Right now, summer might seem a long way away. But the winter months are a perfect time to start planning your next summer family road trip. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to book places to see and pick out sightseeing spots.
With the kids out of school and everyone planning some vacation time – even your college students are usually home for the summer – it’s truly the best time of the year to pack up the car and hit the road.
Where are some of the best places to go on a summer vacation road trip? In a reverse of the annual snowbird migration, many of the best drives start or run through the northern U.S. and Canada.
We’ve listed some of the best in both countries that offer great scenery and mild and sunny weather in the summer. All offer a great way to enjoy beautiful landscapes, explore local cultures and have plenty of “together time” with family.
U.S. Summer Road Trips
No matter where you are, a really great summer vacation road trip is not far away.
Pacific Coast Highway
Few road trips offer the scenery of the Pacific Coast Highway, otherwise known as Highway 1, in California. Travel along the western edge of the continent with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. If time is an issue, big one segment. Those include the ride from Big Sur up to Eureka, the trip between Los Angeles north to Santa Barbara or on up to Cayucos. Whatever segment you pick, count on great places for food, fantastic beaches and amazing site seeing.
New Mexico is a great, very different drive. The southwest offers amazing vistas and mountain ranges, from the Davis Mountains in far West Texas (the art community of Marfa is a must-see) to the Guadalupe and Sacramento mountains in New Mexico. Be sure to include a stop at the amazing White Sand Desert, as well as a day spent going through Carlsbad Caverns, one of the most spectacular and unusual National Parks.
Rather than spend a whole vacation at Disney World or the beach – been there and done that – take a road trip down to the Florida Keys, one of the most unusual spots in the country. The road itself is amazing. You’ll pass over long stretches of water between the keys. Once in Key West, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, visit the closest spot in the U.S. to Cuba (or fly there for a day trip) and even drink in the bar (Sloppy Joe’s) where Ernest Hemingway once hung out. You can visit his house, as well, which is now a museum.
The most famous Chicago to Illinois route ever made in America. A drive on Route 66 starts in Chicago and goes 2.278 miles through nine states before ending in California at the famous Santa Monica Pier. The route takes travelers through seven other states in addition to Illinois and California: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. You may want to do only one section of the drive, as a one-way trip takes about 14 days of travel time. The route has classic attractions that include Cadillac Ranch, Catoosa Whale, and Twin Arrows.
Blue Ridge Parkway
This ranks among the most beautiful drives in America. Winding through 469 miles of amazing mountain scenery, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The landscape along the way is unmatched for its beauty. There are plenty of great hiking trails to stop and explore, as well.
Canadian Road Trips
Canada is simply gorgeous. There may be hundreds of places to take a road trip, but the following three are all worth your summer vacation time.
Vancouver to Tofino
This trek through British Columbia features a ride along the Pacific Rim Highway on Vancouver Island. Spectacular views of the ocean, lakes and streams – and maybe the occasional bear – make this trip truly memorable. Along the way, be sure to visit the Coombs Country Market and take a walk through the Cathedral Forest in MacMillan Provincial Park, which features ancient Douglas Fir trees towering overhead.
The Eastern Townships in Quebec provide an excellent road trip and getaway destination – mostly on the more upscale side. There are luxurious hotels for couples, such as the Manoir Hovey in North Hatley, about an hour and half east of Montreal. The road trip itself offers views of countryside that is reminiscent of Tuscany, with beautiful, rolling hills. You’ll also find places to buy local farmers’ raspberries, apples and other produce. There are plenty of “summer colony” type places to visit.
Drives through Alberta offer amazing scenery – some of the best known in the world. A trip west from Calgary takes you to Banff National Park. That’s a location people fly in from around the world to see, but for lucky Canadians and Americans it’s just a road trip drive away. Near Edmonton, you can drive to Jasper National Park. Better yet, drive the Icefields Parkway through both parks and treat yourself to endless views of waterfalls, glaciers, pristine lakes, majestic mountains and beautiful valleys.
So, get in the car, gas it up and go. You’ll never regret a great road trip, especially one with family!