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America’s love affair with the automobile and the open road is nothing new. Luckily, the collectors and enthusiasts who have protected and restored vintage and classic vehicles, some of them 100 years old or more, love to show them off.

Even if you are not a “motorhead,” you can enjoy these celebrations of car and motorcycle history that also include concerts and driving parades for a festival-like atmosphere.

RELATED: The perfect road trip for every season

 Ferrari 1950s racecars KimballStock:PebbleBeachCorncours photo.jpeg
The 2017 Pebble Beach Concours honors 70 years of Ferrari sports cars. Photo Credit: Automobile Magazine

These are the five biggest and best each late summer and early fall, where drooling and nostalgia are both permitted, and where we can be reminded that great American car companies once included such names as Packard, Duesenberg, Cord, Studebaker and Hudson.

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

The world’s most coveted and expensive historic cars take over the 18th fairway at one of the world’s most expensive golf courses on the third weekend of August every year, plus a driving parade of vintage vehicles along California’s Monterrey coast. Each year also celebrates a specific manufacturer, decade or both. In 2017, Pebble Beach honors both 70 years of Ferrari and American concept cars of the 1960s that were never produced. There are awards for the oldest and for the most elegant entry. Winners are nearly always from the 1920s and 30s, and more often than not their owners drive into the winner’s circle dressed in period costume.

Woodward Dream Cruise

Also on the third weekend of August, this is likely the world’s largest vintage car show, attracting more than one million visitors each year to downtown Detroit. Displays of Detroit-made cars and trucks line Woodward Avenue for more than a mile, totaling around 40,000 vehicles, including hot rods. You’ll see everything from racetrack versions of the Ford Mustang to two-tone Chevy Bel-Air coupes from the 50s that belong at a Sock Hop or a drive-in movie.

International Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Get your kicks at this three-day event celebrating the original dirt road Pontiac Trail between Chicago and St. Louis, which became part of the legendary Route 66 before being replaced by interstates that skirt downtowns. This festival of vintage vehicles includes trucks and motorcycles. The parade through downtown includes entertainers and floats from nearby Branson, and there’s a special photo exhibit on the Birthplace of Route 66 at the Springfield History Museum.

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Bayou Round Up

Louisiana is better known for its music, dancing and food than for its vintage vehicles, but all three are integral parts of this annual event in Lafayette on the last weekend in September. Hot rods and custom cars dominate, and the event also includes a swap meet and parade through downtown. The Bayou Round Up is produced by the same folks who organize the annual Lonestar Round Up in Austin.  

Kool Deadwood Nights

A few weeks after some 10,000 motorcyclists descend on nearby Sturgis for the annual Motorcycle Rally the first week of August, Deadwood puts on its own celebration of the open road.  There’s a parade down historic Main Street past the bar where Wild Bill Hickock died in a shoot-out, a Sock Hop, concerts galore, a swap meet, an auction, and best in show awards, which was won in 2016 by a 1959 Buick Invicta muscle car decked out in a custom color the owner calls Blue Suede Shoes.

McCormick’s Classic Car Show and Auction

McCormick’s is a family run business that has been producing high quality classic and exotic cars in Palm Springs for more than over 25 years. This annual event in mid-November includes a free classic car show of some 200 vehicles, plus an auction of around 500 classic, sports, antique and special interest autos.  On the auction block in 2017 is a rare 1936 Packard the seller purchased from the estate of Charlie Chaplin in the 1970s.

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn is an NYC-based travel writer who would rather ride a chairlift, river raft or zipline than the subway. She's a regular contributor to major publications, including airline inflights, and has written more than a dozen travel guidebooks. Evelyn's website is
Evelyn Kanter

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