A Day on the Lake, 1962
Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

Vintage Photos of Classic American Road Trips

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A Day on the Lake, 1962
Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

Driving Through History

The road trip is a quintessential summer vacation experience. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans plan to hit the road over Fourth of July weekend, according to a new Cars.com survey. At the same time, nearly three-quarters say their plans have been affected by record-high gas prices, with most opting to stay closer to home. Prepare for your trip by taking a look back in time at some iconic road trip destinations and classic vacation images taken since the early days of driving in America.


Related: The Cost of Gas the Year You Were Born

Mrs. Alice H. Ramsey, standing beside her auto
Library of Congress

Road Trip, 1908

This photo depicts Alice H. Ramsey, the first woman to drive the entire length of the United States from coast to coast. The 22-year-old made the 3,800-mile trek from Manhattan to San Francisco in 1909, driving a Maxwell DA shown here. Chrysler was formed out of the ailing Maxwell Motor Co. in 1925.


Related: Beautiful Road Trips That Celebrate American History

Tampa, 1925
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tampa, 1925

While one might picture destinations such as Miami and Orlando when thinking of popular Florida vacation spots, Tampa has been a longtime tourist hub for sun-seeking vacationers. This 1925 photo depicts a packed crowd of cars, trolleys and tourists along the city's Lafayette Street Bridge over the Hillsborough River.


Related: Bucket List Roads to Drive Around the World

Hollywood Land
MPI/Getty Images

Hollywoodland, 1925

Yes, the iconic Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles didn't always spell out the words "Hollywood." Erected as a billboard for a residential development project in 1923, the sign originally spelled out "Hollywoodland." It was changed to its current, shortened version in 1949. The iconic sign and enduring movie industry symbol is currently 350 feet long with 45-foot high capital letters.


Related: Hollywood: Then and Now

Soboba Hot Springs, Circa 1925
Keystone/Getty Images

Soboba Hot Springs, circa 1925

It may not be as famous or glamorous as nearby Palm Springs, but the town of Soboba Hot Springs in the San Jacinto Mountains of California's Riverside County has long welcomed visitors to its unique environment. This now-defunct tourist resort from circa 1925 featured rooms inspired by Native American architectural styles.

San Francisco Beach, 1928
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

San Francisco Beach, 1928

Packed beaches are nothing new, as this photo taken at a San Francisco beach from 1928 shows. Although with so many cars looking alike, one can't help but wonder how people were able to tell which car was theirs after they were done soaking up the sun on the beach.


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Packing for the Trip, 1940s
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Packing for the Trip, 1940s

This is how you packed for a trip in the 1940s. Stylish luggage? Check. Suit and hat? Check. Cigarette in mouth as you load the trunk of the car? Obviously.

Miami Beach, late 1940s
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Miami Beach, late 1940s

Art deco is an integral part of Miami culture and history, so much so that even its parks department facilities were built with its architectural flourishes. This gorgeous parks department facility was erected on a public beach in the 1940s, and looks more like a mansion than your typical government building.


Related: Surprising Facts About America’s Beaches

Checking the Map, Circa 1950
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Checking the Map, circa 1950

Before GPS and Google Maps, the only navigation tool available to the common traveler was the good old-fashioned paper kind. And, as anyone who has ever used one knows, the slightly accusatory phrase "do you know where you're going?" often accompanies a map's unfurling. This couple seems to have avoided a classic fight over directions ... at least so far.

Chandelier Tree, Circa 1950
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Chandelier Tree, circa 1950

You're not alone in having that photo of your car driving through the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California. Home to some of the tallest trees on Earth, the town is surrounded by forest and is serviced by the Redwood Highway in Mendocino County. At 315 feet high and 21 feet in diameter, the Chandelier Tree is thought to be up to 2,400 years old.

Miami Beach, 1954
Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

Miami Beach, 1954

If you think today's traffic on Collins Avenue in South Beach is bad, take some small comfort in knowing this is not a unique problem in the history of the Magic City. This 1954 photo was taken in February, at the height of snowbird season, at the intersection of Lincoln and Washington in Miami Beach.

Esso Station, Circa 1955
FPG/Getty Images

Esso Station, circa 1955

Decked out in full uniform, including cowboy boots and captain's hats, filling up a tank of gas used to come with a side of style. These female gas station attendants are shown working at an Esso station, which was a phonetic trading name used by Standard Oil (from pronouncing the "S" and "O" in Standard Oil) in the U.S. until 1966.


Related: How Gas Stations Have Totally Transformed Over the Past Century

Las Vegas, 1955
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Las Vegas, 1955

The Strip wasn't always the center of action in Las Vegas. Fremont Street was once the king of Sin City, shown here as cars drive past the clubs and casinos lining its main drag in 1955. Today, the historic district buzzes with life thanks to the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall, which is packed with attractions.


Related: Rat Pack Haunts You Can Still Visit in Las Vegas and Beyond

Flying A Service Station, 1955
FPG/Staff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Flying A Service Station, 1955

Typically painted in a slick white coat with red trim, Flying A service stations were once commonplace across the U.S. This man is showing off the full Flying A uniform, and seems quite happy to be doing so. In 1966, Phillips Petroleum rebranded a number of Flying A stations as Phillips 66.


Related: Road Trippers Go Out of Their Way for These Convenience Stores

Southampton, Circa 1955
Evans/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Southampton, circa 1955

Weary New Yorkers have been retreating to the Hamptons for summer vacations for generations. Taken at Southampton, the largest and oldest community in the Hamptons, this photo taken circa 1955 depicts a trio of surfers being pulled along the beach by an all-terrain vehicle as onlookers cheer.

Amoco Station, 1958
FPG/Getty Images

Amoco Station, 1958

This vintage Chrysler is getting filled up by a petrol pump attendant in 1958 at an Amoco station. A descendent of Standard Oil, Amoco was a pioneer in the drive-through filling station until it went defunct in 1998, merging with BP. In recent years, the Amoco name has been making a comeback; BP has introduced more than 100 new Amoco stations across the U.S.


Related: Companies That Changed American Culture for Better or Worse

Niagara Falls, Circa 1960
Harvey Meston/Staff/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Niagara Falls, circa 1960

Still in operation today, the "Maid of the Mist" is a popular tourist vessel that has been shuttering travelers across Niagara Falls since 1846. Before the Mist took its maiden voyage, rowboats transported passengers across the Niagara River. Today the boat carries up to 600 passengers and has been carried everyone from Jimmy Carter to Princess Diana.


Related: Classic Vacation Spots We Miss and Where to Relive the Magic

Sleeping Beauty Castle, Circa 1960
Keystone/Getty Images

Sleeping Beauty Castle, circa 1960

Everyone recognizes the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, the focal point of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. Opened in 1955 as the "happiest place on Earth," the park attracted 18.7 million visitors in 2019. 

A Day on the Lake, 1962
Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

A Day on the Lake, 1962

Nothing compares to a relaxing day on the lake, a quintessential summer vacation activity since vacations were invented. This photo depicts an active family of canoers, kayakers, fishers, and picnickers ready to get in a full day of recreation on the lake as dad helps unload the 1962 Studebaker Lark Daytona Wagonaire.


Related: Serene and Secluded Lakes Worth the Drive

Pikes Peak, Circa 1962
Harvey Meston/Getty Images

Pikes Peak, circa 1962

Known as "America's Mountain," Colorado's Pikes Peak is a longtime tourist destination near Colorado Springs. As one of 54 mountains in the state that rise above 14,000 feet (known as "fourteeners"), Pikes Peak is also home to the unique Pikes Peak Highway which allows visitors to drive all the way to the summit.

1966 Fairlane 500 wagon
1966 Fairlane 500 wagon by Davelimmer (CC BY-SA)

Station Wagon, 1966

Long before it was popularized by the Griswold family in the classic "Vacation" film franchise, the station wagon has been moving families packed up for a holiday from coast to coast. This photo depicts a 1966 Ford Fairlane 500 station wagon ready to hit the road. Aside from being a not-so-great 1990 movie starring Andrew Dice Clay, the Ford Fairlane was sold in North America from 1955 to 1970.


Related: Classic Station Wagons We Miss From Childhood

South Lake Tahoe, 1974
Frederic Lewis/Getty Images

South Lake Tahoe, 1974

Lake Tahoe has been welcoming visitors to its shimmering mountain-rimmed shores since gambling first arrived in 1944, and it hasn't looked back. This photo depicts traffic to South Lake Tahoe in 1974, with the now-defunct Cabana Motel in the background. Today, around 3 million people visit Lake Tahoe annually.


Related: Summer Tourist Spots to Avoid — and Where to Go Instead

Wigwam Village Motel, 1977
Library of Congress

Wigwam Village Motel, 1977

This iconic motel in Rialto, California, is one of dozens of classic old motels that can still be found to this day dotted along Route 66, America's most famous road trip throughout history. Also known as the Mother Road or Will Rogers Highway, Route 66 extends 2,448 miles from downtown Chicago to Santa Monica, California. The storied cross-country roadway was first established in 1926.


Related: Every American Should Take This Road Trip at Least Once

New Jersey Boardwalk, 1978
Library of Congress

New Jersey Boardwalk, 1978

This classic vacation scene depicts a lazy summer day spent between a father and son strolling the New Jersey boardwalk in Keansburg with plenty of opportunities for treats in the background including hamburgers, hams and, of course, frozen malteds. One look at dad's vintage plaid pants and you know it's the '70s.


Related: Iconic and Beautiful Boardwalks in America

New York City, 1979
Frances M. Ginter/Getty Images

New York City, 1979

This photo depicts a street scene from Midtown Manhattan looking toward Times Square in 1979. With a preponderance of "Taxi Driver"-era yellow cabs, clearly this was taken before the invention of Uber. In 2019, New York City welcomed a record 65.2 million visitors, 51.6 million of whom were domestic travelers.


Related: Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Disney World, 1979
Central Press/Getty Images

Disney World, 1979

Since opening in 1971, Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in America. Covering a massive 25,000 acres across four theme parks, the Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain remains an iconic destination in the annals of American summer vacation history. Odds are, you've been there.


Related: 25 Ways Disney Revolutionized Entertainment

Santa Monica Pier, 1979
Library of Congress

Santa Monica Pier, 1979

An enduring symbol of the American summer vacation, California's Santa Monica Pier first opened to the public in 1909. Designated a Santa Monica Historic Landmark in 1976, the pier contains the famous Pacific Park amusement park, an aquarium, a video arcade and other attractions. The pier is also the western terminus of Route 66.


Related: Iconic Movie and TV Beaches You Need to Visit

San Francisco, 1980s
Library of Congress

San Francisco, 1980s

This Library of Congress image depicts the driver of an F-Line trolley posing in front of his car at the end of the line in San Francisco's Castro District. San Francisco's first electric streetcar line opened in 1892, with more than 26 million people visiting the Golden Gate City in 2019.

Fish Inn, 1987
Library of Congress

Fish Inn, 1987

Weird roadside attractions have always been a crucial calling card of the American road trip. This uniquely shaped motel once known as the Fish Inn welcomed visitors along Route 10 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, from 1932 to 1996. Today, Coeur d'Alene is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Idaho. Maybe the fish had something to do with it.


Related: Tourist Traps That Locals Still Love 


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