Grand Canyon

Travel Guide: Places to See When Driving Coast to Coast in the United States

Living is all about experience. There are types that live in the moment and there are others who live by planning. Sometimes, I picture just standing up and walking away and driving to see everything there is to see. For example, a cross-country road trip sounds amazing right now. So, if you need some inspiration about what to do this summer, look no further. From the east coast to the west coast there is a lot to do. In order to cover it all, let’s get on our way.

Starting Coasts

Driving across the country is an experience many people think about. But depending on where you are located, where do you start? This is especially difficult to answer when located in the middle of the country. And that both coasts are surrounded by water, so starting with a beach does not help.

Since I live on the east coast and I’m currently writing this blog, it would make the most sense to start on the East Coast and work our way west. We have lots of ground to cover and many places to explore. So our first stop will be in Maine.

Arcadia National Park, Maine

Arcadia National Park off the coast of Maine
Source: National Park Service

First up is Arcadia National Park in Maine. This park is in the middle of the Coast of Maine. There is lots to do on this trip. So, I think starting out with a calming park is the right way to go.  If, for this vacation, you want to stay overnight in some place, you can. There are cabins a little way outside the park for a more relaxing type of camping feel. Arcadia for the summer has a shuttle to take people to it, but don’t miss the opportunity to bring your car! Unfortunately, there is a $25 parking fee but there is a nice scenic road to drive up to it which seems like a nice trade.

The road itself is 27 miles long, which allows tours (just not in the winter). Tours can last for a few hours or you can go by bike and there is around 45 miles worth of land to explore. Also, to gain something a little more than just a new perspective on Maine, educational classes are held. These programs run through the summer and get groups together for hikes, children’s classes and at night there are concerts. All in all, Arcadia National Park is a great starting location on our trip across-country, where we can take nice scenic hikes and see what life is like in Maine.

California Coast Highway

Big Sur
Credit: Getty Images

California is a very big state, making it hard to cover all of its ground. One thing that I believe would be cool would be driving along the entire coast highway would be very entertaining! It stretches all along the Pacific Coast of California, from top to bottom. So, this could be the ending or starting point of the trip depending on where you want to go. But, this will take up a lot of time, since there is so much to do and explore in the Golden State.

What to do along the coast

There is the obvious answer of going to all the different beaches, but there is so much more. Running a little longer than 650 miles, you are guaranteed to find something for anyone to do. Whether it is going out for a night on the town, or trying to find the best photo opportunity, you will be able to find something for you.

There are many historic places in California, from San Jose, Hollywood, San Diego and so on. All of these are along or near the Pacific Coast, making them all likely stops. There is one section between San Francisco and Los Angeles which is central California, there is so much to experience within this section.

Monarch Butterfly Cove, Central Coast

If I did not write about this I would never have been able to forgive myself. Butterflies are a symbol of rebirth, which is why people are so attracted to them. There is a place near Pismo beach, California which is an attraction for Monarch

Monarch Grove found on the Pacific Coast
Source: Experience Pismo Beach

Butterflies. It seems like a once in a lifetime experience for those who are as in love with butterflies as I am. Ashika Raghavan talks about it in her blog and other things to go do in central California. Read on here.

Los Angeles, California

You can not travel to California without stopping in Los Angeles. It would be the closest thing to a travel crime. If there was such a thing. Yes, there are beaches to see and swim in, but there are shops, museums to visit. And, of course, you may be able to spot a local celebrity or two. This makes it the perfect place to start the trip (it would get the excitement going). Or it gives you something to look forward to at the end of your trip.

It does depend on the person, I think I would definitely end in California. There is so much history within this city and its location makes it a great place to visit year round. Next to New York City, Los Angeles is a close second in being a very busy city. So, if you love being immersed in culture, film, and people, this city is definitely going to need to be on your list of places to visit when you start (or end) your journey across the country).

From East to West Coast

Even though I have given two viable options for starting points, this blog will follow the trail from the east to the west. However, feel free to flip the itinerary and go from the west to the east coast either way works!

New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire
Source: Lake Winnipesaukee website

Right off of Maine is New Hampshire, which is not a place lots of people think of visiting. Though it is such a beautiful state. Here we will stop at the largest lake in the whole state. Just to break up the beach coastlines. Lakes are a different type of relaxation.

I would not take you anywhere but the best spots in our stops. So, for our landmark in New Hampshire, it is the largest lake in the whole state, Lake Winnipesukee. Something that could be done here besides having a nice day lying in the water is driving all around it. This way, you can really get a sense of how big the lake actually is. The drive takes you in a complete loop through mountains and right along the water. All together, it would take about 2 hours. So, even if you do not want to spend the day here, it can be a nice little pitstop.

West Virginia

To breakup coasts and shorelines, we are finally moving inland. At the surface level, I think people overlook West Virginia. They think that there is not much to do. They are sadly mistaken.

Seneca Cavers
Source: Flickr

While we are traveling to the west coast, our stop in West Virginia will lead us to the Seneca Caverns. Up until now, we’ve been enjoying the water and relaxing. Here we can actually do a little bit more.

Due to the pandemic, the caverns have been closed, but now they are starting to open up and this could easily be an activity for you. You can take a tour of the caverns, you can even bring a group! You’ll be able to see the beautiful foundations the caverns created and the guide will help teach you about the important places within. There are also restaurants to visit nearby and you can even do gemstone mining! This sounds like such an adventure and is worth the stop on the journey.

Chicago Cubs

From West Virginia, I’m going to take you the north route. Also, we will be taking a break from the beautiful landscapes we have been seeing. We have now reached a more urban setting that you can take advantage of. The most obvious place to visit would be Wringley Field and see a game. And that is exactly what we will be doing. But, if you are not a baseball fan, there are plenty of other things to do around the city.

There is nothing that can compare to the feeling of going to a baseball game when it’s nice outside. But going to a stadium where the people are just as big fans. Not to mention the food. Even if watching the game is not your thing, one can just have a tour of the stadium and experience it differently than normal.

Missouri

Growing up, there was only the east coast and the west coast. Everything in between was just to fill space for our manifest destiny.  So far I have noticed my lack of landmarks within this guide. So, between Chicago and our next stop, I think we are due a nice landmark stop.

Nearing the pacific coast, we stop at the gateway arch
Soruce: National Park Service

The Gateway Arch is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson. It was also named after him. Until it was renamed to the Gateway Arch. It also represents inclusivity and the vision of  the United States, since Thomas Jefferson was the person who enabled the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the size of the country.

There is never much going on in Missori (if you say it enough, it starts to sound like misery). But this makes it a nice place for a quick stop. You can see the Gateway Arch. Usually there are tram rides to the top of the arch, though for awhile this was not the case, but things are starting to look up. This is a great place to stop and rest for a quick day due to our next stop.

Grand Canyon

When traveling from coast to coast, there is one obvious stop. The Grand Canyon. If you were not expecting this, then I am very happy to be able to surprise you. So, for time purposes, there are other places that could be stopped along the journey but really do make it a point of visiting this national park.

Grand Canyon
Source: Explore the Canyon

Especially as things are starting to open up, you can experience it in all of its glory. Also, if you are actually going to take the time to visit, make sure to check the website (I have linked it for you). They make sure to report what parts are open, if there are any risks for that day or extended periods of time. For example, at the time this is being written there is a risk of fire. This means that nobody can start a fire or smoke on the ground. This also means nobody can start a barbecue.

Make sure that when in the canyon you take part in multiple activities. There are many things to do and trails to explore. What I am most interested in is the Mule Tours.

Las Vegas

Whether this is the start of your trip or the end, Vegas is definitely a place to stop. Maybe keep it for the end if gambling is a favorite pastime. Losing a bunch of money at the start of your cross-country trip would be a very big downer.  I have heard lots of things about Vegas, but it seems wrong not to highlight the strip in this blog.

Welcome to Vegas
Source: Vegas.com

Even if you do not want to go to the many casinos along the very popular strip, you can literally find anything. I also think this deserves to be more than just a quick pit stop to fully experience all that it has to offer. But boiled down, the strip is catered to everyone.

There is enough to do to be busy all day. From having a round of golf in the morning, to shopping during the day. Stopping to eat at one of the many restaurants. And, of course, Vegas has an amazing nightlife. Do not forget to stop at the infamous Las Vegas, Nevada sign for an opportunity for a picture. All in all, even if you do not think Vegas is the place for you, even just driving through it or looking at it to say you experienced it is something to be proud of.

You did it!

Traveling Coast to Coast
Source: American Mobile

Now it is time to rest up and look back on what you just did! You covered so many miles worth of traveling and can say you have driven from one coast to the other. Obviously, there is more to discover across the country and there are other places you can stop instead. I believe this could be the perfect activity to do with less restriction from COVID. Though if this is still a problem which makes you uncomfortable, check out this blog, travel tips for COVID! Either way, I hope this blog gives you some inspiration to get in your car and just see where it takes you.

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