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You Will Love These Fall Road Trips Across Tennessee

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
A view of the Great Smoky Mountains with autumn colors
Sean Pavone/Dreamstime
Autumn is the perfect time of year to explore everything the Volunteer state has to offer, from incredible music to history, culture, food, and jaw-dropping natural beauty.

From Memphis to Nashville, from Chattanooga to the Great Smoky Mountains - and so much more - Tennessee's highways offer gorgeous vistas, welcoming cities and towns, and an array of activities for every member of the family. Here, three Tennessee road trips every traveler should take.

Experience Unique Music and Culture: Memphis to Nashville

In Memphis, jump-start your autumn excursion with a cup of java and a pumpkin duffin - a cake-donut-muffin hybrid - at Bluff City Coffee, before heading to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. The site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 assassination now chronicles the Civil Rights Movement  through films, artifacts, oral histories, and interactive media. The world-renowned museum is connected to the Lorraine Motel where a powerful exhibit shares Dr. King’s last hours, his iconic speech “Mountaintop” and Room 306 where he was staying April 4, 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is also one of 10 Tennessee sites located on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

For audiophiles, the stretch of the Americana Music Triangle’s Gold Record Road that runs from Memphis to Nashville (aka “Beale to Broadway”) is especially fertile. Start at Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first song; then follow in the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s footsteps to his home, Graceland, where you can see the famous “Jungle Room,” the Racquetball Building and the pool room. Visit Elvis’ Memphis where you’ll encounter Elvis’ extensive car collection, hundreds of artifacts including jumpsuits in Elvis The Entertainer Career Museum and even his airplanes. Stroll down Beale Street, the epicenter of African-American jazz and blues culture in the early 1900s, where the music and dancing never stop from the clubs and venues lining the strip. Visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the world’s only museum dedicated to the genre. The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, created by the Smithsonian Institution, dives into Memphis’ global influence on music from the 1930s to today. Wrap up with a guided tour of the Gibson Guitar factory where skilled luthiers make some of the best guitars in the world right in front of your eyes. Jump on Highway 40 and head east until you reach the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville, where a mecca of Tina Turner memorabilia is housed in the one-room schoolhouse she attended as a child; the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll grew up in Nutbush, not far away.

Back on the road, it’s just under 30 miles to Jackson, home to both the International Rock-a-billy Hall of Fame and The Carnegie Featuring The Tennessee Legends of Music Museum which has exhibits on Sonny Boy Williamson, WS Holland and Carl Perkins. Outdoor lovers can visit Chickasaw State Park for a swim in Lake Placid or visit the stables for a guided horseback ride along a tranquil trail.

From there, it’s an hour to Nashville, and Music City is not only the epicenter of country music in America but also a hotbed of world-class classical, jazz, and film music as well. Attend a show at one of the many music venues across the city where you’ll find not only country music but rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, jazz, blues and more. For a full history on country music visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. Take a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry and take in a show during the live recorded show that “made country music famous.” See rising stars and music legends at the historic Ryman Auditorium or an up-and-comer at the Bluebird Café. See if you can stand the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken, prepared with secret spicy recipes from the grandfather of hot chicken, Prince’s or the more modern take, Hattie B’s and Party Fowl. Stay in a historic hotel like the Hermitage Hotel which has hosted presidents and famous musicians alike or rest your head in a museum hotel like Noelle or 21c Museum Hotel. 

Sixty-five miles east on I-40 is Edgar Evins State Park, a sprawling 6,000 acres on the banks of Center Hill Lake with fishing, kayaking, canoeing, 11 miles of hiking trails, and 57 species of butterflies. Drive half an hour further to Burgess Falls State Park, a natural area on the Eastern Highland Rim with sheer bluffs, narrow ridges, and four waterfalls. Snap some shots for Instagram and then head for Sparta, where you can visit the Coal Miner Railroad Section House Museum, take in views of four different counties from Sunset Rock. Enjoy a glass of wine at Tennessee’s oldest winery, Highland Manor Winery in Jamestown. From there, it’s a straight shot down I-40 to Knoxville.

The Scenic Route: Nashville to Chattanooga

Just 45 minutes south of Nashville is Franklin, a small town filled with music, history and boutique shopping. Keep an eye out for the likes of Justin Timberlake and Winona Judd at Puckett’s Grocery’s famed open-mic night; peruse the country-chic offerings at White’s Mercantile, a general store owned by Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams and a musician in her own right; learn the extensive Civil War history through carefully preserved battlefields and homes that were on the frontlines; and pick up sweet treats for the road from Meridee’s Breadbasket.

Motoring south down US-41A, you’ll pass Tullahoma, the site of both the world’s largest wind tunnel and a former World War II POW camp. (Reserve at least two weeks in advance for tours of Arnold Air Force Base.) While you’re in town, have a meal at One22West, a former department store now slinging American classics with a local twist, and have a lovely night’s stay at the Grand Lux Inn, a refurbished 1905 home in the town’s historic district—both favorites of Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett. Aviation buffs should consider an October trip for the Beechcraft Heritage Museum's annual Beech Party, a celebration of all things antique aircraft.

From Tullahoma, it’s 13 miles to Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniel’s since 1866. Whiskey fans can tour the distillery and partake in a five-pour tasting, then hit Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House for a great Southern meal. Afterwards, pick up provisions and memorabilia at the Lynchburg Hardware General Store, then take Rt. 50 to 41A south until you hit the neighboring Cumberland Plateau towns of Sewanee and Monteagle. Stop for lunch and admire the mountain vistas over sandwiches at Mountain Goat Market or pulled pork at the 135 Cafe, a diner gem tucked away behind a gas station and a truck stop.

From Sewanee, take I-24 through the mountains to Chattanooga, East Tennessee’s Scenic City. For great leaf-peeping, bike the Tennessee Riverpark Greenway, then spend some time in the Bluff View Art District, a vibrant one-and-a-half-block neighborhood overlooking the Tennessee River where you’ll find regional, local and nationally-known artists’ works at the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Houston Museum and the River Gallery. Treat yourself to a meal at the Back Inn Café, where dishes like smoked-duck flatbread and shrimp and grits impress as much as the water views. After dinner, swing by the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. for a tour, a tasting, or a drink in the lounge, then hit the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, an historic terminal station that now houses the Songbirds Guitar Museum, for a nightcap.

Food and Fall Colors: Chattanooga to Knoxville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

From Chattanooga, it’s 36 miles northeast to Booker T. Washington State Park, a 353-acre water-lover’s paradise on the shores of Chickamauga Lake. Wander the walking trail, challenge yourself with a mountain bike ride, take a boat out on the lake and go fishing, or picnic by the waterfront.

The outdoor activity is bound to make you thirsty, and the family-owned Morris Vineyard & Tennessee Mountainview Winery in Charleston is just under an hour away. Sip a glass of muscadine blush or blueberry wine, made with fruit grown on the property’s more than 50 acres, in front of a stunning mountainous backdrop.

From there, take Rt. 11 to Athens, and cap off a tour of Mayfield Dairy Farms with a scoop of homemade ice cream in the old-fashioned parlor. Next, it’s on to Madisonville for a stop at Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham, where the renowned country ham and hickory-smoked bacon gets made for some of the top restaurants in the nation. Take a pound or two to go for the ultimate edible souvenir, and continue on to Knoxville, the football-mad home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. In October, join the rowdy crowd for a game, then stick around to watch an array of adorable pups compete for best costume in the UT Gardens’ Howl-O-Ween Pooch Parade. Head up to the 4th-floor observation deck of the Sunsphere, a 266-foot tower built for the 1982 World’s Fair, for 360-degree views of the city, then slip over to the nearby Knoxville Museum of Art. Explore the lively dining scene at Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, run by James Beard Award-nominated chef Tim Love and Oliver Royale, breweries like Balter Beerworks and Alliance Brewing Company; donut shops like Status Dough, and pet-friendly patios like Stock & Barrel and Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern , before bouncing back to your boutique treehouse at Treetop Hideaways, just outside of town.

Known as the Gateway to the Smokies, Gatlinburg is just over an hour away, at an access point to the nation’s most-visited and biodiverse national park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take the winding Great Smoky Mountains Byway, but drive slowly to capture the many fall-foliage photo ops, especially in Cades Cove. (Don’t forget to check the park’s Weekly Fall Colors Update to catch the vivid autumn palette at its prime.) Get your fill of hiking, zip-lining, and rafting, but be sure to allow time for Gatlinburg proper, too. Take a tour and sample the spirits at Sugarlands Distilling Company, pick up some pottery or take a class at Fowler’s Clay Works, and don’t miss Anakeesta, Gatlinburg’s newest attraction, with its own mountain, dueling ziplining, canopy walk, shops, bakeries, barbecue, and stunning mountain views. Stop by Tennessee’s only ski park, Ober Gatlinburg, for the Oktoberfest celebration, and wash it all down with a shot of pumpkin pie moonshine from Ole Smoky Moonshine.

For epic views on the way out of town, take the Gatlinburg Bypass and stop at the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook before continuing on to Pigeon Forge, where the main attraction is Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park. Make a day of it there, but don’t skip the area’s assortment of specialty museums. Located in Dollywood, the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the pioneers of the genre; nearby, stop by the Titanic Museum to see relics and recreations from the legendary luxury liner, snap selfies with stars like Lucille Ball and Michael Jackson at the Hollywood Wax Museum, and learn about the criminal underworld at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, where infamous artifacts like O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco and Ted Bundy’s VW Beetle are on display. In neighboring Sevierville, motorheads will love the collection of high-performance vehicles at the Floyd Garrett Muscle Car Museum, while warbird enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation. Spend an afternoon running the obstacle course at the Sevier Air Trampoline & Ninja Warrior Park, take a scenic helicopter ride or go up in a 1927 biplane, and browse the merchandise at Smoky Mountain Knifeworks, the world’s largest knife showplace, where everything from collectible and antique knives to fantasy and superhero blades is on offer.  Don’t miss gorgeous nearby Foxfire Mountain, and be sure to treat yourself at Tanger Outlets, the sprawling mall with something for everyone. 

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Road Trips

Ultimate Road Trip: Missouri Cities to “Fall” for This Autumn

It's road trip season, and we've rounded up three of the most scenic, delicious, and entertaining ways to explore Missouri this autumn - or any time.JAZZ, BBQ & A FALL FESTIVALGo to Kansas City for the jazz history, stay for pretty much everything else. After you’ve visited the American Jazz Museum, which houses a functioning music club, and any of the other cultural institutions, get a sense of the city’s vibrant creative energy by wandering through a neighborhood like Old Westport, where inventive restaurants and funky boutiques abound. Just don’t leave Kansas City without trying the legendary barbecue. From no-frills spots like B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ and L.C.’s Bar-B-Q, where lines form hours before they open, to the century-old Arthur Bryant’s, there are plenty of places to dig in.Once you’ve fortified yourself, it’s a 55 mile drive to St. Joseph. The town’s slogan offers a glimpse into its history: Where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended. Rooted firmly in Americana, the city offers a mix of buildings, many of them landmarks, that honor its Civil War era history, as well as more eccentric sites like the Glore Psychiatric Museum and the Patee House Museum, which houses a locomotive and a carousel. Stroll through the Museum Historic District to see well preserved homes in a variety of architectural styles, and then hit the Walter Cronkite Memorial, a tribute to St. Joseph’s native son.Speaking of native sons, Samuel Clemens, who would later be known as Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, and the town is something of a shrine to him. It’s a straight shot 200 miles east along Highway 36, so make a day of the journey. Today it’s known as “The Way of American Genius.” Stops along the way honor Walt Disney, the inventor of sliced bread, J.C. Penney, and other personalities with ties to the Show-Me State. The highway is also referred to as the VFW Memorial Highway in honor of those who have fought for our country, and tributes to military leaders dating back to the Civil War dot the route. When you get to Hannibal, check out the Mark Twain Boyhood Home, then indulge in homemade root beer and by-the-foot onion rings at Mark Twain Dinette. If you’re traveling this fall, plan to stop here October 20 and 21 for the 42nd Autumn Historic Folklife Festival.NATURAL BEAUTY, BIG-CITY CULTURE & SMALL-TOWN CHARMHistory and contemporary creativity blend easily in Cape Girardeau. The Conservation Nature Center showcases the area as it was hundreds of years ago, and a number of significant 19th-century houses, national landmarks and historic districts pay tribute to the town’s role in the Civil War. But that past almost serves as a backdrop to the modern day artistic energy. An outdoor sculpture exhibit stretches for nine blocks downtown, and First Friday with the Arts puts the city’s vibrant arts scene on display. It makes an excellent prelude to St. Louis, which is about 120 miles north up Interstate 55. About halfway through your journey, pull over in Perryville and check out St. Mary’s of the Barrens Historic District, a sprawling site established in 1818 that includes a church constructed in 1827 and a gorgeous shrine built in 1929.Next stop: St. Louis. You’ll know you’re approaching because the 600-foot-tall iconic Gateway Arch, the country’s tallest man-made monument, greets you from the distance. Not even the most dramatic photos compare to seeing it in real life. St. Louis is a city of very distinct and inspiring neighborhoods, so after you’ve visited one of the local institutions, like the Saint Louis Art Museum or the National Blues Museum, spend an afternoon just wandering. And go hungry: Maplewood offers gastropubs, craft breweries, and an artisanal chocolate shop; South Grand delivers a global feast with Iranian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipino restaurants; the Hill, a historic Italian neighborhood, maintains that culture in its Italian markets and restaurants.Once you’re fueled up, hit the road and head 60 miles west to Hermann, a small town settled by Germans in the late 1830s. That history is evident in the brick buildings that line the main streets, and it’s celebrated every year in October during Oktoberfest. The city was designated one of the first federally recognized American Viticultural Areas in the country. A winery visit or, better yet, a spin through the seven family-owned vineyards along the scenic 20-mile Hermann Wine Trail will give you a thorough understanding—and taste of—one of the city’s defining aspects.After a good night’s rest, continue your western route for 60 miles to Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City. The striking government buildings, from the State Capitol to the old state penitentiary, set the tone for this stunning city, which balances grand architecture and captivating natural sites, like the Katy Trail State Park and Carnahan Memorial Garden. Cafés, diners, brewpubs, and even the historic eateries, like ECCO Lounge, a landmark established in 1945, are among just a few of the dining options.HISTORY, MUSIC & THRILL RIDESJoplin is home to an Official Missouri Welcome Center, so pop in and get oriented. It’s also home to the state’s largest continuously flowing waterfall. (Pro tip: Go there to watch the sunset.) Outdoor sites are plentiful here, not least among them: Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, situated next to one of the few remaining chert glades, a unique habitat. Dive deeper into the region’s natural resources at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, or see what local artists are up to at the Spiva Center for the Arts.Prepare for a thorough history lesson in Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66. You can easily spend days exploring the various sites along the stretch of that famous thoroughfare. Start at the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center to stock up on information, then zoom along to the Route 66 Car Museum, Relics Antique Mall, and Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. There are restaurants and breweries for pit stops along the way.Schedule plenty of time to explore Branson, about 45 miles south. After all that driving, taking in a show is a fine way to unwind. The city is home to more than 50 theaters that offer everything from family-friendly variety shows to gospel concerts and musicals, to comedy performances. But nobody who comes to Branson stays seated for very long. Tour Marvel Cave, a National Natural Landmark at Silver Dollar City. With 600 steps, it’s certainly a challenge, but you’ll be rewarded by the wonders 300 feet below the surface. For those who prefer their adventures above ground, Branson boasts thrill rides and endless fun. Mountain coasters, ziplines and outdoor recreation are just a few of the ways to take advantage of the natural beauty.With new direct flights in and out of Branson announced in June and more coming in August, now is the perfect time to plan your visit.

Road Trips

6 U.S. Scenic Byways You Must Discover

Daydreaming of a road trip? The Federal Highway Administration has done all your homework for you. Though anyone who’s ever crept along in 5 miles-per-hour traffic may have a hard time admitting it, the United States has magnificent highway infrastructure, and when it comes to road trips, no element of that blacktop web is greater than the America’s Byways collection. To earn a place on this treasure map of 150 routes, the road must show "outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic value," according to the FHA, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. When taken as a whole, the Byways are truly the beating pulse of our country's artery system. You could spend years exploring them, but if you’ve only got a couple weeks, here are six unforgettable routes. 1. ROUTE 66: THE MOTHER ROAD The most famous of the Scenic Byways also is one of the longest, and depending where you grew up, you’ll instantly think of certain stops as “the main stretch of Route 66.” For West Coasters, it’s the Santa Monica endpoint and dust-red Arizona towns, but over in the Midwest, Illinois has its own Route 66 Heritage Project to preserve the beginning of this iconic American road. After departing Chicago's metropolitan area, it’s all cornfields, small towns, and roadside attractions until you get to Springfield, the Land of Lincoln and gateway to serious Americana antiquing. SEE: It’s said that ghosts haunt Joliet, a city 30 miles southwest of Chicago. If you’re hoping to spot ghosts, check out Rialto Square Theater and Joliet Prison. Pontiac-Oakland Museum is a haven of American car memorabilia. And since you’ll be passing through Springfield, make time for the Lincoln Home historic site. EAT: Not much has changed on the menu at Springfield's Chili Parlor (thechiliparloronline.com) since it opened in 1945. You can even get a glass of buttermilk to drink at this Food Network favorite. 2. TURQUOISE TRAIL, NEW MEXICO Many of the Scenic Byways have wonderfully expressive names. Case in point: this stretch of highway connecting Santa Fe with Albuquerque. The Turquoise Trail (turquoisetrail.org) is largely surrounded by golden and red earth, although on a normal sunny, arid day, the sky will indeed be turquoise as you pass by ranches, former mining towns, and historic sites. SEE: Quirky roadside attraction Tinkertown Museum (tinkertown.com) in Sandia Park, about 50 miles south of Santa Fe, is a treasure trove of antique toys. The canyon-set mining town-turned-art-colony Madrid, about 20 miles further north en route to Santa Fe, offers galleries and restaurants, and at Casa Grande Trading Post you can stock up on souvenir turquoise. EAT: Jezebel Soda Fountain in Madrid is known for bakery pies, chocolate-dipped ice cream cones, American diner food, and kitsch décor with a 1920s wink. 3. LARIAT LOOP, COLORADO (Jordan Blakesley) Colorado has 11 America’s Byways, and it’s hard to say that one is better than the rest, but for a truly broad range of culture touchstones in a relatively short stretch of roadway, Lariat Loop (lariatloop.org), a 40-mile circle that starts and ends in Golden, stands out. It’s been a Denver-area day drive since the 1920s, when one can only imagine people taking their Ford Model A's up Lookout Mountain. A generation before that, trains were the main mode of transportation, and Buffalo Bill Cody was a household name. And several millennia before, dinosaurs proliferated and left their indelible tracks throughout the mountain passages. SEE: Before—or after—the drive, take advantage of the riches Golden offers, like a historic walking tour, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and the many beer gardens. Speaking of beer, the town is home to Coors Brewing (serving the malt-brewed golden taste of America since 1873!), where free tours are offered Thursdays through Monday. Other stops along the loop include Dinosaur Ridge, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite. EAT: The Fort (thefort.com) in Red Rocks territory is known for its game meats and “New Foods of the Old West” 19th-century recipes updates. 4. A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME SCENIC BYWAY, UTAH Where other designated byways take you back a few centuries, the epically named 286-mile Utah stretch takes you back to when mammoths roamed the earth. If that sounds dramatic, just wait until you’re at nearly 9000 feet, the red rocks and sub-alpine fir forests arrayed far below. National parks Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, state parks including Kodachrome Basin, and four-wheel destinations like Hole-in-the-Rock are all detours along this all-American road that can take five hours, four days, or a lifetime to traverse. SEE: Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is a must-see for geology enthusiasts. Anasazi State Park Museum is a history lesson in Native American lore. Long-distance hikers should make stops at Hell’s Backbone and The Box, but you only need to be human to appreciate Dixie National Forest and the arches of Red Canyon. Also, if you love cowboy culture, try to meet up with the Bryce Canyon Rodeo. EAT: The seasonal Sweetwater Kitchen (sweetwaterkitchen.com) in Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch features about 95% organic ingredients on its tightly edited locavore menu. The mouthwatering dishes are a great way to refuel after a day hiking around Hell’s Backbone. 5. BEACH BOULEVARD SCENIC BYWAY, MISSISSIPPI (Ken Murphy) With a name like Beach Boulevard (gulfcoast.org), you’d think this route maps a West Coast drive, but in a plot twist, we’re actually heading to the Gulf Coast. Yes, the Southeast has its own beach Byway that traverses several states—and yes, Mississippi lays claim to the most beautiful part. Start out in Waveland, visit historic coastal towns, wend your way along 26 miles of beachfront, check out stately homes, and eat fresh seafood galore. If you want a bustling city, check out the casinos in Biloxi. SEE: Mississippi Sound views from Pass Christian (aka “the Pass”) cannot be beat. Gulf Islands Water Park is a top pick for families, and be sure to check out the classic Main Street of artist enclave Ocean Springs—named one of our 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2018. EAT: There’s a lot of good gumbo, fresh fish, and more along this route. Start the AM drive at PJ’s Coffee in Pearlington located on the “The Pearlington Scenic Byway to Space,” just west of where Highway 90 becomes Beach Boulevard. Work up an appetite as you drive east and dive into lunch at Claw Daddy’s, White Cap Seafood, or Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport. 6. OLD CANADA ROAD If you’ve never driven through rugged, forested, river-crisscrossed upper New England, this journey will be a wonderful deep-dive. Bucolic photo ops abound: a clapboard cabin, a glimmering lake, a large woodland creature. And in fall, this route offers the caliber of fall foliage that turns people into lifetime leaf-peepers. The endpoint of this 78-mile historic byway is, as promised, a border crossing to our northern neighbor and Acadian delights. SEE: If it's summertime, before you follow the south-to-north route, check Lakewood Theater's schedule of musicals. The venue, situated at the southernmost point of the road, is an outdoor culture paradise. It's even worth overnighting here. In the morning, as you head north, pull over for a panorama photo moment at Robbins Hill Scenic Overlook, just below Wyman Lake. The lake is a delightful site for a picnic if the weather allows. Up the road past Caratunk, veer off the byway at The Forks to the stunning drop of Moxie Fall. Retrace a few grueling steps of the historic Kennebec River to the Dead River route that the infamous Benedict Arnold took during his brief moment as a war hero. And as you motor along, note that this route overlaps with the Appalachian Trail, so be on the lookout for people hiking the perilous pilgrimage of a lifetime just off the highway. EAT: If the weather’s warm enough to enjoy the scenery, opt for a lakeside picnic over a restaurant. Buy picnic supplies at Williams’ General Store. When the Northeast's chill hits, join the rowdy crowd at the Marshall Inn, about 80 miles north of Augusta, for food, drinks, and live entertainment.

Road TripsTravel Tips

5 Mistakes That Will Bust Your Road Trip Budget

Planning a road trip this summer? Expect some company on the expressway. Even amid rising gas prices, Americans are packing up their cars for a vacation. According to a recent AAA survey, 64 percent of Americans traveling this summer are planning a road trip, and it's the most popular option for family vacations. But to stretch your travel dollars while you’re on the road, you’ll want to avoid these five common mistakes. 1. Paying Top Dollar for Gas Start by downloading GasBuddy on your smartphone. Using real-time fuel price information reported other users, the mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) can direct you to the cheapest gas stations along your route. Another way to conserve fuel is by packing your car lighter, so unload excess weight before you hit the road. Also, studies show using cruise control on highways can maximize fuel efficiency. Driving a car that gets poor gas mileage? It might make financial sense to rent a fuel-efficient vehicle for your trip. Also, paying with a gas-rewards credit card will put money back in your pocket each time you fill up. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is a favorite from credit card comparison website NerdWallet; the card lets you earn 3 percent cash back on U.S. gas station purchases year round. 2. Overspending on Lodging Many hotels and Airbnb rentals raise their rates during the summer, but you can save big on lodging by doing a little careful planning. Want to stay at a hotel? Call the concierge to find out what the rate is—sometimes the over-the-phone price is cheaper than the online price. Another option: use a bidding site like Priceline where hotels compete for your business. And make sure you avoid paying hidden hotel fees. (These days some places are even charging a fee to use the in-room coffee maker!) If you’re comfortable waiting until the day of to book a room, use HotelTonight, a mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) that offers same-day bookings of up to 70 percent off at luxury hotels. Shopping for an Airbnb? Try haggling with the owner for a lower rate. You’ll have more leverage if you’re requesting a multi-night stay. Looking to pitch a tent? Find a free campsite near your destination using the iOverlander mobile app (available on Android and iPhone). One caveat: some outdoor parks require a camping permit, but these generally cost only $5 to $20 per night. 3. Missing Out on Free Entertainment Summer is peak season for free outdoor concerts, festivals, art shows, sporting events, and other community gatherings. You can find things to do along your route by visiting Festivals.com, MacaroniKid.com, and your destination city’s tourism website. Nearify, a free mobile app (available on Android and iPhone) that compiles happenings in hundreds of cities, is another tool for discovering cool events near your location. Also, local newspapers, magazines, and alternative weeklies typically have events calendars. A number of cities offer free walking tours. You find these on Google and FreeToursByFoot.com. 4. Eating Out Every Meal Reality check: Dining out costs money. A lot of money. But you don’t have to eat out every meal when you’re on the road. Plan ahead by stashing some food in a cooler, like deli sandwiches for lunches. Non-perishable snacks are also good to have on hand. Pro tip: Pack nuts, potato chips, crackers, and other foods that won’t melt in a hot car. Of course, some meals are worth the splurge, like that four-star restaurant overlooking the ocean. But when you do eat out, always check for deals and coupons on Groupon, LivingSocial, and Yelp Deals. Traveling with kids? Find a restaurant where children eat for free. 5. Road Tripping to Big Cities Put simply, some road-trip destinations are less expensive than others. Big cities tend to have pricier lodging and restaurants; plus, they’re crowded. To trim expenses, travel to towns where your dollar will go further. A road trip can also be an opportunity for you to check out locations in your corner of the country. Staying within your state, as opposed to taking a long road trip, can also help reduce gas costs—and keep the kids from going stir-crazy in the car.

Road Trips

Ultimate Art Lover’s New England Road Trip

Each time my family drives into Bennington, Vermont, it feels a little like coming home. Though I’ve never lived in this little town for more than a few days at a time on vacation, it strikes a deep, familiar chord with me. Perhaps arriving in Bennington feels like home to me because, as a boy growing up in the Bronx, I recall vividly my first discovery of the great American painter Anna Mary Robertson, better known as Grandma Moses, who lived and worked in Bennington. The gentle curves of the Green Mountains just outside of town provide a soothing natural backdrop to this historic place, and they are the very mountains that appear in Grandma Moses’s folk paintings, depicting rural life and seasonal rituals such as sugar-mapling and trick-or-treating. The interplay between the natural world and the art world is at the very heart of this short and totally manageable road trip. DAY 1: BENNINGTON, VERMONT Bennington offers a range of accommodations, but we’ve become fond of the family-friendly Knotty Pine Motel, which has a dog-friendly policy, a very attentive and helpful staff, and a lovely swing set and pool. We especially appreciate the big map of New England that hangs in the main office. My youngest daughter kept asking to go visit the map, and I was so pleased that she’d connected with New England, tracing her finger over my sister’s home in New Hampshire, the beaches of Falmouth and Nantucket where we’ve visited, and the charming little city of New Bedford. It was only later that I realized that my daughter was actually less interested in the map and much more interested in the bowl of Tootsie Rolls the motel proprietor kept on her desk. Oh, well. The map is still a sweet memory, even if the candy was sweeter. In Bennington, the must-see for art lovers is the Bennington Museum and Grandma Moses Schoolhouse. Here, you can view a wide variety of art in a charming and manageable setting. The museum’s permanent collection includes fine art, furniture, and household items from Vermont’s history as well as strikingly modern work by contemporary Bennington artists. The rooms devoted to Grandma Moses (the largest public collection of the “primitive” artist’s work) offer you the chance to see the Green Mountains in Moses’s iconic paintings or rural life and then peek out the window and see the real thing. Unforgettable. The adjoining one-room Grandma Moses Schoolhouse includes chalk-boards and antique schoolbooks, games, and dress-up clothes. If you’re traveling with kids, they may be more enthralled by the schoolhouse than the art, and that’s fine: Let them go. They’ll remember how that schoolhouse made them feel long after they’ve forgotten your lectures on folk art. In 1777, Bennington was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle, and each August, the town celebrates with a parade. Residents and visitors alike line the streets and cheer for the bands and marchers. We’ve been lucky enough to time our visits to parade weekend, and it is a nice way to meet the town’s year-round residents. Don’t be fooled by the name. Kevin’s Sports Pub and Restaurant, in North Bennington, is much more than a place to watch a game on TV. We love its imaginative riffs on burgers, fish and chips, and other pub fare, and the local ales on tap offer a variety of vibrant flavors and textures. In nearby South Shaftsbury, the Robert Frost Stone House Museum surprises, delights, and educates visitors with Frost’s famous poetry, such as “The Road Not Taken,” adorning the walls, with brief, easily digested lessons on his rhyme schemes and meter that even young kids will understand and appreciate. (If you’re headed for the Atlantic coast, drop by another Frost museum, his farmhouse in Derry, New Hampshire, on the way.) Psst! Outside Bennington, there’s a hidden gem of a local lake whose name I promised not to publish because its modest snack bar and canoe rental business are really meant for locals. If you find yourself in conversation with a Bennington local, do ask about places to canoe. We had a family paddling adventure on the lake and down a nearby creek that we’ll never forget. DAY 2: WILLIAMSTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS Williamstown, just across the border into Massachusetts down U.S. 7, is another town where you can easily stay more than one night just to drink in all the art and natural beauty on display. The Clark Art Institute is home not only to a world-class permanent collection that includes European and American art from the Renaissance to the early 20th century (especially rich in work by American painters Winslow Homer, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent), but also to one of the finest museum snack bars I’ve ever experienced. For real. I recommend its salads and sandwiches, especially in good weather when you can eat out on a terrace. The museum’s grounds, including a children’s learning center, are a work of art themselves (they made Architectural Digest’s list of “buzz-worthy” museums). Williams College Museum of Art is another fine collection; focused on the college’s mission, the museum offers a broad range of pieces, from ancient Egyptian art to contemporary American and international work. Williamstown Theatre Festival has been bringing acclaimed productions to the Berkshires each summer since 1955, another example of the exciting synergy between the natural world and human creativity that makes this region so special. Williams Inn is a cozy place in the heart of Williamstown to rest your head in the Berkshires, having welcomed visitors since 1909. As with Bennington before it, you may want to stay more than one night to see all the sights. DAY 3: NORTH ADAMS, MASSACHUSETTS The cherry on top of your art lover’s road trip is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), in North Adams. The nearby mountains and small-town vibe on the streets are a contrast to the hot, ultra-modern work you’ll encounter inside this restored 19th-century mill complex. The museum is an epicenter for the making of visual and performing arts, with residencies that bring cutting-edge creators to town. New exhibits of contemporary artists, including the museum’s Kidspace, are ongoing; check the museum’s excellent website, massmoca.org, for updates. When you’re ready to refuel, MASS MoCA’s Lickety Split lobby bistro is open during museum hours for breakfast and lunch (plus ice cream, espresso, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and, on show nights, a light dinner menu). The cute streets of North Adams also teem with international cuisine, funky cafés and coffee spots, and cool pubs.  Ready to hit the hay? The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA is self-consciously kitschy. (In keeping with the museum’s mission, the inn describes itself as “retro-edgy, industrial granny chic.”) You’ll enjoy closing your little hipster eyes in the imaginative heart of the Berkshires. BOOK YOUR HOTEL WITH BUDGET TRAVEL You can find and book a great hotel deal right at Budget Travel's Book a Hotel page.