Drive a dreamy route


Artist havens and mist-shrouded mountains around every bend

Best stretch: Northeast of Asheville, N.C., the parkway climbs through the Pisgah National Forest to peaks of 5,000 feet, passing Appalachian towns, dramatic rock formations, and crafty roadside attractions.

Coolest thing to do: Watch weavers, woodcutters, and glassblowers in action at the Folk Art Center at milepost 382, near Asheville (382 Blue Ridge Pkwy., 828/298-7928, , free).

Fuel up: The menu at Artisanal mixes up local produce, organic meats, and fresh day-boat fish (1200 Dobbins Rd., Banner Elk, N.C., 828/898-5395, , plates from $9).

Rest your head: All 14 guest rooms at The Mast Farm Inn have fireplaces and four-poster beds. The restaurant hosts farm-to-table cooking classes (2543 Broadstone Rd., Banner Elk, 888/963-5857, , from $99, including breakfast). Kate Appleton

Classicand quirkyAmericana

Best stretch: The 100-mile segment between Tulsa and Oklahoma City was one of the first—and remains one of the most popular—sections of the entire route.

Coolest thing to do: There's nothing sweeter than Pops, a landmark in Arcadia, Okla., that sells some 500 kinds of soda, including Round Barn Root Beer, made locally and exclusively for the store (660 W. Rte. 66, 405/928-7677, ).

Fuel up: Rock Café owner Dawn Welch—who's been called a kitchen goddess by Paula Deen—cooks chicken fried steak and Jägerschnitzel on the legendary café's original 1939 grill, which survived a 2008 fire (114 W. Main St., Stroud, Okla., 918/968-3990, entrées from $6).

Rest your head: The mint-condition neon sign at the 51-year-old Skyliner Motel draws drivers right in and evokes the hotel's heyday (717 W. Main St., Stroud, 918/968-9556, from $55). Thomas Berger

A cliff-hugging road along the Pacific that convertibles were made for

Best stretch: The 88 miles between Carmel and San Simeon wind through the Santa Lucia Range, four state parks, and the bohemian town of Big Sur. Put the top down and take a deep breath—the fragrant sage bushes are intoxicating.

Coolest thing to do: Starting in 1918, using stones from his own beach, poet Robinson Jeffers built Tor House and Hawk Tower, which looks like something from the set of "Shrek". Local poets lead tours on Fridays and Saturdays (26304 Ocean View Ave., Carmel, 831/624-1813, , $7).

Fuel up: Big Sur's Restaurant at Ventana Inn & Spa, headed by sustainable-food pro Dory Ford, has 50-mile views of the coastline. There's fancier fare on the menu, but for lunch, you can't do better than the Big Sur burger: grass-fed beef, California cheddar, bacon, avocado, tomato relish, and an onion ring (48123 Hwy. 1, 831/667-2331, , burger $16).

Rest your head: The road to Hacienda Guest Lodge, a William Randolph Hearst house in Jolon, is only 17 miles long, but it's so narrow and spectacular, with views of the Los Padres National Forest, that the detour will take about an hour (Fort Hunter-Liggett, 831/386-2262, from $50 with shared bath, from $70 with private bath, including breakfast). JD Rinne