The Great American Roadtrip Self Drive is an epic 5,000km journey from New York City to San Francisco, taking in the country’s national parks, fabulous cities and legendary roads. On the way you’ll discover America’s rich history and culture, crossing the entire North American continent in under three weeks.
This 21 day self drive is a once in a lifetime chance to experience one of the world’s most fascinating countries. Starting in New York City, you’ll see the iconic skyline, visit the Empire State Building and Times Square and shop on Fifth Avenue. The great west coast cities of Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago offer incredible history and unique charm. In the Old West, you’ll visit some of America’s greatest national parks, including the classic western landscapes of Grand Teton, Yellowstone and the South Dakota Badlands.
As you head into Nevada you can revel in the beauty of the Mojave Desert and experience the legendary decadence of Las Vegas. California’s laid back charm will get under your skin, from the urbane cool of Los Angeles to the wild beauty of the Central Coasts and the magic of former counter cultural mecca San Francisco.
- Take on an epic 5,000km road trip from New York City to San Francisco
- Visit some of America’s greatest national parks; including Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and Grand Teton
- Visit Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco; the greatest cities of the west
- Explore America’s interior, experiencing the wonder of the Bighorn Mountains, the Badlands and Salt Lake City
Start your Journey
Land in New York City, and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival you may wish to head out and explore or spend the evening relaxing in your room.
Spend the day wandering the streets of Manhattan, visiting iconic Times Square and Fifth Avenue and soaking in the charming old world feel of Greenwich Village. You also have the option to book a Premium Experience at the Empire State Building, which includes a 90 minute guided tour with an Empire State Building Observatory Ambassador. Remember you’re surrounded by some of the best restaurants and eateries on the planet, so be sure to dine regularly and often.
Washington DC to Gettysburg to Niagara Falls
Today you’ll pick up your rental car and drive 1.5 hours south to Philadelphia, one of the US’ most storied cities. This was the headquarters of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and the site of the Liberty Bell, which is said to have sounded during the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. After a morning spent visiting the sights (and perhaps enjoying a Philly cheese steak) you’ll make the two hour drive to Washington DC – the nation’s capital.
Waking in Washington, DC you have the day free to explore the famous sights. Stop by the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery. After lunch you can visit the Smithsonian Institute, where some of the most remarkable objects in American history are on display. See the Spirit of St Louis, Dorothy’s red slippers from the Wizard of Oz and the Apollo Lunar Module among countless others.
Washington DC – Gettysburg – Niagara Falls
Drive the 140 km north to Gettysburg, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. It’s also where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address on the opening of the soldier’s cemetery in November 1863. After a stroll around the battlefield you’ll drive the 553 km to Niagara Falls.
Depending on your arrival time you’ll experience the remarkable power of the falls that same evening.
Niagara Falls – The Great Lakes - Detroit
Rise early to reach the falls around dawn and you’ll be rewarded with sparse crowds and the sight of the sun rising over the waters. You can take a walk along Table Rock and look down over Horseshoe Falls, marveling at the astonishing sound and scale. In the afternoon you’ll drive the 386 km to Detroit, aka Motor City USA, and spend the evening at your leisure.
Detroit – Chicago
In the morning you’ll set off for a drive along Lake Michigan to Chicago, 455 km away. You’ll arrive into the city along the scenic Lake Shore Drive, which offers gorgeous views out across the vast lake. Chicago is the US’ Second City and boasts some extraordinary gothic architecture, as well as the Willis Tower – one of the world’s tallest structures. The Navy Pier, an entertainment complex on the lake, is a popular spot where you can spend an afternoon enjoying the rides and soaking up the atmosphere. In the evening take in an authentic show at one of the city’s many blues bars.
Today you’ll enjoy a full day in Chicago. If you have an interest in art, the Art Institute of Chicago is a must visit, boasting iconic works by Van Gogh, Edward Hopper and Georges Seurat. Step into the Chicago Cultural Center and look up for a glimpse of the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass dome. You can also enjoy a wander along the Riverwalk, which is lined with great restaurants, al fresco bars and talented buskers. You can’t leave without trying one of the city’s legendary hot dogs.
Chicago – Mississippi River Crossing – Sioux City
Following breakfast, you’ll drive from Chicago to Sioux City, Iowa – a distance of 923 km that typically takes around seven and a half hours. At the Iowa border you’ll cross the Mississippi over the Julien Dubuque Bridge.
On the way you’ll pass through endless miles of rolling farmland. Stop in one of the many uniquely charming small towns en route for lunch and to stretch your legs. Galena, with its exquisitely preserved downtown, is an excellent choice.
You’ll spend the night at your hotel in Sioux City.
Sioux City – Badlands – Mt Rushmore – Deadwood/ Rapid City
From Sioux City you’ll drive through the lush grasslands of South Dakota and on to the Badlands National Park. This rugged place of rock formations and canyons is a remarkable sight. Soon after you’ll pass through the Black Hills, once home to the mighty Sioux people, before arriving at Mount Rushmore. This tribute to four of America’s greatest presidents was the dream of one man and took 14 years to create.
Deadwood/ Rapid City – Bighorn Mountains – Cody
In the morning you’ll head for the town of Cody, on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. The 627 km drive will take you across the Bighorn Mountains, a rolling landscape of peaks and meadowland under a big midwestern sky.
Cody is a city named for its founder, Colonel William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody. It’s home to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, where you can enjoy a fascinating insight into the history of the region and the Buffalo Bill story.
Bryce Canyon to Lake Powell to Grand Canyon to Flagstaff
Yellowstone National Park is your destination today. This extraordinary area was the first US national park. It’s home to echoing canyons, deep forests, hot springs and spouting geysers. Old Faithful, the park’s most famous sight, erupts with boiling water every 44-125 minutes (hence the name) and is a must see. Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs and Hayden Valley are among the other top sights.
You’ll spend the day exploring the park, retiring to your hotel outside the park gates as the sun sets.
Yellowstone – Grand Teton – Salt Lake City
From Yellowstone you’ll make the 542 km drive to Grand Teton National Park, where the peaks stand 13,000 feet above the surrounding land. At Snake River Outlook you’ll have the opportunity to replicate Ansel Adams’ seminal shot before heading on to Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City is a frontier town built by Mormon pioneers in the 19th century and is one of the most unique communities in North America. There’s some incredible architecture here, including the State Capitol Building and the unforgettable Salt Lake Temple – the worldwide headquarters of the Mormon Church.
Salt Lake City – Bryce Canyon
Depart Salt Lake City for Bryce Canyon 542 km away, a jaw dropping natural wonder of red sandstone spires (known as “hoodoos”) and wind blown canyons.
Miles away from the bright lights of the city you’ll have an unmatched view of the stars this evening.
Bryce Canyon – Lake Powell – Grand Canyon – Flagstaff
Leaving Bryce Canyon, you’ll drive the 301 km to Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in America. Here curving red stone canyons meet the intensity of the blue waters.
From here it’s a 250 km drive to the Grand Canyon. This world famous natural wonder is a real bucket list item and one of the wonders of the world. The sheer scale is sure to leave a lasting impression.
You’ll spend the night in nearby Flagstaff on Route 66, ready to hit the road in the morning.
Flagstaff – Seligman/ Route 66 – Las Vegas
Depart from Flagstaff for Las Vegas, which is just over 400km away. En route you’ll pass through Seligman, an iconic small town filled with vintage cars and brightly painted stores. You’ll feel like you’ve just entered the 1950s.
Arriving into Vegas in the early afternoon it’s time to hit the strip, try your luck at the tables or get tickets to a show.
Las Vegas – Mojave Desert – Los Angeles
The 434 km drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles will take you through the achingly beautiful Mojave Desert, a region of cacti, Joshua trees and low hills. It’s likely to be one of the highlights of the journey, so remember to stop and take some photographs.
In Los Angeles, you’ll drive through the iconic locales of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip before arriving at your hotel.
A full day in Los Angeles gives you a chance to catch your breath following your journey so far. There’s plenty to see, like Universal Studios – where you can tour the sets of your favourite movies and enjoy some terrifying white knuckle rides. Alternatively, you can wander round the hip neighbourhoods of Silver Lake and Echo Park or simply relax by the pool. There are plenty of world class restaurants where you can enjoy some excellent cuisine in the evening.
Los Angeles – Malibu – Santa Barbara – Central Coast
Today you’ll leave Los Angeles in the morning and head north on your way up to California’s wild Central Coast. On the way you’ll visit the iconic beachside city of Malibu, where you can enjoy great seafood, and Santa Barbara – a favourite vacation spot for Hollywood royalty.
End the day in gorgeous Pismo Beach, where you’ll spend the night.
Central Coast – Carmel/ Monterey – San Francisco
After a morning stroll on the beach and a dip in the Pacific Ocean you’ll drive on to the pretty town of Carmel by the Sea, where many of the first wave of hippies moved at the end of the Summer of Love. It retains some of that counter cultural feel, with a vibrant art scene and some laid back cafés and restaurants. In Monterey you’ll stroll Fisherman’s Wharf, enjoying some excellent local seafood, before driving through the verdant surrounding wine country and arriving at San Francisco in the late afternoon.
This will be the final day of your journey. San Francisco is one of America’s most distinctive cities. Take a ride on the old style trams, visit Alcatraz or wander the vast Golden Gate Park – which exceeds New York’s Central Park in size. At your last meal you can bask in the glow of what you’ve accomplished – an epic road trip of around 5,000 km, taking in some of America’s most amazing sights.
Depart San Francisco
Make your way from your hotel to the San Francisco International Airport, for your onward flight.
- International flights and airfare taxes
- Cost of accommodation (double room based on two people sharing) for a total of 21 nights (alternative but similar accommodation may be used at certain times of the year)
- Board basis: Room Only
- Car hire and insurance
- Visa arrangements and fees
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses, such as beverages, telephone calls, laundry, camera fees, spa and business facilities in the hotel
- Attractions and excursions
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