american SOUTHERN road trip
The best thing about taking this journey is., you get to see many American destinations along the way.
Great Southern journey from Los Angeles to New York
American road journey in brief
I love road trips and I find it is a great way to take a break from normal way of life and escape it all. I decided to take on one of Americans road journey – the ‘Great Southern Journey’ from Los Angeles to New York. This was the right road trip that came into mind. America is one place that has enormous amount of road trips and it passes through more than one USA destination in a day.
Taking the coach tour in US with Contiki Tour Company which caters for young travellers between the age of 18 – 35 year olds was the best way to scratch my travel itch and most economical way to see America. They can get prices that no individual tourist/traveller can match. Travelling on good coach trips was the best option as I travelled in comfort. This way, having someone else to navigate for me, arrange transportation and accommodations and make the decisions takes the stress and work out of travel as well as an excellent guide. The guides brings road trip life alive as they help you and inform you of history and culture throughout the journey. To me, this was going to be an extremely exciting party road journey.
I can’t believe that it has been over a decade since I first visited America. When you think of blockbuster movies, famous country singers, actors and actress, America comes into mind. Known as one of the most powerful and greatest country in the world, makes America one of those countries you want to visit. My childhood dream was to visit America one day to visit some of the most famous iconic places – from Hollywood Walk of Fame, New York, Disneyland to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s hometown and many more.
This road journey from Los Angeles to New York was to give me a varied snapshot of the States and take on this most popular trip for a reason. Here, I get to experience the fast paced East, the slow moving South and the laid-back West Coast. I get to do exciting activities like white water rafting, horseback riding and hiking, together with the awesome nightlife of cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans. Fun times, late nights and incredible scenery lie ahead as I want to explore north America from west to east on this epic road trip..
Getting to America is accessible only by air and sea unless you live in Canada where you are able to cross to US by rail or car. After much preparation and not knowing what to expect, I flew from Cairns to Los Angeles (LA) with two stop-overs in Guam and Hawaii before arriving in LA, in the early hours of the morning. I found myself drifting around the airport trying to figure out my movements as soon as I stepped out of the terminal.
This was my first real taste of what big cities are like in America. I could feel the nerves running down my spine. I was totally blown away with everything around me. – different country, place, crowded, busy hectic. and totally different road rules and directions. I felt like, I was watching a movie in an outdoor theatre. Finally, I got myself into a taxi and headed to my motel located in Anaheim, in Orange County, not far from Disneyland and other major attractions.
Life on the road can get a little one-dimensional. I didn’t want to reach 40 and have to say ass I’d done was look out the window of a tour bus and get drunk – Bruce Dickinson
Arriving in LA, three days earlier prior to my road trip, I managed to see and explore few places within Anaheim. Starting my 25 days road journey in Los Angeles and ending in New York with Contiki tours took me to explore and discover Southern Sun from Los Angeles through California state, US and sixteen other destinations in USA. This road trip included all accommodation as well as an expert guide, most meals and transport.
Like all tours, the evening before the tour began, I met all my brand new Contiki family, the tour guide and driver at the motel. It was a “get to know each other” a great atmosphere with lots of laughter. The following day in the early hours of the morning, we finally packed and boarded our coach for our road trip from Los Angeles and ending in New York, known as the Big Apple. Leaving Anaheim in Orange County, we ventured across the city of Los Angeles through Southern California and the vast Mojave desert and the cactus-scattered deserts of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, in the US state of Nevada where we spend our first night of the journey.
Las Vegas: Nevada
What a thrilling welcome to Las Vegas and I certainly wasted no-time in indulging myself into “Vegas-lifestyle”. With so much to see and do and with endless places to entertain their visitors from casinos, live shows, water-display, downtown entertainment, Fremont Street light shows and the night life. As the locals say, what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas. What Vegas does best for its visitors is like a magnet. It is a place where they want their visitors to stay longer and spend more.
I couldn’t leave Vegas without visiting some of the major attractions in the area, including a visit to downtown and my favourite place – Fremont Street. The most striking entertainment is when the whole area displays its super impressive lights and laser show. From there a visit to Elvis Presley impersonators for a wedding ceremony and many other sights. No wonder, many times, its called the sin-city style. This was certainly my first taste of real Californian lifestyle and what a great way to kick of my grand tour of USA.
Grand Canyon: Arizona
Leaving the bright lights and impressive sights of Las Vegas behind (definitely not my dollars) we strike out across the desert of Nevada in search of one of the ‘Seven Natural Wonders of the World’ and into Arizona’s high country; the Grand Canyon. Along the way and without a doubt one of the most historical viewpoint in the Southwest, Route 66, makes an impressive stop before arriving in Grand Canyon.
No trip west is complete without a stop at the might Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most recognisable natural wonders in the world and the pride of Arizona. As soon as I laid my eyes on this super special place, I wanted to give Mother Nature a well-deserved high-five. This natural wonder was mind-blowing and to experience the grandeur of one of the earth’s natural wonders was incredibly beyond. The next day, I put on my walking boots, including my camera for a sunrise and sunset and hike along the rim. Been more ambitious, I took a long hike down Bright Angel trail to Plateau Point and the final day, I took to the sky and saw the Grand Canyon in all its glory on a helicopter flight. The Grand Canyon is magnificent from any angle but one thing for sure, I will never forget, my first glimpse of the canyon, whether it was from a walk along the rim or the ultimate bird’s-eye view overhead. This was the spot spine tingling experience I ever had. From sunrise to sunset, the mighty Grand Canyon has left me breathless.
Monument Valley: Utah
On the road again, we headed off to one of another North America’s most iconic landscapes – Monument Valley in the state of Utah, part of the Navajo Nation. Grand Canyon, was undoubtedly one of the difficult place to leave, even though I was in the early stages of my road trip. Monument Valley profoundly looked so sacred to me and what an amazing place it was. To me, this is probably the most iconic destination in the American Southwest after Grand Canyon and perhaps the most famous example of the classic American West landscape. Monument Valley has been used as the set for countless Western movies, including the recent remake of The Lone Ranger.
It was time to immerse myself in the native culture, where I had the guided jeep tour of the Navajo Reservation and backroads. It was an experience that myself and many travellers didn’t forget. As I marvel at the sight of towering buttes and mesas which dominate the awe-inspiring landscape during the day and when the sun goes down swap campfire stories under a blanket of stars.
Cortez and Durango: Colorado State
From the dry landscape scenery of Monument Valley, we cross the state of Utah to Cortex in Colorado state. We spent a night here before continuing the road trip to the city of Albuquerque in the state of New Mexico with a stop in the town of Durango, Colorado’s adventure capital. Durango, an old mining town, where terrain is rugged, the trees are abundant with ever changing colours of the native trees foliage. To have a feel of this adventure capital, I took a thrilling adventure rough jeep ride to the mountains to view some of the snowy mountains of Colorado. We crossed rivers, creeks and through rough pathways before reaching the top. The views from the top was incredibly very rewarding. I found Durango is the way of life for great outdoors, a place where you keep your adrenaline pumping.
Albuquerque and Santa Fe: New Mexico State
From the thrilling adventure capital of Colorado – Durango, we continued the road trip and headed south to Albuquerque in the state of New Mexico. Albuquerque is famously known as the capital and home to the world famous international balloon fiesta. Each year, thousands or even millions of hot-air enthusiastic come across the world to display their hot-air balloons with different shapes, colours and sizes that fills the sky. The scene was quite spectacular to witness. To join in the fun, I had to sacrifice myself to be out of bed before 4am to witness this hot-air balloon spectacular. It was time to soar high above Albuquerque and I was totally speechless. What an incredible sight to view from above. The most stunning part was witnessing the sunrise as it emerges over the mountains and shines it brightness onto our waiting faces. It was just glorious feeling and a great joy in enjoying the views.
After the thrilling hot-air balloon flight, we headed back to the hotel and by 9am, we were on the road again to Amarillo in the state of Texas with a stop in the capital of New Mexico state – Santa Fe. Within less than 2-hours drive from Albuquerque, we arrived in Santa Fe, famous for its sunbaked earthen brick buildings that stands out from the bright blue sky. This city has a unique character with the influences from Mexico, Spain and Native American culture. Santa Fe, is truly a melting gold pot of culture. It is also known for old historic town and beautiful mountain landscape. For art lovers, Santa Fe is for you. Here we, took time to see all the interesting styles of architecture and a visit to Canyon Road, home to art galleries, cultural treasures such as hand-woven Navajo rugs, historic adobe buildings a vibrant restaurant scene. My top tip here was visiting brilliant food-tasting stalls and markets. Here, you get the chance to taste different variety of regional food and spices on offer. It is an experience like no other.
Amarillo: Texas State
After few hours of art gallery visits and spicy and exotic food tasting, we continued our journey across the state which is larger than some countries. – Texas, to funky Amarillo, situated in the Texas Panhandle where we spend the night there. This is where you get to have the real taste of true Americana style, a place where eternal glory awaits for anyone that can finish a Texas size steak (gigantic Texan steak) in an hour or less. This incredible place is where many folks make their way into this massive restaurant, serving nothing but steaks only.
Dallas: Texas State
The next morning, from Amarillo, we left early hours before sunrise and hit the road again to Dallas, Texas. Dallas is one of the places I always wanted to visit, not only to see the Dallas Cowboys but where President Kennedy was assassinated. I had the opportunity to visit the Sixth Floor Museum and took the very road that President Kennedy took on the motorcade when he was assassinated in 1963. As I set foot on this very place, it was spooky and I could feel the shivers running down my spine and bone-chilling moments which totally made me very uncomfortable. It was thrilling to feel that you still feel the presence of what happened in the past, even in present moments.
Memphis: Tennessee State
Our long drive continued the following day as we headed to Memphis in the state of Tennessee, passing through the states of Kanas and Arkansa. We began to turn up our radio as we crossed the Mississippi river as we were about to hit Memphis, the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll. As we drove into our hotel, we could feel the vibes of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll music from every corner. With all that in mind, we visited Sun Studio, where many great names in music have passed through since the 1950s. That evening, we strolled up and down along Beale Street where the electric atmosphere kept us entertained for hours as we listen out for some of the best blues music in town.
There is more to Memphis than just music. The following day we paid a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum located in the former Lorraine Hotel and saw the place where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. No visit to Memphis is complete without a visit to Graceland, home to my childhood idol, the late king of rock ‘n’ roll – Elvis Presley. I had the chance to get close to both exterior and interior of his Graceland home, including his final resting place with eternal flame still burns. Today, thousands or even millions of fans and visitors take their journey to pay their respect each year. Many visitors come dressed in Elvis Presley costumes and shed tears. It is remarkable feeling that his presence is still felt today and never gone.
New Orleans: Louisianna State
The following day, we said farewell to the rock ‘n’ roll state and the home of Elvis Presley and say a big hello to New Orleans in the state of Louisiana, home of gumbo stews and all that Jazz. This place is the place that every music lover should visit at least once in their life. When people think of New Orleans, French Quarter comes to mind. This place is where you get to experience the nightlife with no end to it. It is an amazing and exciting place where you never want to leave this 24-hour nightlife.
I headed into the enchanting French Quarter to experience this lifestyle. I could hear the real deal at Preservation Hall, before tucking myself into some classic and delicious Southern cuisine. For me to stop eating local cuisine likes of gumbo and jambalaya, I went on a night dinner cruise down the Mississippi river on the old river paddle boat – where jazz and blues music entwined. I then made a beeline for the notorious nightlife of Bourbon street, where almost anything goes. I get to taste the live music and bar culture that New Orleans has to offer to its visitors. With the Caribbean and European fusion food, live and non-stop Jazz music from every turn, I could feel the real taste of New Orleans lifestyle. It creates a vibe that is never too easy to walk away from it and truly New Orleans was a place full of life and is an experience I won’t forget in a long, long time.
Orlando: Florida State
From the exotic nightlife of New Orlean’s French Quarter, we headed further to the west coast to Orlando, in the state of Florida. Orlando, once a farming town but it has gone through transformation where it is one of the most visited place in the state of Florida. It is home to Walt Disney World and now known as the Theme Park Capital of the World. The choice of visiting various attractions and activities to do is endless. Whatever you decide to do, it will be a ripper of a day. Whilst visiting the place for a day, I decided to spend most of my time visiting various theme parks from sea-world to animal world. What a thrill it was, having fun that seems no end to it.
St Augustine: Florida State
From leaving one city to any another city in the state of Florida, we continued our journey north of Orlando along the west coast to the city of St Augustine, where we spent a night there.
Like in all longer travels, especially when you are on the road, with many late nights, early rise and constantly on the go have contributed to me, been unwell. I spent most of time in my hotel room. With the help of antibiotics, I felt much better and by afternoon I took a stroll along the waterfront.
Savannah: Georgia State
Leaving Florida state, we headed to Savannah in the state of Georgia. By then, I was feeling much better, in time to explore the city of Savannah. The city sometimes referred to as “The Hostess City of the South” is the oldest city in Georgia and has a long colourful history that attracts millions of visitors each year. Without too much strenuous activities, I mainly focused on lazy activities and exploring the parks which were beautiful.
Raleigh: North Carolina State
From Savannah in the state of Georgia, we continued our drive further north up the west coast to Raleigh in the state of North Carolina for one night. Along the way, we had a stop in Charleston in the state of South Carolina before arriving in Raleigh.
We left Raleigh in the early hours before the sunrise and drove through the state of Virginia, District of Maryland and into Washington DC, the social, cultural and political hub of United States of America. This place is the very core of USA’s political world and it is packed with museums, monuments and history that are important in the country. From the Smithsonian Museums to the Lincoln Memorial and been the culture vulture, I was in my element here.
By mid-afternoon when I was done with sightseeing and activities, I would go people watching in the parks. For me, it was a great way for relaxation while observing people and their behaviours. This is the great way to see Washington DC and truly a fascinating city with some much to see and do.
Leaving the capital behind, we headed to New York with a stop over in New Jersey and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, we had our own movie moment with a climb up the famous ‘Rocky’ steps, Rocky statue and a visit to see Independence Hall and the symbol of American Independence and the Liberty Bell before taking a bite at Philly cheesesteak for an early lunch.
Just before we left Philly, I bought myself some tasty treats for my journey to the bright lights of New York, known as the Big Apple where my final stop on what has been one heck of a journey. That evening, we all gathered for our final dinner before we parted our own ways. The next day, it was time to explore this vibrant and exciting city that never sleeps on my own. I splurge along Fiftth Ave, hit the top of the Empire State Building and soak up the trendy, laid-back vibe of Greenwich Village and Central Park before heading back to my hotel.
Pictures below taken in Philadelphia
Pictures below taken in New York City
This trip suited for people who are age between 18-35 years old is an action-packed road adventure. The tour took me right across the Southern journey from LA to New York was the absolute way to see America. This trip hits some of the great “Must-Sees” of the USA, even though some stops were only for a night and didn’t get much time to see everything. The road tour was filled with beauty and thrilling adventure with variety of optional activities to enjoy.
An amazing trip, visiting so many great places was definitely an experience that I will never forget. It has given me a great insight of this great country. Taking this road trip meant life becomes a highway. It was hectic, tiring and many times exhausting, yet rewarding and great way to see America.
Papua New Guinean living in Cairns, Australia. Weekend getaway adventurer and Free-Independent-Traveller (FIT). Lover of unique and exotic travel experiences with a touch of luxury. Follow me to my travel world, brining you closer to your destination.
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