When most people think of road trips, they envision the all-American summertime destinations like Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Disneyland, and the Gateway Arch. While the days right now are still a bit shorter than those never-ending summer days and the forecast is somewhat cooler — that doesn’t mean you need to hit the brakes on road travel.
In the South, spring is an ideal time to hit the road and explore. Not only will the crowds be lower compared to summer, but the humidity is blessedly absent, hurricane season has yet to begin, and the intense desert heat feels like nothing more than a sun-kissed blanket. From Miami to San Diego, this epic road trip will introduce you to a whole new kind of warm-weather wonderland.
Start your journey in the quintessential warm-weather getaway: Miami, Florida. Miami is called the Magic City for many reasons, but during the spring months its magic comes to life at full speed. From its balmy sea breezes to a diverse array of special events, Miami’s cultural neighborhoods and its beaches offer something for everyone.
If traveling early in the season, check out the Ultra Music Festival and the Miami Open. And don’t miss America’s hottest new sport — Formula 1 is racing here in May. Miami is a city that doesn’t sleep but loves to shop, wine & dine, nap, and then start again.
Drive north just a few hours to the “theme park capital of the world,” where you can get your fill of whimsy and magic while also discovering a new side of Orlando that most visitors don’t see.
Of all the incredible new sights and attractions in the area, the must-dos include the Star Wars-themed Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a Ratatouille-inspired ride at EPCOT, and some seriously decadent sweets shops in Disney Springs — including Everglazed Donuts & Cold-Brew and Gideon’s Bakehouse for half-pound cookies the size of your head.
Be sure and head into Orlando proper to explore cute neighborhoods like Audubon Park and the Milk District, home to charming bars, restaurants, cafes, and boutiques aplenty. Our picks? Kadence for an omakase sushi experience, Deeply Coffee for cereal milk-infused lattes in a chic setting, and a swan boat ride on Lake Eola, surrounded by actual swans.
Where to stay: Kimpton Vero Beach
New Orleans, Louisiana
Next, round the Gulf of Mexico and make a pit stop in the always-fun city of New Orleans, where post-Mardi Gras winter crowds are minimal and you can stroll down Bourbon Street, cocktail in-hand, without shoulder-to-shoulder traffic. Exploring the French Quarter is always a must, with essential stops for beignets at Café du Monde and frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose — but don’t neglect the outlying neighborhoods, too.
The Bywater is filled with pastel-toned houses, al fresco jazz and wine at Bacchanal, and breakfast gumbo at Bywater Bakery, while the Garden District stuns with centuries-old mansions, historic cemetery tours, and iconic restaurants like Commander’s Palace, where timeworn recipes like bread pudding soufflé have been fan-favorites since 1893.
Where to stay: Kimpton Hotel Fontenot
Next, head north and west to Dallas, rather than bee-lining straight for Austin. Dallas is a welcome respite in the endless stretch that is Texas — and there are a ton of uniquely Dallasite events that you won’t want to miss.
Spring has sprung at the Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Blooms annual floral festival is also featuring the Great Contributors — a collection of bronze sculptures featuring (you guessed it) great contributors to society, including William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and Harriet Tubman. Take a walk along the 3.5 mile Katy Trail, and stop by the Ice House for a welcome meal and an ice cold beer. (Make sure to bring the pups on this adventure — they will be in good company!)
Driving through on a not-so-trivial Wednesday? Stop by Lakewood Brewing Co. for a beer and test your trivia wits. And don’t forget to grab (what are rumored to be) the best tacos in Texas at Velvet Taco.
Where to stay: The Pittman Hotel
Entering the Southwestern desert, buckle up for some serious fun in the sun under bright blue skies that seemingly stretch forever. As Arizona’s largest city, Phoenix is an apt stopover for culture, cuisine, shopping, hiking, and some serious eats.
Check out the Phoenix Art Museum for sprawling exhibits, manicured gardens, and a wide array of immersive Southwestern landscape portraits, then dine on the enormous patio at Ocotillo for fresh-as-can-be seasonal eats like charred sweet potatoes with tahini and avocado, grilled kuri squash in mole, and the signature mesquite-grilled chicken with chilies, local honey, and date-potato salad.
UnderTow is a fun, transportive tiki bar that’ll make you feel like a stowaway on a pirate ship, and Noble Bread is a local icon for artisanal loaves and pastries. Surrounded by mountains and soaring cacti, Phoenix is also a great city for outdoorsy types, as evidenced by the awe-inspiring views atop Camelback Mountain.
Where to stay: Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix
San Diego, California
Wrap up your road trip with a grand finale in sunny Southern California, where miles of beaches beckon and hip neighborhoods like Hillcrest and the Gaslamp teem with unique breweries, restaurants, galleries, and more.
Enjoy a pint at Hillcrest Brewing Company, the first openly gay-owned brewery in the country, stop in La Jolla for Instagrammable avocado toast at Parakeet Cafe, and sift through chic SoCal swag at the Johnny Was women’s boutique. And should you find yourself at one of America’s most iconic (albeit touristy) zoos, we won’t judge. It’s all a part of a road trip done right.
Where to stay: Kimpton Alma Hotel
Check out our full #RoadTrip series to discover all of our favorite road trip routes throughout the country and abroad by following the tag below.