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.
A tourist highway or holiday route is a road that is marketed as being 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, such as the Lake District. Still others, such as the Lincoln Highway in Illinois are former main roads, only designated as "scenic" after most traffic bypasses them. In the United States 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 or name, or both.
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 is only one route in the country that remains with the official scenic designation: U.S. Route 40 Scenic in Maryland.
Scenic byways in the United States, also include state, National Scenic Byway, National Forest Scenic Byways and Bureau of Land Management Back Country Byways programs which designate roads or routes as scenic byways due to some unique characteristics.
National Parkways are scenic roads in the National Park System built for recreational driving through scenic or historic areas. Unlike most scenic routes, National Parkways are built with a buffer of park land along both sides of the roadway. They also may have large satellite parks or recreation areas built periodically along their length.
Most National Historic Trails are commemorative motor routes which follow historic pathways.
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 tulip fields, Swiss Mountains, to Norwegian Fjords. Subjects can be architectural, historical, or cultural.
Examples of theme routes:
- Bertha Benz Memorial Route
- Castle Road
- Cheese Route
- Deutsche Fährstraße
- European Route of Industrial Heritage
- German Wine Route
- Golden Ring of Russia of historical sites
- Liberation Route Europe
- Silver Ring of Russia of historical sites
- Romantic Road
- Scotland's Malt Whisky Trail
- Silver Road
- Trail of the Eagle's Nests, along a chain of medieval castles in Poland
- Upper Swabian Baroque Route
- Wild Atlantic Way