Chicago to San Diego and Back(with kids)
Hi! I'm new here, and just looking for advice. I'm taking next year off, and plan on taking several big road trips with my kids(9, 4, and 4). The first one will be from Chicago to San Diego, and back. I'm thinking that I would like to hit Yellowstone in one direction, take Rt. 1 through CA, and go through the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde areas one direction. We will be spending 2 weeks with friends in San Diego, and will have about 4 weeks for the rest of the trip. I'm not interested in doing things fastest, more interested in seeing some interesting things. Particularly sites related to Native American history as that is what we will be studying at that time. I'm thinking I will get a National Parks pass, and will have the kids complete the Junior Ranger programs at many of the parks. So, I'm just interested in seeing what people think would be my best route, if I should go through Yellowstone on the way out, or the way back(or does it matter at all?), and the best scenic drives. Thanks so much!
What is the time frame (time of year) for this particular trip? This would make a difference where you should go when.
Hello and welcome to the R.T.A forums.
That's quite some adventure you have planned !
As you are covering such a large area there are literally thousands of possible suggestions as in "where to go" so I would suggest having a good look around the forums and road trip planning pages as well as the National parks website for some more specific ideas and ask questions as you build your route so we can help "fine tune" your itinerary with you.
As for which way around to do the trip and the fact you have put it in the Fall and Winter section, I would check on conditions in places like Yellowstone that can have limited access during this period and see how it fits with your time of travel.
You certainly have a good amount of time [enough to make most of us envious ;-) ]to see plenty of places and I would also check out some of the parks in Utah. I am looking forward to seeing your adventure take shape, so enjoy the planning and ask away as and when you need to.
Sorry, I realized after I posted it that I didn't include dates. We will leave in early September. I looked at the Yellowstone page and it looks like things start to close in mid-October, so maybe it would make sense to go there on my way out. I will look around the site, and at the Parks page some more. Thanks for the suggestions!
Native American sites & National Parks along the way
If you're going to take the southern route on your way back, you may want to head east from San Diego to Tucson, and then up I-10 and I-17 through Phoenix and up to the Grand Canyon. There are a number of memorable Native American sites and National Parks/Monuments along the way.
Near Tucson is Saguaro National Park. I've only been to the western part (twice), but I've found Saguaro has one of the best Junior Ranger programs. They have backpacks with colored pencils, binoculars, and other items the kids can use to observe wildlife and the landscape in order to complete their project books. Those who complete their workbooks earn not only a badge, but also a certificate.
On the way up from Tucson take I-10 West (North) to AZ-87 north to Coolidge and Casa Grande Nat'l Monument. They have a Jr. Ranger program, also, and your 9-year old can learn about the Anasazi while earning the badge.
When you go to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix along I-17 is Montezuma Castle Nat'l Monument north of Camp Verde. Here's another great Jr. Ranger/ Native American location.
There are other places between Tucson and Grand Canyon where the kids can earn their Jr. Ranger badges and see NA sites, but they involve big detours. By the way, Tuzigoot Nat'l Monument is tied to Montezuma Castle, so there's only one Jr. Ranger badge to be earned for both.
September should be a very good time to visit Yellowstone - the big summer rush should be over and everything should still be open.
Thanks for the help! Anything anyone particularly recommends us seeing on the way out via Yellowstone?
Off the top of my head - the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Little Big Horn - and go either to or from Yellowstone on the Beartooth Highway.