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  1. #1

    Default First USA Roadtrip from the UK

    Hi everyone!

    I stumbled upon your little corner of the internet while looking for ideas and inspiration for our upcoming holiday/roadtrip.

    I'm going to apologise in advance for the length of my post. I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all so have kinda just typed my thoughts down onto the page which ended up as this great big opus! Essentially, we are trying to fit as much into our trip as I can, but don't want to burn out/overdo it/end up not enjoying it because we are clock watching to get to the next destination rather than taking in the experience!

    If it helps – I've formatted my post such that the actual questions are in bold – the rest is my babbling :)

    We are travelling from the UK, with the intention of catching a few football games, and seeing some sights. The "itinerary" (and I use that term loosely) I have loosely drawn up and am looking for feedback/input on is as follows:

    Thursday 17 November – Fly in to Las Vegas in the evening

    Friday 18 November – Fly to San Francisco the next day

    Saturday 19 November – sightseeing/relaxing

    Sunday 20 November – Patriots @ 49ers in Santa Clara – possibly hire a car in San Francisco and drive to the game, spend the night in Santa Clara.

    Sunday 21 November – drive back from Santa Clara to San Francisco – via Silicon Valley – stop off and see Google/Facebook/Apple/etc. Possibly go to Texans @ Raiders game – Monday Night Football in Oakland.

    ---

    This is where my plans get a little sketchy :)

    Aware that Thursday 24 November is Thanksgiving – and airports will be crazy busy around this period – we want to get these internal flights booked ASAP before things sell out/rocket in price.

    Question 1 : How long do people recommend we spend in San Francisco?

    Question 2 : As a tourist – which city is better to spend Thanksgiving Day in – San Francisco or Chicago? I'm leaning toward Chicago – because they have a proper Thanksgiving Parade with floats/inflatable cartoon characters etc. – something that just doesn't happen in the UK and would be cool to see (at least once) – but if I'm wrong/you guys want to convince me otherwise that SF would be much better – please speak up!


    ---

    As alluded to in question 2 above - once we're done in San Francisco, the idea is to fly to Chicago, spend some time there, before hiring a car and starting our roadtrip proper.

    The only deadline we are working towards is to be in Minneapolis for Cowboys @ Vikings on Thursday 1 December – Thursday Night Football.

    The current rough route I'm struggling with is:

    Chicago
    Milwaukee
    Two Rivers (to see Steven Avery's house!) [optional!]
    Green Bay
    Minneapolis [must be here by Thursday 1 December latest]
    Kansas City
    St Louis
    Chicago

    = around 1,500 miles total

    ---

    Another possibility is skipping Kansas and going to Indianapolis instead:

    Chicago
    Milwaukee
    Green Bay
    Minneapolis
    St Louis
    Indianapolis
    Chicago

    = around 1,500 miles total

    ---

    Or skip both Kansas and Indianapolis:

    Chicago
    Milwaukee
    Green Bay
    Minneapolis
    St Louis
    Chicago

    = around 1,350 miles total

    ---

    After Chicago, we are flying back into Las Vegas for a few days before flying back to the UK on Friday 9 December. I'd guess we'd want to be leaving Chicago for Vegas no later than the morning of Tuesday 6 December – to allow us a good 3 days to explore Sin City – meaning we've got around 10 days (+/- 2 days)to do the road trip?

    Question 3 (which is actually lots of questions rolled into 1) : Am I being too ambitious? Am I not being ambitious enough? Is there anything obviously worth doing that I'm not considering? How many days would you spend in each location to feel like you really got to experience the city/see the main sights?

    Thank you so much for reading this far – and I look forward to reading your responses!

    Cheers
    Chris

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The question you have about how long you should stay in one place is a little like asking how long is a piece of string. Many times when I visit a city - including my last trip to SF - I only stay in the city for a day, but if I go multiple times, I'll see different things each time. You could see the highlights of SF in a day or two, or you could easily fill up your time if you had a full week there.

    Having said that, you might consider actually flying to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day itself. Thanksgiving is more of a get together with family, eat, and watch football, kind of holiday - with the note that now it's also becoming a shopping holiday - than it is a community celebration kind of holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday beforehand are among the busiest travel days of the year, but travel on Thanksgiving itself is more relaxed, and usually less expensive. If you really want to see a parade, then that won't work, but it's an idea to consider.

    I think your midwest plans look ok. Personally, I'd pick KC over Indianapolis, but that's me. However, being that your plan is so city focused, another idea you could consider is to take the Great River Road and following the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis. That would give you a little different perspective of the US than you'd get just by taking the Interstates from city to city to city.

    Personally, I'd skip Two Rivers (don't believe everything you watch on Netflix), and as a Vikings fan, I'm jealous that you're going to get to see the new stadium. I was at the last game at the old Metrodome but I don't think I'll get to see the Billion Dollar Purple Paradise this year.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    13,064

    Default

    One other quick idea, since you are apparently a big football fan, you might also consider checking out a College Football game, which is different experience than the NFL. For example, it looks like you could see Illinois play at Northwestern (Chicago Suburbs) or Minnesota play at Wisconsin (Madison) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default

    If the OP wants to see a Thanksgiving Day parade, Chicago's State Street Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an annual thing since the 1930s. Yours truly marched in it, in the 1960's, twirling a baton. It's still an exciting thing, and you can stand at the side of the street and freeze your tushie to watch it -- starts at 8 am and goes for a few hours. It's now called the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade, but it is still along State Street.


    Donna

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks to both of you for your responses.

    Donna

    Amazing - if I think on - I'll get a photo of a baton twirler and report back, just for you!

    Michael

    I can't actually believe I missed out the question about college ball, considering that was one of the main questions I wanted to ask!

    Whilst the NFL is starting to become slightly more mainstream on this side of the pond, college football isn't touched on or televised at all - and so as such - I have no idea who has a good team/who are terrible/who plays where/where has the best atmosphere etc - so thanks for the pointers over which colleges we are close to and might be able to catch a game of. Definitely need to look into this further.

    Am fully expecting the travel around Thanksgiving to be horrible - but I think it needs to be done. An awful few hours in an airport is worth it to see something so classically "American" as a big parade - baton twirlers, marching bands and the potential for a huge Spiderman or Bart Simpson!

    Appreciate what you say about asking how long to stay in any one place is like asking someone how long is a piece of string - but ballpark, to see the main sites and not feel rushed - I'm thinking along the lines of:

    Evening of 18th and whole of 19th - exploring San Francisco
    20th - Santa Clara
    21st - Driving back from Santa Clara via Silicon Valley then going to the game in Oakland (i.e. not really seeing/doing anything in San Fran)
    Whole of 22nd and up until lunchtime on the 23rd when we'll depart for Chicago - San Francisco

    That really only gives the 19th and 22nd to see San Francisco - because the 18th and 23rd will be half days/could easily get blown out if travelling is stressful and we just want to have a lazy day.

    So if we wanted to do the "main" sights of San Francisco ... walk around some cool areas ... learn a bit of history ... go to a museum ... visit Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge ... do we have enough time?

    Would you ditch the overnight in Santa Clara - and do the Silicon Valley drive/stop-offs on the way to or from the game? Giving us the whole of the 21st back in San Francisco (at least up until game time)?

    ---

    For the rest of the trip - I'm thinking:

    Chicago - arrive late 23rd; stay 24th, 25th and 26th. [possibly amending this to see the college games on Saturday 26th]

    Leave Chicago on the 27th for Milwaukee - visiting the Harley Davidson museum and perhaps a brewery or 2 - spending the evening - departing the 28th for Green Bay.

    Visit Lambeau early on the 29th and leave immediately afterward (trying not to catch any diseases that turn me into a Packers fan) for Minneapolis.

    Spend the 30th and the 1st in Minneapolis - go to the game on the evening of the 1st to see the Cowboys get beat - leaving Minneapolis on the morning of 2nd December - arriving in Kansas in time for some famous BBQ for dinner.

    Spend evening of 2nd and 3rd in Kansas, setting off for St Louis on the morning of 4th.

    Visit the Budweiser brewery when we arrive on the afternoon of the 4th - go and see the arch - setting off back to Chicago on the 5th ... flying back to Vegas either on the evening of the 5th or the morning of the 6th.

    Does that work - or would you change any/add things in?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Actually, the art of baton twirling is quickly being lost here in the States, sad to say. You're more likely to see flags or rifles (not real ones) being twirled, spun, and thrown into the air, these days. But you're right, the American parade is a sight to see, particularly a large parade like the State Street Chicago parade, or the Macy's parade in New York City.


    Donna

  7. #7
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    Default

    Have you checked on ticket availability for all those NFL games? Historically, many are sold out before the season even starts. They are generally available through brokers, but can be very expensive.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    Default A Few Other Thoughts

    In going from Chicago to Minneapolis, I would argue for a route up to Milwaukee (I-90/I-94) and along Lake Michigan (I-43) to Green Bay, while at the same time looking to use some of the more local state (number designated, e.g. WI-32) and county routes (letter designated, e.g. 'LS') to get a feel for what this countryside is like. Also. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, home to the Green Bay Packers, is a shrine in its own right, even if there is no game being played there when you pass through. (Full disclosure - my cousin is the dean of the beer vendors at Lambeau.) Then use WI-29/I-94 across northern Wisconsin to Minneapolis/St. Paul for the Vikings (boo, hiss, one of the Packers' bitter rivals) game.

    As far as a college game goes, the 'best' teams belong to one of the five 'power conferences', two of which are in the areas you'll be traversing: the PAC-12 in the west and the Big Ten (now 14 teams, but let's not quibble) in the upper Midwest. But for my money (and yours) I would suggest that you can get a more intimate feel for the college game by attending one of the 'lesser' conference games (Mountain West in the west and {Mid-American Conference in the upper Midwest). Games will be cheaper. parking and concessions (food and beer) will be cheaper, and you'll feel closer to the action than in the 50,000+ stadia of the 'big boys'.

    As for a route back from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago, I would argue as Michael has for at least some of the Great River Road, say US-61/US-14, along the Mississippi with stops at some of the wildlife refuges and state parks that dot its shores, maybe even all the way down through Hannibal to St. Louis before completing the circuit to Chicago.

    AZBuck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default The Great River Road.

    From the Twin Cities down to I-90, take the GRR through MN. Then cross over to the WI side as far as US-20. Cross over to Dubuque IA. Follow the GRR in IA to US-30, where you cross into IL and follow US-30 all the way into Chicago.

    As you drive down the GRR - you will see the symbol on the roadside signs, there are places with information about local history, and often you can walk right up to the water.

    In the WI section there is an overlook on the eastern side of the road, which gives a great view of the river from just a little higher up. Not much further on is Lock and Dam No. 8, a lock and dam located near Genoa, WI. Should you be fortunate enough to get there just as a barge is due through, it really is something to stay and watch. You can get quite close, and the staff there are really good at explaining the what and why of the operation.

    In Dubuque there is the Mississippi Museum - so worth while - where you can have a try at steering one of these barges yourself. The whole river side in Dubuque is very interesting with old and new buildings, most very close to the river. Here too you can sit and watch a barge being steered through a gap in the railway bridge.

    Dubuque would be a nice place to break this trip.

    Lifey

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    I would disagree with Buck about how to approach a college football game. I'm not a huge fan of the college game itself, but I think you can make the argument that a big time college game is more fun as an experience than even an NFL game. However, you can only get that experience of being on a major college campus on gameday. I've been at Notre Dame on a gameday and had a blast, and didn't even go to the game itself! (I'd actually recommend Notre Dame, except they'll be on the road when you're in Chicago.) A mid-major college just isn't going to have that city-wide celebration feel that you get from major college football - because it's not just about watching the game. If I were in your shoes, I probably make the trip to Madison for the Wisconsin game, as Camp Randall Stadium is considered one of the best college atmosphere's in the country (and after the game the band puts on a fun "5th quarter" concert too). Another option would be to see a game while you're in SF - as Stanford is at Cal (Berkeley) on that Saturday.

    For the Vikings game, you'll get to see the color rush uniforms (yuck). Here's also some info about getting around US Bank stadium you might find useful.

    Your itinerary looks ok, but as previously noted, it is very city-centric. One more idea to consider would be to check out some of the amazing California Coast. After the game in Santa Clara, I think you'd have time to make your way to Monterey for the night, and perhaps have time to work down towards Big Sur, before returning to Oakland for Monday Night Football. That might be a tight squeeze, but it's something to consider. If you're not going to do that, then I'd look at skipping the car rental, and use either the train or a shuttle to get from SF to Santa Clara and then just return to SF for Sunday night. That will give you more time to explore SF.

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