.
Best Adventure: Climbing Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona
Sedona was the ultimate destination for my road trip and it did not disappoint. My first day in town I shut off my GPS and allowed my intuition to guide me. Where did I end up? At the top of Cathedral Rock home to one of the city’s vortexes. Even if you don’t believe in all hype about the energy centers of the earth, the views from the top are stunning and well worth the scale up the side of the mountain.
Is there something else you were hoping would make the list? Want to know more about another destination? Just ask or comment below.