The best places in the U.S. for sunny, summer cruising
As summer kicks into last gear and soaring temperatures cook the asphalt on roads across the country, Mazda - the company responsible for sporty Miata, the best-selling convertible sports car of all time — unveils its best places to go topless this season.
1. Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta — Albuquerque, NM
The International Balloon Fiesta has grown to become the largest balloon event in the world. Put the top down for the entire first week of October, when the skies above Albuquerque are transformed from their normal brilliant blue into a kaleidoscope of color. Balloons drift quietly against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains, while the peaceful sound of a humming engine is muted occasionally by the roar of thousands of people cheering a liftoff.
2. Highway 1 — California Coastline
The southern portion of this winding road takes drivers past the old Malibu Pier and glorious Zuma Beach where convertibles easily grab the warm California sunshine. Further north, in Cambria, not far from San Simeon and Hearst Castle, Highway 1 offers vistas of sea lions lazily sunning themselves on the beach below. Drop the top, crank the heater and continue north to majestic Big Sur where the California Redwood trees meet the Pacific Ocean. And further north in Monterey, don’t forget to drop in for a look at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mazda’s spiritual home.
3. Interstate 84 — Portland, OR
Convertibles were made for the pristine air of the Pacific Northwest, which is best enjoyed along Interstate 84 as it cuts directly through the awesome Columbia River Gorge, with its spectacular waterfalls and rocky crags. Put the top down and enjoy the same crisp gusts that make the Gorge one of the best spots in the country for windsurfing. Also along I-84 from the Dalles west to Portland, relive Lewis and Clark’s approach to the Pacific Ocean after their long journey.
4. Ardy & Ed's Drive-In — Oshkosh, WI
Enjoy a real blast from the past at this authentic 1950s drive-in restaurant, with food still served the way it was served when it opened in 1948. Car hops roller skate your order to your car, while your favorite 50s and 60s tunes play in the background. Ardy & Ed's serves up big frosty mugs of real draft root beer and other old-fashioned soda fountain favorites. Ardy & Ed's is located across from beautiful Lake Winnebago, a perfect place to park a convertible and star gaze.
5. Texas Hill Country — Central Texas
In the heart of the Lone Star State, Route 16 wanders from San Antonio through cowboy country into the beautifully rugged Texas Hill Country. With Lyle Lovett or Willie Nelson crooning on the stereo, the top must go down along a stretch of Route 470, which winds its way through hills where wildflowers and wildlife abide in harmony. Enjoy 470’s Texas-sized twists and turns as the smell of barbecue floats through the warm, southern air, announcing the arrival of another Texas summer.
6. Daytona Beach — Florida
Drop the top and cruise 16 miles of beautiful hard-packed beachfront on the warm Atlantic Ocean alongside hundreds of other cars, trucks, golf carts and all-terrain vehicles in memory of the original Daytona 500 Speedway. In the early 1900s, just two cars raced across the sand in one of the most spectacular and exciting events in sports: The Daytona 500. Stock car racing on the beach ended in 1953, but the spirit of racing along the ocean is still alive today in Daytona.
7. U.S. 1. — Florida Keys
U.S. 1 links a chain of subtropical isles that arc off the tip of Florida. South of the town of Marathon, U.S. 1 crosses the spectacular Seven Mile Bridge, one of the world’s longest bridges. Seemingly made for a convertible, it offers sweeping views of the open Atlantic on the left and the Gulf of Mexico to the right. For its final 30 miles, U.S. 1 crosses one small tropical key after another until it reaches Key West, an eclectic tropical town whose atmosphere is more Caribbean than American.
8. Portland Head Light/Ft. Williams Park — Cape Elizabeth, ME
Portland Head Light is the oldest of Maine's 66 lighthouses. It was built during Washington’s presidency and is the most photographed lighthouse in America. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote several lines of his poems while sitting at his favorite spot near the base of this tower. "Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind," Wadsworth advised. Convertible owners can park, put down the top and watch from there.
9. Blue Ridge Parkway — North Carolina to Virginia
There are certain roads that scream for a convertible, and nowhere is a case better made for just that than the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 469-mile road that connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks offers both beauty and adventure at every turn. Go topless and inhale the stunning scenery and close-up views of the ancient hills and smoky hollows that make up the Blue Ridge Mountains.
10. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca — Monterey, CA
Nestled in the hills overlooking the picturesque Monterey Peninsula lies one of the most historic race tracks in the country. The many winding roads that surround the raceway, which lies sandwiched between the storied towns of Carmel and Salinas, make for exhilarating convertible driving and are bested only by the sinuous two-and-a-quarter-mile racetrack. Spend some time enjoying the racing action, or park under a wise, old cypress tree with a copy of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.
The inaugural “Top-10 Top-Down” list of prime locations throughout the U.S. to take a convertible was announced by Mazda President Jim O’Sullivan.
“Because of the immense and longstanding popularity of the Miata, Mazda is proud to be linked with all things convertible,” O’Sullivan said. “We know automotive enthusiasts from around the country, especially Miata owners, appreciate the incredible open-air feeling of putting the top down, and we are thrilled to be able to highlight some of the best destinations for a convertible.”
(Source: Mazda North America)