07/17/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 09/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Three Great American Road Trips

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The days are feeling long, but don't be fooled: Summer will always feel like the shortest season. Make the most of the extra daylight by hitting the open road. From north to south and east to west, the editors at Travelzoo have put together three road trips for travel this summer.

West Coast: Surf City to Seaside Artists Colony

Perched high on the Pacific Coast, the lovingly manicured Mendocino is a sight to behold: Since the 1950s, artists, environmentalists and people looking to trade in office chairs for garden-side Adirondacks have used the postcard-worthy town as a beacon when heading north. About 700 miles up the coast from family-friendly San Diego, the drive up California's State Route 1 is considered one of America's premier road trips. Don't miss a minute of coastline: When I took this trip a few years ago, it was in a rented Mustang convertible, which I really can't recommend enough.

Start your trip in San Diego and spend time on the relaxed, pristine beaches during the months when the city's temperatures are the highest. Nightly rates at a hotel near Old Town are now $143-$180 July 22 - Aug. 30. From here, this drive is all about the little towns and expansive ocean views; skip LA and bypass the central Bay Area (save the cities for their own adventures).

Make time for stops on the Santa Ynez Wine Trail and Danish-inspired Solvang, the upscale shops and cottages of Carmel, the crisp air and towering sequoias at Muir Woods, the foggy backdrop of Bodega Bay, the not-to-be-missed Point Reyes National Seashore and redwood forests along the way.

Midwest & Canada: Summer Camps, Water Parks and Hopefully No Homesickness

This drive is one best done in a minivan with invisible lines drawn down the backseat: It's one designed for families with young children. This tour starts in the upper Midwest and winds its way east into Ontario, ending at the natural wonder and nonstop playground that is Niagara Falls.

Start the trip right by wiping the kids out with a two-night stay at the Double JJ Resort in western Michigan, which was founded as a summer camp in the 1930s. The property is home to a western-themed ranch and water park. From here, make your way across the mitten with a stop in the college town of Ann Arbor. Marvel at the younger ones with a stop at the 826 Michigan: Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair shop (part of the national creative non-profit for kids) before heading over for a snack at the farmers market in Kerrytown.

Next, it's time to pay respect to the man who made this all possible. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn features iconic cars and interactive displays as well as the on-site Greenfield Village, which shows how Americans have lived since the country's founding.

South: Think Big, from New Orleans to San Antonio

Make sure your air conditioning is in great shape before setting off on this epic adventure in the steamy South, highlighting some of the biggest tourist attractions and oddities in the States. Kick off the trip with a big night out in the Big Easy: The Rock 'N' Bowl is a local favourite, home to operating lanes and a live music venue featuring zydeco acts and other local musicians.

Crossing into Texas and down I-90 is Beaumont, home to the world's third-largest fire hydrant, painted in dalmatian spots, ready for its close-up. For a sense of perspective, the next stop should be Warrenton, home to a church that calls itself the smallest active Catholic Church at 12 feet by 16 feet.

In San Antonio, the River Walk remains the city's biggest attraction, for good reason, but the McNay Art Museum is an excellent place to cool down and see works from greats in its collection from Claude Monet to Texas's own Robert Rauschenberg. And don't leave town before getting a new profile picture in front of the world's largest pair of cowboy boots.

Travelzoo Tip: Consider purchasing carbon offsets before you go to ensure you'll be traveling responsibly. The Nature Conservancy has an online calculator to estimate your impact.