When we think of great American road trips packed with sights and entertainment, a lot of us tend to look to more remote or rural areas of the country. A lot of people fantasize about full cross-country trips, of course. But there are also appealing visions of touring Pacific highways, rolling through national parks, or even simply journeying through the heartland stopping at legendary restaurants and bizarre roadside attractions.
The East Coast doesn’t always get as much attention, in part because it seems more like a collection of cities than a stretch of highway to be enjoyed. That’s fair enough. But if you’re looking to get some real fun out of a road trip this summer, you might want to give some real thought to a route like Massachusetts to North Carolina. Why? Because you can start and end at famous beaches and hit a lot of entertaining spots along the way.
Here’s a rough outline to think about.
We mentioned starting and ending at famous beaches, and Cape Cod is full of them. You won’t find a much more idyllic spot in the U.S. than Cape Cod in the early summer, which makes it a great spot to spend a weekend before launching your road trip. There are actually several beaches to choose from, but you may want to see where you can find the most appealing property to rent for a few days. The whole area has a way of relaxing you, whether you’re taking long walks at sunset or pigging out on some of the local oysters and lobsters at the nearest seafood shack.
Boston & Fenway Park
Going from Cape Cod to Boston actually takes you a bit north, but it’s still a logical progression in this road trip—just an hour or so northwest on Route 3. Meanwhile, you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate Fenway Park in the summertime. One of the few truly historic ballparks remaining in the U.S., it’s a landmark you’ll be glad to see. Unless the Yankees are in town tickets can be fairly affordable, and you’ll get to enjoy one of the most charming sporting venues in the country.
You can make it to New York City mostly on I-95 down from Boston, and you can do it in a morning. Passing through Connecticut there’s a lot to see and do, particularly for history buffs, but at that point you may be in a hurry to make it to the Big Apple. In Manhattan, it’s impossible to recommend one attraction over another. One suggested plan is to bypass the city at first and find somewhere to park in Jersey City or Hoboken. If you do this the traffic is easier, and you can find a train right into lower Manhattan. From there you can get a look at the new (and stunning) World Trade Center before setting out to explore the city. If you haven’t been to New York before, you might want to set a few days aside, because there’s just too much to see and do to spend only a day there.
A quick drive down the Garden State Parkway gets you to Atlantic City, which is naturally a haven for casino enthusiasts. New Jersey is pretty interesting in this regard in that it also now allows for real money online gaming, too. You can access some of the bigger online casino sites that provide a full range of gaming options, so long as your location is recognized as being in Jersey. That’s made the in-person casino business a little nervous, but Atlantic City is still an impressive attraction. It’s not quite Vegas, but you’ll be able to find some legitimate casino resorts where you can gamble, relax, or do whatever else you’d like. It’s a nice way to unwind after a couple days in New York.
Baltimore & Captain James Crabhouse
It’s tempting to skip Baltimore and get to the nation’s capital, but you should absolutely make your way into this city—at least for a meal. Baltimore is known in particular for its crab shacks right on the Patapsco River, and one to keep in mind as you plan your trip is the Captain James Crabhouse. It’s a humble place, but it’s right on the waterfront, and it’s a great spot to load up on delicious fresh crab.
Just a short distance down I-95 from Baltimore you’ll reach D.C. Like New York, it’s too packed with attractions for any one thing to be recommended. A lot of people would recommend parking wherever you’re going to be staying and touring the city on foot. One of the really amazing things about D.C. is how accessible the main monuments and memorials are, and you really can see most everything just by ambling around at your own pace.
North Carolina Outer Banks
From D.C., you can drive a few more hours down I-95 and then 64 before you start to get to the beach highways near Norfolk and Virginia Beach. A brief stop there can be worthwhile, but the end destination for this road trip ought to be the North Carolina Outer Banks. Coming from the north, you’ll reach the Outer Banks between Duck and Kitty Hawk, and from there it’s your pick of outstanding beaches to finish up at. Though it’s worth noting that a few more hours south (and after a ferry ride), you can reach Ocracoke Island, which has been ranked as one of the best beaches in the U.S.. Be sure to stop by Cape Hatteras to see the famous lighthouse, which is also the tallest brick lighthouse structure in the United States.