If you could do any roadtrip at all ... ?
I'm constantly amazed by the friendliness and willingness of members of this forum willing to help total strangers. I think that typifies delight many of us get when we visit the States!
After being a long-time reader, I finally registered because we'd really appreciate some advice on building an itinerary for a US road trip for late summer 2011. We (husband and wife, no kids tagging along this time) have been to the States several times, but this is the big road trip opportunity we've always dreamed of. Problem is we want to do everything and there are just too many choices!
The trip is set for early August through to early September; 4-1/2 weeks. We fly into LA and leave from San Francisco and those are the only two bookings locked in so far.
Our main aim is to spend some good time on the road experiencing (clichéd) real middle America, do a few of the big US touristy must-dos, spend enough time in some key places to enjoy them and not be travelling the whole time (although we don't mind long-haul driving) ... and try not to break the bank!
We have been to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon before and don't plan to go again (unless my wife drags me to see Celine Dion there again!) but we'll do some of the glitzy tourist stuff by spending time at Orlando's theme parks. We don't have time for any tramping, etc, and we're not really into roughing it anyway - although natural beauty and day trips are all good. New York is a must, along with Niagara Falls, but otherwise we're very open to suggestions.
Here's the rough plan at this stage, but not sure if we're choosing the best route from East to West - chosen to see Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone in particular - but wondering if we're sacrificing some better driving on, say, Route 66 or somewhere else ... ?
- Los Angeles (a few nights) and then down to San Diego (briefly). Had considered popping into Mexico, but not sure if time allows and recent turmoil there has put us off a bit.
- Fly over to Orlando to stay a few nights. (I understand that mid-August is a pretty good time to be there for worst summer crowds, weather, etc.)
- Roadtrip from Orlando up the coast to New York, briefly via Washington and the Space Coast area.
- After some time in NY, roadtrip across to San Francisco; via Niagara Falls, maybe briefly into Canada, then probably via Chicago, Mt Rushmore area, Yellowstone.
- End with a few nights in San Francisco.
That leaves out sooooo many cool options, I know! That's the difficult bit.
Any and all advice on this would be gratefully appreciated. Things like:
1. Any better roadtrips than the ones we have there, to achieve roughly the same start and finish?
2. Any particular once-in-a-lifetime must-do recommendations (drives or destinations) on or off this route?
3. Any recommendations re long-distance one-way rental car options out of Florida??
Thanks so much!
New York - inside or outside?
So here's the dilemma: for a stay of probably 5 nights or so mid-to-late August, I'm wondering whether to stay in the heart of the Big Apple or stay a bit outside and travel in.
We will be arriving by rental car so can choose either option. Although I'm used to big-city driving, I'd still rather not drive in Manhattan.
We really want to experience the proper New York (and the must-do touristy stuff), especially my wife as she hasn't been before. We may also day-trip to some of the non-city areas if we have time.
I just wonder about paying the big city prices versus day-tripping in by public transport from somewhere a little less central.
Any suggestions very welcome!
Last edited by AZBuck; 03-18-2011 at 06:05 PM.
Reason: Merged with previous post. Please do not start multiple threads for the same trip.
A Pair of Classics
Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!
Your overall trip combines two separate but equally intriguing classic RoadTrip routes. The first, up the east coast gives you the opportunity to sample either the beaches (which will be packed at that time of year, or the piedmont and mountains of the interior. Or you can combine some of the best of both by sticking to the coast early, up through Cumberland Island and Savannah, GA, and then swing inland to experience some of the South while heading up towards Washington, There are also a number of great short hikes between Washington and Niagara.
There should be no problem crossing over to the Canadian side as long as you have arranged with your car rental firm for such and it is allowed in your contract. If you are not a big fan of cities, then consider heading north from Niagara and going over the top of Lake Huron and re-entering the US at Sault Ste. Marie and using MI-28/US-2 westbound past Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, rather than heading south of Lake Michigan through Chicago. However you get there, don't shortchange the 'Mount Rushmore area'. There is so much more to see there than just a statue. Check out Badlands National Park, Wind and Jewel Caves, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower, and the town of Deadwood. If you're up to the challenge and your wife does not easily get carsick, try the spectacular Beartooth Highway (US-212) from Billings, MT into Yellowstone.
On the way to San Francisco, Reno offers a more subdued option than Las Vegas, and the nearby towns of Carson City and Virginia City as well as the Lake Tahoe resorts make this another option for a short stay before finishing up the driving portion of your trip.
As far as New York City goes, you really don't need a car there. In fact trying to drive the streets can get frustrating and finding parking is nearly impossible. Finding reasonably priced parking is impossible. I'd suggest that you do a search for 'new york city commuter train' and find a line that goes to an outlying area that you would be interested in spending a day in, find accommodations near the rail line and become a commuter for a few days.
Last edited by AZBuck; 03-20-2011 at 08:14 AM.
Whoa! Thanks! :)
Thank you so much for the reply and very handy information. We greatly appreciate it!
(Sorry, too, for the two threads - thought I was doing the right thing as that question didn't relate to a road trip, but costs.)
We're delighted to hear that the routes are so good. In my abbreviated bullet-point speak, I didn't mean to be dismissive of the Badlands area either - we've heard how lovely it is around there.
A follow-on question ... if you had to choose between going from Chicago to San Francisco between Route 66 and this northerly path, which would be the better? We romanticise famous Route 66 just like Americans do having seen all those old movies! :) Or is it a bit over-hyped and the actual attractions along the way not as worthwhile?
Stick to Your Plan
Although US-66 (aka Route 66, aka the Mother Road) has a reputation as the RoadTrip road that is largely because of its history as the road used by the victims of the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma to get to California, and because it was popularized in song and TV. There was nothing about it that made it intrinsically better than any other of the major transcontinental highways. Note the past tense there. Technically the road hasn't existed for over 25 years since it was decommissioned after being entirely replaced by Interstate Highways I-55, I-44, and I-40. personally, I think you're much better off with your plan to cross the northern plains, see the Badlands, Yellowstone, the Rockies, and Zion rather than follow a nonexistent highway whose hype exceeded its beauty.
Thank you so much again. Your advice is really valued and we will make great use it.
What a wonderful forum!
Along the way you might like to check out.......
I would have to agree with Buck, that over the top of the lakes, beats going south, hands down. You could also opt to go up the peninsula and take the ferry to Manitoulin Island, from where highway 6 will take you to 17 and onto Sault St Marie.
After crossing back into Michigan, don't miss the Mackinaw Bridge which spans the narrow strait between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
On your way to Badlands and the Mt Rushmore area, there are two touristy attractions which are worth a visit, even if only fleeting. Firstly there is the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD, and the other is Wall Drug in Wall SD. Make sure you get your free iced water, and five cent cup of coffee at Wall Drug (LOL), and check out the area at the very back of the store, where there is a large historical display. The road from Wall will take you directly into the Badlands NP - an amazing place.
Between Mt Rushmore and the Beartooth Highway, you may like to turn off onto Rt 14 (at Ranchester WY) and take a short detour via alt 14 over the Bighorn Mts and Bighorn Canyon NP. This is a wonderful wildlife area, especially early and late in the day. [This is where I had a moose stand on the road in front of me, and I just had to wait till it decided to move.] Continue on through Lovell and Bridger to Rockvale, and down 212 to the Beartooth Highway.
Lifey cherishing the memories
Thanks for that advice as well, Lifemagician. We had a couple of those things on our list already, but good to get some inside info!
While not wanting to be a damp squib, I'd just like to add a word of caution in terms of planning your full transcontinental drive; it's a long, long way! I know that's stating the obvious but the thing that struck me from your outline plans was whether you're perhaps overstretching yourselves?
You've planned for "a few nights" in LA (let's say 3), a brief stop in San Diego (1 night?), some time in Orlando (4 days - allowing for your flight), a "road trip" to NY (I'd want 5 days for this but we'll say 3); 5 nights "or so" in NY; and then time to see SF before flying home (again, let's say 3). This is only a couple of days short of 3 weeks and while you can certainly cross the country in the time remaining (a week and a half?), you're going to be on the go every day.
The most direct route is going to involve 3,000 miles of driving - my guess is you'll end up doing more than 4,000. That's around 400 miles a day, every day. Might it not be better to skip the Orlando leg and leave yourselves free to enjoy The Big Trip?
Just a thought.
Thanks forbp the comments. No damp squib, don't worry!
We've actually got quite a bit more time at some of our stops than you've calculated and we did do the maths on the miles too. Yes, it's a fair old hike, but we've done a lot of long distance driving and we're pretty confortable with it.
Appreciate your comments and advice though.