Where to Plan a Road Trip this Spring
Now that we’ve sprung forward, we’re ready to shake off the winter blues and hit the open road. From a great American cross-country adventure to a flower-filled drive through Europe, these are the road trips to plan for this spring.
Charlotte to Asheville, North Carolina
Fly into Charlotte—North Carolina’s main hub—and rent a car to start your two-hour journey to Asheville. Sure, it’s a short one, but once you get closer to the city, you can detour through the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure to stop at the Biltmore, a gorgeous estate designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. In the spring, its manicured gardens bloom with tulips, peonies and lilacs. Asheville has serious culinary cred, so please, ditch the road snacks and instead tuck into pan con tomate and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) at Curate, a tapas bar opened by el Bulli-trained chef and Asheville native Katie Button. Or there’s Rhubarb, where you can feast on crispy pig head with gribiche and smoked egg yolk, as well as wood-grilled Mongolian-barbecued lamb ribs with collard green kimchi prepared by John Fleer, a three-time James Beard nominee. Don’t leave the city without having a pint at one of the 18 craft breweries (Asheville’s nickname is the “Napa Valley of beer")—we love Wicked Weed’s charming patio and choice of 21 suds.
Sorrento to Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Italy
If you were to drive it straight, this route along one of the world’s most iconic coasts would take only three hours. But, trust us, you’re going to want to stop in each town along the way—at least for a photo op, if not for plates of fresh pasta and a dip in the cerulean sea. Start in Sorrento, the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and take the road less traveled to the southern town of Nerano. Here you can have an al fresco lunch of freshly caught shrimp, clamps and sea urchin at Lo Scoglio, which hovers above Marina del Cantone’s sleepy harbor. Next stop: Positano. It’s not hard to see why this legendary fishing village draws so many tourists—so we suggest escaping the crowds at Le Sirenuse, an ultra-luxe hotel with sweeping Mediterranean views. On your way to Praiano, Amalfi and Ravello, be prepared for the vertigo-inducing switchbacks and narrow lanes. It’s worth braving it though for Praiano’s Il Pirata restaurant (snag a seaside table), Amalfi’s artisanal shops (coral jewelry, painted ceramics, and handmade stationery all make great souvenirs), plus Ravello’s mountaintop villas like Belmond Hotel Caruso, which is housed in an 11th-century palace.
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Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon
The Pacific Northwest has so many natural wonders, we’ve practically lost count. There’s the rugged coastline, mossy rainforests, snow-capped mountains… the list goes on. To make the most of the jaw-dropping terrain, skip the highway for a long route heading west from Seattle and up around Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on Highway 101 (the northern extension of California’s legendary PCH). Can’t-miss spots include Hurricane Ridge, which has alpine trails covered in purple and blue wildflowers come spring, Sol Duc Falls, and the crystal-clear Lake Quinault (keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of bald eagles). And we mustn’t forget the oceanside—Ruby Beach offers unspoiled sunset views, and just across the border in Oregon, Cannon Beach is an artsy enclave on a foggy, windswept stretch. End the journey in hipster-haven Portland for a fun city escape from nature.
Route 12, Utah
Watch the iconic Thelma & Louise and we dare you to not want to drive through the American Southwest. Get a taste of your own adventure on the 124-mile Route 12, where you’ll pass twisted limestone hoodoo towers at Bryce Canyon National Park, and nearly two million acres of Crayola-bright cliffs at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. For one of the most picture-perfect vistas of the mountain peaks and plateau, stop at the Homestead Overlook. You won’t regret it.
Los Angeles to Ojai, California
A quick 90-minute jaunt from LA, this California Shangri-la has all the essentials: palm tree-dotted landscapes, Spanish Revival architecture and a low-key culture. Recharge with a mud cleanse or an outdoor yoga class at the Mission-style Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which overlooks the rolling green Topatopa Mountains. For lunch, try the garden fresh plates at Suzanne’s Cuisine or the Mexican-inspired dishes at Farmer and the Cook, where the organic ingredients are grown at the owners’ 16-acre farm. The Ojai Farmers’ Market (open Sundays) is the place to score regional gourmet goodies—get yours to go and have a picnic while watching the sunset from Meditation Mount.
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Bloemen Route, Netherlands
The most colorful road trip in the world is hands-down the Bloemen route. The Netherlands byway has fields of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils as far as the eye can see. Start in Haarlem, 12 miles west of Amsterdam, where you can admire floral paintings by Dutch Masters at the Frans Hals Museum, one of the country's top small galleries. Lisse is an appropriate follow-up to visit the Keukenhof Garden, a 70-acre plot that showcases the talents of Dutch gardeners with indoor and outdoor displays made from more than seven million bulbs. And don’t leave without touring the 17th-century castle just opposite. In Leiden, explore the botanical garden and the De Valk Windmill Museum, then finish in Naaldwijk, where the town's huge flower auction offers guided tours, centered around the peak months of April and May.
Washington D.C. to Charlottesville, Virginia
Kick off this East Coast adventure during the Cherry Blossom Festival, when the capital and all its historic sites are surrounded by the blooming pink buds. After taking a billion instagrams, hop in the car and head to Charlottesville, just three hours away. Nestled in one of Virginia’s top wine regions, this quaint Colonial town is known for its history—especially with its former presidential residents, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. While the latter’s Monticello estate undergoes renovations (to be opened early next year), spend the time instead at the Historic Downtown Mall, a brick pedestrian center in the heart of C-ville. It’s a foodie’s paradise thanks to the Spanish small plates at Mas Tapas, Southern soul food at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, and upscale French cuisine at Fleurie Restaurant. And remember we mentioned vino? You can taste local vintages at the more than 20 wineries in the area, including Barboursville, Pippin Hill and White Hall.
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