Planning a vacation around a beautiful driving route gives your trip spontaneity and adventure.

By Ellie Trice
November 18, 2019
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

The number of adults who’ve taken a road trip in the past year has jumped 64 percent since 2015, according to a survey by MMGY Global, a travel and tourism marketing agency.

“Road trips offer a unique opportunity for exploration,” says Chris Davidson, MMGY’s executive vice president of insights and strategy. There are endless chances to pull off the road and find an amazing restaurant, an intriguing roadside shop, or a scenic hiking trail. Novel experiences like these can trigger the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that encourages us to seek rewards. That brings a sense of adventure. (See: How to Use Travel to Spark a Personal Breakthrough)

Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

You’re not limited to destinations that are within driving distance, either. More and more people are opting for “wings and wheels” trips—fly to a destination you’ve been wanting to explore, then hit the road in a rental car.

Of course, you’ll want to end up in a spectacular spot, so we found eight outstanding properties across the world that give you the perfect excuse to hit the road. (None of them striking your fancy? Check out How to Plan Your Own Outdoor Adventure Road Trip and read this checklist of must-have road-trip items.)

The National Park Drive

Where: Anvil Hotel; Jackson, Wyoming

When you’re ready to take a break from hiking, horseback riding, biking, rafting, and rock climbing in Jackson, head back to the hotel. Anvil (from $135 a night) organizes beer and spirits tastings, live music or game nights, and walking tours through the People’s Market (during the months it’s open).

The boutique hotel’s rooms are simple and cozy, and the minibars are stocked with local snacks from the Healthy Being Cafe & Juicery. By car, you’re minutes from Grand Teton National Park, one and a half hours from Yellowstone National Park, and eight hours from Glacier National Park in Montana. (Related: The Best Outdoor Adventure Clothes and Gear for Anyone Traveling to a National Park)

The Upstate Escape

Where: The Arnold House; Livingston Manor, New York

There’s plenty to do on over 80 acres, including garden tours, hiking trails, greenhouse workshops, and a luxe spa. Or visit an alpaca farm or an antiques store in town. You’ll eat well too: The Tavern at the Arnold House (from $229 a night) has a seasonal menu, so it’s stocked with fresh Catskills-area favorites. In the fall, expect savory vegetables and fresh-caught rainbow trout. The hotel is two and a half hours from New York City, six hours from Montreal, and four hours from Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.

Vineyards for Miles

Where: The Landsby; Solvang, California

The Santa Ynez Valley is home to 120-plus wineries, plus miles of great hiking and biking trails. But be sure to get back to the Landsby (from $169 a night) for happy hour at Mad & Vin, its restaurant. The menu features local wines and creative cocktails like the Farmer’s Fizz, made with gin, a fresh strawberry shrub, and rhubarb bitters. The hotel also has easy access to the Pacific Coast Highway, famous for its breathtaking mountain and coastal views. Take it five hours north to San Francisco or three hours south to Los Angeles.

The Foodie Fitness Destination

Where: Palazzo di Varignana Resort & Spa, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

The restored 18th century country residence that is Palazzo Varignana (rooms from $184 a night) sits on 20 acres in the hills right outside Bologna, one of the great food meccas of Italy. Wander, hike, or run through their wellness trails that take you through rose gardens, olive and almond trees, jasmine bushes, and boasts unreal mountain views that stretch from the Adriatic Riviera to the Apennines. There are five pools to cool off in, plus a luxe spa.  From here you’re just a short drive to Bologna, the fortressed village of Dozza, and Farrara, an ancient town declared world heritage by UNESCO. (Want someone else to do the logistics? Check out these active travel companies than do all the planning for you.)

A Centering Journey

Where: Mii amo; Sedona, Arizona

Set against a backdrop of soaring red rocks, the all-inclusive Mii amo resort (starting at $1,290 for three days) offers three-, four-, and seven-day journeys. You can sign up for labyrinth meditations, expert-led stargazing, private canyon bathing, and red-rock mountain biking. From there you can head to the Grand Canyon (the South Rim is two and a half hours away), Las Vegas (four and a half hours), and Death Valley, California (seven hours). The desert landscapes are truly one of a kind.

The Historical Expedition

Where: Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy

Surrounded by 2700 acres of vineyards, olive groves, lakes and lush woods, medieval Toscana Resort Castelfalfi (rooms start at $391 a night) was recently updated to give you luxe comfort in an historic setting. (There’s even a castle you can have a delicious dinner in.) And they did it all sustainably to promote a global wellness philosophy and ensure benefits to the health of their guests and the environment. Mentally, you’ll travel back in time, while physically you can swim the four pools, take a yoga class, bike, play tennis, learn to cook healthy Italian, do some wine tasting and hike or run the trails. For even more culture, it’s an easy drive to Lucca (35 miles away), Pisa (34 miles away) and San Gimignano (14 miles away). (Related: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling Without Letting It Ruin Your Vacation)

Destination: Beach

Where: Moorings Village; Islamorada, Florida

Moorings Village (from $500 a night) is located just off the one-of-a-kind Overseas Highway. The breathtaking route is surrounded by water, so wear your swimsuit. You can pull off to take a dip or snorkel at one of the state parks along the way.  (Another perk: Great seafood spots for when you need a snack.) At the resort, treat yourself to a quick nap in one of its private hammocks. Then hit the water in one of its kayaks.

The Classics Getaway

Where: River Hotel and Spa, Florence, Italy

Located in the heart of one of the world’s top cultural hotspots, right along the Arno River, the River Hotel and Spa (rooms from $222 a night) offers modern amenities within historic architecture—a mix that’s benissimo. Sign up for a guided jogging tour of Florence. Or take it slower. The concierge can help you plan a walking itinerary to all the landmarks: Ponte Vecchio, Duomo Florence Cathedral, the Piazza della Signoria, and more. In the evening, sip a cocktail on the roof deck and take in the panoramic water and city views. Then hop in the car for a day trip to a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside (you can be there in under an hour) or the walled city of Siena (1.5 hours), or finish your trip in Rome (3.5 hours away).

Shape Magazine, November 2019 issue


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