Each year, round about the time the daffodils pop up north, the azaleas bloom down south, and the wildflowers carpet the desert southwest, the newest editions of the Rand McNally Road Atlas come out. This year is no exception. To help you plan your next great American escape, the 2015 atlases feature not only our legendary maps but also the winners of our most recent Best of the Road Best Small Towns in America contest. They also include six new road trips. Below are highlights of three of them—the perfect trips for spring!
#1: High Tech to Steinbeck via Monterey Bay
A land of opportunity, as summed up by its official motto—Eureka! (I Have Found It!)—the Golden State has always drawn the forward-thinkers. In earlier days, this meant explorers, adventures, and fortune-seekers. In native-son John Steinbeck’s day, it meant Dustbowl migrants seeking a better life for themselves. In our day, it has meant technology innovators seeking a better quality of life for us all. Our newest road trip takes you from San Jose, Silicon Valley’s high-tech hub, south along the Pacific Coast through Santa Cruz, Monterey (Steinbeck stomping ground), and Carmel. It then heads inland and north again to Salinas—the so-called Salad Bowl of the World and the birthplace of a great American writer and many of his story ideas.
Distance: 142 miles point to point; 188 miles full loop.
Type of Trip: Weekend or Vacation Getaway, Scenic, RV; great for both couples and families
Worth Noting: Although the distances are short enough for a weekend getaway, there’s so much to see and do that you could travel at a much more leisurely pace. Also, from Salinas, you could continue north on Highway 101 not only to San Juan Bautista, known for its historic mission, but also to Gilroy, famous for its garlic, and back up to San Jose—adding another 40-odd miles to the trip and completing a full loop.
#2: Earth and Sky in Southern New Mexico
In southern New Mexico, things seem to center on either the earth or the sky. This trip covers both in equal measure, from the ancient aeries of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument to the primordial underground of Carlsbad Caverns. Highlights in between include Silver City, with its thriving arts and gallery scenes and its mining history; Deming of Silver Spike railroad fame; and Las Cruces, where the New Mexico State University is firmly rooted in earth thanks to its chili pepper institute and garden. Rounding things out are the glistening dunes of White Sands, hard rocket science of Alamogordo, and less-than-hard extraterrestrial science of Roswell.
Distance: 470-miles point to point
Type of Trip: Vacation Getaway, Scenic, RV; great for families.
Worth Noting: Just over 3 miles south of Las Cruces is the tiny and very historic community of Old Mesilla, established in 1848 as a stop on the Butterfield Stage Coach Line. You can easily spend the better part of a morning or afternoon wandering amid its traditional adobe structures; shopping for antiques, art, and jewelry or other crafts; and enjoying a great Mexican (or New Mexican) meal.
#3: Florida’s Cultural West Coast
Western Florida’s sandy shores, Gulf waters, and warm days attract vacationers year-round. But it’s more than just sun and surf that sparkle in this region. There are also many shining cultural, art, and historical attractions. Among the icons you’ll encounter on this journey from Fort Myers to Sarasota, Bradenton, and St. Petersburg are inventor Thomas Edison, auto-industry innovator Henry Ford, circus magnate John Ringling, surrealist painter and sculptor Salvador Dali, and glass artist Dale Chihuly. You’ll also meet, the beloved Snooty, the state’s oldest manatee born in captivity.
Distance: 117 miles point to point.
Type of Trip: Weekend Getaway, Scenic; great for couples
Worth Noting: Northeast of downtown Tampa, roughly 30 miles across the bay from St. Pete, is the historic district of Ybor City, established in the 1880s as a cigar manufacturing community and populated by Cuban, Spanish, Italian, and other immigrants. It’s now considered Tampa’s Latin Quarter and makes a great side trip thanks to its coffee shops, where you can small the beans roasting; restaurants, including some classic Cuban and tapas spots; and clubs where the salsa music begs you to dance.