Home Automobiles For Your Bucket List – A Road Trip Across America

For Your Bucket List – A Road Trip Across America

There are few experiences as quintessential as a cross-country road trip. And while many continental drives are designed around a set start and end point—with bucket list national park visits, food show-approved bites, and city stopovers punctuating the journey—those charming little spots in between the marquee destinations can be the hardest to sniff out. We’re talking about the retro soda fountains; the dusty saloons; the fruit stand with emus out back (here’s looking at you, Florida).

Below, writers from across the country share the historic, delightfully weird, and easy-to-drive-right-past destinations that are not only worth a stop but worth plotting your route around. Use them to sketch out the cross-country drive of a lifetime.

experience

American Sign Museum

CINCINNATI, OH

This 20,000-square-foot museum, founded by the former publisher of Signs of the Times magazine, celebrates the history and creativity of commercial sign-making. Its collection spans a century and includes signs made from painted wood, lightbulbs, porcelain enamel, neon, and plastic. Cue up an audio tour on your phone to learn more about this glowing neon graveyard of American iconography, featuring signs from barbershops, bowling alleys, Baptist churches, and more. Highlights include a McDonald’s sign from the early 1960s advertising 15-cent hamburgers and MainStreet USA, a strollable, brick-paved thoroughfare flanked with vintage and repro storefronts and signage as eye-catching as the Vegas Strip. —Ashlea Halpern

Faith Based Events
food

The Bluebird Restaurant

LOGAN, UT

Open since 1914, this Logan, Utah, diner claims to be the oldest in the state. It started as a candy store before expanding its menu in the 1920s, and still, the restaurant is best known for sweets, including 75 different types of chocolate. A poodle skirt or bowling shirt would be right at home among the restaurant’s decor—much of the interior is original, including the soda fountain counter and stools. The owners are finishing a restoration this spring, complete with a marbled checkerboard floor, but the candy shop (Bluebird Candy Company) remains open: Swing by for a caramel-filled O’Aggie Bar, a Bluebird staple for decades. —David Dodge

shop

Buc-ee’s

NEW BRAUNFELS, TX

Buc-ees: It’s been called a freeway phenomenon, a temple of roadside junk food, and the Disney World of convenience stores. And while the chain has more than 50 locations throughout the south, the New Braunfels flagship is a 66,335-square-foot Shangri-La between Austin and San Antonio—officially the world’s largest convenience store. There is almost no snack on earth this place doesn’t stock, from Takis Meat Sticks to Flamin’-Hot Funyuns, and a stupefying array of merchandise emblazoned with its buck-toothed, chubby-cheeked beaver mascot, including tie-dye dog bandanas, ice chests, pint glasses, fridge magnets, and pajama pants. —Ashlea Halpern

Read the full story on Buc-ee’s.

hotel

Camp V

NATURITA, CO

Now, as architects and planners push for greater recycling of buildings and public spaces, many boom-and-bust settlements are being cleverly repurposed as vacation destinations—especially in Colorado, home to more than 1,500 uninhabited towns. Camp V is one example. A trio of Telluride-based architects has turned the outpost, which was built in 1942 around a (long-closed) uranium mill, into a Burning Man–esque compound with eclectic accommodations (restored historic cabins, Airstreams, and chic tents) and site-specific art installations, with the snow-capped San Juan Mountains as a backdrop. —Jen Murphy

Read the full story on transformed ghost towns.

bar

Dino’s

NASHVILLE, TN

Residents, visitors, country musicians, and road-trippers zipping down Nashville’s Gallatin Avenue, where the bar lies, have been eating Dino’s cheeseburgers and fries since the 1970s—often late, late, late into the night. If it looks familiar, you might recognize this bar from a 2016 episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.—Lale Arikoglu

Read the full story on dive bar food.

experience

The Don King Museum

SHERIDAN, WY

You have to walk through King’s Saddlery tack shop to access the vast hoard of Old West artifacts that is The Don King Museum. Such an entrypoint has anthropological value of its own, as you pass supplies that modern ranchers use to work the surrounding land. But a Lynchian wander out a backdoor and through an alleyway leads to the second building, a treasure trove of western paraphernalia—you’ll know you’re in the right place once you’re standing in a warehouse that smells of soft leather, full to the brim with fine burnished saddles in colors and finishes you’d never dream of.

This palatial monument to leather craftsmanship gives way to more densely-populated rooms of curiosities—expect to see taxidermied jackalopes and two-headed calves, and a wall of cow skulls—as well as some tributes to Plains Indian heritage, the highlight being a delicate photogravure portrait of Oglala Sioux Chief Red Cloud. Even Queen Elizabeth stopped by in the ‘80s while vacationing at a nearby ranch, and a photobook on the premises proves it. —Charlie Hobbs

hotel

The Drifter Hotel

NEW ORLEANS, LA

With its anachronistic neon “motel” sign from 1956 still on display out front, The Drifter Hotel is a tribute to the individualism and optimism that marked America’s post-World War II economic boom—even as it’s steeped in modern New Orleans charm. The hotel’s exterior is a nod to the Googie architecture movement, and there’s playful local artwork across the colorful public spaces, including rose sculptures crafted from discarded Ralph Lauren shirts from Carlton S. Sturgill, and a bright interior mural from Alexandra Kilburn. Outside, palm trees evoke the tropics and and crisp, minimalist decor fills the 20 guest rooms. —Debra Kamin

Read the full story on motor lodges.

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