The 5 Most Romantic Road Trips
When my now-husband and I were 16, our favorite date was to hop in his GTO and hit the road, setting out to see what there was to see. While listening to Bowie on the 8-track, we explored our hometown's back roads. One night, we happened upon a quirky diner that served up sundaes for 2 in giant fishbowls. When my spoon trespassed onto the ice cream's north face — the driver's side — he simply smiled. Our fate was sealed: Ever since, we've been a car-traveling couple — a pair with a penchant for road trips.
Going out for drives sparked our romance, and now, decades later, road trips help revive it when kids, finances and work detour us. In the event of boredom, we might head clear across the county; for angry impasses, perhaps halfway across the country.
Mind you: Not all road trips are catalysts and/or cure-alls for romance, but here are a handful that are.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as California State Route 1, is a drive through jaw-dropping drama. That fact is especially true for the 123-mile stretch from Monterey to Morro Bay. If you drive north to south, your views of the coast — characterized by jagged mountains plunging into a wild surf, as well as wind-sculpted trees on rocky outcrops washed by jade-colored waves — will be unobstructed. Plus, just south of Monterey, you can set a dreamy California tone right from the get-go with a meal at Casanova, which is billed as Carmel's most romantic restaurant.
Watch: Take a Road Trip Up the Pacific Coast Highway
Video: Pacific Coast Highway: Top 10 Locals ListShane and Sean take a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is the perfect place to wander hand in hand, especially from December through April, when gray whales migrate past.
The orange, red, purple and pink colors of a Big Sur sunset will take your breath away as surely as any first kiss. But do make an effort to breathe here as deeply and often as possible, as a heady sage/redwood/salt air scents perfume the canyons of this jewel in the crown that is the central California coast.
For an overnight stay, the FogCatcher Inn is an aptly named romantic getaway in Cambria, located just steps from Moonstone Beach.
Morro Bay is at the terminus of this journey, and it is here that serendipity strikes, California style: Just when your road-refreshed relationship has attained peak strength — I mean, at the very moment when the passenger-driver connection goes positively granite — you'll encounter Morro Rock, also known as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific."
Route 100, Vermont
Here, under the cover of yellow leaves and red bridges, are picture-perfect trysting places. Vermont's Route 100 skirts quintessential Yankee towns whose claims to fame involve copious covered bridges: the handsome Big Eddy Bridge in Waitsfield and the Lincoln Gap Bridge over the Mad River in Warren, to name a couple. In Moretown, after driving through the Upper Cox Brook Bridge, you'll reach the only spot in Vermont where you can still see one covered bridge from another: the view through the Newell Bridge to the Station Bridge.
The journey along Route 100 runs through the state for 200 miles from tip to tail. Roughly midway down this bumpy backbone, Romance Mountain rises from ancient groves of northern hardwoods along a remote section of the Long Trail that winds its way along the ridgeline of the Green Mountains. Here, you'll want to park the car and stretch your legs a bit to bag the peak of Romance in time to watch the stars come out.
Love never tasted so good as it does along Vermont's Route 100; don't miss a lick of the erotically charged Karamel Sutra ice cream at the Ben and Jerry's factory, of course.
Golden Isles, Georgia
Although an amphibious vehicle might come in handy here, it's not necessary for negotiating the barrier islands or marshes, rivers and estuaries that define the Low Country coastal region of Georgia between Jekyll Island and Savannah. The intoxicatingly slow and scenic routes 520, 99 and 17 drape around the Golden Isles like Spanish moss on an old oak: St. Simons and Jekyll islands are bridged to the mainland at Brunswick, and Sea Island is bridged to St. Simons Island. The only thing that flows more abundantly than water in this region is romance. Sea Island's Cloister Hotel alone has hosted nearly 37,000 newlywed couples since 1940. (Each couple receives a card indicating what number they are; for instance, honeymoon couple No. 1,768 was George and Barbara Bush, who visited in January 1945 and again in 1995 to celebrate their 50th anniversary.) The Cloister is, hands down, the most highfalutin place around, but it's hardly the only high point of this Low Country tour.
In the quiet village of Shellman Bluff, all the dirt roads lead to an overlook of the Broro and Julienton rivers. Winding along the edge of the bluff is a sandy road that offers an unsurpassed sunrise view of the marsh from behind Harris Neck. On its menu, Speed's Kitchen aptly describes the locale for out-of-towners: "Shellman Bluff. Not a place for fast lane folks. Ain't got no red lights. No 4-lanes. We move slow here. Try it — good for your health."
Beartooth Highway, Wyoming/Montana
Love is not for the fainthearted. Neither are the zigzagging switchbacks of the Beartooth Highway, aka US Route 212. Since 1882, the courageous, the adventurous and the strong have recorded travel across Beartooth Pass. One of the most rugged and pristine terrains in the Lower 48, the Beartooth area is punctuated by 20 glaciated peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation.
Here, there are blizzards in the winter. And spring. And fall.
Despite — or perhaps because of — its white-knuckled rigors, this 64-mile road trip from Red Lodge to Cooke City, MT, is all the sweeter as it winds through lush forests and alpine tundras. Traffic on and around the Beartooth comes (when and if it comes) in the form of mountain goats, moose, elk, marmots, mule deer, black bears, grizzly bears and wolves.
For intrepid couples, the historic Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge offers packages that include suite accommodations and a half-day white-water rafting trip.
Heart Mountain is an 8,123-foot peak just north of Cody, WY; composed of limestone and dolomite that dates back 500 million years, this ancient site holds mysteries of the geologic variety.
Beartooth Highway ends at the eastern gateway of Yellowstone National Park, which houses one of the most romantic natural wonders in the world: Old Faithful.
North Shore Drive, Minnesota
It bodes well for a road trip when even the map puts you in a romantic mood, if only poetically speaking. This drive along Minnesota Route 61, which hugs the north shore of the world's largest freshwater lake, skirts places whose names tease the tongue: Tettegouche. Gitche Gumee. Nanijoubou.
Gitche Gumee is Lake Superior in local American Indian dialect. Route 61 is an as-the-crow-flies byway from Duluth to the Canadian border. It allows road-tripping landlubbers to stay safe and dry on terra firma (surely you recall the sinking of the Big Fitz?) while getting up close and personal with this greatest of all the Great Lakes. (Split Rock Lighthouse annually marks the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald ship with a reading of the names of the 29 men who lost their lives on Nov. 10, 1975, and a lighting of the beacon at dusk.)
Not that you want to stay stowed away in your car for the whole trip. The Superior Hiking Trail is a spectacular, well-marked, 310-mile-long footpath that follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. There are trailheads with parking lots every 5 to 10 miles, making it ideal for both day hikes and backpacking.
While boating causes some to lose their appetites (for food, for love, etc.), walking, as well as driving, for any distance usually has the opposite effect. That's why Betty's Pies in Two Harbors, MN, sells countless world-famous handmade pies, as well sa (get this!) something called a pie shake. No wordplay involved here; a pie shake is exactly what it says. Betty slices a hunk of your favorite pie and drops it into a blender full of ice cream and milk.
You know you're in love if you can bear to share (no matter how grudgingly) a sip of your cherry pie shake or a bite of Betty's signature 5-layer pie: a flaky crust is layered with dark chocolate, cinnamon meringue, whipped cream and chocolate whipped cream.
Blue Ridge ParkwayDrivers have little choice but to take their time enjoying the serpentine Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. 960 1280
Skyline DriveSkyline Drive takes you on an amazing ride, slithering through Shenandoah National Park along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive offers perfect views of Piedmont Valley to the east and the Shenandoah River Valley to the west. 960 1280
Skyline DriveVirginia's Skyline Drive is beautiful year round, but if you're looking to enjoy it in all its splendor, there's no better time to drive down the 105-mile scenic byway than in the fall. Its route along the Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park is not only perfect for leaf-peeping, but also offers close to 70 scenic overlooks. 960 1280
Kancamagus Scenic BywayNew Hampshire's Kancamagus Scenic Byway, a 34.5-mile section of Route 112 running through the White Mountain National Forest, is renowned for its autumn leaves, making it one of the top road trips during the fall leaf-viewing season. 960 1280
Historic National RoadMaryland's stretch of the 170-mile Historic National Road -- originally built to foster settlement into the West by aiding the movement of people and goods -- takes road-trippers on a journey through 300 years of history. 960 1280
US 1US 1 runs between the beach and Interstate 95 along Florida's east coast, allowing easy access to A1A (the road closest to the coast) while letting you hightail it past cities that don't pique your interest. 960 1280
Acadia National BywayDesignated an All-American Highway by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Acadia Byway winds along Maine’s coastline for 40 miles past granite peaks, craggy outcroppings, coastal fishing villages and lush old-growth forests. 960 1280
Gulf Coast Road TripFrom Florida to Mississippi, the Gulf Coast is not only a beautiful spot for a beach vacation, but an important ecosystem that’s home to thousands of sea turtles, seabirds and other wild creatures. 960 1280
Best East Coast Road Trips 14 Photos
From Boston: Gloucester, MassachusettsOne of the most picturesque spots on Massachusetts’ North Shore is just 35 miles north of the city. The charming fishing community of Gloucester — the backdrop for "The Perfect Storm"— is full of historical folklore and a thriving arts scene. 960 1280
From Boston: Great Barrington, MassachusettsAn easy two-hour drive into western Massachusetts, the Southern Berkshires town of Great Barrington spells romance and relaxation. Stroll through the historic downtown area, which is lined with charming boutiques and galleries, or meander along the Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk. 960 1280
From Chicago: New Buffalo, MichiganSituated on Lake Michigan's Gold Coast, New Buffalo has been called the Hamptons of the Midwest and is jokingly dubbed the Irish Riviera, as a lot of Chicago's South Side Irish community vacations here. It's an easy day trip from the city, but the amazing beaches, sand dunes and prime fishing conditions make it a popular weekend getaway as well. 960 1280
From Chicago: Madison, WisconsinSure, everyone knows that Wisconsin stakes a claim to glorious cheese and beer, but what's less well-known is that Madison is the perfect family- or gay-friendly weekend getaway. Earning countless accolades for its eco-friendliness, this picturesque university town is progressive and has a burgeoning dining and culture scene. 960 1280
From Dallas: Glen Rose, TexasSouthwest of Dallas, the quaint town of Glen Rose is home to Dinosaur Valley State Park, which is famous for its visible, well-preserved dinosaur footprints. If dino hunting doesn’t interest you, the park also offers trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, as well as campsites, playgrounds and access to the Paluxy River. 960 1280
From Dallas: Grandview, TexasWell-heeled Texans mosey on over to Beaumont Ranch for a weekend spent in small-town, pastoral splendor. Swanky but unpretentious, this working ranch — which has 26 rooms and cabins — is the place to go for cattle drives, roping or shooting lessons, and relaxing trail rides. The real treats, though, are the traditional Chuck Wagon Meals. 960 1280
From Los Angeles: Ventura, CaliforniaMidway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Ventura is home to a vibrant Main Street, mom-and-pop antique stores, wine bars and the historic San Buenaventura Mission. The town tends to attract a hip, sophisticated crowd. 960 1280
From Los Angeles: Laguna Niguel, CaliforniaDrive in to Laguna Niguel along Laguna Canyon Road from Interstate 405, winding through a canyon until you reach the ocean. In addition to providing top-notch views, this coastal community strongly supports the arts. The Laguna Art Museum showcases Californians, while dozens of crafts galleries, clothing boutiques and jewelry shops dot downtown. 960 1280
From Miami: OrlandoAll signs point toward spending lots of vacation dollars at this popular tourist destination, but you don't have to blow your budget — or visit Disney — to have a good time in Orlando. Seek out everything else the city has to offer, including great shopping, museums, restaurants and golf courses. Or, for a more reasonably priced park experience, dive in to a water park such as kid-friendly Wet ’n Wild. 960 1280
From Miami: Everglades National Park, FloridaTraveling the 25-mile route from downtown Miami to the Everglades along US Route 41 is like taking a step back in time, with kitschy billboards and signs along the way. Once you arrive, don't miss the opportunity to hop in an airboat and explore the middle of the swamp. There are plenty of operators that offer tours of varying lengths and costs. 960 1280
From New York: Montauk, Long IslandIt's tough to come by deals in the Hamptons, but if you've stashed some cash and are looking for a luxe weekend away, Montauk is close by and the way to go. After hitting the waves, stay at the renovated Surf Lodge, a 32-room boutique hotel located on the shore of Fort Pond, just half a mile from the beach. 960 1280
From New York: Long Island Wine Country/North Fork RegionThe complete antithesis of the uber-trendy Hamptons, the North Fork region has retained its rural appeal despite increased interest in its winemaking efforts. Think New England charm, breathtaking water views of both the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay, with a healthy dose of relaxed wine-country living. 960 1280
From Philadelphia: Atlantic City, New JerseyThis Jersey Shore town may seem as though it’s past its prime, but it still offers two things that never get old: beaches and casinos. Whether it’s a family trip, a romantic escape or a friends’ getaway, Atlantic City is always a safe bet. If you crap out at the tables, check out the live music venues and exciting nightlife options. 960 1280
From Philadelphia: Bucks County, PennsylvaniaCity dwellers flee the demands of urban living for the leisurely idyll of Bucks County, home to the arts-filled town of New Hope. Wander among the tree-lined roads, or try nearby activities such as tubing on the Delaware River, seeing a show at the Bucks County Playhouse and taking an art class at the Mercer Museum. 960 1280
From San Francisco: Half Moon Bay, CaliforniaTucked between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Half Moon Bay is one of those relatively untouched stretches of California coast that is frequently overlooked. Investigate the tide pools at Fitzgerald Reserve at Moss Beach or go bird-watching at the Pescadero Marsh and Pillar Point Marsh preserves. 960 1280
From San Francisco: Sonoma County, CaliforniaJust one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, budget-minded travelers can find lots to do in Sonoma County. Enjoy vineyards, orchards and redwood-covered mountains, not to mention big events such as Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, which takes place over Labor Day weekend. 960 1280
From Seattle: Mount Rainier National Park, WashingtonOnly about 85 miles from the hustle and bustle of Emerald City rises majestic Mount Rainier. Around it are endless sights and activities for outdoor enthusiasts — miles of hiking trails, camping, lakes, streams, wildflowers and incomparable views. If you’re not brave enough to try to reach the peak, take a walk through the meadows of Paradise or Sunrise. 960 1280
From Seattle: Westport/Olympic Peninsula, WashingtonNorth of the Long Beach Peninsula, on the outer edge of Grays Harbor, is Westport. Learn about the history of this small fishing community at the Westport Maritime Museum and the century-old Grays Harbor Lighthouse. The town also sits along miles of beaches that offer some of Washington's best surfing. 960 1280
From Washington, D.C.: BaltimoreBaltimore’s usual tourist destinations — the Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Fort McHenry and Fells Point — are popular for good reason and are definitely worth a visit. If you’ve seen all of those, branch out to some of the lesser-known (and lower-cost!) spots, such as the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a favorite for kids. 960 1280
From Washington, D.C.: Old Town Alexandria, VirginiaWith its art galleries, boutique shopping, historic sites and restaurants, as well as access to miles of scenic trails and bike paths just six miles from D.C., Old Town Alexandria was made for impromptu weekend getaways. After exploring King Street, walk down to the riverfront to catch a sightseeing tour or dinner cruise on the Potomac. 960 1280
20 Trips, 10 Cities, 1 Tank of Gas 20 Photos
Cabazon Dinosaurs (Interstate 10 - Cabazon, CA)Don't be surprised to see a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex perched alongside the road while driving on Interstate 10 in Cabazon, CA. Visitors can climb to the top of the dinosaur for a close-up view of its teeth. Make a pit stop to pick up souvenirs at the museum shop, located inside Ms. Dinny, a 150-ton Apatosaurus, considered the largest concrete dino in the world. 960 1280
General Sherman Tree (Generals Highway - Sequoia National Park, CA)James Wolverton, a naturalist who served among General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops, named this sequoia tree after the Civil War general in 1879. According to the US Department of the Interior, it is the largest tree by volume, standing 275 feet and 52,000 cubic feet. Nature lovers can appreciate the beauty of this tree by taking Generals Highway, located off US Highways 180 and 198 in southeastern California. 960 1280
Randy's Donuts (805 W Manchester Blvd. - Inglewood, CA)Visitors should add this roadside attraction to their travel plans. In Inglewood, CA, near the Los Angeles International Airport, stands the famous Randy's Donuts. The donut-shaped façade of this landmark building is just as popular as the tasty pastries made inside this 24-hour bakery. Located on the corner of West Manchester Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard near Interstate 405, the giant donut -- built in 1953 -- has been featured in videos and movies like 2012, Iron Man 2 and Get Shorty. 960 1280
The Catsup Bottle (800 South Morrison Ave - Collinsville, IL)The world's largest bottle of ketchup remains in Collinsville, IL, even after the bottlers of Brooks Rich & Tangy Ketchup left town in the 1970s. This 170-foot-tall water tower was built in 1949 for the G.S. Suppiger ketchup-bottling plant, the bottlers of Brooks. The bottle reads "catsup" after the original Brooks bottle. Plan your road trip in July and attend the annual Catsup Bottle Festival, featuring a hot-dog-eating contest, ketchup tasting and crowning of Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup. 960 1280
Lenny, The Chocolate Moose (419 US Highway 1 - Scarborough, ME)Meet Lenny, the world's only life-size moose made of 1,700 pounds of creamy milk chocolate. Located in Scarborough, ME, Lenny draws tourists to Len Libby Candies, a store that sells handcrafted chocolate and ice cream just south of Portland. 960 1280
Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox (300 Bemidji Ave - Bemidji, MN)Eastman Kodak recognized lumberjack Paul Bunyan, along with his trusty sidekick Babe the Blue Ox, as the 2nd most photographed icons in the nation. These oversized, mythical characters stand high above the shore of Lake Bemidji, near the Tourist Information Center in Bemidji, MN. Road trippers can also see other versions of the colossal statues in Bangor, ME; Portland, OR, and Klamath, CA. 960 1280
Jolly Green Giant (Interstate 90 - Blue Earth, MN)This 55-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant is a must-see if you're planning a road trip from Minneapolis to Iowa. Visit the town of Blue Earth, MN, to see this roadside attraction, built in 1978 to commemorate the completion of nearby Interstate 90. The vegetable company gave the town permission to use its symbol as long as the townspeople provided 100% of the funds to build it. 960 1280
Carhenge (Highway 87 - Alliance, NE)Just north of Alliance, NE, on Highway 87, road trippers should keep an eye out for Carhenge. In 1987, artist Jim Reinders created this replica of the UK's Stonehenge using 38 automobiles placed in a circle measuring approximately 96 feet in diameter. Additional, smaller sculptures have been created at the site, known as the Car Art Reserve. 960 1280
World's Largest Ball of Stamps (Flanagan Boulevard - Boys Town, NE)See the world's largest ball of stamps on Flanagan Boulevard in Boys Town, NE. The Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club started collecting stamps in 1953 to create this oversized sphere that today measures 32 inches in diameter, weighs 600 pounds and contains almost 5 million canceled stamps. The Ball reached its current size in 1955, and was featured in the syndicated newspaper column, "Ripley's Believe It Or Not." 960 1280
Lucy the Elephant (9200 Atlantic Ave - Margate, NJ)In Margate, NJ, locals and visitors can climb a spiral staircase into the howdah, or bed, atop Lucy the Elephant. From this perch, it's possible to see views of Margate, NJ, the Atlantic City skyline and Atlantic Ocean. This 130-year-old, 65-foot pachyderm -- located along the beach in Josephine Herron Park -- has on-site, outdoor picnic tables, so pack a lunch. 960 1280
World's Largest Pistachio Nut (7320 US Hwy 54-70 - Alamogordo, NM)One of the more recently built roadside attractions is the World's Largest Pistachio Nut in Alamogordo, NM. Built in 2009, this 30-foot-tall nut was dedicated to the owner of McGinn's Pistachio Tree Farm (aka PistachioLand), who, according to locals, was a big fan of roadside attractions. It's worth a detour. 960 1280
Enchanted Highway (Regent, ND, to Gladstone, ND)See local artist Gary Greff's collection of the world's largest scrap metal sculptures along the Enchanted Highway, a 32-mile stretch of road between Regent and Gladstone, ND. Some of the sculptures have picnic shelters where travelers can stop for lunch, or weary drivers can check in at Gary's motel in Regent, The Enchanted Castle. 960 1280
Golden Driller (East 21 St. - Tulsa, OK)Planning a road trip near or through Tulsa, OK? Check out the Golden Driller, a 76-foot-tall, 22-ton concrete and iron rendering of a man. The statue was erected in 1953 to celebrate Tulsa's good fortune as entrepreneurs rushed to capitalize on the growing number of oil fields in the area. Built to withstand a 200-mph tornado, this roadside attraction was declared Oklahoma's official state monument in 1979. 960 1280
Dinosaur Park (940 Skyline Drive - Rapid City, SD)This isn't your regular Jurassic Park! Head to Dinosaur Park if you're traveling near Rapid City, SD. This 75-year-old outdoor park is full of dino statues that project a decidedly 1930s'-era understanding of these creatures. Dinosaur Park is located on Skyline Drive and is almost as popular an attraction as nearby Mount Rushmore. 960 1280
Cadillac Ranch (Interstate 40 - Amarillo, TX)Created in 1974 by a group of artists called the Ant Farm, this graffiti-splattered homage to Cadillacs represents the car's evolution from 1949 to 1963. Travelers along Interstate 40, near Amarillo, TX, can see Cadillac Ranch from the road. 960 1280
The Beer Can House (222 Malone St. - Houston, TX)In 1968, John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad covered his house with aluminum siding made entirely of 50,000 flattened beer cans, bottles and other beer paraphernalia. Locals and visitors can visit this artsy house located on 222 Malone Street in Houston, TX. 960 1280
Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park (Wisconsin 13 - Phillips, WI)In Phillips, WI, artist Fred Smith created more than 200 concrete sculptures, scattered across 3.5 acres of this 16-acre small-town park. After Fred's death in 1976, the Kohler Foundation spearheaded the park's restoration and turned over control of the park to Price County, to be used as a public art park. 960 1280
Foamhenge (South Lee Highway - Natural Bridge, Virginia)Travelers visiting the Natural Bridge in Virginia should also pay a visit to its neighbor, a full-size, Styrofoam replica of the UK's Stonehenge. In 2004, American artist and entertainer Mark Cline built Foamhenge on a hillside in the Shenandoah Valley. 960 1280
Wackiest Roadside Attractions 19 Photos