Sometimes, all you need is a great friend and a tank of gas.Unknown
I bet I’m not the only one who’s glad spring has fully sprung! Aren’t you elated to feel that magical moment when the warm springtime sun first brings leaves bursting back to the trees and birds and bees buzzing their way through all the vibrant floral displays of the season? This is when I start to recharge and angst for a new adventure. And no matter way than with four road trips good for the soul.
If nature is food for the soul, then road trips both big and small are the ultimate feast for the senses. No matter where you are, there is so much world to explore. Studies show that regular road trip rewards like breaking routine and exposure to sunny elements can lead to a significant reduction in stress levels. In fact, just 20-30 minutes spent strolling outside instead of scrolling through emails or Instagram will drop cortisol levels like they’re hot! And what better way to turn over a healthy new leaf than to feed that travel bug?!
This National Road Trip Day — Friday, May 26 — follow me on a nationwide journey of four favorite springtime sabbaticals on wheels! Whether you hail from the Big Apple or Austin, there’s an itinerary for everyone itching to stretch their legs and savor the great outdoors.
New York City
Let’s get started with something small from the Big Apple: a day trip to Queen’s County Farm. Rent a car for the day and take the sunny 45-60 minute ride to the eastern side of the city. Located in Glen Oaks, Queen’s County Farm is one of the oldest active farmlands in the entire state and is home to an onsite museum and year-long events. In spring alone you can choose from their annual Sheep Shearing Festival; Stop ‘N’ Swap reuse market; Milk N’ Honey month, offering free programming and admission; and the Strawberry Moon tour, sampling and wine pairing celebration!
Aside from the visitation, the farm offers the opportunity to volunteer on the grounds and meet a community of folks interested in investing their time and energy to giving back through regenerative agriculture. Volunteer cultivation isn’t just good for the planet either. Farming on any scale entails strenuous outdoor exercise in a peaceful natural environment, giving participants the chance to focus this year’s spring cleaning on the mind, body, and soul.
One of the most famous stretches of blacktop in the world, Route 66, has seen its fair share of road wanderers. From Chicago to Santa Monica, the winding curves of the mother road have been traversed by millions in search of unmatched scenery and stories of adventure. No matter where you drive it, you’re in for a beautiful sight. And many agree that the scenic byway through the heartland of Arizona is where the real magic lives.
The longest stretch of original road lies between Lupton and Kingman: 350 miles full of old towns iconic landmarks, storied diners, dive bars, and the uninterrupted beauty of the American Southwest. The old road will take you on a surreal trip through the red desert. The ghost towns and the iconic Painted Desert & Petrified Forest await as well as the abandoned remnants of indigenous trading posts and the still active Wigwam Motel. Fans of The Eagles will get their nostalgic kicks in Winslow where Don Henley once crooned about standing on a corner and spotting a beautiful girl in a flatbed Ford. And science nerds will revel at the sight of the Barringer Crater.
The lore of Route 66 is magical and mysterious, a part of the country’s history and heartbeat, not to mention an amazing place to reconnect with your roots. Take a detour to the Grand Canyon where you will cut the cord from harmful habits and detox your body and mind through guided meditation, climbing adventures, and more.
Wherever you go, the road is sure to bring you closer to yourself. Veering away from the claustrophobic settings most of us live our lives within and jumping into the unknown will take you beyond fun in the sun. For many, Route 66 holds spiritual power and promise to expand your consciousness whether you’re behind the wheel or a passenger princess! There’s no better road trip for the soul than this one!
Chicago itself is home to some of the nation’s greatest sights: The Art Institute, Wrigley Field, Navy Pier, and so much more. Sometimes those towering skyscrapers and blustering winds can go to your head. However, a road trip respite is the perfect solution to the big city blues!
If you’re seeking a quick fix to winter cabin fever, take a short hour-and-a-half drive to Oglesby, IL where you’ll find a wonderland of waterfalls and wooden staircases to a naturalist’s heaven in Starved Rock State Park. One of the most popular destinations for many a Chicagoan, this park has been described as an other-worldly oasis. Home to tons of hiking trails, the views are unmatched.
To get the most out of your trip, plan to early-bird it. Spring is the most popular time to visit due to thawing meltwater making majestic sights of the falls. There are 18 different canyons, each with their own unique and beautiful waterfall.
Besides being easy on the eyes, the peaceful sounds of the falls are the ultimate de-stressor. The level of relaxation often experienced in their presence can lead to decreased blood pressure and increased mood.
Entrance to the park is free for all, including volunteer-led guided tours. Trails are dog-friendly and many paths are easily accessible for those looking for beginner level activity.
On your way back from Starving Rock, be sure to check out the Weber House & Garden. Located in Streator, the idyllic Tudor home sits on two acres of gardens for wanders to stop and smell the thousands of English roses. The property contains 10 themed gardens that change with the season.
If you’re looking to extend your stay, consider renting a cottage at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa, IL. Located on the Illinois River, these beautiful villas are reminiscent of seaside New England towns. Bike and boat rentals abound for daytime adventures.
Our last of four road trips good for the soul lies all the way down where the sun shines hot and where braving the humidity is a small price to pay to amble in a place like no other. Five hours and 40 minutes from Austin is a bayou swamp so green and full of gators, you’d think you were in Louisiana. And you wouldn’t be too far off, to be fair.
Caddo Lake lies on the border between Harrison and Marion counties in Texas and Caddo Parish, Louisiana. The only natural lake in Texas, its 26,810 acres of swampland are home to over 70 species of fish, lotus flowers, and giant lily pads. Boat through mysterious and magnificent Spanish moss hanging from four-centuries-old cypress trees. During the spring, you’ll get all the beauty without the bugginess. Short, well-maintained trails surround the lake, perfect for pets and little ones alike. Fishing is popular, and canoes are available for rent.
The lake is a lush labyrinth of green everywhere you look. Stop to breathe in the eerie beauty on one of the many inlet boardwalks as birds fly overhead. While they may look murky, the wetlands at Caddo contain improved water quality and vital habitat to plant and animal communities alike. Canoeing these treasured waters provides low impact aerobic exercise that has been shown to improve muscle strength and heart health, not to mention generate unforgettable memories.
It’s no secret that traveling is beneficial for our physical and mental health, and often the biggest takeaway from any trip is how broad and beautiful our country really is. Reconnecting with yourself is one thing. Reclaiming our connection to our home planet brings us closer to one another in ways large and small. It reminds us that the trivialities that often make or break our days are just that: inconsequential. That’s not to say we shouldn’t find meaning in what we do, but we can only live our lives to the fullest if we are truly experiencing everything life has to offer!
Road trips can be big undertakings or they can be tiny load-up-and-go day trips. We can go it alone or bring loved ones along. They can be car rides, bus journeys or train trips. However you go, whomever you bring, wherever you land, the most important thing to remember is why you went in the first place.
Honor your desire to live a more fully explored life and you may just find that whatever it is you’ve been looking for has been within you the whole time. Cheers to these four road trips good for anyone’s soul.