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Best Places to Stop on a U.S. Route 1 Road Trip

If you live on the East Coast of the United States, you’ve probably driven on a section of U.S. Route 1 at some point, since it stretches from Maine down to Florida. When you take this road trip, you can start from any of the 14 states on the coast, as well as Washington D.C. Here are some must-stop locations for your next trip down (or up) Route 1.

Maine

With a number of excellent museums and attractions to see when you’re in Maine, it can be hard to pick just one or two. There’s delicious food and excellent opportunities to explore the beautiful and vast natural expanses in the state. 

Acadia National Park

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Image by Noppawat Tom Chanoesinphan

We love national parks here at Outdoors. Accessible by Route 1 to Highway 186, Acadia is a great park to add to any itinerary if you’re heading to Maine. There are 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads, all available to enjoy during your time here. The park encompasses coastlines and mountains, making it an excellent way to start off a cross-country road trip.

Million Dollar View

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Image by L Toshio Kishiyama

The section of Route 1 known as “The Million Dollar View” is 8 miles long and takes about an hour to drive if you’re not going to make any stops. If you do make stops, however, you can hop in a canoe or kayak or head out on a four-wheeling adventure. Take in views of northern Washington County and head to the overlook of Grand Lake for the opportunity to get a glimpse of New Brunswick, Canada before heading south.

New Hampshire

This New England state offers coastal views and delicious food (hello, lobsters). New Hampshire has a lot to offer for any road tripper, whether you’re going through one state or looking to get across all 14 on the coast. Take in a scenic drive or a little bit of history, or, if you’re looking to cool off, there are plenty of lakes and coastlines to splash around in for a bit.

Portsmouth Harbor Cruises

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Image by Portsmouth Harbor Cruises

Whether you’re looking for an informative cruise or a unique place to hold a private event, booking time on a 1963 60-foot Deltaville Deadrise offers a unique experience for you and your youngest road trippers, including the opportunity to go bird watching and explore the inland waterways. Portsmouth harbor cruises are the perfect way to take in local and American history, including lighthouses and coastal mansions.

Memorial to a Witch

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Image by Atlas Obscura

If you are a fan of The Crucible or have any interest in the Salem Witch Trials, you’ll want to add Memorial to a Witch to your list of places to visit. Dedicated to Eunice “Goody” Cole, the rock is a memorial to New Hampshire’s only convicted witch. Memorial to a Witch is located off of Route One and is next to Thorvald’s Rock, which is dedicated to Leif Eriksson’s brother. Goody Cole was accused of many crimes and ultimately sentenced for being a witch in 1692, which was before the Salem Witch Trials.

Massachusetts 

Route 1 through Saugus, Massachusetts offers kitschy, Americana road-trip opportunities like you’ve never seen before. Roadside attractions have come and gone, but there’s still a big orange dinosaur watching over you and a wide variety of delicious meals that you won’t want to miss.

Famous Orange Dinosaur

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Image by CBS News

This free attraction is a somewhat jaw-dropping T-rex statue painted safety orange. Its face was made to look like American comedian Bob Hope and was part of a mini-golf course that closed in 2016. The new owner of the property said that the dinosaur will stay, even though the course has closed. Though the dinosaur has moved since 2016, it is still an excellent stop to add to your road trip through Saugus.

Saugus Iron Work National Historic Site

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Image by Zrfphoto

Considered the birthplace of the American iron and steel industry, the Saugus Iron Work National Historic Site first began operation in the 1600s, when European colonists arrived. This 12-acre National Historic Site offers working waterwheels, forges, and mills to explore, all off Route 1. The site is along the Saugus River and was the first iron-making plant in the United States.

Rhode Island

As the smallest state in the U.S., Rhode Island might not seem like a place you need to stop during an East Coast road trip, but it is jam-packed with amazing eats, multiple lighthouses, caverns, and azalea gardens. Taking Route 1 through Rhode Island is a long drive in than if you take I-95, but it is worth it.

Kinney Azalea Garden

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Image by Kin ney Azalea Gardens

Open every day during daylight hours, Kinney Azalea Garden is a non-profit dedicated to educating the public about the environment. Admission to the grounds is free. The gardens began in the 1920s when the University of Rhode Island’s first botany professor began planting conifers on his son’s property. Since then, it has been tended by four generations of horticulturists, as well as nature enthusiasts and educators. When you visit Kinney Azalea Gardens, you can go bird watching and explore native plants, and there’s even a treasure hunt for the youngest explorers on your trip.

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Image by Debbi B

Home to New England’s only komodo dragon, the Roger Williams Park Zoo and Carousel Village offers a number of unique experiences, especially for families. This non-profit zoo is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. With African elephants, Masai giraffes, red pandas, and a number of other exciting species to view, you’ll get to visit a piece of history, as it’s one of the oldest zoos in the country.

Connecticut

The first state of the tri-state area on our list, Connecticut has a lot to offer and is an excellent place to stop in and stretch your legs. Home to world-renowned Yale University and the world’s largest dairy store, there are a variety of opportunities for exploration and entertainment.

Vatican Gardens Knockoff

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Image by Bishop Orchards

Have you ever wanted to go to Italy and thought it’s just too far away? That’s not a problem anymore, because right in Bridgeport, Connecticut you can visit the Vatican Gardens Knockoff, which has been called “mysterious” and “creepy.” Also known as Saint Margaret’s Shrine, this garden is a monument of peace at Saint Margaret’s church that was built during World War II. Though it is a little over the top, it’s definitely an interesting place to walk around and explore. If you want to, you can even have a wedding there.

Bishop’s Orchards

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Image by Italian Enclaves Historical Society

For over 150 years, Bishop’s Orchards have been family-owned and operated. Starting as a dairy and vegetable farm, Bishops’ Farm opened its first public orchard in 1909, and continuous efforts have been made to keep the farm running and to keep people coming back. Now offering an entire farmer’s market, as well as a winery and orchards, Bishop’s Orchards has something for everyone.

New York

When you think of New York, you most likely think of New York City. If you aren’t interested in spending time in the city but you still want to visit the Empire State during your East Coast road trip, here are some suggestions.

Edith G. Read Natural Park and Wildlife Sanctuary

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Image by Parks Westchester

The 179-acre sanctuary is located along the Long Island Sound and is home to diverse marine life. 5,000 ducks roam in the saltwater and natural water lakes, and it is considered to be an “Important Bird Area” by the Audubon Society of New York. As a part of Westchester County, the Edith G. Read Natural Park is preserved to ensure the continued conservation of the natural resources and native wildlife in the area.

Storm King Art Center

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Image by Storm King Arts Center

This 500-acre open-air museum in New York’s Hudson Valley is home to many large-scale artworks. Storm King Art Center has been open since 1960 and has been combining the arts with beautiful rolling outdoor hills since then. The works on-premise are meant to explore the relationship between art and the environment they are built in, as well as the bond they share. There are a number of Earth Works, photographs, and drawings available at the museum.

New Jersey

The Garden State is home to a number of wonderful outdoor locations to explore that often go overlooked because of New Jersey’s loud and proud reputation. With a rich history and an overwhelming number of delicious restaurants to choose from, do yourself a favor and give yourself a few days in Jersey.

Princeton Battlefield

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Image by Anthony Behar

Take in the history of the American Revolutionary War by visiting Princeton Battlefield, including the spot where General Hugh Mercer fell during one of the most historic battles of the war. Visit the historic Mercer Oak, a descendant of the oak tree that stood on the battlefield during the American Revolution until it fell in 2000. You can also explore one of the many nature trails behind Clark House and the battlefields for an opportunity to get in a small hike.

Bamboo Forest at Rutgers Gardens

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Image by Leembe

Though originally planted to protect beehives in the 1940s, the invasive bamboo planted here has evolved into a must-see part of the garden. The bamboo stalks can grow to be 30 feet tall in just a few weeks and live for 5-7 years. As a part of Rutgers’ Cook Campus in New Brunswick, the Bamboo Forest is roughly two acres in size. The evergreen stalks are a focal point of the gardens and are frequently visited all year long.

Delaware

Whether you’re looking for quiet nights on the coast or an exciting night out on the town, there is something for everyone to look forward to when you stop in the little state of Delaware.

Fifer Orchards

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Image by Fifer Orchards

Fifer Orchards recently celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2019. It’s been run by the Fifer family since they moved to Kent County, Delaware and began farming there in 1919. When you visit the farm in Camden-Wyoming, Delaware, there are a variety of activities to choose from, including “U-Pick” experiences. If you go in autumn, be sure to go to Fifer’s for the Fall Festival.

Go Ape Zipline Adventure Park

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Go Ape Adventure Park

Located in Lums Pond State Park, Go Ape Zipline Adventure Park in Delaware allows you to zoom over Lums Pond, the largest freshwater pond in the state. Participate in their original treetop adventure for 2-3 hours’ worth of fun up to 50 feet in the air. There are a number of other activities, too. Make sure you check age requirements and weight limits before you go.

Maryland

Running through Baltimore to Washington, D.C., Route 1 has been called “America’s Main Street” and is frequently used in Maryland. Much of the road between these two cities is a four-lane highway, and though its popularity has diminished since the creation of the interstate, there is still a lot of history here that makes for some good stops.

Castle Good Knight

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Image by Roadtrippers

As a part of the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network, the Castle Good Knight, also known as the Enchanted Kingdom, is located in Beltsville, Maryland. This open-air museum and garden has a number of green spaces, waterfalls, and ponds to explore while also offering empowerment classes for children of all ages. Featuring a new permaculture garden for volunteers to explore sustainable gardening practices, the Castle Good Knight is constantly changing to meet the needs of the community.

Elijah Bond’s Ouija Board Headstone

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Image by Cult of Weird

The creator and patentee of the Ouija Board, Elijah Bond created these “Wonderful Talking Boards” as a way to connect with those who had passed, creating a communication link between the “unknown and known.”  Unfortunately, when Bond passed away, he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, and it wasn’t until 2007 that he was found and identified. In fact, it took over 15 years for researchers to find Bond’s grave. The cemetery is open Monday through Saturday.

Washington D.C.

As America’s capital city, Washington D.C. houses tons of important historic sites and monuments. Here are two potential stops for a Route 1 road trip, but this area really warrants its own separate trip. 

The U.S. National Arboretum

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Image by Washington DC

Like all of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C., the U.S. National Arboretum is open every day except Christmas from 8 AM until 5 PM. Within the arboretum is the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which is open from 10 AM to 4 PM. The U.S. National Arboretum was established to demonstrate the aesthetic, environmental, and economic importance of landscaping. 

East Potomac Park

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Image by National Parks Service

East Potomac Park is across the bridge from the Washington Channel. This U.S. National Park is 400 acres and offers a number of outdoor activities, including golf, tennis, and bike paths. The park is also home to the only public dock in the Washington Channel: East Potomac Park Day Dock. The day dock is for non-motorized boats only.

Virginia

Also known as the Richmond Highway or Jefferson Davis Highway, this section of U.S. Route 1 is the central road going through the state of Virginia and is regularly used by the locals when commuting to work. Virginia may be for lovers, but there are definitely plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

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Image by Lewis Ginter Botanical

With 50 acres of gardens to roam, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens is a great place to reconnect with nature as you learn about diverse plant life. The gardens are open year-round and offer a number of themed exhibitions, including a children’s garden and a Cherry Tree Walk. Even if you decide to go in the winter, there will be plants on view and you can tour the “bones” of the gardens. There is also a stunning domed conservatory.

Belle Isle

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Image by Venture Richmond

Belle Isle is a great place to stop, get out into nature, and do some sightseeing after spending long hours in the car. Located on the James River in Richmond, Belle Isle offers biking, rock climbing, quarry ponds, and wheelchair-accessible fishing. You can also sunbathe on the rocks next to the rapids, take in the Richmond Skyline, and look for the Hollywood Cemetery and Tredegar Iron Works.

North Carolina

Route 1 North Carolina is predominant in Wake County and Raleigh and connects to a number of state highways in the surrounding area, including Highway 15. U.S. Route 1 is often considered to be a quiet road in North Carolina, even though it cuts through the center of the state. 

Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail

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Image by Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail

The Roanoke Canal was purchased by investors after the American Revolutionary War in 1882 and was a working trade port by 1900. Though the Roanoke Canal has had its highs and lows, it’s now a museum educating those about the history of the canal through interactive and traditional exhibitions. The Roanoke Canal Trail offers a number of footpaths for guests to explore and is a great place for birding.

Great Falls Mill Ruins

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Image by Roadtripper

Located in Rockingham, North Carolina, the remnants of this cotton mill harken back to the textile and weaving industries that were so prominent in the South following the end of the American Civil War. The mill was originally built in 1839 and operated until 1930 as one of the largest cotton mills in the region. At one time, it was also the tallest building in Rockingham, North Carolina. Just ruins remain of Great Falls Mill, as a fire destroyed much of the structure in 1972. Though so little of the building remains, what is left is still truly breathtaking.

South Carolina

The Palmetto State is a frequent vacation destination for many beach-goers, but there are a number of other landscapes and landmarks to explore during your trip to or through South Carolina.

Darlington Raceway

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Image by Logan Riley

An experience like none other, the Darlington Raceway is an exciting and fun experience for road trippers of all ages. Check out their fall lineup. The raceway offers camping on the green before the races.

Monetta Drive-In Theatre

Image by Visit Augusta

With only 300 drive-in theaters left in the United States, this is a great addition to your Route 1 road trip. Nicknamed “The Big Mo,” the Monetta Drive-In Theatre first opened in 1951 and closed temporarily in 1986. Since reopening in 1999, Big Mo has added two more screens and a giant peach to house the projectors. With plenty of movies to choose from, you and your family will be sure to enjoy this stop.

Georgia

Entering Georgia will feel like an accomplishment on its own, especially if you started at the top of Route 1. Traveling all the way from Augusta to the Florida State Line, Route 1 meets up with a number of other state highways throughout Georgia. The state has made a name for itself with its love of peaches, but if you’re looking to do more than eat some delicious fresh fruit, add these locations to your list.

A Space Age Bank

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Image by Vanishing Georgia

The Pineland Bank or “Space Age Bank,” as it has been nicknamed, was one of two banks built in this style in 1966 (the other has since been demolished). Space Age Bank is still an operating bank with a small lobby and a drive-thru service area. Built-in the popular 1950s/1960s architecture style called Googie, this location is popular with photographers from all over the world.

Imperial Theatre

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Image by Eventective

The Imperial Theatre first opened its doors in 1918 as a Vaudeville Theatre. Since then, it has become one of downtown Augusta’s most popular and recognizable locations. The stage has welcomed Charlie Chaplin and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, among many others, and it is now home to a number of other festivals throughout the year. Stop here to take a photo outside with the iconic marquee, and be sure to schedule a tour to take in the beautiful indoor architecture.

Florida

If you started in Maine, then congratulations, you have made it to the final state on your Route 1 road trip. After all that driving, get out of the car and stretch your legs when you hit the mile-zero marker on the highway.

Coral Castle

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Image by Lana Canada

Made from 1,100 tons of coral rock, Coral Castle was built in secret by Edward Leedskalnin. No longer a secret, this sculpture garden has become a popular tourist attraction in southern Florida. No one knows exactly how Leedskalnin built it, but it is believed that he built it entirely at night. It’s even rumored that he knew “the secret of the pyramids.” Coral Castle took 28 years to build, and when it first opened, Leedskalnin charged a mere 10 cents to view his work. While you’re there, check out the guest wall and sign it.

Biscayne National Park

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Image by DaLa

Located entirely in Biscayne Bay, this U.S. National Park houses over 10,000 years of human history, including shipwrecks and remnants of prehistoric tribes living in the bay. Biscayne National Park is a popular destination for people to go canoeing and kayaking, and there is a bounty of wildlife to take in while you’re there as well. Take a guided tour or go snorkeling in the bay for a chance to see over 600 species of native fish as they swim through the corals.

Are you going on any road trips this summer? Tell us in the comments below.

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