Get your motor running and head out on the highway. Whether you’re a racing fan, car enthusiast, lover of road trips or all of the above, here are some places around the nation you’ll want to check out in your travels.
National Corvette Museum. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, I-65 runs between the National Corvette Museum and its sister attraction, NCM Motorsports Park. On the west side of the interstate, you can tour the museum’s expansive collection of America’s favorite sports car that includes every generation dating back to the first 1953 model. Many concept cars and racing versions are also on display. To the east at the motorsports park, you can ride in or drive high-performance Corvettes on the road course reaching speeds of more than 100 mph. Visitors can also drive their own cars on the road course. Availability varies based on weather and other events. $12, National Corvette Museum, 350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, Kentucky. 800-538-3883, www.corvettemuseum.org. $50-$220, NCM Motorports Park, 505 Kimberlee A. Fast Drive, Bowling Green, Kentucky. 270-777-4509, motorsportspark.org
The Mighty 5. Five geologically unique national parks connected by scenic, two-lane highways make for a great week-long road trip through Utah. At Arches in Moab, otherworldly sandstone arches frame views of snow-capped mountains and red rock vistas. Bryce Canyon dazzles with its totem-pole-like rock formations called hoodoos. At Canyonlands in southwest Utah, you’ll have a hard time believing you’re not at the Grand Canyon. Capitol Reef in Torrey is centered around a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the desert that resembles a giant ocean reef, and huge domes of white Navajo sandstone. Utah’s first national park, Zion in Springdale, fills the eye with soaring multi-hued sandstone cliffs, slot canyons and the Narrows, a gorge bounded by 1,000-foot-high cliff walls where the hiking “trail” is actually in the middle of the shallow Virgin River. The Utah Office of Tourism has helpful planning tools for “The Best Week of Your Life” on its website. $20-$35. www.visitutah.com, www.nps.gov
Land Rover Driving Experience. Drive over woodpiles, navigate around boulders and motor up grades so steep you wouldn’t feel comfortable walking them, all located on an off-road track on the wooded grounds of Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s like a slow-motion thrill ride without railings. An instructor rides along to guide you through the seemingly impassable course. A variety of driving experiences are offered, from one-hour to full-day excursions that include history lessons and a picnic lunch. For those not ready to take the wheel, there’s a more affordable ride-along option also available. $25-$1,500. One Lodge St., Asheville. 828-225-1541, www.biltmore.com
Mississippi Blues Trail. For fans of blues music, a journey along the Mississippi Blues Trail can feel like a pilgrimage. The proverbial crossroads is Clarksdale, Mississippi, located six hours west of Atlanta. The place is so steeped in blues lore, it’s hard to discern fact from fiction. For instance, seminal blues figure Robert Johnson has three gravesites. See the site of Muddy Waters’ long-gone home on Stovall Farm, among other sights, all designated by historical markers. Stay the night at the Shack Up Inn ($75 and up, 001 Commissary Circle Road, Clarksdale. 662-624-8329, www.shackupinn.com), a ramshackle collection of renovated sharecropping shacks with an easygoing, juke-joint vibe and a music hall. Sixty miles south of Clarksdale is Indianola, Mississippi, B.B. King’s hometown. See the street corner where King first played in public (his hand prints are still visible in the sidewalk) and take a deep-dive into the history of King and the Delta at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center ($15. 400 Second St., Indianola, Mississippi, 662-887-9539, bbkingmuseum.org). Afterwards, pay your respects at the blues legend’s grave site outside the museum. www.msbluestrail.com
Charlotte Motor Speedway.The 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, is home to major NASCAR races each year, but fans can also try out the track themselves at a racing school. Different driving experiences are offered such as the NASCAR Racing Experience and the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Here you can stop being a spectator and get behind the wheel to feel what a real race track is like at high speeds. A new free cruise-in style event called “Cars and Coffee Concord” is held the third Saturday of each month (except May and October) where fans gather with their own automobiles at the speedway’s Fan Zone to share their passion for all things cars and racing. $99 and up. 5555 Concord Pkwy. S, Concord, North Carolina. 800-455-3267, www.charlottemotorspeedway.com
The Overseas Highway. Spanning 42 bridges and 110 miles from the southern tip of mainland Florida through the Florida Keys to Key West, the Overseas Highway gives drivers an edge-of-the-world feeling surrounded by blue sea and sky. The most spectacular span is the Seven Mile Bridge connecting the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. Recommended stops along the way include Bahia Honda State Park ($8), which boasts one of the few natural white-sand beaches in the Keys; John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park ($8) in Key Largo, an ideal place for snorkeling and scuba diving adventures; and The Turtle Hospital ($25, www.turtlehospital.org) in Marathon, offering guided tours behind the scenes of its turtle rescue facilities. fla-keys.com, www.floridastateparks.org
Memory Lane Classic Car Museum. Located in a non-descript shopping center near Lake Oconee without any permanent signage out front, this vintage car museum is such a hidden gem, it doesn’t even have a website. Inside, though, is a wonderland of classic cars, the personal collection of Jerry and June Smith, acquired over a lifetime. Recently re-opened after being closed for more than a year, the museum features 160 automobiles manufactured between 1913 and 2005. Highlights include a rare 1954 Buick Skylark, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird and a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle. Car shows occasionally are held in the parking lot on Saturdays. Proceeds from admission fees go to charity. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun. $5. 170 Scott Road, Eatonton. 706-991-1835.
The Dale Trail. Honoring native son and beloved racing legend Dale Earnhardt, the Dale Trail is a self-guided tour featuring 19 stops in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Highlights include the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Plaza in his hometown of Kannapolis, featuring a 900-pound bronze statue of the NASCAR hero. Hendrick Motorsports in Concord is a don’t-miss stop, home to several racing teams where visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at the teams’ race shops where pit crews practice. Begin your journey at the Cabarrus County Visitor Information Center in Concord to pick up a map and get expert tips from the staff. 10099 Weddington Road, Concord, North Carolina. 800-848-3740, www.visitcabarrus.com
Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum. Sevierville, Tennessee, Dolly Parton’s hometown in the foothills of the Smokies, is home to this impressive collection of American-made vehicles from the Golden Age of muscle cars — the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s. Boasting more than 90 cars, it’s one of the largest such collections on public display in the U.S. The museum has been featured on the History Channel and in magazines such as Motor Trend and Muscle Car Review. All of the cars are in spotless condition. Plenty of modern-day muscle cars are on display, too. If you’re vacationing in nearby Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, it’s worth the short drive over. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, $11. 320 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville, Tennessee. 865-908-0882, musclecarmuseum.com.
Barber Motorsports Park and Museum. Set in the rolling green hills just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, the winding 2.38-mile, 16-turn road course at the Barber Motorsports Park is considered one of the premier racing circuits in the world and hosts many racing events for cars and motorcycles. The park has been referred to as “The Augusta National of Motorsports.” Annual events include the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama each spring and the upcoming Barber Vintage Festival (Oct. 4-6, $30). Barber is much more than a race track, though. There’s an impressive vintage car and motorcycle museum adjacent to the track, and the 880-acre grounds can take on a carnival-like atmosphere during events. It’s also home to the official U.S. driving school of Porsche. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, $15. 6040 Barber Motorsports Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama. 877-332-7804, barberracingevents.com.
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