The Best Road Trip Destinations Where You Can De-stress

By Mary Sauer
Pat Kay, Unsplash

There’s no question that the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be a little much. If you would prefer your holiday feel like an actual vacation and not a dead sprint to the next activity, a quiet road trip might be more your speed.

These holiday road-trips are all about de-stressing and taking a break from the everyday. Whether you’re searching for solitude, time in the great outdoors, or enjoying holiday activities, this list of low-stress holiday road trips has something for everyone.

1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Yellowstone

Located between the Gros Ventre and Teton mountain ranges, Jackson Hole, Wyoming provides visitors with a little bit of history and a lot of outdoor fun. This old western town turned tourist destination features skiing resorts and a chance to spot winter herds of elk at The National Elk Refuge. Skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sled rides are just a few of the outdoor, winter activities.

Once you’ve de-stressed with some outdoor exercise, relax with a visit to a local spa or dinner out at one of the many unique restaurants to choose from. Less than a three-hour drive, you can also take a short day trip to Yellowstone National Park for hiking and outdoor relaxation.

2. Chattanooga, Tennessee

Although Chattanooga is among the largest cities in Tennessee, this winter getaway provides plenty of mountain charm and relaxation for visitors. Located within driving distance of the Smoky Mountains, there is plenty of natural beauty to enjoy during your low-stress holiday trip.

If you’re looking for family activities or a chance to celebrate the holidays while you’re in town, Chattanooga is known for their Christmas attractions including Winter Days and Nights in historic, downtown Chattanooga and the Holiday Trail of Lights. While you’re in Tennessee, consider the chance to extend your road trip to include a trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

3. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Located among one of the most well-known mountain ranges in the United States, at trip to the Great Smoky Mountain Range isn’t one you will soon forget. A drive through the Smoky Mountains can easily begin in the Midwest, with plenty of breathtaking stops along the way.

A few days spent driving through the mountains, stopping for local food and drink, and arriving at a mountain cabin just might be enough to erase the stress in your life. Once you arrive at your chosen destination, spend time in the hot tub, reading by the fire, or get out for a visit to a local spa.

Nathan Anderson

4. The Lonely Highway to Lake Tahoe

Winter weather lovers will enjoy a holiday road trip to Lake Tahoe located at the state line shared by California and Nevada. Highway 50, often referred to as The Lonely Highway, begins on the east coast and stretches all the way to Sacramento. Many travelers enjoy making the trek from Colorado or Utah and then spending a few days relaxing in Lake Tahoe.

There is no question that Lake Tahoe is breathtaking. Be sure to visit Sierra Hot Springs, a non-profit wellness center that allows visitors to soak in the hot springs, provides yoga and meditation classes, and offers spa treatments.

5. 30a in Florida

We get it! Not everyone wants to spend their winter, relaxation getaway surrounded by snow and mountains. There are plenty of options worth driving to that provide a warmer holiday road trip.

While it won’t be warm enough for swimming, a trip to 30a provides beautiful, mild weather to visitors. Beach towns like Seaside, South Walton, and Rosemary beach are located along this highway in the panhandle of Florida. Spend the day in the Spa Pearl, rent a bike for a scenic ride, and wrap your day up with a beach bonfire with your family.

6. Pacific Coast Highway

West coasters can enjoy a warm, winter getaway with a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. This iconic road trip is arguably among the best road trips in the United States thanks to the breathtaking beauty of the coast. Depending on where you are located in the state, you can begin in Northern California, like San Francisco, then stop for lunch and sightseeing in Big Sur before continuing south towards Los Angeles.

Other amazing stops along the way include the Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon and Solvang, a historic Danish town along the coast. This trip will likely take you a few days, especially if you want to take your time and relax along the way.

Julia Caesar

7. Austin to Big Bend National Park

This Christmas, take a grand tour of national and state parks of Texas. Beginning in Austin, you can take a six-hour drive west to Balmorhea State Park and make a quick visit to Big Bend Brewing Company in Alpine, Texas.

Next, head south to Big Bend National Park. Located in southwest Texas, winter weather in Big Bend is mild, with averages in the 70s. This is the perfect getaway if you’d like to spend your holiday hiking, taking a trip along the river, or seeing wildlife.

Once you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, there are plenty of opportunities to relax and pamper yourself during your getaway. Options include traditional spa treatments like massages and facials along with a more comprehensive wellness retreat provided by Casa La Vista Retreat Center.

8. Route 100, Vermont

What makes a road trip so special isn’t really the destination, it’s what you get to see along the way. Route 100 in Vermont makes for the perfect backdrop for a slow and relaxing winter drive. Just over 200 miles long, Route 100 runs nearly the whole length of Vermont.

Natural attractions like the Green Mountain National Forest and Mount Mansfield provide scenery that will take your breath away, especially under a blanket of snow. Historic sights, like a visit to Plymouth Notch, are great stops for stretching your legs along the way. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to stop in at a few of the many, locally owned restaurants like James-Beard Nominated Honeypie and Prohibition Pig.

9. Breckenridge, Colorado

This Colorado mountain town has a whole lot of Christmas cheer without the stressful environment of visiting a big city. Located an hour and a half from Denver, this is one of those easy road trips you can take in a weekend whether you’re a local or flying into Denver. The walkable downtown is full of small shops and beautiful Victorian homes. Popular holiday events include the Race of the Santas, a lighting ceremony, and a holiday dog parade.

For downtime and rejuvenation, be sure to visit The Spa at Breckenridge for a massage or relaxing facial. If winter sports are your thing, there is plenty of skiing nearby.

10. Route 66

Stretching from Chicago to California, Route 66 is a historic highway that has a reputation as one of the best road trips in the world. This old highway isn’t about a quick and easy drive, it’s an adventure that could easily take two to three weeks. Of course, the drive can be shortened if you only take on a portion of the trip. No matter what you decide, it’s a trip you will never forget.

Be sure to find a reliable map, as there are entire portions of the highway that aren’t recognized by GPS and  make time for the many attractions along the way, including the Petrified National Forest in Holbrook, Arizona, or the 66 Drive-in theater in Carthage, Missouri.

Andreas Dress

11. The Lake Superior Circle Tour

This 1,300-mile tour around Lake Superior is the trip of a lifetime. Spend time in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota before crossing the border into Canada. According to the travel bloggers at Planet D, this is a great trip on a motorcycle but car drivers need not feel left out — the scenery is just as beautiful from the inside of a car window.

Varied terrain, like the beaches of Lake Superior and rocky cliffs, provide the amazing backdrop for this trip. A slow and scenic trip like this is a breath of fresh air so many of us need as a break from our busy lives.

12. Hana Highway, Hawaii

If you happen to be lucky enough to spend your holidays in Maui, this is a short drive that belongs on your vacation itinerary. Only 52 miles long, this drive can be done in a few hours but can easily turn into an all-day drive if you take time to stop along the way.

Mostly single lanes, you will get the chance to see the majority of the northern coast of Maui. This includes waterfalls, coastline cliffs, and plenty of foliage. Experienced travelers suggest starting in Paia with a full tank of gas and a picnic lunch before heading towards Hana.

13. The Million Dollar Highway

Stretching from Silverton to Ouray, Colorado, this high altitude road trip along highway 550 will take your breath away. There are points along this trip where you will reach an altitude of two miles above sea level!

Upon your arrival in Ouray, you can enjoy a quiet holiday among a small mountain community that knows how to take care of its visitors. Take a dip in local hot springs, visit a brewery, and make sure you grab a sample from one of two chocolatiers located in Ouray.

Reinhard Schön

14. Overseas Highway in Florida

This amazing drive along the Overseas highway is unlike anything you’ll experience in other parts of the country. One hundred and twenty miles of highway connects the Florida Keys. This means a lot of the drive is spent on bridges. According to USA Today, this leaves you feeling like you’re hovering over the ocean for much of the drive.

This trip will only take a few hours, so make sure you take your time and stop for food and sightseeing along the way. Begin your drive in Key Largo and end your day in Key West, where you can take a Holiday Lights Tour before settling in for the night at one of the many beach houses on the island.

15. Great River Road

Head south for the winter! Follow the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana by driving the Great River Road. This is considered to be one of the great American road trips and you definitely won’t be disappointed by this drive.

Take your time on this trip or tackle only a small portion of the trip. Whatever you decide, make sure you make time for stops like Nelson Dewey State Park in Wisconsin, Trail of Tears State Park in Missouri, or the Delta Blues Museum in Mississippi.

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