The season for travel is just around the corner, so it’s time to start planning. North, south, east or west, pick a direction and start a quest.
Key West, Florida
There is nothing like watching the sunset as you drive down US 1 to the southernmost point in the United States. It just might be worth looking into an auto loan and finally getting that convertible you’ve always dreamed about. The waters of the Atlantic look like melted gold. This is your first indication that you are arriving someplace really special. Leave the hustle of the East Coast and the bustle of Miami behind because Key West means slowing down. Park your car at your hotel and choose one of the many other transportation options available in Old Town. Your feet are best, but there are bikes, scooters and golf carts galore. Visit Earnest Hemmingway’s home and see the six-toed cats sprawled across his sofa and bed or take a tour of Truman’s Little White House and discuss the implications of dropping the atomic bombs. On the other hand, you could just grab a cocktail and wander amongst the free-roaming chickens that dot every street. And by the way, check the weather, Key West is warm year-round.
If you like to be outdoors in the spring, but the weather is imperfect where you live, jump in your ride and head to Tucson. The first thing you’ll notice is the healing dry air that wicks the sweat off your body before you even have time to notice it. Then, you’ll discover that Tucson is home to the most amazing collection of cacti you have ever seen. Driving the Loma Verde Loop road at Saguaro National Park East (there is also a smaller non-contiguous western portion of the park) will make you want to pull over at many of the scenic stops and hikes to take a closer look. Most famous are the towering namesake Saguaro cacti, but there are plenty of other prickly wonders in this Sonoran Desert ecosystem. Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum if you want to see native animals such as mountain lions and javelinas as well as learn about the biology and geology of the region. Because Tucson is a college town (Go Wildcats!), you can be assured of a wide variety of eclectic eateries, shops and nightlife.
Buena Vista, Colorado
It may be hard to imagine that a town with a little over 2500 permanent residents and only one traffic light has so much to offer, but Buena Vista hits the mark. Nestled in the Collegiate Peaks foothills, this cute little town is a great launching point for hiking 14ers, white water rafting, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, cross-country skiing and off-roading, just to name a few local activities. You can rent a Jeep (if you didn’t already show up in a 4-wheel drive) and explore nearby ghost towns such as St. Elmo and Tin Cup. Eat at one of the many locally owned restaurants, sit and catch your breath at the Deerhammer Distillery in town, tour the Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy farm and then head out to the Comanche Drive-In Theatre. Buena Vista is less than three hours from Denver via a scenic drive and less than two hours from Colorado Springs over Trout Creek Pass.
Right on I-49 between Shreveport and Alexandria sits the oldest French colony in the Louisiana Purchase. Established in 1714, this small town with the hard-to-pronounce name is a great road trip destination for those seeking delicious food, interesting history and beautiful scenery. Natchitoches (Nack-a-tish) has some unusual claims-to-fame including being home to the world-famous meat pie and being the setting of many outdoor scenes for the movie Steel Magnolias. (Remember the over-the-top Christmas Festival? It’s real, and it happens in Natchitoches every December.) The historic district shopping area sits across the street from the Cane River where you can kayak, paddleboard or just sit and enjoy.
Road trips are about the journey and the destination. Pick a new town you’ve never been to and get driving.