coast to coast

Apr 4th, 2006, 06:36 AM
  #1  
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coast to coast

Hi all,

myself and DH are coming to the US in July for our first real holiday there. We are planning 4 weeks to drive coast to coast. Flying in to San Francisco, out Miami. We are planning the following and would like comments/suggestions of sights, etc.

San Francisco 3 nts
pacific Coast 1 nt
LA 2 nts
Las Vegas 2 nts
Grand Canyon 2 nts
Rockies 4 nights
Texas/New Mexico 6 nts
New Orleans 2 nts
Florida 5 nts

We have put a bit of thought into the beginning and end parts, but not much in the middle. Any suggestions or recomendations for 2 Europeans who want to see and do as much as possible in 4 weeks?
nikkiSweden is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 06:53 AM
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Wow!! I live in the U.S. and I'm jealous. Most of us dream of taking a month and driving cross-country!

In San Francisco, consider a side trip (about 40 minutes' drive) to Sonoma to visit the vineyards. Our favorite was Benziger -- friendly staff and a fun tractor tour of the vineyards, which are biodynamic (ie, they breed bugs to eat the destructive bugs instead of using pesticides).

Between Vegas and the Canyon, take the route that leads you past Hoover Dam. You'll want to stop there for about an hour to walk around. It's impressive!

While you're in that area you may want to consider taking your trip through Zion National Park in Utah. I haven't been there, but I'd love to go. They have slot canyons, which are amazing in pictures -- can't imagine how incredible they must be in person.

You might want to visit the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest in Arizona: http://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm

As for Florida, Disney is a fab time, even without kids. South Beach is a great place in Miami -- the Kent Hotel gets good ratings and runs about $75 a night in the summer. I stayed at the Clinton in SoBe and loved it -- their rates were $115 when I was there.

If you want some CRAZY places to visit along the way, check out www.roadsideamerica.com/map.html and click on the state you're in. They have some bizarre suggestions.
karameli is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 06:57 AM
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My first comment - and people have very different tolerances - is that a southern-tier route in July ignores the heat factor. Places like Las Vegas and much of New Mexico and Texas, not to mention New Orleans, will be uncomfortably hot; so much so that you may find yourselves limiting the time spent out of the air-conditioned car.

Which is not to say you should skip things like Vegas or the Grand Canyon, but you might have a look at a map and see if you'd have the time to head north after the Grand Canyon, and cross the country through the central or northern Rockies instead of Texas.

We have several sets of European friends (also from northern Europe) who did similar Florida-to-LA or v.v. drives in July/August, and who felt that they wouldn't do it again, because what they thought would be a comfortable holiday turned into one of avoiding the out-of-doors because of the weather.

Just my opinion; others may well disagree.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2006, 07:11 AM
  #4  
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Thanks for the comments. I had thought about the heat factor, but havent been put off yet. What alternative routes would you suggest after Rockies to end up in Miami? I admit I dont know much about the central states.... Suggestions much appreciated
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Apr 4th, 2006, 07:21 AM
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I hadn't thought about the heat in my reply, because I love oppressive heat (seriously). That said, keep in mind it might be 100+ degrees in some places. Can I guess from your name that you're coming from Sweden? Might be a big difference. I'd compare the comfort factor of Arizona heat with a humid 85-degree day. To me, that's bearable/pleasant, but I know some people who hibernate in the summer!

If you're okay with the heat, just remember to bring LOTS of water if you're doing any hiking. Other than that, your California days will be pleasant (summers are usually mild in CA). Vegas should be fine since most of the action is after dark, anyway. Florida has beaches to cool you off, so your main concern is the Southwest portion of the trip.
karameli is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Yes, we're coming from Sweden. But it's not all snow up here (well, it still is at the minute, but it's running a bit late this year).

We typically holiday in the East- Thailand, Borneo, those kind of places, so whilst we're not crazy about the heat, we are somewhat used to it.

So if we want to avoid the Texas summer, what's a good suggestion for another route with plenty to keep us Europeans amused?
nikkiSweden is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 08:01 AM
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I know it's not all snow! I was basing it on the latitude, which is equivalent to Canada -- generally much milder than the Northeast U.S.

If you don't mind the heat, I still think your current plan is the way to go. The Southwest is breathtaking, and you won't have many loooong stretches without anything to see.

But if you choose to go north, you could travel through Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/yell), visit Mount Rushmore, spend a day at the the Mall of America, a few days at the lakes of Michigan, visit stop in Chicago, and maybe Nashville or Graceland/Memphis in Tennessee on your way south towards Louisiana and Florida.

But honestly, in terms of natural wonders, the Southern route would still be my pick.
karameli is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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I should add that the heat can be ridiculous in the northern regions too. Maybe a few degrees cooler, but often with heavy humidity (especially as you head east) -- which some people find less comfortable than the hotter, but drier, temps in the South. So you may be better off basing your decision on the sights you want to see, since July is going to be pretty toasty in almost any part of the U.S.
karameli is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 08:28 AM
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Welcome to the US Nikki. When you see your itinerary a month just doesn't seem like a lot of time. I could spend all of that in California. I love the Laguna Beach area. So that would be my suggestion. I'm curious why so many nights in Texas / New Mexico?
Have fun! Sounds like a great vacation!
Annika
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Apr 4th, 2006, 08:43 AM
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Thanks Karameli and Annika for your comments!

We havent yet properly planned the trip after Crand Canyon (and I dont want to plan all of it but more take it as it comes). We are trying to avoid driving at high speed across the country, which is why we have slated down several days for the Texas part. Karameli probably has a good point about not wanting to leave the AC in the car in Texass in July, and Annika's probably quite right about it being too long on that part anyway.

Laguna Beach does look great!

Las Vegas: we're first timers, and I wonder if its worth paying more for the Bellagio, or whether to go for NYNY or Paris? My parents were at the Bellagio a year or so ago and they rave about it still!

And how are things arond the New Orleans area after the storms last year?
nikkiSweden is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 08:57 AM
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If you stay above 5000 ft. it will cool down at night, and the daytime dry heat will be bearable. But that does not apply once you leave northern New Mexico. And once you leve that area, I don't see spending much time in NM or TX unless you plan to visit Big Bend NP. But of course, TX is big, and you have not indicated your interests. What have you gleaned from guidebooks?
Michael is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 09:08 AM
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Our interests are pretty varied. We love nature and the wilds and I think we have that covered pretty well in Grand Canyon, Rockies. We also love large cities, hence SFrancisco, LA and Las Vegas. But we're also out looking for the quinticencial (sp?) American life, not just the extremes. So Small Town USA is what we really want to see when we're on the road. Diversity is what we want to see and take home with us as memories of a once in a life time coast to coast trip.

Guide books can only give so much of that, mostly its what we will absorb on our journey which is why real life people on sites like these can give us so much more info on which route to take, what to see/do etc.

Sounds vague, right? Unfortunately the guide books I have seen dont fill much of the gaps between the sights.
nikkiSweden is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 09:30 AM
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My son was going to go coast to coast from east to west after graduation. He made it about half way across Texas and decided that he had seen all of the wide open spaces that he could stand. You are looking at some loooooong empty stretches. And it will be most unpleasantly HOT.

Texas is also not the place to avoid high speeds. They have all these nice very straight roads with nothing to look at so they go through as fast as possible.



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Apr 4th, 2006, 09:41 AM
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The famous desert parks of Utah (Zion, Bryce Canyon, etc.) might be too much of a detour from your itinerary. But as you work your way through New Mexico from the Grand Canyon to Texas don't miss Carlsbad Caverns - a spectacular series of immense limestone caves. There are literally kilometers of well-lit trails in these giant caverns underground.

In Texas you should take a detour to Austin. The people are friendly, the nightlife is wonderful, and the cool nearby lakes will feel very nice during your July visit. Take small roads East through the scenic hill country (the countryside here might just make up for the dustbowl of West Texas you drove through earlier) until you link up with the 10 Freeway in Houston that will take you to New Orleans.
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Apr 4th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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For those that know these vast plains; how much time should be allow to get from Colorado over to New Orleans? If this is the part where there is less to see, maybe its worth putting medal to the metal and getting to New Orleans quicker so we can spend more time elsewhere?
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Apr 4th, 2006, 09:56 AM
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It took me three full days to drive by myself from Houston to SF (overnight stops in NM and Williams, AZ). MapQuest estimates the drive time between Denver and New Orleans to be 20 hours.
Michael is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 09:59 AM
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First, I am not sure you can drive from SF to LA in a day.
After the Rockies head southeast toward Dallas and then on across to Louisiana. With all due respect to Texas/NM it is a long distance to drive to see not a lot. After you leave Grand Canyon you can visit some INdian sites in Arizona on the way to the Rockies. In the corner of CO, UT, NM, AZ is Mesa VErde, a phenomenal Indian site. From there yo can head north to the Rockies.
On the way to Louisiana, pass through Mississippi--might stop in Jackson--or follow the Natchez Trace to see some Ante Bellum (pre-1860) fine old plantation homes.
While New Orleans is definitely open for business it is much different from what it was.
Gretchen is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 10:16 AM
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If this is the part where there is less to see, maybe its worth putting medal [sic] to the metal and getting to New Orleans quicker so we can spend more time elsewhere?

(I stand by my heat aversion, but I acknowledge others don't share my views. As they say in Yorkshire, there's nowt so queer as folk. )

Let me throw out an idea nugget. Consider making your trip two zones instead of one long trip. Visit the southwest/Grand Canyon etc., drop the car, then fly to NOLA, rent a car there, and do a second tour of the southeast. You could include Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, then make your way to Miami via a number of routes, using the time you would have spent traveling across the plains to see more diversity.

Four weeks isn't enough time to cover the areas you want to see in any kind of depth. I thought about suggesting a SF to LA to LV to GC to Yellowstone to NOLA to Miami route, but it would require so many road days (Grand Canyon to Yellowstone = 1500 km, Yellowstone to NOLA 3000 km) that much of your view of the US - out of necessity - would be that of McDonalds and motels at freeway exits.

This is not to say there aren't wonderful things to see in Texas or Oklahoma or eastern Colorado (well, not sure about eastern Colorado...) but - in my opinion only - the romance of the highway starts tapering off on the second or third day crossing the Great Plains. With your stated interests, I'd exchange a big piece of Texas for the South Carolina low country, for example, or most of Kansas or Iowa for an extra day or two at Yellowstone or Grand Teton.

Note on Fodors we'll all happily plan and re-plan your route regardless of what you want, so courage, nikkiSweden... it's just an internet message board with no police power.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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nikkiSweden -

Don't wnat to discourage you - but doing this in a month is like trying to do all of europe (not all of Scandinavia) in a month. And the heat can easily be unbearable - and even dangerous. You need to be sure you and the car are well-stoked with water, be ware of the syptoms of heat illness etc. (to the point where people go from AC house to AC car to AC office or mall) and are rarely outside.

(I was in Dallas once on a business trip and had a half day free. I was going to walk to the nearest mall - down the hotel drive and across the mall parking lot to the stores - when a bellman stopped me and called a cab - he said it was just too hot and a local would never walk that far outdoors.)

As for quintessential USA - yes - there are lots of small towns - but most Americans live in or near (suburbs) of major cities. People may disagree - but NYC is much more typical of the US than a town of 500 people. (In fact, many small towns are slowly becoming deserted, churches closing, school districts combining and most young people leaving town - because their future in small towns is very limited.) It's cities (mid size as well as large)and suburbs that are growing the most.

I would definitely pick fewer places and fly between only 3 areas, renting a car separately in each. (This is not a bad trip for winter - in summmer I would do the northern route - from NYC or Boston to SF via Ohio, Chicago and the more northern parks.)
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Apr 4th, 2006, 10:44 AM
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nikkiSweden, It will be an interesting and enjoyable trip. I have driven cross country a few times and lived in or visited dozens of times most of the places you mention, so here is my take.

San Francisco is the nicest city in the US and the best food ( I apologize only to New Yorkers, on both counts, for my opinion) 3 nights just isn't enough. Yes go to the wine country, take the ferry to Sausalito, walk across the golden gate bridge, do all the tourist things. 5-6 nights minimum. By the way, technically SF is not a large city- less than 1 mil people in only 49 square miles.

Take Pacific Coast Highway and stop around San Simeon to visit Hearst castle.

LA is really a hundred small towns spread out an hour away in every direction-that's without the traffic, but if you plan well you can see some of the key sights.

Las Vegas (4 hours from LA): stay in a nice hotel, but it doesn't have to be the Bellagio (we like NYNY, Paris, Mirage, Treasure Is., Caesars). But, you must visit all the hotels and see their free attractions, maybe take in a show. NOTE!!!- this is the only city in the US where it pays to use valet parking. You can park all you want and for a few $$$ tip get droped at the front door and not have to walk to the far end of some massive building to park [something you will appreciate when it is 111 degrees, that's 44 C].

On the way to Grand Canyon, stop at Hoover Dam and afterwards the Petrified Forrest.

Texas/ New Mexico- I'd have trouble spending 3 days there, much less 6. But if you must: Albuquerque, Carlsbad Caverns, San Antonio (a real nice Texas city).

New Orleans: My daughter (who got washed out due to Katrina) and some friends who have visited recently say that the French Quarter is operating fine and that they are open of tourism- they all had a wonderful time. Great Restaurants!

Florida: hopefully you enjoyed the Rockies, 'cause Florida is FLAT. Two quick stops as you drive US 10 across the top of the state near Marianna- FL Caverns State Park and Falling Waters State Rec. Area.

FL.: Disney world/Epcot center in Orlando and Cape Canaveral are tourist destinations.

Two routes down to Miami: gulf coast through Tampa and some nice beach towns and across the Everglades or down the atlantic side, also a nice drive. (you can always visit the Everglades from Miami).

Miami, When booking a motel, Note the difference between the city of Miami and the city of Miami Beach. I am sure you want to stay in Miami Beach which has the beaches that make the state famous.

And if you spend any time at the beach, Use Sunscreen!. It Pains Me to see all the pale white tourists from the UK or Sweeden turn bright pink to red the second day.
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