Will be arriving in Los Angeles and we are hoping to do a selfdrive along the west coast.
Hi This is my first time on any travel forum.I am planning a trip to the States for early December 2010 with my husband and daughter who will be 12 yr old at time of travel.We are flying from Brisbane(Australia) arriving in Los Angeles.We will do the usually tourist things Disneyland,Universal etc.Then hoping to rent a car and do a self drive looking for any suggestions on where to go and about how long should we stay in each place.We would like to also see Memphis and from there go onto New York where we will be staying for New Years Eve.We have a total of 4 weeks.Any feedback would ne greatly appreciated.Kind Regards Lisa
I would take Interstate 15 East to Las Vegas and spend a couple of days there. I would go see the Hoover Dam while there. Then I would take I-515 to highway 93 down to Kingman, Arizona. From there I would take I-40E to highway 64 and up to the Grand Canyon. The weather could be a factor here as it could be very snowy. I would stay near the Grand Canyon or follow highway 64 to highway 89 and (if snowing heavily) head south to Flagstaff, Arizona and pick up I-40 East. If not snowing I would take highway 89 and head north to highway 160 E. 160 E will take you up to the 4 corners (where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Utah come together) and I would visit Mesa Verde (fabulous) and then Durango, Colorado. If you are skiers you might stay here and ski at Purgatory Ski Resort or Telluride. You could also ride the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (also fabulous). Weather will be a big factor through here. You might consider renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle or make sure you have chains for the Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico areas. Continuing on 160 E the Colorado scenery is amazing and you will make your way to I-25 South. You could take I-25 S to Santa Fe, New Mexico, another beautiful city, stay there a day or two. I would then take I-25 S down to I-40 E. I-40 E will take you through Oklahoma, Arkansas and into Memphis, Tennessee. You might consider a trip down to Dallas, Texas (take I-35 S out of Oklahoma City). You could then take I-30 E and pick up I-40E again in Little Rock, Arkansas. Out of the 3 main routes east (I-80, I-70 and I-40) and weather will be less of a factor on I-40. I am very familiar with the American Southwest (I live in Colorado and have lived in California, New Mexico and visit Las Vegas a couple of times a year). I am not as familiar with the southeast so I will let someone else offer suggestions there.
I was thinking about the title of your post and thought I would suggest another route. You might consider taking the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway - highway 1) from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The coastal scenery is amazing. You might stay in Monterey or Santa Cruz. Definitely spend a few days in San Francisco with day trips to The Wine Country (Napa/Sonoma), the beaches and the old growth redwood forest. These are cold beaches, not for swimming, brrrr. From San Francisco (let me know if you would like other places to visit, this is my hometown) you could take I-80 E over the Sierra Nevada Mountains (stop in Calaveras Big Trees and Lake Tahoe if you go this way). Snow could be a big factor this way. I-80E will take you over to Salt Lake City, Utah where you can pick up I-15 S which will take you down to Las Vegas. If the Sierra's are getting one of their epic snow storms you could take I-580 E (out of the San Francisco Bay Area) to I-5 South to highway 58 E over to Barstow where you can pick up I-40 E then to I-15 E and up to Las Vegas.
This route will give you much more scenery and you certainly have enough time.
Traveling in December may be a challenge in some parts of the United States if the weather turns bad. Staying on the west coast as "colomom" suggested is a great suggestion. If I had the time I would go all the way north to Seattle with a side trip after leaving San Francisco to Napa Valley. It will be winter time and prices on accommodations will be reduced. In Seattle take in downtown with the Fish Market and if time permits a ferry ride or two to some of the close by islands for a day trip.While in Seattle there will be a Starbucks on every corner so drop by for a hot cup of coffee as the temperature will probably call for something hot to drink.I would think twice about a driving trip though from Seattle to New York especially in December as there generally too much snow. Memphis is certainly a good side trip, however unless you are into Jazz and Elvis a couple of days would be enough for me. Getting to Memphis is going to be much easier flying than driving. After Memphis I would head for Washington, DC, however once again there may be issues with the snow.Take in some of the Smithsonian buildings where open tours go on all day long. Visit some of the monuments such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.Some government buildings are not accessible to the public.Traveling by auto from Washington, stop in Baltimore (especially the waterfront area) where there a many great seafood restaurants. Head for Philadelphia and take in some of the sights where this country's founding fathers were and finally New York and take in a couple of Broadway Shows. If you have extra days spend a couple of days om Boston. This has been a difficult winter in the northeast and driving has been impossible for the past few weeks. Driving from the west coast through Arizona and Texas is going to be one big bore. I have made the trip many many times and always wished I had flown. I live in Dallas and would suggest you not go out of your way to get to Dallas. There is little to see or do in the winter time unless you are into restaurants, bars and shopping. Dallas is not like Las Vegas and except for the basketball and hockey teams professional sports will not have that many games in December.Outside amusement parks are closed during December.Lastly when making you rental car reservation, be sure to get a vehicle with "unlimited miles" and one that can be dropped off in your destination city without an outrageous drop off charge being imposed. HAVE A GREAT TRIP and Welcome to the United States.