From Kerouac’s On the Road to Hopper’s Easy Rider, the cross country road trip is romantically engrained in the identity of domestic travel and an essential step towards understanding a more intimate version of Americana. The only limitations being the borders of the Continental 48 and two yellow lines, drivers have a lot of options. They also have one big decision to face: To avoid spending months zig zagging up and down the country, one must choose between taking the Northern or Southern Route from coast to coast. To provide a little context, here are some pros and cons for each.

Northern Route

Following US-2 and I-90, this trip across the top of the map is the longer, and rugged trek of two. This is a voyage for those who revel in braving the elements and indulging in the serenity of a rural landscape.


The Windy City In a more specific sense, Chicago is one of the drive’s most notable metropolitan highlights. Set right on the shores of Lake Michigan, and the water with cultural classics like Wrigley Field and Second City, this is one of America’s most the more storied and enjoyable cities to visit in the United States.


In terms of broad advantages to taking the Northern Route across the United States, nature is the most prevalent. The rivers and mountains of Montana, the Colorado Rockies, and the Green Mountains in Vermont are just a few of Mother Earth’s highlights that decorate this awe-inspiring trip.

Maple Syrup

Enough said.


The one possible downside of taking the higher roads on a cross country trip is the harsh cold that takes over half of every year. Unless somebody is skiing, this could put a real damper on things like camping and hiking.

Southern Route

Staying mainly on US-80, the Southern Route of the classic cross country road trip is filled with flavor and culture cutting through the Dixieland and its world famous hospitality.


While cold can plague the northern route, the heat is a definite challenger in the south. For those who embark on this journey during the summer, air-conditioning, cold beer, and swimming pools will be your best friends.

Four Corners

Four states, one corner. You can’t beat that!


Of the two main choices for riding from coast to coast, the southern route definitely wins for its culinary offerings. Fried chicken in Alabama and Georgia, Creole deliciousness throughout Louisiana, and some smoky Texas barbecue will have you feeling about as American as Brett Favre.

New Orleans

As one of the most culturally distinct lively destinations in the country, New Orleans just may be the deal breaker for heading south. Jazz and jambalaya, drinking in the streets and watching sunsets on the bayou, it’s an extraordinary mix of poetry and festivity, but hey, so is a cross-country road trip, no matter which way you head.

image via flickr