Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Labor Day, the unofficial start of the fall season, is today, September 4th, 2017. That means time is running out on all those ambitious plans for barbecues, lounging at the beach and road trips.
On that last matter, we’ve got you covered. If you’ve left your planning to the last minute or are fresh out of ideas for your Labor Day road trip, let us propose five great scenic routes out there waiting for you. We recommend not merely driving them, but enjoying them in a convertible, the classic summer car.
Check out our look at five classic American roads that you need to see this Labor Day:
Route 1, Key Largo, Fla. to Key West Fla.
Distance: 127 miles.
Key West is one of America’s most notorious party towns, but in this case, getting there can be as much fun as the destination.
The most well-known site along the 127-drive from the greater Miami area is Seven Mile Bridge, which stands as one of the iconic American crossings. It greets drivers west of Marathon, Fla., and continues over a seven-mile stretch in which drivers can see a beautiful blue horizon much more easily than land at the far end.
If checking out Key West, the one-time pirate cove and home to Hemingway, sounds a little too touristy, there’s plenty of out-of-the-way stops along the drive to make the trip one for the ages. There are mangrove swamps, crocodiles, pelicans and even the rare wild orchid found along the route, as well as a fisherman’s paradise and several state parks.
Route 2, M-22 in Northern Michigan
Distance: 117 miles
OK, so the Sleeping Bear Dunes garnered a bit of national attention this past year when Good Morning America named the national lakeshore the most beautiful place in the country. But Michiganders know that the road to get there, M-22, is just as picturesque as the towering sand dunes.
Starting on the north end in Traverse City, the curvy route showcases quiet lakes, cozy vacation towns and the sand dunes, all while following Lake Michigan’s shoreline south. Much like our first selection of U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys, this route in northern Michigan also traverses some classic Hemingway country.
Need a break? At Pyramid Point, hikers can enjoy a tree-lined three-mile trail to a lookout that offers a spectacular view of the Manitou Islands, a few miles offshore. But those wishing to stay in the car will get spectacular views throughout the drive south to Manistee.
Route 3, Aloha Loop
Distance: 266 miles
This one may require some degree of advanced planning. But we couldn’t think of a road that better captures the spirit of the MX-5. If you can make it over to the Big Island of Hawaii, this would be a road trip worthy of any bucket list.
After ostensibly renting your ragtop at Kona International Airport head down Route 11 to Captain Cook, where you can stop off at Hookena Beach Park and do some snorkeling. Make your way around the southern tip of the island and spend ample time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Let’s be honest: There are majestic views from just about anywhere along this road. For more points of interest, stop at Akaka Falls State Park as you make your way around the island in a counterclockwise direction and check out verdant rainforests and sugarcane fields, from which you can view Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the Pacific. (And for the adventurous, you can ski in February and March).
The perfect road-trip vehicle – if your plans involve going off road. The Wrangler may be one of the most capable Jeeps ever made, and the standard soft top can be folded down or the hard top removed for trips along mountain trails.
The two-door Wrangler comes with four-wheel drive standard and a 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine. For those headed off road, it’s important to note that electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist and hill-hold control also come standard.
Research the 2017 Jeep Wrangler
Route 4, Monument Valley, Arizona
Distance: Approximately 208 miles.
Skip the crowds at the Grand Canyon during the peak summer season and head toward the northeast corner of Arizona and into Monument Valley Tribal Park. Long before John Ford’s classic westerns made the area famous, the Navajos knew it well. Indian artifacts and history abound here.
There’s a 17-mile route inside the park that curls around some of the sandstone towers perfect for new offroaders. It’s unpaved, rocky and rutted. And it’s the only way to access some of the best parts of the park. Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa, named after two prospectors killed by Ute Indians, are two of the more spectacular monuments, as is Bird Spring, from which visitors can look out over vistas and sand dunes.
Route 5, Death Valley, Calif.
Distance: 310 miles
To see the Corvette at its best, you need a flat, open expanse to test its capabilities. No better place than the arid desert of Death Valley National Park.
Start off your journey near the Panamint Springs entrance to the park – and with plenty of gas. There’s plenty of dunes to see along the way, as well as remnants of lava flows, distant peaks and overlooks across the desert.
The power of the Camaro can be harnessed as motorists make their way from the lowest elevation in the United States in Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, to one of the highest in the park, at Dantes View, at more than 5,000 feet.
Along the way, you can stop and see abandoned mines, rattlesnakes, fringe-toed lizards and hikeable canyons. One thing you will not see a lot of is water, so bring plenty for everyone.