This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.
The dream of road tripping through America is alive and well. After all, it’s a rarefied opportunity to traverse the country at a speed where you can actually see the country. Plus, driving gives you the option of stopping anywhere that looks interesting—and unique destinations are something the U.S. has in droves.
Start Here: Washington. D.C.
Check into the JW Marriott Washington, D.C.; rooms not only feature elegant appointments, but some come with views of the D.C. monuments—the perfect inspiration for your American sojourn.
Find even more inspiration in the museums of the Smithsonian, which lie within walking distance of the hotel. Been there, done that? Check out the Kreeger Museum, in Georgetown, which features a surprising trove of works from Monet, Renoir, Jean Arp, and Alexander Calder, among others.
And don’t miss Washington’s stellar restaurants, which have taken their place in the upper echelon of American dining. The unique modern Indian cuisine of Rasika has long been a favorite, while the French-inspired Bresca became an overnight sensation thanks to the talents of chef Ryan Ratino.
Where you head next, of course, is up to you. Perhaps you’ll opt for a route across the northern U.S., driving through Pennsylvania and tracing the shoreline of Lake Erie through Ohio on your way to Chicago.
In the Windy City, you’ll find that history, views, and art come together at The Blackstone, an Autograph Collection member. In a building that dates to 1910, you’ll enjoy luxurious accommodations, spectacular views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, and a prestigious art collection of more than 1,600 works.
Head up to Minneapolis/St. Paul to sample the diverse cuisine created by recent immigrants, then keep motoring west to experience the amazing wilderness of the national parks. Drive through South Dakota’s rugged Badlands, go wildlife spotting in Wyoming’s Yellowstone, or revel at the mountains and lakes of Montana’s Glacier. Or do all three!
Arrive: Portland, Oregon
Travel down the Columbia River Gorge and look for Mt. Hood on your way to Portland, where you’ll have earned another luxurious stay. At The Nines, you can continue to enjoy the trip’s themes of scenery and history. This Luxury Collection hotel comes nestled inside the building occupied starting in 1909 by Meier & Frank, the largest retailer west of the Mississippi. Today, you’ll find spacious rooms with crystal lighting, alabaster-colored satin drapes, and leather headboards.
Enjoy a meal at the hotel’s Asian-inspired Departure Restaurant, helmed by Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet, with gorgeous rooftop views of mountains and the Willamette River. Or tuck into a succulent steak at the Urban Farmer Restaurant, where ingredients are as fresh as the name implies.
Walk off your driving stiffness at the Japanese Gardens and the Lan Su Chinese Gardens. And further your artistic exploration at the Portland Art Museum; opened in 1892, it’s the oldest art museum on the West Coast. Then finish your journey across the purple majesties with visits to two local—and national—icons: Powell’s Books and Voodoo Doughnuts.
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