There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road and exploring the beauty of America. With so many stunning landscapes and diverse regions to explore, it can be tough to decide where to start your road trip. Here are some of the best states in the US for taking a road trip:
- California: From the stunning Pacific Coast Highway to the iconic Route 66, California is a road tripper’s paradise. With its sunny weather, diverse landscapes, and world-renowned attractions, California has something for everyone.
- Colorado: With its majestic mountains, winding roads, and breathtaking vistas, Colorado is a must-see for any road trip enthusiast. From the Rocky Mountains to the Great Sand Dunes, there is no shortage of natural beauty to explore.
- Arizona: From the Grand Canyon to Sedona’s red rocks, Arizona is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the country. With its warm weather and iconic Route 66, Arizona is the perfect destination for a classic American road trip.
- Oregon: With its rugged coastline, winding roads, and quaint towns, Oregon is a road tripper’s dream. From the Columbia River Gorge to the Oregon Coast, there is no shortage of natural beauty to explore.
- Utah: With its national parks, stunning landscapes, and winding roads, Utah is a paradise for road trippers. From Arches National Park to Zion National Park, there is no shortage of stunning vistas to explore.
Can’t Miss Roadside Attractions
Although many distinctive destinations have since shuttered their doors for good, there are still plenty of roadside oddities waiting to be explored by curious travelers. If you’re looking for big fun on your next road trip, set your GPS to include these extra-large roadside attractions.
The World’s Tallest Thermometer
On July 10, 1913, the temperature peaked at a whopping 134 degrees in Death Valley, California, which according to the Guiness Book of World Records is the highest temperature ever recorded on earth. To commemorate that scorching day, Bun Boy owner Willis Herron spent $700,000 in 1991 to build a thermometer next to his restaurant in nearby Baker, California. Of course, no regular-sized thermometer would be good enough for such a monumental record. Herron hired a sign company to create a towering thermometer—134 feet tall—in honor of the blistering heat record.
Soon after workmen placed the giant gauge in place, giant winds crumpled the tower into a giant twisted mess. Herron rebuilt. Two years later high wind gusts again teetered the tower so much that the base cracked and light bulbs popped out. Herron, however, would not deprive sightseers of the chance for photo ops in front of the soaring thermometer. He added concrete and steel reinforcements to secure the monument’s base in the ground, and its place in history.
The World’s Tallest Thermometer is located near Interstate 15 in Southern California’s Mojave Desert. Check out the gift shop and be sure to snap a selfie with this roadside icon.
The World’s Largest Elephant (you can walk in)
Margate, New Jersey
If you were alive in the 1880s, you had the chance to witness some of history’s most dramatic engineering achievements. You could have picnicked on the banks of New York’s East River to watch workers put the final touches on the Brooklyn Bridge. You could have watched crews set in place the Washington Monument capstone to create the world’s tallest structure (a title it proudly held until the Eiffel Tower—at nearly twice the height—entered the scene and crushed the record). Or you could have strolled along the South Jersey shoreline to see Lucy, a 65-foot-tall elephant keeping watch over the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Bridges and towers were great landmarks for other cities, but real estate speculator James Lafferty, Jr. chose the giant wooden elephant to be the centerpiece of his plan to attract tourists and potential property buyers.
At the time, the party was just beginning for Atlantic City. The resort city now known for its casinos, beaches, and boardwalks started as a little health resort isolated between marshlands and islands. The only way to reach its hotels, restaurants, and tourist shops was by railroad, which soon began delivering more than 500,000 visitors each year.
Lafferty owned land about five miles south of Atlantic City. To promote his real estate business and lure potential buyers to the rows of sandy lots dotted with dune grass, he built the colossal pachyderm to house his office. Lafferty would lead visitors up the 130 steps to the ornate carriage on Lucy’s back to show off the incredible seaside views. He would describe the benefits and luxuries of waterfront living and when he sensed he had piqued his guests’ interest, would move to his desk in the belly of the beast to try to seal the deal.
Lafferty spent $38,000 to build Lucy (a sum worth about $850,000 today). Although she was a popular visitor attraction, Lucy failed to produce land buyers for her owner. Lafferty sold the massive elephant building a few years later to cover his debt and died soon after that.
Over the years Lucy has been a doctor’s office, a private home, and even a tavern. She survived hurricanes and a devastating fire (started by drunken tavern customers). In 1974, new owners relocated Lucy to her current address and raised money to restore her to her original majesty. Lucy became a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and is one of the oldest surviving roadside attractions.
No matter where you choose to go on your road trip, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for any situation. Be sure to bring a map, plenty of water and snacks, and a reliable car with good tires and brakes. With these tips and some careful planning, you can hit the open road and explore the beauty of America in style.
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