Published Nov/Dec 2005

These winter driving trips will warm you up.
By AAA National

W W hile heading out on the open road is a familiar scenario for summer travelers, the right destination and a well-planned driving itinerary can also provide a memorable winter escape.

Whether you plan to drive from home or rent a car at your destination, for great ideas and ready-to-go getaways, start your planning with AAA Drive Trips on aaa.com.

For destinations across the United States and Canada, discover nearly 100 flexible online itineraries integrated with AAA’s top-quality TourBook® travel information. Each trip includes an overview map, estimated drive time, mileage, photos, sightseeing information, plus online bookings and great rates at AAA Approved and Diamond rated lodgings.

Trips vary from shorter routes that circle a concentrated area to one-way routes that cover an entire region, and most can be completed in two to five days. Explore special interests such as sports and music, or follow the trail of history. Focus on city sights or natural wonders.

Here’s a glimpse at some drive tour destinations ready-made for winter travelers. The itineraries are divided into segments that can be completed in a day. The detailed driving instructions feature sightseeing highlights, rich with AAA Scenic Byways, points of interest and AAA GEM attractions–exceptional locations designated as a Great Experience for Members®.

California Desert Country Tour

Begin your adventure in Palm Springs, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Situated at the foot of San Jacinto Peak in the upper Colorado Desert, this popular resort city offers mineral springs and nearly 350 days of sunshine a year. Enjoy spas and upscale shopping … or abundant outdoor activities including golf, hiking in Coachella Valley, rock climbing and desert jeep tours.

Joshua Tree National Park, an easy half-hour drive away, offers an ideal day trip from Palm Springs. See where two deserts come together–the arid Colorado Desert to the east, dominated by the creosote bush, and the higher, cooler, wetter Mojave Desert to the west, the special habitation of the Joshua Tree.

Move on to Death Valley National Park, where winter temperatures are mild. Discover the forces that raised Telescope Peak and Dante’s View, dropping the valley between them to create Badwater, the lowest point in the western hemisphere.

Southeastern Arizona

Experience the shining capital city of Phoenix with its blend of Mexican American, Native American and American West cultures. Choose from more than 100 golf courses and feast your eyes with first-class art and history museums, the Desert Botanical Garden, and aerial views from a hot-air balloon.

Tucson, another golf mecca, offers more than 40 courses, many associated with luxury hotels and spa resorts. Enjoy outdoor recreation at Tucson Mountain Park, regional history at the Arizona State Museum, and natural history at the Arizona-Sonora museum.

In Benson, explore massive underground chambers at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Travel on to Tombstone, “The Town Too Tough to Die,” teeming with Wild West history. Get a contrasting picture of frontier living on a side trip to prosperous Bisbee for an underground train ride through an old copper mine.

Next, head west through one of the best bird-watching regions in North America and the scenic “Mountain Empire” communities of Elgin, Sonoita, and Patagonia. Visit the bustling crossroads community of Nogales, Ariz., and take a short walk across the international line to Nogales, Mexico, a popular daytrip shopping destination.

Return to Phoenix on roads less traveled for a closer look at Spanish architecture and influence. Explore the mysterious remains of a walled, prehistoric farming village at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Florida’s Sun Coast and Fort Myers

In Tampa, enjoy the Busch Gardens theme park, Florida Aquarium, and Museum of Science and Industry. Visit Ybor City, the Latin Quarter, for everything from crisp Cuban sandwiches to hand-rolled cigars.

In downtown St. Petersburg, visit the Salvador Dali Museum and Florida Holocaust Museum. Along the graceful Gulf coast of Pinellas Peninsula, from Crystal Beach south to Fort De Soto Park, enjoy nearly 35 miles of sugary white sand beaches, abundant water activities and fresh seafood.

Further south, the beach resort and art community of Sarasota shows its Scottish influence with more than 30 golf courses. Discover the integral role the circus played in local history at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art complex, onsite Circus Museum, and 32-room Ringling winter residence.

Continue on to Fort Myers to tour the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. On nearby Sanibel Island, gather seashells along unspoiled beaches, or follow the bridge to tranquil Captiva Island where sun, sand, and water comprise the local attractions.

As the chill of winter sets in, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a AAA Drive Trips adventure to warmer climates.

Visit your AAA Travel office, or settle in with a steaming mug of cocoa at your home computer to explore a host of ideas for winter Drive Trips on aaa.com.

As winter weater turns nastier, consider a driving trip to warmer, drier climes in California, Arizona or Florida. AAA National photo

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.