The Lost Pleasure of the Scenic Drive

It used to be that taking a long drive was one of the simple pleasures in life. However, in today’s fast-paced, go-go world, some of the simpler pleasures in life have fallen by the wayside. It’s time for people to rediscover the beauty of this country by going retro, and the 49-mile scenic drive surrounding San Francisco is a great place to start. It not only gives you an opportunity to experience the city and surrounding areas in a different way, but it highlights a lot of half-forgotten sights along the route.

The drive began in the 1930s as a side attraction at the World’s Fair, which was located in the Bay area. The name was a tie-in with both the area measurement of the city and a commemoration of the Gold Rush of 1949. It takes the visitor through all of the historic landmarks and colorful districts, then ends at Treasure Island.

Wheeler Peak Scenic DrivePhoto Credits (Wikimedia Commons): Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive by Famartin

The designation of scenic drives is part of a national byways program, and 48 of the 50 states administer theirs in conjunction with state transportation departments, tourism boards and departments of natural resources.

How Localities Benefit

There are designated scenic drives in every state of the union, many were created to not only capitalize on the wondrous beauty of the country, but to bring more visitors to out of the way places and boost local economies. They also enable localities to preserve natural areas that might otherwise need to give way to development. Various towns across the country report that those driving for pleasure add 10 to 25 percent to local economies; they also add to job creation in the tourism, road maintenance and service industries.

Zion Scenic DrivePhoto Credits (Wikimedia Commons): Zion Scenic drive by Nikater

A New Plan

Recently, studies at various localities have discovered another benefit to designating scenic routes: encouraging new forms of eco-tourism and educating visitors on the importance of conservation. Revenue raised from the increased economic windfall is out right back into local conservation and resident education initiatives, creating a system that pays for itself.

Capitol Reef Scenic DrivePhoto Credits (Wikimedia Commons): Capitol Reef Scenic Drive by Famartin

The Human Benefit

Aside from the increase in jobs, revenue and awareness, scenic drives are beneficial on a more personal level. They
allow us to slow down and reap the advantages of a closer interaction with nature. Studies show that even a short amount of time spent in a natural setting decreases stress and provides us with an overall increase in our sense of well-being by increasing endocrine levels, which helps strengthen our immune systems and elevates and regulates our moods. One study found that 95 percent of respondents reported less stress and anxiety, and a corresponding elevation of calm, peace and vitality after exposure to natural settings. This same study concluded that time spent viewing nature enhances our ability to focus and retain information.

Arches Scenic DrivePhoto Credits (Wikimedia Commons): Arches Scenic Drive by Famartin

If you want more information on any travel destination, there are many travel websites that provide tips. For instance, you can browse through a page like Hipmunk’s FAQ on staying in San Francisco to get answers to the most common questions about traveling to that destination.

Golden Gate BridgePhoto Credits (Wikimedia Commons): Golden Gate Bridge by ChristianMehlführer

This article was written and provided by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, the ultimate platform for all your travel needs.

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