Hi, I am in the process of planning a big vacation for 2013 and need some help from those of you who know the Southern US States. We (my wife and I) aim to be in New Orleans on 26 April at the latest for the Jazz Fest weekend (26-28). We will be arriving in the USA from Auckland, NZ but haven't yet booked this leg of our flights. (We are doing a round-the-world loop in an easterly direction.) The questions that I have are ...
1. Where should we aim to land in the USA? LAX seems the obvious choice but this is just an assumption on my part.
2. What route should we take? We prefer to avoid major roads but would like to visit San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas and, if possible, the Grand Canyon.
3. How long should we plan on travelling from (LAX?) to New Orleans? We prefer not to travel for more than 3-4 hours per day and would like to stop off for a few nights in a few places.
4. Any recommended Marriotts for overnight stays?
I have pencilled-in a target date of 15 April for arriving in the USA but we can be flexible depending upon what is suggested.
Your help and advice will be much appreciated.
Thanks ... Chrisntonioon,y
I live in TX and have made the drive many many times from LA to TX and beyond. For your first day I'd suggest a longer drive than 3-4 hours from LAX. I'd suggest you go to Flagstaff, AZ, along Interstate 40 and stay at the Marriott Courtyard there. (I would stick to the interstate for most of your trip.) The next day you can drive up to the Grand Canyon. You'll need a day to drive up, see the sights at the Canyon and drive back. The following day, after the Grand Canyon visit, head to Albuquerque, NM. There's a Marriott on the north side of Interstate 40 that I would recommend. Next day head to Amarillo, TX. Not much to see but since you want to break up your drive. There's a very nice Courtyard there also along I-40. In Amarillo you'll leave the interstate and take Highway 287 from the Texas Panhandle to Dallas/Fort Worth. It's about a 6 hour drive. Most of the road is a nice divided highway, but beware of the small towns you drive through. They are speed traps. There's a Courtyard in downtown Ft. Worth I would recommend. Fort Worth's downtown is really quaint and I think you'll like it more than Dallas. Going to Austin and San Antonio is a bit out of the way but you can take Interstate 35W out of Ft. Worth and head to Austin and then to San Antonio. Ft. Worth to San Antonio is about a 5 hour drive. There's a very nice Marriott on the Riverwalk in San Antonio I can recommend. And you'll be within walking distance of the Alamo. From there Interstate 10 will take you through Houston and on to New Orleans. In Houston, a good next stop, there's some Marriott properties in the area where Interstate 10 crosses the 610 loop. Or you could swing around Beltway 8 toward the south and take the exit for Pearland, TX (a suburb-like town on the outskirts of Houston). There's a nice Courtyard there and plenty of restaurants. (My son lives near there.) From Houston head to Beaumont on Interstate 10 and from there to New Orleans. Be sure to eat at Bayona's in New Orleans.
You said you wanted to only drive 3-4 hours and spend some nights. At that rate and assuming stops in Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Ft. Worth, Austin, and San Antonio of more than a day you're looking at 2 weeks of travel.
Whew, I'll get it started and then the pros can get involved. I had a buddy do this (he went Pensacola Fl to LA) and he essentially followed Interstate 10. He went out of his way twice, once to go up to Austin from Houston and before San Antonio (I forgot to ask how far - but it doesn't look that bad) and he went Phoenix to Las Vegas back down to LA (adding about 3 hours).Mapquest says it's around 1900 miles between LAX and the Canal Street Marriott (or the JW Marriott - both very nice, choose the best deal). If you land on a weekend and need an overnite before you start you journey, I liked the LAX Renaissance - great rates and as recent as a few months ago had the concierge lounge open on the weekends. My pal tells me the downtown Phoenix Renaissance is very nice (I'm there in December), another friend says the new Springhill Suites in San Antonio is walking distance to the Alamo and Riverwalk and has great rates (I'm there in January), and I like the Houston West Loop Galleria Marriott (excellent shops, restaurants, and centrally located). So it looks like about a 28 hour drive (add meals/breaks, deduct speeding) and 3 or 4 more if you go to Vegas and what looks like about an extra hour to pick up Austin.
Ok, that should help kick off your journey, have a great trip.
Wow Gary what an awesome answer!! A huge 'thank you'. It looks like you are new to MIR too ... looks like you are going to be a great addition to our community.
I have just been through your suggested route using a USA road atlas that jerrycoin gave me ... (that's proving really useful, Jerry, thanks) ... and have a number of additional questions now. Hopefully, I won't be too much of a pest and you will be able to help out? Some of the towns/cities that you mention on your route evoke memories of some old songs and many old western cowboy films that I saw as a child ... I am really looking forward to visiting them ... ok, I know that they will be nothing like the movies but just having been there ... excellent!
- I normally try and get out of LA as soon as we arrive. It looks like San Bernardino would be a good first stop before the long drive to Fallstaff. Reasonable or not?
- It would be nice to stay a few days in the Grand Canyon NP ... any suggestions for where to stay ... or is it only a day trip worth? (We are avid walkers/hikers, by the way.)
- Apart from Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio, I would expect just an overnight stop in most other places ... we have relatives in DFW ... is San Antonio worth a couple of nights?
- You mention Beaumont ... it this a suggested stopping point? ... (We love Lafayette, so may aim to stop there on our way to NO.)
Looks like I will need to allow at least 14 days, as you suggest. I may try and leave NZ a bit earlier than planned.
Thanks for the recommendation of Bayona's ... we'll definitely check that out, looks good on the web. Our favourite is The Court of the Two Sisters, but we always keen to find somewhere new. I am now going to check out those Marriotts that you have suggested.
I am going to have to mark this question 'answered' as your answer has proved to be outstanding. However, I am still looking for any further advice if anyone has some.
Thanks again ... Chris (I don't know where all of that rubbish came from against my name on my original post!?!)
Hi erc, thanks for the suggestions. I can see some consistency with yours and gary's suggested routes. We definitely want to visit the Alamo and the Riverwalk sounds very therapeutic ... I can imagine that there are going to be a few 'reviving' bars along the way! On the basis of gary's responses, I am now expecting to allocate 14 days for the journey.
Thanks again for the info
Hi, jerry ... that road atlas that you gave me is coming into it's own now. When I first checked out the route, I was at a bit of a loss at which route to take ... it such a big country! Fortunately, gary has given me a brilliant starter, so I have just been using the atlas to work it out in more detail.
(We have booked a week in Williamsburg at the end of October. Unfortunately, we can only do one week, so no trip into Washington this time. Can you arrange some good weather please?)
Hi PP, I've just been catching up on your Sydney visit ... looks like you had a great time.
Yup, I agree with you on the east coast cities ... we love Savannah and Charleston ... we visited both last year ... we have a MVCI unit at Hilton Head. Great history around the area ... we did most of the museums in Savannah and a trip out to Fort Sumter. The only problem with visiting the area is that international flights go into Atlanta ... awful airport! On our next trip we plan to use Dulles and fly down to Savannah from there.
Happy to help. I LOVE driving across the American Southwest. The scenery is breathtaking.
Here are my answers to your additional questions:
True, the towns won't be the like those great western movies but some will have that "feel" to them. Amarillo is very much a cattle town. In Ft. Worth I'd suggest a visit to the Ft. Worth Stockyard--very popular with visitors. Also, there's the Amon Carter Museum with many classic paintings and sculptures of the American West. And downtown Ft. Worth will give you a sens of an old western town at times.
San Bernardino is OK, but if you want a sense of the western US, I'd suggest staying in Barstow, CA. You mentioned being anxious to get out of LA as quickly as possible. And I sort of understand that, but . . . since you'll be heading east out of LA I'd suggest you stop at Huntington Gardens.
The Grand Canyon is worth as much time as you can give it. One day allows for plenty of sightseeing, but if you want more (lengthy hikes and the like) an additional day will be needed. (I'll suggest another Grand Canyon option later in this reply.) If you want to stay in the Grand Canyon Park area you'll likely want a place on the South Rim (just north of Flagstaff). No chain hotels and thus no Marriotts there. I'd suggest you get the best room you can afford. If you go the Grand Canyon website there's info on lodging on the South Rim.
You didn't mention a return drive. Will you be flying home from New Orleans or driving back to LA? If you'll be driving back you might consider driving north on Interstate 55 to Memphis. You'll find the best barbeque on planet earth and you can visit Graceland. From there head west on I-40. On the east side of Flagstaff (which is along I-40) you could turn off north and head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It's quite different from the South Rim--a bit more rustic and more isolated trails. If you decide to stay on the North Rim you'll need to book a room now. If you're willing to spend the money get a "rim view" and enjoy. From there it's an easy drive to Las Vegas. And from there back to LA.
Thanks gary ... we are not doing a return drive but are flying up to Chicago from NO for a few days before flying home.
I like the suggestion of Barstow but we've been there a couple of times and visited the Calico Ghost Town ... quite fun. It was my initial thought for our first stop but I considered it may be too long a drive on the first day? It seems to take forever to get out of LA and we will have been flying for about 12 hours before landing at LAX and then negotiating Border Control. I guess that the key will be booking our flights and seeing what time we will be landing. I just checked out Huntington Gardens ... it would great if we could fit in a visit.
My wife has just read your feedback over my shoulder ... she likes the sound of a few days in the Grand Canyon Park, so I'd better get that booked! Thanks for the info on that.
Thanks also for the info on DFW ... I've added those to our itinerary list of 'things to try and do' ... I no longer have a fixed list as we always find 'surprises' on our travels!
We are looking forward to that scenery! What sort of vehicle would you suggest hiring ... a sedan or a SUV?
I really appreciate your help, gary.
I'll throw my 2 cents in if I may; basically just agreeing to all of the great advice here. I think Huntington Library and Gardens (I think we are thinking of the same thing - the one by Pasadena) is a great idea. If you are able to do Huntington Library, perhaps you may consider a stay at the Courtyard in Old Town Pasadena. Pasadena is a lovely place. Another place that I was going to suggest that is really lovely is Claremont (beautiful colleges and neighborhoods) but alas, there aren't any Marriotts there. If you do choose to spend the night in San Bernardino, I can certainly see why, as it is at the edge of the metropolis (as soon as you head out in the morning from SB, you will almost immediately be out of the fray), but SB isn't too exciting in my experience. It takes about an hour to get from Pasadena to SB, then about 6.5 hours to Flagstaff. Depending on when your flight arrives, if you chose to do Huntington Library, you may need 2 nights in So. Cal. In considering LA traffic, the day of week and time of day can come into play. Mon. - Fri. between about 3:30pm and 6pm heading away from LA/LAX can be quite ugly (stop and go).
I concur that I-40 is the interstate of choice over I-10 in the west, as besides Phoenix, there's nothing to see between SB and San Antonio on I-10. Not much on the route in AZ. to see on I-40 before you get to Flagstaff, unless you want to spend about 20 minutes in the little podunky route 66 town of Seligman (mildly amusing - perhaps if you need petrol). Have you been to Sedona, just south of Flagstaff? Everyone raves about it. And if you've never been to the Grand Canyon... I would say you HAVE to see it... One other place that I really want to see off of I-40 is Santa Fe, just north of Albuquerque. Very Native American. I am definitely taking a side trip there on my next I-40 road trip east. And I'll just throw this out there, have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns or anything similar? If not and you have the time, I would like to suggest dropping down there for a visit (thus nixing Amarillo), and then shooting straight across to Dallas/Ft. Worth, or else going straight down to San Antonio, but missing Dallas/Ft. Worth and Austin. From San Antonio on to Houston and New Orleans. New Orleans during the Jazz Festival. HOW FUN!!!
Nice to hear that you will put that State Farm Atlas to some good use! It will come in handy, and it makes a great travel gift.
Chris, I will have a more for you, but if was me, I would skip LA all together and land in Las Vegas. You would be only 300 miles from The Grand Canyon and stay in Flagstaff after a night or two in LV. The drive across The Hoover Dam, and the tour of it are most impressive. You would save yourself a lot of time and lower your blood pressure, by not having to drive thru LA. (Now that is only if you have already seen what you wanted in previous trips in LA)
Chris, you also may enjoy a lower airfare and car rental price in LV than LA. It would be worth checking out!
Again, will have more, when I have a little more time.
In Williamsburg, let me recommend the RI! Great location, great rates! If you so desire, I will get you more information. They gave me a wonderful upgrade there at well under $100/night!
By the way, I am planning to be back in London for Valentines Day next year. I will make it a point to have plenty of information/maps for you then. Maybe we can all have a bite at Simpson's in The Strand! If you go prior to me getting there, ask for table 7, it is my favorite table there! (Our Concierge at County Hall will help you with a reservation as well, they really treat Marriott people very well at this famous dining spot).