Best Summer Road Trips from Major American Cities

Escape to mountains, lakes, beach, and desert. You can also escape to small towns.

Looking to get away this summer? Travel is a popular pastime every summer, but with months of lockdowns and stay-home orders confining Americans to their homes due to the pandemic, many people are more ready than ever for a change of scenery.

Here are six great summer road trip destinations just a few hours outside the urban hustle and bustle.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Atlanta

Atlanta has so much to do, but sometimes you just want to get out of the city and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer! Or possibly, like us you’re an RVer and can’t locate a decent campground within 50 miles.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon

Distance from Atlanta: 83 miles

Oh, Macon! Home to a downtown area that’s got so much to do! Visit Amerson River Park and walk the paths while watching the kayakers paddle by on the Ocmulgee River. A visit to the Ocmulgee National Monument is a must-do, take a hike or bike the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or spend the day on Lake Tobesofkee.

Ashton Villa, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Houston

America’s fourth-largest city is a cosmopolitan destination filled with world-class dining, arts, entertainment, shopping, and outdoor recreation. Take a stroll through the historic Heights, spend the day exploring the Museum District, or head down to Space Center Houston.

Galveston State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston Island

Distance from Houston: 50 miles

Come to the island to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Or come to the island to go fishing or look for coastal birds. No matter what brings you here, you’ll find a refuge at Galveston Island State Park. Just an hour from Houston, but an island apart!

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix

Begin your adventure in the capital city of the 48th state known for year-round sunny skies and reliably warm temperatures. Phoenix is the epicenter of a sprawling metro area (the country’s 5th most populated) known as the Valley of the Sun. You’ll find dozens of top-notch golf courses, scores of hiking and biking trails, and the well-regarded, family-friendly Papago Park and adjacent Desert Botanical Gardens.

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prescott

Distance from Phoenix: 100 miles

A Western history lover’s sweet spot, mile-high Prescott is home to more than 700 homes and businesses listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as museums that tell their stories. Stroll along Whiskey Row where saloons thrive alongside shops, galleries, eateries, and antique venues.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to renowned museums, diverse experiences, 75 miles of sunny coastline, and hundreds of miles of bike and hiking trails. LA’s cultural attractions include the Space Shuttle Endeavour, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, and art galleries. No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Hollywood, the home of movie studios, many of L.A.’s most popular and historic tourist destinations, and its world-famous namesake boulevard.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park 

Distance from Los Angeles: 130 miles

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazingly diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. Explore the desert scenery, granite monoliths (popular with rock climbers), petroglyphs from early Native Americans, old mines, and ranches. The park provides an introduction to the variety and complexity of the desert environment and a vivid contrast between the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts that range in elevation from 900 feet to 5,185 feet at Keys View. 

Amish Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chicago

Chicago is a city unlike any other. There are a few things you need to do like eat a Chicago style hot dog, see “The Bean,” and take a river boat cruise. Located on the south bank of the Chicago River, the Riverwalk stretches 1.25 miles from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Chicago’s nearly 600 parks and 26 miles of lakefront make it easy to enjoy the great outdoors in the middle of the city. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll find there’s no other place like Chicago.

Shipshewanna Outdoor Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amish Country

Distance from Chicago: 110 miles

Northern Indiana is home to nearly 20,000 Amish, a culture that remains true to centuries-old traditions. A few days in Amish country will introduce you to delicious made-from-scratch meals, amazing craftsmanship, delightful theater works, tons of shopping, and horse-drawn carriage rides. You can take in the amazing works as you drive the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail. Shipshewanna is home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor seasonal flea market where 700 vendors cover 40 acres of land selling everything from home decor and clothing to plants and tools. Take care when driving—buggies travel well under the speed limit.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Washington, DC

Beyond the traditional D.C. attractions—the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, the monuments—you’ll find fresh food and cultural events. You can peruse a farmers market and take in the scenery from the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Plan to spend some time along the Tidal Basin, a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River and serves as the backdrop to some of D.C.’s best-loved sites.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park

Distance from Washington, DC: 75 miles

Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a land bursting with cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, fields of wildflowers, and quiet wooded hollows. With over 200,000 acres of protected lands that are haven to deer, songbirds, and black bear, there’s so much to explore. The Skyline Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the US at any time of the year but especially during autumn. The picturesque 105-mile road travels through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where 75 overlooks welcome visitors to take in panoramic views of the Shenandoah wilderness.

Worth Pondering…

I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.

—Steve McQueen, actor

Absolutely Best Road Trips from Atlanta

There are so many fun road trips to take from Atlanta

We know COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is impacting RV travel plans right now. For a little inspiration we’ll continue to share stories from our favorite places so you can keep daydreaming about your next adventure.

Atlanta has so much to do, but sometimes you just want to get out of the city and explore what the surrounding areas have to offer! Or possibly, like us you’re an RV and can’t locate a decent campground within 50 miles.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a little road trip bucket list with mini itineraries for a variety of interest. Best of all, you won’t even need to be on the road that long: we’re talking three-hour drives, tops. These places are all perfect for a day trip from Atlanta or as a means of avoiding the Metro area altogether.

South of the City

Head down south from the city, and get your fill of small towns, beautiful gardens, a train, and maybe even an indoor water park.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon

Distance from Atlanta: 83 miles

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oh, Macon! Home of the Cherry Blossom Festival and all things PINK! Macon is home to a downtown area that’s got so much to do. Visit Amerson River Park and walk the paths while watching the kayakers paddle by on the Ocmulgee River. A visit to the Ocmulgee National Monument is a must-do, take a hike or bike the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, or spend the day on Lake Tobesofkee.

North of the City

Head north for beautiful mountain hikes, waterfalls, awesome views, or to visit a Bavarian village.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen

Distance from Atlanta: 92 miles

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive north to the town of Helen and you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country—Germany to be exact. There are so many outdoor adventures to participate in while you’re visiting the Bavarian village of Helen. And they also have amazing restaurants, and the best little downtown shops too. Tubing the Chattahoochee in Helen is a great way to cool off from the Georgia heat. Try even more adventure with a ride on the new Georgia Mountain Coaster.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is so much great hiking nearby, but a favorite is Anna Ruby Falls. You’ll find a paved trail to the viewing platforms that get you so close to the falls, and the picnic area along the river is the best place for lunch. Visit a nearby state park, take a carriage ride through downtown, or visit the city during one of their extraordinary events, like Oktoberfest or Christmas in Helen. This town has it all.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brasstown Bald

Distance from Atlanta: 102 miles

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head on up—and I mean UP—to the highest point in the state with a visit to Brasstown Bald in northeast Georgia. This favorite of ours is located near Blairsville, and you can take a shuttle or take the steep but short hike (.06 miles) to the observation tower. It’s paved and has a huge payoff at the end. At the tower, you can take in the 360 degree views atop the 4,784-foot bald—and maybe even see four states.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blairsville

Distance from Atlanta: 116 miles

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 2 hours north of Atlanta, you’ll find Blairsville—an outdoor lover’s paradise! Blairsville is home to Brasstown Bald, Lake Nottely, Sleepy Hollow Fairy Gardens, Helton Creek Falls, Vogel State Park, and Blood Mountain.

Out of State

Chattanooga and Tennessee River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: 117 miles

Incline Railway at Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just over the Georgia border, Chattanooga has something for everyone. Here outdoor adventures abound along with amazing BBQ pits, and a thriving downtown area with community events throughout the year. Chattanooga has an aquarium, a minor league baseball team, an incline railway, beautiful river views, Ruby Falls—plus, you can see Rock City while you’re in town.

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greenville, South Carolina

Distance from Atlanta: 145 miles

Greenville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly things to do, wonderful eateries, or just a new place to unwind—Greenville is that place. Greenville is home to Falls Park—a nature lover’s paradise. You can walk to it from downtown and it’s a great place to explore and spend the day. Speaking of the downtown area—it’s great with numerous restaurants and shops. Greenville is a just a really pedestrian-friendly city.

Clingman Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Distance from Atlanta: 162 miles

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take the 3-hour trip on up to the Cherokee, North Carolina entrance of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and you’ll spend your whole day happy. There is truly so much to see and do, you could make daily trips up there for a year and still find new things to explore.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check out the Oconaluftee Visitor Center 2 miles north of Cherokee, and explore the Mountain Farm Museum to see what life was like in the mountains long ago. Hike one of the trails—you’ve got 800 miles of them to choose from. Take a driving tour of the park. Bike! Go fishing! Bring a picnic! Observe animals! There is so much to do.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael