My Top 5 Short Road Trips

It's An Open Road by meddygarnet on FlickrRoad trips don’t have to be epic cross country battles that take days, weeks, or even months to complete. “Epic” is a word that people throw around a lot to describe the wonderful feelings they have after a long road trip, but epic can be used to describe even the shortest of journeys. As a Part Time Vagabond, I don’t always get to hit the road for weeks at a time, so shorter adventures quench my thirst for wide landscapes and quirky attractions. To kick off Road Trip Month on Part Time Vagabond, I’ve compiled a list of some of the more beautiful, eccentric, or just plain “epic” short road trips I’ve taken.

  1. Oak Creek Canyon – Flagstaff to Sedona, AZ – This is quite possibly my favorite short road trip. From alpine forests to red rock desert in 45 minutes, this trip will have your heart pounding and your mind racing! Make this breathtaking trip in late spring or early summer (avoid treacherous winter driving) and watch for elk and deer in the Ponderosa pine filled Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff. Follow Route 89A down Oak Creek Canyon and watch as the landscape transforms from high alpine tundra to red rock desert. Take it easy as you hit the switchbacks in Oak Creek Canyon, because while they offer gorgeous views, they can be tricky. The entire drive is a lesson in geology, with layers of exposed rock revealing the historical evolution of the area. It’s one of the most stunning drives in the country.
  2. Route 9, Fishkill to Hyde Park, New York – Take exit 13N off of Interstate 84 in Fishkill, NY for a quick ride through the gorgeous Mid-Hudson Valley. Autumn is the best time to do this trip as you pass through small upstate towns and by national historic sites flourishing with autumn color. This 20 mile drive has plenty of places to stop and poke around, especially for those of you who love antiquing. For the history buff, the end of the journey features the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Val Kill (Eleanor Roosevelt’s Home) National Historic Sites. Stop off in Poughkeepsie to see the campuses of Vassar and Marist Colleges, and hit up the Culinary Institute of America‘s restaurant, open to the public with a reservation.  If you stay overnight in Hyde Park, catch a first-run movie at the Hyde Park Drive-In theater.
  3. Interstate 87, Rockland County, NY to Montreal, Quebec, Canada – Interstate 87 passes through some of the most beautiful country in the United States, and certainly in the Northeast. Hugging the outskirts of Adirondack State Park, this trip takes you nearly the entire length of New York State. Small towns and large cities alike punctuate the mostly forested route. I love stopping at rest areas along the way for a quick picnic lunch overlooking some gorgeous vistas. This is the true New York. Head north on I-87 from Suffern, NY for 320 miles to the Canadian border, where you meet up with Autoroute 15 into the historic French-Canadian city of Montreal.
  4. Route 1, Portland to Camden, Maine – This classic road trip is one that most people have only heard about. Lighthouses — while popular attractions in these parts — aren’t the only things to see on the rocky Maine coastline. Start in Portland, where you can tool around the Old Port for some fresh lobster and local craft beer. Head out to the Eastern Promenade for views of Casco Bay, then hop the ferry to Peaks Island, a year round residential island where life is a bit slower and a lot more peaceful. Hop back in the car on the mainland and head north on Route 1, stopping in Freeport for some outlet shopping (make sure to hit up outfitter L.L. Bean, which has been open 24 hours a day since 1951. Look on the doors…no locks!) and a nice dinner at one of the many fine restaurants. Further up the road, stop in Brunswick for some gelato and a stroll down Maine Street, then hit the road toward Bath, where the Bath Iron Works still builds ships for the U.S. Military. As you pass through Wiscasset, take a stroll downtown and grab a red hot at Red’s Eats, right on the water. Wind your way further north on the MidCoast to Damariscotta, Rockland, and Camden, then stop at Historic Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, which offers stunning views of the Penobscot River. End your trip by heading onto Route 3 in Ellsworth and taking a trip to Acadia National Park, or continue on Rt. 1 up to the Canadian border.
  5. 7th Avenue, Manhattan, NY – Strange, but true. New York City’s 7th Avenue is one of my favorite short road trips. Walk it, ride it, drive it, whatever you do, enjoy it. True, not all of this trip is actually on 7th Ave., but it’s worth it. Start at the north end of Central Park, then make your way down Central Park West. You could spend an entire day in the famed green space and all the museums that call it home, but we’re on a schedule here! When you hit Columbus Circle, head east on 59th St, then south on 7th Ave. Cruise down the avenue and enjoy all the sights and sounds that come with The City. Pass through Times Square, then it’s a straight shot through the Fashion District and Chelsea to SOHO where 7th Ave. turns into Varick St., leading you right into the Financial District.

Road Trips don’t always have to be long journeys across a country. There is always something to see or do wherever you go. It’s just a matter of taking it slow and keeping your eyes and ears open as you go.

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.