11 Road Trip Ideas That Are Actually Active
After months in lockdown mode, Americans are ready to hit the road like never before. Seventy-three percent of people say they're likely to travel by car this fall, and 38 percent are willing to drive at least 300 miles each way for vacation, according to the latest results of an ongoing tracking survey by MMGY Travel Intelligence.
"Getting in a car and having the freedom to go somewhere else is so appealing right now," says Katie Briscoe, the president of MMGY Global, a marketing agency specializing in travel and tourism. "Road trips give us flexibility and control and allow us to embrace the kinds of travel experiences that are so personally enriching."
Locations with natural attractions like mountains, lakes, and forests are the perfect places to head to, with their invigorating opportunities to hike, bike, climb, and kayak. It's no wonder why, as Briscoe says, destinations that are rich in outdoor activities are moving to the top of the list of today's popular getaway spots.
Not to mention, “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. (Related: These Benefits of Hiking Will Make You Want to Hit the Trails)
During Normal Times, 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 look to these 11 active road trip ideas across the world for 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
Price: rooms from $135 a night
This active road trip idea is the perfect combo of exercise and entertainment. 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 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
Price: rooms from $229 a night
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 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.
The Vineyard Tour
Where: The Landsby; Solvang, California
Price: rooms from $169 a night
This active road trip idea is fit for those who like a bit of booze on their vacay. 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 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
Price: rooms from $184 a night
If you're lucky enough to be in Italy, you'll love this active road trip idea. The restored 18th century country residence that is Palazzo Varignana 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 that do all the planning for you.)
The Centering Journey
Where: Mii amo; Sedona, Arizona
Price: starting at $1,290 for three days
Set against a backdrop of soaring red rocks, the all-inclusive Mii amo resort 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 Pet-Friendly Getaway
Where: Brenton Hotel; Newport, Rhode Island
Price: rooms from $230 a night
By day, you can beach comb, sightsee along Newport’s Cliff Walk, and bike to wineries and farms. In the evening, relax at this luxury boutique hotel on the waterfront, where the floor-to-ceiling windows in your room offer panoramic views, or take a sunset tour on the hotel’s picnic boat, available for private charter. And bring your dog — Brenton offers pet-friendly accommodations for no additional fee.
The Historical Expedition
Where: Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, Tuscany, Italy
Price: rooms from $391 a night
Surrounded by 2700 acres of vineyards, olive groves, lakes and lush woods, medieval Toscana Resort Castelfalfi was recently updated to give you luxe comfort in a 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)
The Beach Destination
Where: Moorings Village; Islamorada, Florida
Price: rooms from $500 a night
This active road trip idea is all about immersing yourself in H2O. Moorings Village 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 True Cali Experience
Where: Nakoma Resort; The Lost Sierra, California
Price: rooms from $139 a night
Located an hour from Lake Tahoe in the peaks of the Lost Sierra, the Nakoma Resort is your home base for exploring the area’s national forests and alpine lakes. Hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, go horseback riding, or try fly-fishing. Later, head to Nakoma’s recreation center for a swim in the pool, followed by dinner at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Clubhouse restaurant.
The Classics Getaway
Where: River Hotel and Spa, Florence, Italy
Price: from $222 a night
Located in the heart of one of the world’s top cultural hotspots, right along the Arno River, the River Hotel and Spa offers modern amenities within historic architecture — a mix that’s benissimo. Sign up for a guided jogging tour of Florence. But this active road trip idea can be done 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).
The Road to the Putting Green
Where: Kiawah Island Golf Resort; Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Price: rooms from $240 a night
You may not be one for putting, but this active road trip idea offers so much more than golf. If you’re looking for an island escape you can motor to, Kiawah has 10 miles of beautiful beaches and is just 25 minutes from Charleston. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers every activity you could ask for: Swim, kayak, or surf; do yoga or boot camp on the beach; or play tennis or golf at one of five championship courses. Your kids will even get an education — the property is offering “field trips” that let them explore and learn about the area’s waterways, marine life, and wildlife.
Shape Magazine, November 2019 and November 2020 issues