7 Perfect Summer Road-Trip Ideas Inspired by Our Favorite Cult-Classic TV Shows
When we were first introduced to FBI agent Dale Cooper of cult-classic series Twin Peaks, he’s driving along an empty, tree-paved road as he enters the small town of Twin Peaks. Speaking into his tape recorder to the elusive Diane, he describes in great detail his surroundings (“54 degrees on a slightly overcast day,” “I’ve never seen so many trees in my life!”) and other diminutive details ($6.31 for lunch at a spot near highway two—a tuna fish sandwich, slice of cherry pie, and cup of coffee).
The Cooper-isms in this surreal drama is what sets the show apart, whether it be his frequent thumbs ups, love for damn good coffee, or innocuous but sharp intuition. But more so than that, the series’ ability to create an identity for a place—to the extent where it begins to feel like a living, breathing character of its own, perhaps even inhabiting its own credits on an IMDb page—is undeniably what sets it apart the most.
To celebrate cult-classic TV favorites and their iconic locations—ones that played pivotal roles in bringing these shows to life—below are summer road-trip ideas inspired by some of our favorite places depicted on screen.
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1. Big Little Lies, Monterey, California
You can drive across the historic Bixby Creek Bridge (which was featured in the soulful opening credits) that inhabits the Big Sur coast along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Then, stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf to peruse the various storefronts or grab a bite to eat. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and have one to two hours to spare, explore the route of the 17-Mile Drive, which will cost a tiny fee, but offers gorgeous scenery.
There’s also the small beach city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which accommodates dream-like cottages that resemble the European villages you’d find in an animated Disney classic. You’ll forget you’re still in California.
2. Twin Peaks, Snoqualmie and North Bend, Washington
Enjoy a stay at Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie, which just so happens to have served as the exterior of the Great Northern Hotel. If you’re hankering to channel your inner Cooper with a cup of black coffee and slice of pie at an old-fashioned diner, visit Twede’s Café at North Bend, which served as the show’s Double R Diner.
Take in the natural wonders, too: Visit Snoqualmie Falls for a hike to reconnect with the great outdoors; become mesmerized by the rapid movement of the waterfall (featured in the opening credits) as it meets the Snoqualmie River hundreds of feet below.
3. The X-Files, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Visit the Britannia Mine Museum to explore the underground copper mine at Britannia Beach, which was featured in the series prior to renovation. Summer wouldn’t be summer without a weekend at the lake, so a visit to Buntzen Lake located in Anmore, minus any appearances of lake monsters, would also be ideal.
There’s also the historically grand Orpheum Theatre in the core of downtown, which features exterior that could be architecturally compared to a European opera house—also serving as the location where Mulder takes down killer and salamander mutant John Barnett.
4. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you want to truly immerse yourself in a place, navigate it via public transit. Consider the New Mexico Rail Runner Express starting at the Alvarado Transportation Center, which has been featured in the show. Find the best route to Old Town Albuquerque to take in the historic adobe-built architecture; immerse yourself in the Spanish and Native American heritage through various cultural centers, museums, and the biological park.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make the trek to Bandelier National Monument at Los Alamos to admire the gorgeous rock dwellings, or perhaps even the White Sands National Monument at Alamogordo to revel at the surrealism of the white sands.
Also, to play homage to Saul Goodman’s Breaking Bad days, there’s the location that served as the exterior of Saul’s law office located at 9800 Montgomery Blvd. in Albuquerque—home to several different stores and bars since the show’s wrap.
5. The Get Down, The Bronx, New York
Take a stroll through St. Mary’s Park and pretend that you run with Zeke’s crowd; and while the historic Chelsea Hotel (yeah, not in the Bronx, but home to sordid music producer Jackie Moreno on the show) no longer permits guests, it’d still be a crime to not visit and marvel at the exterior of this iconic location that has housed literary and musical greats ranging from Bob Dylan and Patti Smith to Jack Kerouac and Arthur Miller, to name a few.
Adding to the Bronx’s historical greatness are the following must-visits: Edgar Allan Poe’s cottage where the writer spent the remaining years of his life, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the Wave Hill House, a public garden and cultural center once inhabited by the likes of Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt.
6. Gilmore Girls, Washington Depot and Hartford, Connecticut
Visit the Stars Hollow-inspired town of Washington Depot and bask in the idea of living in a quirky small town, where cat funerals are the norm and town meetings are weekly. Grab some coffee from a local diner and perhaps you’ll encounter a grouchy, flannel-wearing man. Perhaps pay a visit to the Hickory Stick Bookshop, an independent bookstore with crimson-red brick exterior and awnings that literally scream small-town charm. Be sure to find a book to sniff. Rory Gilmore would so approve.
There’s also the city of Hartford, home to the affluent Gilmore matriarch and patriarch, where historical museums are aplenty, such as the Mark Twain House or Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. However, if you find that Hartford is just too much to bear and you’re searching for reinvention, there’s always the dreamy island of Nantucket.
7. The Walking Dead, Atlanta, Georgia
Channel your inner Glenn and hang out under a dumpster. Too soon? That was too soon. A visit to the south would be inept without indulging in some of that southern cuisine. Atlanta is also considered the birthplace of the civil rights movement, so a trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site would be a day well spent. The largest drive-in is also located in Atlanta, and it’s sure to give you those Grease-inspired nostalgias.
According to Atlas Obscura, the largest Hindu temple outside of India itself is located in the city of Lilburn a bit outside of Atlanta. Marvel in the intricate, hand-carved architecture of the temple; be sure to be mindful of the general rules about photography, belongings, and dress code. If you find that capturing the perfect Instagram photo where it’s not allowed outweighs respectfulness of the mandir, then that would be the optimal time to channel your inner Glenn and climb into a dumpster.