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Iconic American Road Trips Worth the Gas Money

By Marisa LaScala
7/10/2013 7:05:12 AM

With the price of gas trending downward, there's no better time to jump in the car, put the top down, and head out for a drive. Here, we have ten itineraries for some of the country's most classic road trips.

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Maine Coast (Route 1)

Maine

What you'll see: It's quintessential New England scenery all the way, right down to the lighthouses that dot the state's rocky shores. Dating back to the mid '20s, Route 1 traverses the length of Maine while mostly hugging the coastline. Locals swear by the view of Grand Lake and Peakaboo Mountain, so much so that the 12-mile stretch of Route 1 between Danforth and Orient has been dubbed the "Million Dollar View." And if the tank is full and you don't feel like turning back, there's no need to stop at the Maine border; Route 1 continues all the way through to Florida.

Cultural stop: We promised you a lighthouse: Just a smidgen off of Route 1, the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth beckons from Fort Williams Park. Dating back to 1791, it's the oldest lighthouse in Maine, and one of the oldest in the United States.

Roadside attraction: The Main State Prison Industries showroom in Thomaston sells items that are handmade by prisoners, and you can find everything from carved wooden jewelry boxes ($8.50 for a small box to $500 for a cedar armoire) to model ships. It's actually illegal for the showroom to ship the items across state lines, so it's a great stop if you're looking for something you can only find in Maine.

Grab a bite: If you're not eating lobster in Maine, what's the point? The Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point is one of those riverside picnic table joints you get nostalgic for come winter. The establishment is BYO-BYO entire cooler full of beers, that is.

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Virginia and North Carolina

What you'll see: The Blue Ridge Parkway bills itself as "America's Favorite Drive"-it is, after all, one of the most visited spots in the National Park Service-and it's easy to see why. The road winds its way through 469 miles of Appalachian Highlands between North Carolina and Virginia before linking up with the Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. There are ample places to pull off the road and go for a hike or a picnic while taking in natural wonders like the Linville Gorge, Whitewater Falls, or Mount Mitchell-the highest point east of the Mississippi.

Cultural stop: If you're in the mood for some Americana music, the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, Virginia, hosts concerts in its outdoor amphitheater. This summer saw performances with Roseanne Cash, Elizabeth LaPrell, and the Slate Mountain Ramblers. Indoors, you can check out the Roots of American Music Museum and see old-timey fiddles and banjoes.

Roadside attraction: Looking Glass Rock near Brevard, North Carolina is a nearly 4,000-foot-tall lump of granite that looks like it was deposited whole in the middle of Pisgah National Forest. When water freezes to the rock face in winter, the surface reflects the sun-hence the name. Naturally, Looking Glass Rock is a hit with rock climbers.

Grab a bite: Go straight for the top: The Pisgah Inn sits at the top of Mount Pisgah, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The on-site restaurant makes the most of the 5,000-foot elevation with wrap-around windows. Best of all: If you feel too stuffed to drive onward, you can always stay the night.

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Road to Hana

Hawaii

What you'll see: If there's ever been a reason to rent a convertible, it's the Road to Hana.

The 68-mile highway runs along the northeastern coast of Maui, with plenty of stops to pull over and see waterfalls, surfers, gardens, parks, and beaches. Best of all: If you don't feel like driving yourself, you can always take a van tour and let someone else do the work for you.

Cultural stop: At the Garden of Eden Maui Botanical Gardens & Arboretum, you can find 26 acres of unspoiled trails, tropical flowers, and panoramic views. You can see a 100-year-old mango tree or the Upper Puohokamoa Waterfalls, accessible only to garden visitors. And, if one rock formation looks awfully familiar, it's because it was used as a location in Jurassic Park.

Roadside attraction: Sure, the view above ground is great, but what about below the surface? The Hana Lava Tube takes you on a self-guided tour through trails and tunnels built by underground rivers of flowing lava. When you get out, you can also take a crack at the Red Ti Botanical Garden Maze-like a hedge maze, but with more tropical foliage.

Grab a bite: Though there are plenty of places along the way to stop for fresh banana bread, if you're looking to sit down, there's Mama's Fish House Restaurant, which prides itself on preparing fresh fish with an "aloha spirit." If you're lucky, you'll dine on grilled octopus caught on a free-dive in nearby Kuau Cove.

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