Cross Country Road Trip

My family (mother and two brothers) and I are planning a cross country road trip to begin in two and a half weeks. The plan is not to have hard itineraries day by day but to be in specific cities for each weekend. The first portion is San Diego to Denver in a week. We want to see the star attractions as well as the hidden gems. Any suggestions?

A few things just looking at the map, listed in order of distance from the most direct path (basically how far out of your way you’d need to go).

The Las Vegas strip - basically no detour required, worth a look due to how ostentatious it is
The Utah national parks - Arches is one of my favorites and are only slight detours.
The Moab Rock shop - very cool rock store with huge dinosaur bones, fossilized creatures, and neat rocks for any budget.

A more southernly route will only add about 3-4 hours of driving time and will take you past the Grand Canyon (required viewing for every American), Santa Fe (one of the oldest cities in the US and home to lots of Spanish architecture and delicious food) and the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs.

I usually use Atlas Obscura for detours off my main route, rather than dictating where I will go in general. Due to Covid I’d make my trip based on natural wonders rather than crowded indoor places. Luckily, the American west has no shortage of those.

Try to make it to Arches National Park. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful spots in America, and you barely have to get out of your car to be blown away by it. The trick is to get there early in the morning and there wont be a crowd of cars. There are cool hotels and restaurants in Moab near by.

See USS Midway museum, Old town San Diego area.
Drive through Palm Springs & sample dining there, then onto Las Vegas for min 2 days pure dining, shopping, then points East, or drive some on Old Route 66