This may not be the year to charter a jet to Dubai, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great vacation. Pack up the car and head cross-country, taking in lots of Americana along the way. Follow the Oregon Trail where previous explorers have found cheap, comfy lodgings and restaurants to make your trip more pleasant.
Stop No. 1: Fall River, MA
If you’re starting on the East Coast, this little town is an inexpensive alternative to New York or Boston. It has a long history as a fishing and shipbuilding center, and it’s a stone’s throw from outlet shopping (the true American vacation experience).
What to see: The Lizzie Borden murderabilia museum, displaying the hatchet, blood-spattered pillowcases and other artifacts from the 1892 crime.
Where to stay: Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, the house where it is said she took an axe and gave her father 40 whacks. It’s also alleged that when she saw what she had done, she gave her mother 41.
Where to eat: Sagres Restaurant on Columbia Street offers up hearty Portuguese fare for $10-12 per person.
Stop No. 2: Oneida, NY
The next stop as you head west was home to a large and successful commune in the 1800s. Near the scenic Finger Lakes region, it’s easy to see why the free-loving sect would have chosen to settle here. These days, it’s still an idyllic area with just a touch of mid-century cheesiness.
What to see: The World’s Smallest Church, officially named Cross Island Chapel. At 51×81 inches of floor area, the nondenominational church is in the middle of a lake and seats two.
Where to stay: You’ve got to stay at a Super 8 Motel at some point along the way. With access to a beach and plenty of casinos, this Tudor-style beauty should be the one.
Where to eat: Throw back a slice and pitcher at Ye Olde Pizza Pub, a dark and homey college joint.
Stop No. 3: Niagara Falls, NY
Niagara Falls, NY. Spanning the Canadian border, this little city is all kitsch built to serve tourists to the falls. It’s not glamorous, but it is the quintessential road-trip destination.
What to see: Duh. That admission-free natural wonder, the falls.
Where to stay: Bring your passport and cross over into Canada to the Caravan Inn, for around $80 a night. Why? Heart-shaped Jacuzzi. ‘Nuff said.
Where to eat: You’re about 30 minutes away, so head to Anchor Bar in Buffalo-it’s the original home of the Buffalo wing, and 10 for $10 should fill you up.
Stop No. 4: Cleveland, OH
Once rather a dowdy city, Cleveland now boasts boutique shopping and a warehouse-turned-arts district. It still has a small-town Midwestern feel, but microbreweries and rock and roll keep things lively.
What to see: You’ve got to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but also make sure to see the world’s largest rubber stamp, sculpted by Claes Oldenburg.
Where to stay: Stay in a 19th-century-home-turned-luxury-B&B. BrownStone Inn is downtown and costs $65-95 a night.
What to eat: Grab a burger at Swensons, a classic drive-in that’s almost 75 years old.
Stop No. 5: Alexandria, IN
Alexandria, IN. This town’s one big attraction has put it on the map, attracting news crews and even a filmmaker. Other reasons to stop by are antiquing and gospel singer Bill Gaither’s studio and museum.
What to see: Set up an appointment to see Mike Carmicheal’s “ Sitting in Mike’s garage, it comprises more than 21,000 coats of paint and weighs 2,700 pounds.
Where to stay: The prices at Country Gazebo Inn ($60-75 a night) can’t be beat-and that includes croquet and shuffleboard.
Where to eat: Options are limited in this tiny town. Try John’s Diner for, well, classic diner fare.
Stop No. 6: Dyersville, IA
Dyersville, IA. Known as the Farm Toy Capital of the US, this town of 4,000 is also home to a Roman-Catholic basilica. It’s filled with small-town charm. Take a tout to see it all.
What to see: You’ll hear the cornstalks gently whispering “if you build it, they will come,” as you make your way to the town’s main attraction. Yep, Field of Dreams was filmed here, and you can still see the field.
Where to stay: The cozy Uptown B&B is clean and homey.
Where to eat: Shot Tower Inn, as it turns out, does not serve shots. But there is plenty of pizza, potato skins, onion rings and even salads.
Stop No. 7: Mount Rushmore, SD
Feeling patriotic after the recent election? This landmark attraction is pure Americana.
What to see: Those guys on the side of the mountain. Chances are, US presidents have been on your mind lately anyway.
Where to stay: Happy Holiday Motel is rustic log cabins starting at $35 a night, and campsites are about half that.
Where to Eat: Also in a log cabin, Flying T Chuckwagon serves up barbecue and live music. Splurge and try the buffalo.
Stop No. 8: Thermopolis, WY
With cowboy culture and a hot spring, this town is a must-see on a trip cross-country. Get out of the car and go for a hike through red-rock mountains to stretch your legs.
What to see: Fifty life-size wax cowboys ‘n’ Indians make up 20 scenes of Old West life at the Old West Wax Museum. Stop by the hot spring, too.
Where to see: Stay with the Old West motif at the Elk Antler Inn and Fudge Shop. They do, indeed, sell fudge, and they also offer activities like tubing and rafting.
Where to eat: A&W Restaurants aren’t always easy to find, but there’s one here, and it serves homemade pies in addition to the signature floats. Oh, and dinner, too–but you’re on vacation.
Stop No. 9: Blackfoot, ID is a little bit like an oasis—its trees, parks and lakes appear after miles of desert driving. Once a depot for the potato industry, this town also has a great historical vibe.
What to see: The motto is “We give taters to out-of-staters” at the Idaho Potato Museum, where you can see such wonders as the largest Pringle ever made.
Where to stay: For $99 a night, you’ll have your choice of the Paradise, Victorian or Abe Lincoln Log rooms at Stout Street Bed & Breakfast.
Where to eat: Take a break from diner fare with authentic Mexican at El Mirador.
Stop No. 10: Portland, OR
Consistently named one of the top cities to live in, Portland has plenty to see and do. The people are friendly and it’s easy to get around, so you’ll want to stay a few days and explore. Be sure to take in one last roadside attraction to cap off your great journey west.
What to see: A glorified traffic island that happens to be the World’s Smallest Park.
Where to stay: Starting at $90 a night, the Jupiter Hotel is well-located and uber-trendy for the price.
Where to eat: Get a waffle sandwich with gourmet fillings like Black Forest ham at the FlavourSpot. You’ll probably be set for a few meals.