5 Classic American Drives The open road is as much a part of American heritage as the silver screen, which is why we let the cinema—from Thelma & Louise to Sideways—guide us to our country's most inspiring drives. Budget Travel Monday, Aug 22, 2011, 4:00 PM (Courtesy Environs/Wikimedia Commons) Budget Travel LLC, 2016


5 Classic American Drives

The open road is as much a part of American heritage as the silver screen, which is why we let the cinema—from Thelma & Louise to Sideways—guide us to our country's most inspiring drives.

How to Go Deeper: McCandless's adventure has sparked interest in the Stampede Trail, where visitors have sought to discover Bus 142, the abandoned bus where he took refuge and later died. If you'd rather not go it alone, join City Discovery's Stampede Trail Into the Wild Adventure, a four-hour guided tour on your own zippy little ATV (from $175).

Utah's Canyon Country (Thelma & Louise)

Set out in search of freedom in the wide open expanse of Utah.

Film Synopsis: Friends Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) break from their everyday lives and hit the road, where their journey turns into a flight from the law—and they end up choosing freedom on their own terms.

Destination Highlights: In the final, iconic freeze-frame, Thelma and Louise float suspended above Arizona's Grand Canyon, having driven their 1966 Thunderbird convertible off a cliff—and into film history. But director Ridley Scott actually shot all of the desert scenes in Utah, including at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Plan your trip: Bryce Canyon to Dead Horse Point, Utah; 287 miles.

Stick to the Script: Following T&L's itinerary through bitty Western towns could make for a dull trip…unless you plan to rendezvous with a young Brad Pitt type, of course. Barring that possibility, pay tribute to the duo's destiny by road-tripping between two of Utah's unforgettable canyons. Start at Bryce Canyon National Park in southwest Utah. Bryce is home to otherworldly orange rock formations that seem to morph in color and shape throughout the day. Take a ranger-guided hike into the canyon for the full effect. From Bryce, drive northeast, bypassing Canyonlands, to visit Dead Horse Point, where Thelma and Louise's final flight was actually filmed. Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point offer opposing views of one gorgeous chasm. It feels a lot like the Grand Canyon, but without the hordes of chattering tourists and smog from L.A.

How to Go Deeper: Throughout 2011, events across the country are celebrating the film's 20th anniversary. In D.C., for instance, the nonprofit organization Women in Film & Video will host a September 14 screening with Geena Davis in attendance.

Route 66 (Easy Rider)

Follow the highway that gave birth to the American road trip as we know it.

Film Synopsis: The South and Southwest come alive as Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) discover themselves and America in this 1960s counterculture classic.

Destination Highlights: Follow the old U.S. Route 66 from California to Amarillo, Texas. Then head southeast to New Orleans, via Dallas. Plan your trip: Death Valley, Calif., to Flagstaff, Ariz., to Taos, N.M., to New Orleans; 2,017 miles.

Stick to the Script: Much of Easy Rider takes place along Route 66, which today overlaps much of I-40. If you begin where the twosome hit the open road, in Death Valley, then, like the boys, you'll be ready to refuel by Flagstaff. Try Brix, a restaurant and wine bar, where the chef obsesses over local ingredients from around the Four Corners region (wine from $21 per bottle). Taos and Las Vegas, N.M. (not to be confused with Sin City), are the sites of several scenes (including the debut of fellow traveler George Hanson, played by Jack Nicholson). As you pass through, carve out an afternoon to tour the Taos Pueblo. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive village of multistory adobe structures that has been home to a Native American community for over 1,000 years. Next, head to the Big Easy. Whether or not you time your trip with Mardi Gras, you can soak up the Creole culture any time of year with visits to Pitot House (the only Creole colonial house open to the public), the Presbytere (part of the Louisiana State Museum), and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1—where the guys' infamous bad trip went down.


Get your motor runnin' with these cinematic road trips.

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