Lesser-known road trip destinations

051915 CC Lesser-known road trip destinations 2As the first “weekend of summer” approaches, AAA is forecasting the 2015 Memorial Day holiday will get more Americans traveling since 2005. An estimated 33 million will take advantage of the lowest gas prices in five years as they hit the open road and head for favorite travel destinations.

Many will opt for the beach or exploring one of our great cities. While terrific vacation destinations, I offer you some lesser-known, road trip alternatives that will provide unique, fun and relaxing experiences and have you wondering why you’ve never visited before.

The Portland, Oregon, area
I’ve only visited the Pacific Northwest once. To be fair, I probably need to go back. In the meantime, I’d give the Portland area a very solid F – five of them, as a matter of fact.

  1. Funky – after my brief but fantastic visit, I’m absolutely certain the motto “Keep Portland Weird” is the best (and most accurate) slogan ever.
  2. Friendly – from the guy at the coffee shop to the crowd at the festival, Portland is one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited.
  3. Festivals – we happened upon the Greek festival when I was there, but Portland (and the surrounding area) can always find something to celebrate.
  4. Food – if you consider yourself a foodie, Portland is the place for you. From food carts to restaurants, there are culinary treats to tickle your taste buds.
  5. Fun – the Portland waterfront, the eclectic neighborhoods, the beautiful waterfalls nearby, and everything in between – no day could ever be boring.
Multnomah Falls, about 30 miles east of downtown Portland
Multnomah Falls, about 30 miles east of downtown Portland

The Great River Road – Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin
If you’ve never traveled the Great River Road, this is an absolute must-see/must-do of the Midwest. The sleepy, little river towns have so much to offer. Whether you go up the Iowa side and down the Wisconsin side, vice versa or only have time for a few stops, here are some highlights you’ll want to make sure to hit:

Pikes Peak State Park, overlooking the mighty Mississippi
Pikes Peak State Park, overlooking the mighty Mississippi
  • McGregor and Marquette, Iowa – go hiking at Effigy Mounds or Pikes Peak or wander through the quiet streets lined with historic buildings, shops and delicious delights.
  • Lansing, Iowa – meander down Main Street, visit Horsfall’s, buy an ice cream cone and wind your way up Mt. Hosmer.
  • La Crescent, Minnesota – aka the Apple Capital of Minnesota, you’ll notice apple stands as you travel between Lansing and La Crosse. I recommend the apple cider. And the apple butter. And an apple pie. And …
  • La Crosse, Wisconsin – pub food, cheese (specifically Wisconsin cheese curds), beer and Riverside Park … I may have just described the perfect summer afternoon.
  • Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin – it’s right across the mighty Mississippi from McGregor and Marquette, but with Wisconsin cheese and beer. Enough said.

I’m looking forward to exploring the highways to bring you more places to explore this summer.

If you plan to travel this weekend, have a fun and safe trip!