Laura Begley Bloom Senior Contributor
Transformative Travel: I look at how travel can change lives.
It’s summertime, which means it’s road trip season. Time to hit the open road and see the sights. And despite inflation and gas price hikes, travelers are booking those vacations in record numbers this summer. Outdoorsy, the peer-to-peer marketplace connecting RV owners with RV renters, recently published its 2022 trend report to get a sense of who is booking road trips this year and where they’re going. The results were surprising: Outdoorsy hasn’t seen any slowdowns this year despite inflation. In fact, bookings are up year over year for the summer season—more than double last year’s record demand.
It makes sense: An RV rental trip can be a great alternative for folks who are looking for an approachable—and less crowded—getaway this summer. It’s also an ideal solution for any last-minute changes in plans due to ever-increasing canceled flights, rental car shortages or expensive hotels. Plus, it’s affordable, since you don’t need to fly anywhere, your hotel comes with you. Gas is also less expensive than most people think. According to Outdoorsy, the average gas cost for a seven-day trip is about $275, which is less than one night at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney World.
The report revealed a few other noteworthy trends: “Nearcations” are the new normal. Two-thirds of renters aren’t traveling more than 100 miles from their home. Outdoorsy also discovered that the most affordable destinations are in the midwest and the southeast. And the two most popular search filters? Pet-friendly and air-conditioning. Can’t argue with that.
Outdoorsy’s report also rounded up the top 10 cities for road trips this summer, places growing in popularity and affordable destinations. It’s a helpful list, whether you’re planning to take an RV trip or just want to pile the kids into your own car and hit the road this summer. Read on to see which places made the cut and what we love about them.
Denver offers easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park. GETTY
Top 10 Cities for Summer Road Trips
Want to go on a road trip this summer? These are the places topping Outdoorsy’s summer trends report.
Denver, Colorado: The “Mile-High City” has endless opportunities for adventure, numerous gastropubs and a vibrant craft beer scene. It’s also a jumping-off spot for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, with some of America’s highest peaks. There’s also plenty of nature within the city itself, from City Park (Denver’s top urban green space) to whitewater kayaking in Confluence Park.
Seattle, Washington: This stunning seaport city is the heartbeat of the Pacific Northwest. Sample fresh seafood and shop from local artists at Pike Place Market or discover the city’s interesting history as a hub for jazz and rock music at a lively club. Art museums, sporting events and museums abound, while Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks are just a short drive away.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: The Land of 10,000 Lakes is mostly rural, though there are some bustling urban areas to explore. Minneapolis neighbors the capital of St. Paul and, together, the Twin Cities—set on the banks of the Mississippi River—are rich in history, art and vibrant culture.
Portland, Oregon: This progressive Pacific-Northwest city is filled with microbreweries, coffeehouses, dynamic restaurants, galleries and music venues you won’t want to miss. For outdoor enthusiasts, head to the Columbia River for kite surfing or a charter boat. Venture west to the Pacific coast along Cannon Beach or take a day trip to Mount Hood, catching sweeping views of the river along the way.
Anchorage, Alaska: Anchorage (a.k.a. “The City of Lights and Flowers”) kicks off summer by adorning its streets with wildflowers and perennials—celebrating an end to the dark winter months. The city offers numerous only-in-Alaska experiences like dog mushing and panning for gold. Plus, it’s easy to get out in nature and explore.
San Diego, California: Take advantage of near-perfect weather in this sunny city with 70 miles of stunning coastline. Be sure to try your hand at surfing or take a marine wildlife tour—you’ll likely catch a glimpse of dolphins, humpback whales and even blue whales in the summer months.
Dallas, Texas: This modern Texas city is home to world-class museums, a top-notch culinary scene, chic boutiques and plenty of outdoor recreation. Pair your city exploring with some natural attractions. Within two hours’ drive from downtown, you’ll find stunning state parks, fishing spots and biking trails. Don’t miss Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, Eisenhower State Park and the Joppa Preserve for prime birdwatching.
Los Angeles, California: The City of Angels is far more than the glitz and glam of Hollywood. The sprawling coastal city has bustling farmer’s markets, hiking trails, wine bars, theaters and so much more. From the movie-making hub of Culver City to artsy Venice, each neighborhood has its own flair—and appeal. L.A. is also the perfect home base for day trips to lush Topanga State Park, seaside Santa Barbara or rugged Joshua Tree National Park.
Salt Lake City, Utah: With the Oquirrh and the Wasatch mountain ranges as a stunning backdrop, you’ll want to get outdoors in Salt Lake City. Head to places like nearby Snowbird, which transforms from a ski resort into a summer wonderland with mountain biking, thrill rides, climbing, mining, camping and more.
San Antonio, Texas: With a history spanning over 300 years, San Antonio is full of charm, character and culture. History buffs will enjoy sites like the Alamo and the San Antonio missions, while foodies flock to the River Walk for local culinary treats. You don’t have to venture far for outdoor recreation. The Government Canyon State Natural Area sits on the north side of the city and spans over 12,000 acres of rugged hills and canyons.
11 Places Growing Fastest in Popularity
Get there now: These road trip destinations are seeing a huge growth in popularity this summer.
Flagstaff, Arizona: This northern Arizona city is surrounded by some of the country’s most beautiful natural areas, including the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, Coconino National Forest and the San Francisco Peaks . Make this lovely city your home base as you take in its small-town charm and explore the surrounding wonders.
Vallejo, California: On the shores of San Pablo Bay about an hour northeast of San Francisco, Vallejo lures history buffs. Explore historic districts lined with Victorian houses or stop at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the U.S. naval base at Mare Island to dive into the local maritime tradition. Depending on what kind of thrills you’re seeking, you’ll find beaches and trails, plus Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Myrtle Beach has no shortage of amenities, from miniature golf to amusement parks to Nascar races to Broadway at the Beach (a vast entertainment complex). For a quiet outing, head to nearby Murrells Inlet, an historic fishing village along a saltwater estuary.
Salem, Oregon: This capital city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Filled with creative sculptures, the Riverfront Park spans 23 acres along the Willamette River. The Oregon State Capitol State Park is also a stunner with its cherry blossom trees, monuments and flags that give a sense of the city’s history.
Traverse City, Michigan: Summer in Traverse City—set next to the alluring blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay—is all about getting active outdoors. Visitors are in for a treat with all the lighthouses, coastal villages, vineyards, orchards and championship golf courses dotting the miles of white-sand shorelines.
Omaha, Nebraska: Visitors will be delighted to discover that Omaha sits at the confluence of the Missouri and Platte Rivers. Plus, it’s an ideal summer destination for baseball enthusiasts: It’s home to the College World Series, which takes place in mid- to late-June each year.
Knoxville, Tennessee: Knoxville boasts finger-lickin’ Southern fare and bourbon outposts. But what truly sets this city apart is its location in the Smoky Mountains—perfect for summer adventures. Also appealing: Big Ridge State Park and Norris Dam State Park, with loads of options for biking, hiking, boating and camping.
Oshkosh, Wisconsin: Known for its picturesque waterfront, Oshkosh is nestled between two large lakes: Lake Butte des Morts and Lake Winnebago. The downtown is vibrant and walkable, with good dining and shopping housed in old brick buildings. Plus, you can’t beat the mild summertime weather.
Kalispell, Montana: If it’s charm you’re after, head to Kalispell. The enchanting mountain town attracts visitors with its microbreweries, boutiques and art galleries. It’s also a gateway to a host of jaw-dropping wilderness, including Glacier National Park, Lone Pine State Park and Flathead Lake—the largest body of fresh water in the western United States.
New Braunfels, Texas: Between San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels is a great place to enjoy outsized Texas adventures. Head to Fischer Park Nature Education Center for excellent family programming, hit the dance floor at the historic Gruene Hall or make a splash at Schlitterbahn water park for rides, slides and a wave pool. To the west is Natural Bridge Caverns, where you can tour underground limestone caves.
Boise, Idaho: Bustling Boise has it all: excellent dining, art, shopping and adventures, with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains as a spectacular backdrop. The Boise River Greenbelt, a scenic riverside trail dotted with trees and parks, snakes through the heart of the city. And on the southeast side of Boise are remnants of the Oregon Trail, which traders and settlers used to journey westward. Visitors can follow in the pioneers’ footsteps along the Oregon Trail Reserve’s walking paths.
6 Affordable Summer Road Trips
Want to save this summer? Point your compass toward these six U.S. locations on Outdoorsy’s affordable list.
Jacksonville, Florida: With 22 miles of white sand, there’s a beach for everyone in Jacksonville. Neptune Beach is popular with surfers, Jacksonville Beach attracts kitesurfers and Atlantic Beach draws anglers. Drive over to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve to visit one of the country’s last untouched coastal wetlands. There, you can also see the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which shares the stories of the explorers, territorial battles and religious struggles from 16th-century Florida.
Charleston, South Carolina: The “Holy City”—a moniker for its abundance of churches—is steeped in history and tradition, along with gorgeous architecture and a serious dining scene. Right outside downtown, you’ll encounter stunning forests and low-country coastal areas. Visit Poinsettia State Park (popular for its scenic horseback riding trails) or Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (a birdwatching Mecca).
Columbus, Ohio: Ohio’s capital city is dotted with natural areas, including Scioto Mile’s string of parks along both sides of the Scioto River. Science lovers will enjoy the COSI science center’s planetarium and hands-on exhibits, while the Columbus Museum of Art features American and European paintings and a sculpture garden. Put on your walking shoes to meander through German Village, lined with 1800s brick homes built by the original settlers.
Bakersfield, California: Historic Route 66 runs through this California town, which has a high-spirited country music scene, complete with bands and line dancing. Check out Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace or the historic Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame. Adventure nuts are attracted to local state parks like Castaic Lake State Park and Red Rock Canyon State Park.
Midland, Michigan: What was once a small, Native American village is now known for its industrial innovation—which is why it’s called the City of Science and Culture. Midland also prides itself on its 72 beautiful city parks. Explore 110 acres of lush flora and fauna—and America’s longest canopy walk—all during a visit to Dow Gardens.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Get a feel for the Queen City at the Levine Museum of the New South, which explores post–Civil War history in the South or take the family to the hands-on science exhibitions at Discovery Place. Looking for outdoor adventure? Don’t miss the U.S. National Whitewater Center; it boasts the largest man-made whitewater river in the world. Olympic competitors train there, but the rapids are open to the public. The center also features outdoor rock climbing, zip-lining, live music and yoga classes.