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Summer on the Open Road: 4 Great Road Trips

By Lee Michael Katz

  • Summer is the perfect time for a road trip — but choosing where to go can be the hardest part. Here are some trip ideas your family will love.

    It's summer and the open road beckons. You're finally able to escape the pressures of work, and the kids are off from school and itching for adventure.

    Where can you and your family drive to get away from your daily routine and experience something new? Here are suggestions for a classic American road trip.

    Lobster Land to Alligator Alley: Historic Route 1 from Maine to Florida. Route 1 — opened in 1926 when Model-T Fords still occupied the road — stretches more than 2,000 miles along the East Coast. From the rocky shores of Maine to the sultry Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border, with the bustling metropolises of Boston, New York, Washington and Miami in between, this historic roadway offers something for nature-lovers and city enthusiasts alike.

    Travelers along this route can see coins made at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and sneak in a history lesson at the Liberty Bell. For a change of pace, stop off at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina — racing's original super speedway. You can find dining, shopping and accommodation recommendations at HistoricRouteOne.com.

    Take a 100th-Birthday Trip: The Lincoln Highway, Coast to Coast. This route was built a century ago to link New York City's Times Square with San Francisco. At the end of June, fans of the highway will travel to Kearney, Neb., where the Lincoln Highway Association will celebrate the road's 100th birthday.

    If you're departing from California, the highway takes you across the state's agricultural Central Valley, and winds through the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains and Donner Pass. Then it enters the deserts of Nevada and ventures past the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Or you can start in the East, among the glittering signs of Times Square, and follow the Lincoln Highway toward the more serene Midwest.

    "The good parts of the Lincoln Highway drive are in places like Iowa, where you do get that home-spun Americana," says Jamie Jensen, writer of the popular Road Trip USA Facebook travel blog and author of the book of the same name,

    Explore the Lincoln Highway Association's interactive map to help you plan your trip.

    Water, Water Everywhere: The Overseas Highway in Southern Florida. This 127-mile trip is unlike any other in the continental U. S., transporting you from the Everglades to Key West on Route 1, linking mainland Florida through the Florida Keys over a series of bridges on a spectacular ocean view drive.

    Jensen likens the feel of this trip to sailing the Caribbean — instead of driving on a highway. Switch drivers along the way so everyone can safely enjoy the breathtaking sights.

    The ramshackle outdoor restaurants en route offer both charm and fresh-caught seafood. There's even an undersea lodge in Key Largo named after adventure writer Jules Verne. This fully functional research facility offers overnight accommodations that allow visitors to experience life under the sea.

    The highway ends at Key West, known for its quirky lifestyle and famous key lime pie. Devotees of author Ernest Hemingway and singer Jimmy Buffett can see their idols' hangouts. Go down to the pier marking the southernmost point in the continental U.S. and enjoy the famed Key West end-of-the-road sunset.

    Clam Shacks, Beaches and Colonial Crafts: A Drive Down Cape Cod, Mass. With miles of beaches, nautical knickknacks galore and lobster and clam shacks on every corner, the trip down Cape Cod to Provincetown is never short of things to do and see.

    Drive past scenic villages along the bay side, or the beautiful dune lands of the Outer Cape's national seashore and the bustling resorts that face Nantucket Sound.

    You can visit historic homes dating to the 17th century, or stop for tasty lobster rolls and breathe in the invigorating salt air. Visit funky art galleries in Chatham and Provincetown — or stop in Sandwich at Heritage Museums and Gardens, a 100-acre estate with sculptures, gardens and nature trails that also includes Hidden Hollow, an area where kids can interact with and learn about nature.

    Savor your trip. There are many exciting things to discover along the way — this is easy to forget when you're focused on reaching a destination. And the fun of getting there doesn't have to be limited to long journeys. Driving cross-country can be the trip of a lifetime, but even driving a few hours from home can refresh and recharge your outlook.