Scenic route

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For the 2013 DirecTV movie, see Scenic Route.
Scenic route

A scenic route, tourist road, tourist route, tourist drive, holiday route, theme route, or scenic byway is a specially designated road or waterway that travels through an area of natural or cultural beauty. The designation is usually determined by a governmental body, such as a Department of Transportation or a Ministry of Transport.

Tourist highway[edit]

A tourist highway or holiday route is a road which is marketed as particularly suited for tourists. Tourist highways may be formed when existing roads are promoted with traffic signs and advertising material. Some tourist highways such as the Blue Ridge Parkway are built especially for tourism purposes. Others may be roadways enjoyed by local citizens in areas of unique or exceptional natural beauty. Still others, such as the Lincoln Highway in Illinois are former main roads, only designated as "scenic" after most traffic bypasses them. In the USA this type of roadway is commonly termed a scenic highway. In Europe and other countries around the world they are often marked with brown tourist signs with the individual route symbol and/or name.

Modern-day sign in New Mexico, along a section of Route 66 named a National Scenic Byway

United States[edit]

In the United States, a scenic route may also refer to a type of special route of the U.S. highway system that travels through a particularly beautiful area. These special routes, which boast "Scenic" banners are typically longer than the "parent route". There are only two routes in the country that remain with the official scenic designation: U.S. Route 40 Scenic and U.S. Route 412 Scenic.

Within the United States, there is also the National Scenic Byway program which designates portions of existing roads as scenic byways due to some unique characteristics.


The first parkways in the United States were developed in the late 19th Century by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Beatrix Farrand as roads segregated for pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and horse carriages, such as the Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. The terminology "parkway" to define this type of road was coined by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in their proposal to link city and suburban parks with "pleasure roads." Newer roads such as the Bidwell and Lincoln Parkways in Buffalo, New York were designed for automobiles and are broad and divided by large landscaped central medians. Parkways can be the approach to large urban parks, such as the Mystic Valley Parkway to Boston Common in Boston. Some separated express lanes from local lanes, though this was not always the case.

During the early 20th century, the meaning of the word was expanded to include controlled-access highways designed for recreational driving of automobiles with landscaping. These parkways originally provided scenic routes without at grade intersections, very slow vehicles, or pedestrian traffic. Their success led to more development however, expanding a city's boundaries, eventually limiting their recreational driving use. The Arroyo Seco Parkway between Downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, California is an example of lost pastoral aesthetics. It and others have become major commuting routes, while retaining the name parkway.

'New Deal' parkways[edit]

In the 1930s, as part of the New Deal the U.S. federal government constructed national parkways designed for recreational driving and to commemorate historic trails and routes. These divided four-lane parkways have lower speed limits and are maintained by the National Park Service. An example is the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Others are: Skyline Drive in Virginia; the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee; and the Colonial Parkway in eastern Virginia's Historic Triangle area. [1]. The George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Clara Barton Parkway, running along the Potomac River near Washington, D.C, were also constructed during this era.

Post-war scenic parkways in the U.S.[edit]

In Minneapolis, the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway system has 50 miles (80 km) of streets designated as parkways. These are not freeways, having a slow 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) speed limit, pedestrian crossings, and stop signs.[1][2]

Theme routes[edit]

Theme Routes are special theme-based tours, aimed at providing a visitor or tourist with a better insight on that theme. Being popular in Europe, they can cover anything from an individual city, a wine growing region, Dutch bulb fields, Swiss Mountains, to Norwegian Fjords. Subjects can be architectural, historical, or cultural.

Examples of theme routes:

Bertha Benz Memorial Route commemorating the world’s first long distance journey by automobile of 1888

See also[edit]


External links[edit]