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The 50 best road trip songs of all time

These road trip songs will make your next excursion a memorable one, whether you’re driving for few hours or a few days

50 best road trip songs
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Sophie Harris and Time Out New York editors |
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Don’t get us wrong—we love city life. But sometimes daytripping to a nearby summer music festivals doesn’t quite satiate your need for liberatory escape. Time to hit the highway for that classic American tradition: the road trip. Of course, you can’t drive in complete silence—well, you can, but the very thought is giving us a flat tire—so we’ve compiled our list of the best road trip songs to get your motors running and kick your highway journey into high gear. Whether you’re absconding on a weekend getaway or braving an outdoor adventure near NYC, we have the best summer songs to keep your engines purring. Crank up classics from the Boss, the Dead and Prince, and even some Whitesnake (and there's plenty more where that came from). So grab your keys, call up a few of your favorite travel buddies, roll down the windows and crank up the volume. It's road trip time!

Listen to the best road trip songs playlist

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Best road trip songs of all time ranked

11

“America” by Simon and Garfunkel

Add this one to your bucket list: Everyone should be required (at least once) to listen to their restless side, hitchhike, board a bus and go to another city/state/country to find something better—as described in Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 classic, which follows two young lovers on a Greyhound in search for America. Take your sweetie along for the ride, smoke cigarettes on the side of the road, chat with the weirdos you meet on your journey, and by all means, indulge in a few slices of all-American pie.—Marley Lynch

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12

“Route 66” by Chuck Berry

This R&B standard, written in 1946 by Bobby Troup, has been covered by everyone from the Rolling Stones to John Mayer and Depeche Mode. We’re partial to Chuck Berry’s 1961 rendition, which matches the 2,400-mile pilgrimage on the L.A.–Chicago-connecting titular highway to a T. Who better than the father of rock & roll to accompany a trip past greasy-spoon diners, tiny towns frozen in time and striking Americana landscapes?—Marley Lynch

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13
“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

“Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

First and foremost a love song, the L.A. troupe’s jingly-jangly 2010 smash single is also, obviously, about coming home. Naturally, the feel-good tune should be played at the end of your voyage, when you’re speeding a bit because you just can’t wait to get home to your significant other/parents/puppy/comfy bed.—Marley Lynch

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14

“Going Up the Country” by Canned Heat

Released in 1968 and adapted from a 1920s blues song, Canned Heat’s highest-charting single was the unofficial anthem of Woodstock—and even after all this time, it’s the perfect track to kick off a road trip, a steering-wheel-tapping, grin-inducing song that makes you immediately pine for sun-drenched fields: “I’m going where the water tastes like wine, we can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time.” Those dudes had their priorities straight…just so long as they had a designated driver.—Nick Leftley

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15

“I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash

Music has always had the power to educate. Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” taught us more 20th-century American history than a year’s worth of eighth-grade social-science classes. For a CliffsNotes anatomy lesson, we turned to Professor Sir Mix-a-Lot. And when it comes to geography, there is no better musical resource than this name-dropping country ditty, first released with North American locales in 1962 by Canadian crooner Hank Snow. In four verses, 91 places are rattled off in rapid-fire succession—destinations both big (Chicago and Nashville) and small (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Haverstraw, New York). The song has been covered many times and adapted for different regions of the globe, but we’re partial to the Man in Black’s 1996 rendition, simply because his weathered, gravelly bass-baritone suggests a man who has indeed been everywhere.—Michael Chen

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16

“Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham

Hard to hear this seemingly happy little sock hop without thinking of the Griswold family station wagon zooming to Walley World. As its dark video helps to underline, the lyrics speak more of feeling trapped than free. The Fleetwood Mac man was an ace at hiding his boyish ache behind melodic smiles. Which is why the song is such simple genius: It works the same whether you’re chained to a desk and longing for a vacation or finally on the highway, shooting to God knows where with no deadlines.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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17

“Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra

The sweet spot is 176 beats per minute. That’s a giddy run, the pace of your footsteps hitting the pavement as you jog home after a first kiss. Though we haven’t tested this, we theorize it is the precise cadence of fence posts whipping past your window as you motor down a highway just above the speed limit. “Mr. Blue Sky” is 176 beats per minute, which is why, whenever it plays, you have the urge to run like a big dumb puppy dog to a boyfriend/girlfriend, or let the wind blow through your hair at 76mph, as you croon along to the vocoder like a robot. Warning: When “Mr. Blue Sky” is used without such outlets, it can cause deep wanderlust.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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18

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers

If there’s one song that can unite everyone in the car in the simple act of thumping whatever surface is near them in time with this ludicrously catchy tune, it’s this one—a hit in 1988 for Scottish twins the Proclaimers. Fun fact: The “havering” referred to in the first verse (“And if I haver, I know I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you”) is Scots slang for babbling foolishly. So now you know.—Nick Leftley

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19

“Love Shack” by the B-52’s

Atlantans spend most of their day inside a car. It takes at least 45 minutes to get anywhere: school, the Home Depot, the drive-through at Chick-fil-A. Which is why the drive up to Athens—though it is a desolate stretch of kudzu and outlet malls—is such sweet relief: at least you are moving. By 1989, the B-52’s had likely made that trek hundreds of times, which is how they stumbled upon their “love getaway.” After the rush-hour numbness sinks into your ass, you want out of the goddamned sprawl. Which is why Georgians head to the woods to drink, neck and set off fireworks, no matter if you’re a Red State redneck redder than a rock lobster or Fred Schneider.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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20

“Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross

Take your EGOT and stuff it. Chris Cross has the transportation trifecta—mega-hits for the sea (“Sailing”), sky (“Arthur’s Theme”) and road (“Ride Like the Wind”). People condescendingly pigeonhole the guy as yacht rock (the pink flamingo on his smash album doesn’t help), but he’s truly yacht-jet-and-rental-car rock. Despite its lily-white reputation, “Ride” is cool and dangerous. It’s possibly—no, probably—about drug smuggling. Racing away to Mexico with Michael McDonald as the devil on your shoulder. Hearing those percolating bongos, wind effects, electric piano and oily guitar licks, it could fit right on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. It remains DJ gold. Call it “Get Unlucky.”—Brent DiCrescenzo

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