Scenic airport-to-city rides in the U.S.

Why you should always look out the car window on your way to or from the airport.

The winding roads of Hawaii. Image credit: Art Wager/iStock
The winding roads of Hawaii. Image credit: Art Wager/iStock

I was asked recently what I considered to be the most scenic airport-to-city rides in the U.S. and I had to stop and think about it for a while. It’s a great question and sadly I know that many travelers – especially business travelers – don’t even look out the car window when heading to or from the airport, as their noses are buried deep in their smartphone, trying to catch up on emails or making phone calls to loved ones.

Since it’s such a great question, I reached out to some of my travel writer, blogger, influencer, publisher friends who crisscross the country and world like it’s a video game to get their picks. This will be a two-part series, with this article focusing on trips to and from U.S. airports while next month will be about international airports.

These are some of the favorite airport-to-city drives in the U.S. from professional travelers.

Hawaii and New York City

I’ll kick off the list with one of my favorite airport-to-city rides, which is from Honolulu to get across to Waikiki or Maui, Kona, Lihue to one of the resorts. There’s just something about landing in Hawaii that never gets old. It’s always warm and the scenery, depending on the route, is lush and beautiful. But I also love seeing the New York skyline on the drive from LaGuardia, especially at night.

San Francisco International Airport to downtown San Francisco

“For me, the most scenic airport-to-city ride in the U.S. is the one from San Francisco International Airport to downtown San Francisco. I love the way the whole city skyline comes into view when the freeway approaches the city. It’s as if the skyscrapers, bridge, and bay appear out of thin air.”
Julie Falconer, A Lady in London

Tampa to Clearwater

“I started covering the Toronto Blue Jays for the Toronto Star newspaper in the early 1990s (when they were really good). I got to cover spring training in Dunedin, Florida for two or three weeks every season. When you live in Toronto and you get 14 or 21 days in Florida in March, it’s a God-send.
I loved that feeling of grabbing my rental car in Tampa and cruising over the Courtney Campbell Causeway (Highway 60) towards Clearwater and Dunedin. The road zips along past open sections and small beaches on a ribbon of islands that stretch across Tampa Bay, with fishermen and cyclists and palm trees and open water and warm, blue skies. I still smile every time I take that drive. And I still roll the windows down all the way and turn up the volume on the radio.”
Jim Byers, Jim Byers Travel

Courtney Campbell Causeway at Tampa, Florida. Image credit: TriggerPhoto/iStock
Courtney Campbell Causeway at Tampa, Florida. Image credit: TriggerPhoto/iStock

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

“Since the airport is adjacent to Washington, DC, the drive isn’t a long one but it’s one of my favorites. Following alongside the Potomac River, depending on the season, you may see anything from ambitious anglers to the cherry blossoms at their peak. Along the way into downtown DC, you’ll pass by monuments and memorials, along the National Mall and then into the heart of Washington itself with its many museums and quirky buildings featuring decades of architectural design.”
Matthew Long, LandLopers

Vail/Eagle Airport

“I love the Vail/Eagle airport ride because you’re going through the Rocky Mountains on winding roads. It’s beautiful and when you can see one of the planes on approach to the airport turning between the mountains, it is amazing!”
Ramsey Qubein, Daily Travel Tips

The town of Vail, Colorado sits nestled within the Rocky Mountains. Image credit: bauhaus1000/iStock
The town of Vail, Colorado sits nestled within the Rocky Mountains. Image credit: bauhaus1000/iStock

Denver International Airport to Breckenridge and Vail

“The drive to the mountainous resort areas of Breckenridge and Vail from Denver International Airport is one of the most breathtaking airport-to-city drives in the U.S. As you depart the airport, you are welcomed by the plains of Denver on one side and the snow-capped mountains on the other. Driving towards the mountains, it’s easy to be captivated by the scenery and wandering herds of buffalo along the drive. Just before getting to the mountains, the picturesque gold-rush town of Idaho Springs comes into view and looks exactly like a western movie set. Not long after, the enormous Rocky Mountains captivate for the rest of the drive, only disappearing from sight when you go through the tunnels between them.”
Valerie Joy Wilson, Trusted Travel Girl

JFK to New York City

“I live in New York City and I still get excited seeing the awesome skyline views as you travel through the Holland Tunnel from Newark after taking exit 14C off the Jersey Turnpike. You also get a Statue of Liberty view as well. Conversely, coming in from JFK taking the 495, you get the best city views heading out of the Midtown Tunnel. Beautiful cityscapes on both sides.”
Lee Abbamonte,


Johnny Jet

Johnny Jet has traveled over 100,000 miles a year since starting his newsletter in 1995 and has visited close to 100 countries. On his website, he writes about how to maximize your credit card points, how to find travel deals, cheap flights, and how to benefit from insightful travel tips. He has hosted a television special on The Travel Channel and was named one of Forbes’ Top 10 Travel Influencers.