If you’re like me, getting from point A to point B pretty much means hopping on a plane to go from coast to coast or even taking the next train across town. But we miss so much, confined to our isolated means of travel. Sure you can say your plane touched down in San Antonio, but did you actually see San Antonio? Did you try the barbeque, or visit a city landmark, or even see a movie?

There’s so much to learn about the US, and sometimes the best way to simply see it all is to do it the old-fashioned-way, by car travel on a road trip! Never underestimate the fun you can have squeezed into a small space with your family or best friends, tunes blasting, and your eyes on the open road. But which cities are the best for car travel? Here are some of our suggestions:

#5 Las Vegas, NV

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Copyright Flickr/_beccap, with permission.

Okay, Las Vegas might not seem like it belongs on this list. But it does, and this is why: so many people fly to Vegas and then go directly to the Strip, and stay there for the entire duration of their trip. Adventurous visitors may even take the shuttle to the downtown area. But they never really see Vegas. There is a ton more to do there besides play the slots and drink overpriced margaritas (not that that isn’t fun, though!).

Off the strip, there are nature preserves, museums on nuclear science and Vegas’ seedy history, art walks, food trucks, authentic taquerias, and more. Since most people fly to Vegas, your best bet is to probably rent a car (you may even get a discount though your airline) to explore the unique downtown district, see the Hoover Dam (a short 45 minute drive), or go hiking up in Red Rock Canyon.

Renting a car will open up the possibilities for your trip to become more than a quick stay at a casino but a true vacation; it is the freedom to explore everything you’d like instead of sticking to the beaten path. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

#4 Philadelphia, PA

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Via Flickr / Daveynin

The wild west is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States. Those spacious skies and purple mountain majesties alluded to in the patriotic America the Beautiful. Yep, you’ll find them here. St. George is the largest city in Utah and the closest city to Zion National Park, a beautiful example of the rich resources and nature that can be found in America if you drive far enough out to see it.

Like most of the Western US, public transportation infrastructure is not very extensive, so taking in the sights in your sedan, hatchback, SUV, or truck is most likely your number one option. But that’s a good thing. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to capture the moment and let it all sink in, making plenty of stops along the way as you discover all the beautiful parts of Utah that you would have otherwise missed.

#2 Baltimore, MD

Via Flickr / Kern.Justin

Tahoe is number one on this list because it simply has something for everyone, it’s geographically diverse and gorgeous, and it’s worth seeing any time of year. Lake Tahoe itself is situated smack dab in the middle of the border of Northern Nevada and California- about an hour and a half from Reno. My advice? Fly into Reno and rent a car to drive to the lake if you must, but if you’re close enough, drive straight to Tahoe.

The views in this part of the country are special, and so few take the time to see them. Once you’re made it to either the North or South shore of Tahoe, there is tons to do- skiing, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, and even some designer shopping outlets for those of us that would not describe ourselves as outdoorsy. The drive to any shore of Tahoe is fun because there are twists and turns and views, oh my! But seriously- it’s a gorgeous, relatively slow drive through the mountains and the pine trees, and the scent of the pine will bring you back to family vacations in the minivan that you never thought you’d miss.

Here, you can either choose something slow paced and relaxing or totally adventurous and wild (para-sailing, anyone?) but the choice is up to you. And by driving, you’ll really have the freedom to explore the great outdoors!

[Featured image credit: Flickr / Marc Lacoste]