The Best Summer Weekend Road Trips

Discover five awesome weekend road trips and celebrate summer’s sunny days with the windows down

Make the most of summer’s warm, sunny days by planning a weekend road trip filled with outdoor adventure. You can explore awe-inspiring national forests, hike scenic mountain trails, go boating on a sparkling lake, or take self-guided tours of cities rich with history and entertainment. Before you buckle up and hit the road, check out our top picks for summer weekend trips worth every mile.

Wonders of the Olympic Peninsula Road Trip – 444 miles

  At an elevation of 5,242 feet, you’ll see some of the most epic sights in all of Washington from atop Hurricane Ridge. The unforgettable panoramic mountain views make this the most visited spot in Olympic National Park.

DAY 1 – 204 miles. If the summer heat keeps you hiding indoors, why not head north to visit the cool, misty rainforests and coastlines of western Washington to see what fantastic natural wonders await. Start your road trip along the Olympic Peninsula by waking up in Olympia—Washington’s capital city. Grab a quick coffee and a pastry to-go on the way out of town at Phoebe's Pastry Café. Then, hop on the Historic 101 Highway and take a detour on Skokomish Valley Road to visit the Camp Govey Historical Landmark. Take a short hike down the Vance Creek Viaduct Trailhead to see the Vance Creek Bridge. Then, turn east on NF-2340 to see the High Steel Bridge. Back on the 101, you’ll run into dozens of beautiful photo-ops along the Hood Canal and Dabob Bay along the Puget Sound’s western shores. From here, it’s just a short drive north into Port Townsend.

Take a nature walk through Fort Townsend Historical State Park before lunching at the quirky Blue Moose Café. After refueling, check out Fort Worden Historical State Park. Tour the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum and visit all the unique historic sites like Alexander’s Castle, the Point Wilson Lighthouse, and the Walker, Ash and Kinzie Batteries. Next, follow the highway along Washington’s northernmost coastline until you reach Port Angeles. Stop by the Olympic National Park Visitor Center before taking the mountainous drive up to Hurricane Ridge for incredible, sweeping views. Check into your Port Angeles/Sequim hotel and then visit the small, but very informative Olympic Coast Discovery Center. It offers free admission and is fantastic for families. Then, round out your day with dinner at Next Door Gastropub. Or, for more healthy bites, check out the vegan-friendly Turnip the Beet.

  The sprawling, historic Washington State Capitol campus is the home of the state’s government and includes the governor’s mansion and other executive buildings—all offering informative tours.

DAY 2 – 240 miles. Say good morning to the second leg of your Washington adventure and kick off the day with breakfast at Shirley’s Café. Or, grab a sweet treat and coffee to-go from Sasquatch Donuts. Follow Highway 101 as it curves south and plan your first stop at Ruby Beach, with its gorgeous remote location and easy trails. A little further down the road, you’ll find the magnificent Tree of Life, which is accessible via a short hike through the coastal rainforest to a driftwood beach from Kalaloch Creek Nature Trail (parking nearby). Marvel at the beautiful scenery on your way into Lake Quinault. While here, stop by the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce Tree, and then enjoy a half-mile interpretive loop hike on the Quinault Rainforest Trailhead to explore one of only a few temperate rainforests in the Western Hemisphere!

Detour onto Moclips Highway to follow the coastline and stop for a late lunch in Seabrook at Frontager's Pizza Company. Next, continue south into the sister port towns of Hoquiam and Aberdeen. Music fans should stop by Kurt Cobain’s Home and the Kurt Cobain Under the Bridge Memorial at the Young Street Bridge on the north side of Aberdeen (his hometown). Finish out your journey by looping back east on Highway 101 into Olympia. Snap a photo of the Washington State Capitol and the Washington State Governor’s Mansion in downtown. Then, check out the Old Capitol Building just a few blocks north for more photo-ops. If you have the time, be sure to visit the stunning Yashiro Japanese Garden. Or, if you have kids in tow, check out the Hands on Children’s Museum. End your day with a full tummy at either the Cascadia Grill or the swanky State & Central. Then, grab a scoop (or two) for desert to-go at Sofie's Scoops Gelato and turn in for the night at your hotel in Olympia.

Summits, Cities & Sunny Beaches of SoCal Road Trip – 365 miles

  Like a living painting, the striking San Jacinto Mountains as seen from Palm Springs at sunset makes for some truly fabulous vacation photo opportunities.

DAY 1 – 200 miles. Our second summer weekend road trip takes you through California’s southwestern region, which offers up plenty of unique towns and natural landscapes to explore. Get an early start on CA-94 E out of San Diego and grab a bite for breakfast at The Broken Yolk Café. Then, take a morning stroll through the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College (it takes about two hours). Or, skip it and continue onward on Lyons Valley Road/Japatul Valley Road from Jamul to see some Lions Tigers & Bears (oh my). Tour the wildlife rescue center, and then continue north on CA-79 to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Detour on CA-371 N (Cahuilla Road) and connect with CA-74 E. Stop at Paradise Valley Café for lunch. This mountainside haunt off the beaten bath is just a short walk from the Pacific Crest Trail. From here it’s an easy drive into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Experience some truly epic views on this winding road through the mountains before stopping by the Visitor Center at the north end.

If you have the time, stop and take a walk through the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens on your way into Palm Springs. Then, head downtown to get a glimpse of the city’s old Hollywood past on the Walk of Stars. Build up an appetite with a sunset hike up the Cactus to Clouds (Skyline) Trail. It’s a moderate hike with some steep inclines, so be sure to take plenty of water, even in the cooler evening hours. Check into your Palm Springs hotel, and then wind down with dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge—a classic upscale eatery that’s rich with old Hollywood history. You can also try out Billy Reed’s, or enjoy vegan eats on the east side of town at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen. And be sure to stop by Lappert’s Premium Gourmet Ice Cream for the best sweet treats in Palm Springs.

  Loved by locals and visitors alike, the breathtaking cliffsides, picturesque coves and rich sandy beaches of the small-but-mighty La Jolla Cove is a stop you won’t want to miss when en-route to San Diego.

DAY 2 – 165 miles. Your second morning in SoCal starts with breakfast at Cheeky’s, or a quick NY-style bagel and coffee to-go from Townie Bagels. Head west toward Cabazon. Stop and see the vintage Cabazon Dinosaur attraction—a fun little photo-op the kids will love. Continue through Banning and take San Gorgonio Ave to connect with the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway. Stop in Mount San Jacinto State Park and hike the Summit Trail, which is accessible from the Idyllwild Nature Center. Take a quick tour of the Idyllwild Area Historical Society and then continue on CA-79 to CA-74 into Lake Elsinore. Enjoy lunch with panoramic views of the town and Lake Elsinore at the Lookout Roadhouse. Then, work off your midday meal with a hike up to Ortega Falls.

Hop back in the car and make a pitstop at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store and Goods for snacks before driving southwest until you reach the I-5. This stretch of the interstate follows the coast and offers up several opportunities to stop and stroll the area’s top beaches—like Capistrano Beach, San Clemente State Beach, Trestles Beach and San Onofre Beach—on your way into San Diego. If you only have time for one stop, however, make it La Jolla Cove. Then, head straight into the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter to shop and sightsee in one of San Diego’s oldest and most famous neighborhoods. Before checking into your San Diego hotel, enjoy a classic burger with a tasty shake at Hodad’s Downtown or check out the Knotty Barrel’s offering of over 100 beers paired with locally sourced eats.


Pro Tip: After dinner, pick up your favorite flavor in a homemade cone from Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream for dessert. Then, take walk down the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade to Children’s Park to see the fountains and city skyline at night. It’s the perfect way to end your summer weekend SoCal road trip.


Unlock Rental Car Deals

Renting a car for your next adventure? Choice Privileges® members can get up to 25% off base rates on qualifying Avis® and Budget® rentals. Plus, you can earn 1,000 points for renting a car! Simply provide your Choice Privileges number when you book or at the counter at the time of rental.

Lakes and Literature of the Show-Me State Road Trip – 415 miles

  Lake of the Ozarks is one of Missouri’s most-visited outdoor vacation destinations. Featuring over 1,000 miles of shoreline (more than the California coast), this wildly popular state park offers everything from boating and swimming to cave diving and scenic hikes.

DAY 1 – 182 miles. Begin your Midwest storybook adventure in Springfield, where you’ll stop for an early breakfast at Gailey’s Breakfast Café. Then, drive straight into Mansfield to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum— dedicated to the author of “Little House on the Prairie.” Also, be sure to stop by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home "Rock House" for a quick photo-op. Swing north through Hartville and stop for a sweet treat to-go or a souvenir at Rosewood Farms Country Gifts. Next, stop in Lebanon for a tour the Route 66 Museum, followed by lunch at the Elm Eatery right off the Mother Road. Make a quick stop at the Lake of the Ozarks—and at the very least, take a short hike up Rocky Top Trail followed by a quick dip in the lake at the nearby Grand Glaize Recreation Area and Public Beach—before heading toward hotels in Jefferson City. Snap a photo of the Missouri State Capitol and take a short tour of the Missouri State Museum and Jefferson Landing State Historic Site on the grounds. Finally, it’s time for dinner in an old-school tavern with exposed brick walls at the Ecco Lounge. And don’t forget to stop by Central Dairy Ice Cream Parlor for dessert!


Pro Tip: A trip to the Lake of the Ozarks is a vacation in itself! Consider extending your weekend road trip through the Show Me State and stopping for a full day (or two) of outdoor recreation along the shores of this famous lake. You can plan your overnight stay at any of the Lake of the Ozarks hotels.


  With your camera at the ready, visit downtown St. Louis at twilight to see the last rays of the setting summer sun sparkle off the iconic Gateway Arch over the Mississippi River.

DAY 2 – 233 miles. On your second day, you’ll start bright and early in Jefferson City with morning bite and a tasty coffee drink at the unique Yanis Coffee Zone. Your literary adventures continue with several stops related to the author of the first great American novel, Mr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens—better known as Mark Twain. Head northeast into Mark Twain State Park where you can stop to visit the Birthplace of Mark Twain Historical Marker, followed by a tour of the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site. Then, it’s onward to the town of Hannibal, the setting of two of the literary master’s most popular works. Stop for a while and pay a visit to any (or all) of the Mark Twain attractions in town, like the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, the Becky Thatcher House, Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center, Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, and the infamous Mark Twain Cave.

Break up your Hannibal adventures with lunch at either Becky Thatcher’s Diner or Finn’s Food & Spirits. Don’t skip on dessert from Becky’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream! And, if you have the time while still in Hannibal, consider joining one of the Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours. Finally, take the Little Dixie Highway MO-79 south from Hannibal to follow the Mighty Mississippi via this short stretch of the Great River Road right into the Gateway to the West. You’ll likely only have time for one major St. Louis attraction before the evening, so be sure to visit the famous Gateway Arch around sunset for a spectacular photo-op. Check into your St. Louis hotel, and then head over to The Fountain on Locust for dinner. They also serve specialty ice cream treats! Or, get some finger-licking Midwest BBQ creations at Sugarfire Smoke House—just be sure to call before you go, as they’re only open until they sell out. And try the spiked shakes!

Historic Pennsylvania Dutch Country Road Trip – 210 miles

  This Japanese-style pagoda is an iconic Pennsylvania landmark atop Mount Penn. Located in the middle of town, it offers sweeping views and has been a centerpiece of the city area for over 100 years.

DAY 1 – 111 miles. Take the back roads over historic covered bridges to discover the charm and beauty of Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Just sure to plot out your adventure before you tackle these winding, narrow, and sometimes sparsely labeled roads often occupied by horse and buggy. Start in Lancaster and drive through Lancaster County Central Park to see your first covered bridge at Kurtz’s Mill. Stop in Strasburg for coffee and pastries for breakfast to-go at Speckled Hen Coffee. Next, drive into the town of Intercourse to visit any of its quaint Amish-run shops. Hop on the Old Philadelphia Pike/Kings Highway (PA-340 E) to Wagontown and stop by the Hatfield House of Hibernia Park for a photo-op. Continue north through Warwick and Pine Swamp to the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site for an outdoor walking tour of the historic iron-works community (circa 1771-1883).

Continue on PA-345 N (Chestnut Road) through Birdsboro. Wind your way through the countryside until you reach Greisemer’s Covered Bridge. Then, connect with PA-662 N through Pricetown and Fleetwood and make your way to the Dreibelbis Station Covered Bridge. Next, drive into nearby Hamburg for lunch at the historic 1787 Brewing Company, followed by a short tour of the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum. Find yourself just outside Reading and plan a stop at Wertz’s Covered Bridge. Also, visit the Berks County Heritage Center and the quirky Der Distelfink Statue (for a photo-op) nearby. Once in Reading, take a hike through the Penn Preserve to see the Peace Rock, the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower and the town’s inimitable landmark, The Pagoda. If time permits, stop by the Reading Public Museum before checking into your Reading hotel. Then, it’s time for dinner at The Barley Mow, which offers 750 varieties of beer from over 100 American breweries— the largest selection of craft beers in the region. And don’t forget a summer evening treat from Sweet Ridge Ice Cream!

  Historic covered bridges and horse drawn buggies driven by the local Amish folk aren’t a rare sight to behold in Dutch Country Pennsylvania—they’re the norm.

DAY 2 – 99 miles. Start your second day off right with a quick coffee and breakfast treat to-go from Benchwarmer’s Coffee & Doughnuts. Take New Holland Road (PA-625 S) and navigate your way south through Angelica toward Churchtown and stop by Pool Forge Covered Bridge. Find your way through Terre Hill and visit either the Oberholtzer's Mill or Red Run Covered Bridges. Take Division Highway (US-322 W) into Ephrata and get a photo-op (or take a tour when open) of the circa 1732 Ephrata Cloister. Keller’s Mill Covered Bridge is nearby. Next, find yourself in the Amish village of Lititz. Stop by the Lititz Historical Foundation, or just do some window shopping in the downtown area. Take Orange Street out of Lititz and navigate your way to Kaufmans Distillery Covered Bridge. Head toward Landisville and you’ll find three more covered bridges nearby: Shenck’s Mill, Siegrist Mill and Forry’s Mill.

Next, head southwest into Columbia, just minutes away. Stop for lunch at Rocky’s BBQ or Hinkle’s Restaurant in the quaint downtown area, both surrounded by plenty of unique shops and boutiques. Plan a short visit to the National Watch and Clock Museum. The Wright’s Ferry Mansion makes for an excellent photo-op. If you’re looking for a more tourist-friendly attraction and have the time, visit the Turkey Hill Experience. Or, take a walk down the Lancaster County River Trail to see the St. Charles Iron Furnace and Point Rock Tunnel.

Back on the road, follow the Susquehanna River south through Safe Harbor and Martic Forge. Visit the Colemanville Covered Bridge, and then swing back northeast toward Lancaster to see Baumgardener’s Covered Bridge. The Lime Valley Covered Bridge is just about five miles away and marks the last of the covered bridges on your Pennsylvania Dutch Country road trip. Finish out your adventure back in Lancaster, where you can visit The Demuth Museum and the North Museum of Nature and Science. Or, take the kids to Lancaster Science Factory if you have the time. Stroll through historic downtown and visit any of the shops before checking into your Lancaster hotel. Finally, it’s time to settle down with a tasty evening meal at Rosa Rosa Pizzeria (try the spaghetti pizza!) or Cabalar Meat Company. Be sure to grab a fun sundae from Splits and Giggles Café for dessert on your way back to the hotel.

Arkansas Mountain Counties Adventure Road Trip – 451 miles

  Stationed along the Arkansas River, the stone commissary building at Fort Smith National Historic Site is just one of the many historic, circa-1817 buildings you’ll see on your tour.

DAY 1 – 196 miles. The last summer weekend road trip takes you on a journey through the two major mountainous regions in Arkansas to find some rugged outdoor adventures. Get an early start from Little Rock and head into nearby Brant for breakfast and some tasty coffee drinks at the Speakeasy Café. Hop onto US-70 west toward the town of Hot Springs and discover the first federally preserved space of land (before National Parks were a thing) in the country. Check out the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center on your way into Hot Springs National Park. Take the Fountain Street loop through the park and stop by the Hot Springs Mountain Tower and the 1920s Observation Gazebo. Next, follow the “Baseball Trail” out of Hot Springs National Park (via Whittington Ave/Blacksnake Road) to see the The Birthplace of Spring Baseball Historic Marker, the Whittington Park Historic Marker, and more.

Now on Highway 270, you’ll find several stores along the route selling crystals and unique stones found in the area. Take a short detour off US-270 south on Logan Gap Road and Collier Springs Road to stop by either the Twin Creek Crystal Mine or the Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines. Next, head north into Pencil Bluff for lunch at the homey Yellow Store deli. From here, it’s just 90 minutes to Fort Smith. Drive through the 22-block Belle Grove Historic District to see the Victorian-era homes and tour the famous Clayton House. You’ll find several attractions worth the stop along the Arkansas River, including the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, Fort Smith Museum of History, Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Depot, and the United States Marshals Museum. Before checking into your hotel in Fort Smith and calling it a night, stop for dinner at Ed Walker’s Drive-In & Restaurant with its ‘50s-inspired décor. Follow that up with an epic banana split for dessert from Delicias Michoacanas Ice Cream.

  Little Rock is the state capital, the most-populous city in Arkansas and is best known for the crucial role it played in American Civil Rights history.

DAY 2 – 255 miles. A big day of exploring awaits, so start by filling up on a big breakfast at Benson’s Grill. It’s an area classic, open 24-hours every day. Then, take I-40 E out of Fort Smith and go north on AR-164 at Exit 47 to AR-21 N straight into the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. This drive will take you deep into the woods where cell service is limited, so be sure to plot out your trip beforehand. Your first couple of stops should include both Glory Hole Falls and Magnolia Falls—each accessible via a short hike through gorgeous scenery. Find your way into the tiny community of Deer Stand and grab lunch at the Deer Stand Café. Afterward, check out Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area and then swing east through Ben Hur to hike the Pedestal Rocks & Kings Bluff Trailhead. To exit the National Forest, take AR-16 S to Old Highway 27 through Retta and Hector. Catch I-40 east toward hotels in Little Rock. Be sure to snap a photo of the Arkansas State Capitol before sunset. Finally, it’s time to dine on locally sourced ingredients at The Root Café. Or, try out Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill for a yummy burger and brew. Just remember to save room for your favorite sweet treat from Kilwins for dessert.

Search Hotels

More to Explore

Summer Fuel Tips
Learn how to maximize your MPG when hitting the road for a summer adventure.
Best U.S. National Parks
Finding summer fun in the Great Outdoors is easy in these top national parks.
Oregon Coast Road Trip
Summertime is the best time to drive down the magnificent Oregon Coast.