Student Flights


Where to do a road trip in the USA

Published February 10th, 2015

Is there anything more iconic than jumping in a pink Cadillac and driving across the States with your mates? Of course, your epic American road trip doesn’t have to involve a gas guzzler or a cross-country tour, you can choose to cruise a variety of famous roads from coastal trails to historic paths in anything from a pickup truck to a seven-person motorhome, whether you’re got a few days or a few months. These Aussies travelled through the States in a converted school bus! If you’ve got a hankering to hit the highway, put the pedal to the metal and clock up those clichés, here’s where to do a road trip in the USA.


Historic Route 66

Connecting Chicago and Los Angeles, Route 66 is where you can get your kicks on a classic road trip that takes in neon signs, truck stops in the middle of nowhere and all the kitschy-cool Americana you can handle. Once known as the ‘Main Street of America’, the highway was decommissioned in 1984 when the high-speed Interstate highways were completed and is now known as Historic Route 66.



Must-do: Stay at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. A throwback to less-PC times, this is one of the two remaining Wigwam Motels on Route 66.

Must-eat: An ‘Animal Style’ burger at In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, California – the world’s longest running burger drive-thru.

Add to playlist: “Homecoming” – Kanye West & Chris Martin; “A Little Less Conversation” – Elvis Presley; “California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & the Papas


The Oregon Trail

If you want to go from coast to coast, make like the pioneers and go west. The Oregon Trail is 5,415 kilometres long (the longest road in the US) and winds its way from Cape Cod in Massachusetts on the East Coast to Columbia Gorge in Oregon along the US-20. You’ll travel through 11 states and see landmarks like Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls on the New York side.



Must-do: All of the above.

Must-eat: A Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC, a glazed donut at Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston and a Bacon Maple Bar doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland. D’oh!

Add to playlist: “More Than a Feeling” – Boston; “Empire State of Mind” – Jay-Z with Alicia Keys; “Go West” – Pet Shop Boys


The Heartland Tour

Cutting smack-bang through the nation all the way from north to south, US-83 trips 3,000 kilometres from Canada through sprawling farmlands, rolling prairies and epic expanses on the way to Mexico. If you’re after big cities and major attractions, this is not the road trip for you. But if you want the real-deal USA, drive through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.



Must-do: The WesMer Drive-In Theatre – located between the Texas towns of Weslaco and Mercedes on US-83, this is the last operating drive-in on this stretch of the highway. Head here on a Tuesday for $US5 per car for two movies.

Must-eat: The Runza Sandwich cabbage burger at Runza, a Volga German (Russian)-American fast food chain in North Platte, Nebraska. The burger is homemade dough stuffed with beef mince with secret spices, onions and cabbage. Mmmm.

Add to playlist: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole; “Dakota” – Stereophonics; “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes


The West Coast Route

Starting at the tip of Washington State and hugging the West Coast through Oregon and California down to San Diego at the Mexican border, take the 2,400-kilometre, two-lane U.S Highway 101 to go beyond the hype of Cali cities and Northwestern hipster havens. While you’ll get to compare Seattle to Portland and LA to San Fran, be wowed by the ancient forests and coastal scenes on your way.


Chandelier Tree - part of the Avenue of Giants in California.


Must-do: Avenue of the Giants – a historic stretch of the old Highway 101 in Northern California through massive redwood forests where you can drive through trees, on trees, stay in a tree and hug trees (of course).

Must-eat: Mexican! Fill up on stuffed Mexican torta (sandwiches), fish tacos, burritos, frozen margaritas and tequila.

Add to playlist: “California Love” – 2 Pac & Dr Dre; “Smells Like Teen Spirit” - Nirvana; “Dream of the 90s” – Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen


Pink Cadillac + highway = road trip USA!


The Deep South Detour

It’s shorter than the US-20 (by 320 kilometres), but navigating across America’s Deep South throws up a whole different side to the States.  Begin in San Diego, California and drive through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama (incorporating the US-80 - Dixie Overland Highway) to Tybee Island, Georgia. And pack your eating pants – this is barbecue land, y’all!


The French Quarter in New Orleans.


Must-do: Pay your respects to the music greats and go the church for the gospel. Amen.

Must-eat: Duh, barbecue. Or deep-fried chicken. And po’ boys. ALL the comfort food.

Add to playlist: “Love Shack” – B-52s; “Iko Iko” – Belle Stars, “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd


Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.