The Best Cross-country U.S. Road Trip Itinerary: Southern Route

Where to stay, eat, and sightsee, from Los Angeles to Virginia — or vice-versa.

Drone View of River Gorge in Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Photo: Getty Images

Driving cross-country is the ultimate trip for the adventurous soul. If you are in need of varied landscapes, picturesque viewpoints, and impressive, relaxing stays, then this route is for you. Here we mapped out the must-see stops and roadside attractions along the southern route from the Southwest to the Southeast. Not to worry, this trip can be accomplished starting from whichever coast you prefer, so pack your bags and let's get started.

Los Angeles, California

View of sunny cityscape out car window, Los Angeles, California
Peter Stark/Getty Images

As you depart Los Angeles, a city known for its bustling downtown and landmark attractions and neighborhoods, stop by Alcove Cafe and Bakery near Griffith Park for a unique take on classic breakfast favorites before continuing east. If starting your trip from the East Coast, Los Angeles will be your final stop on the route, so an overnight stay at The Hoxton in Downtown LA will be much-needed — this chic hotel is the ideal combination of phenomenal views over Broadway and Old Hollywood glam. Grab dinner and drinks at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Hollywood, an iconic restaurant serving world-renowned, traditional Neapolitan pizza, as well as handmade pastas.

Sedona, Arizona

Window view from L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona
Courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

No road trip through Arizona would be complete without a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. Plan to arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon — as this part of the park is open year-round — and stop at one of the breathtaking viewpoints to absorb its magnificence. Continue on to Sedona where you will be enamored by the beautifully colored red rock formations. Right before sunset, follow the short walk up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built into the buttes, for a beautiful panoramic vista. Stay at Amara Resort and Spa for an upscale retreat with spectacular views of the red-rock buttes.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

This enchanting city is known as a richly artistic and culturally distinctive place with a deep-rooted history. Spend the day exploring the Canyon Road art galleries to get a taste of the vibrant display of both traditional and contemporary art. Dine at The Shed for a timeless take on New Mexican cuisine in a bright, exciting atmosphere. After you have had your fill of margaritas and enchiladas, make your way back to the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi for a luxurious stay in a classic adobe-style hotel a short walk from the downtown Santa Fe Plaza.

Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, a public art installation and sculpture created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels on December 22, 2020 in Amarillo, Texas.
Josh Brasted/Getty Images

For a short visit to Amarillo, a stop along Route 66 at Cadillac Ranch is a must. Here you will find a row of 10 spray-painted Cadillacs buried nose-first, which comprise an art installation and public sculpture. Come add your own spray paint and leave your mark on Amarillo. Stay at The Big Texan Airbnb — a lodging experience and partnership from The Big Texan and Amarillo's Airbnb Superhost — right across from The Big Texan Steak Ranch, a historic landmark and Texas attraction known for its 72-oz. steak eating contest.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Rock Café on Historic Route 66 in Stroud, Oklahoma, an attraction for Route 66 tourists, It was built in 1939 from stones unearthed during the construction of Route 66
Mark Williamson/Getty Images

As you head out to Oklahoma, make a pit stop off Route 66 in Stroud, near Oklahoma City, at Rock Cafe, which served as the inspiration behind Disney's Cars movies. The cafe showcases Cars movie posters and other items left by the crew, as well as other gifts from the owner's time helping with the movie.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

When visiting Hot Springs, spend time hiking through Hot Springs National Park before making your way to Bathhouse Row. Here you can visit the historic eight bathhouses built over the natural hot springs — only two of which remain open today, the Quapaw and the Buckstaff. Check out Superior Crafthouse Brewery for the only craft brewery that uses the thermal water of the hot springs in its beer. Stay overnight at The Waters Hotel, where you can see Bathhouse Row and Hot Springs National Park from your window.

Memphis, Tennessee

Take a step into the "Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll" with a short trip to Memphis. Be sure to stop by Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion for a tour before enjoying Elvis's favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich at The Arcade. This vibrant and eclectic city is also home to Beale Street, a must-visit place to soak up the live blues music and nearby restaurants and shops.

Nashville, Tennessee

Thompson Nashville King Room
Courtesy of Thompson Nashville

Known for its prolific country music scene, lively downtown nightlife on Broadway, and local eateries serving Southern comfort food staples, Nashville is sure to leave you enamored. For an inventive spin on the classic biscuit breakfast, stop by Biscuit Love, and for its 23 daily scratch-made varieties of pancakes, stop by The Pancake Pantry. Affectionately nicknamed Music City, Nashville is home to such iconic live music spots as The Bluebird Cafe, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Ryman Auditorium. After shopping your way through 12 South and The Gulch, check in for the night at the nearby Thompson Hotel, and go up to its LA Jackson rooftop bar for cocktails with a skyline view. Dine at The Pharmacy for a burger parlor and beer garden serving creative burgers or Whiskey Kitchen for its sophisticated take on Southern classics. End the night checking out the live music at some of the many honky tonk bars on Broadway.

Asheville, North Carolina

Drone View of River Gorge in Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Getty Images

Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is the quintessential mountain town with gorgeous vistas and a rich history. For a short visit to Asheville, start by hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail before checking out the shopping at the historic downtown Grove Arcade. Be sure to save time to drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway known for showcasing the serene beauty of North Carolina. Dine at Buxton Hall Barbecue for a sample of authentic Carolina-style barbecue.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Visitors at the University of Virginias Memorial for Enslaved Laborers in Charlottesville, VA
Visitors at the University of Virginias Memorial for Enslaved Laborers in Charlottesville, VA. The memorial acknowledges the estimated 4,000 enslaved people who lived and worked at the university from 1817 to 1865. Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Congratulations, you completed your cross-country road trip! No better way to celebrate than ending your trip in Charlottesville's wine country with an overnight stay at The 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, one of the best wineries in the area. Here you will find a stunning landscape, cozy cottage suites, and on-site wine tasting. If you are beginning your road trip from the East Coast, then Virginia will be your first stop on the route (lucky you!), so be sure to set aside some time to explore all that Charlottesville has to offer before heading west.

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