Road Trips

Grand Canyon | Cross Country Road Trip

I wanted to drive my kids across the entire country to visit The Grand Canyon. So, last summer, along with my mother n law; we did it! We drove through 10 states in 9 days and it was one of my most favorite vacations. We drove through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana.

While planning the trip, I tried to plan something in every state. My motto for this trip was “collect memories, not things”. I didn’t want the kiddos to bring back loads of souvenirs that would eventually be tossed or donated. Instead, we collected a rock in every state. They seemed to love the idea and never asked for anything during the trip. Those rocks now display in our home. We took notes, rated restaurants and explored so many places. It wasn’t always easy or comfortable. We all got tired, but making frequent stops and not worrying so much about time helped.

From home, we drove to Birmingham, Alabama. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott near The Preserve at Moss Rock. We hiked and explored Moss Rock for a couple hours. It was a cute town just outside of the city. We ate at an incredible little restaurant called, The Boot at The Preserve (it has since moved locations and is now located in Brook Highland). From there, we visited the Vulcan Statue and saw the city from above.

We drove through Mississippi, the birthplace of America’s music to get to our first ever trip to Graceland (The birthplace of Elvis Presley) in Memphis, Tennessee. Even my kids, who were 5 and 11 at the time, loved it. A quick stop at the worlds largest Bass Pro Shops {at The Pyramid} was a highlight of the trip for my son. Even a year later, he still talks about it. The restaurant at the top was overpriced, but the view was priceless.

Over the Mississippi River and into Arkansas we went. We arrived in Little Rock pretty late, but was able to wake up to a beautiful day. We took a trolley ride through town, walked the riverfront and found a corner cafe for lunch. Back on the road and through the State of Oklahoma where we saw beautiful windmills at sunset.

The next overnight stop was Amarillo, Texas. I was excited to visit here because I wanted to see The Cadillac Ranch. It was such a cool spot on the side of the highway. One of my favorite pictures of the trip was taken there. We even spray painted our names on the old cars.

Albuquerque, New Mexico was next and it was there when I realized we were in the desert! It was hot! May car read 106 degrees at one point. We stopped for burgers at Blake’s Lotaburger (as seen in Breaking Bad) because I heard or maybe read somewhere that’s where you’re supposed to eat in Albuquerque.

“…scenery was outstanding. My kids kept asking, if “this was the Grand Canyon”. It was that gorgeous. The rock colors, the wild horses, the cool trains that we tried to race. All of it was more than I imagined.”

As we were nearing Page, Arizona the scenery was outstanding. My kids kept asking, if “this was the Grand Canyon”. It was that gorgeous. The rock colors, the wild horses, the cool trains that we tried to race. All of it was more than I imagined. Although the Grand Canyon was our final destination before the drive back home, I didn’t want to stay there. As I was researching, there were so many other places to explore, so that’s why we chose to stay in Page. The best decision I ever made. Those two days were the most exciting on the trip. The Courtyard by Marriott was the perfect location. Driving distance to Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam. Breathtaking views and scenery. The boat ride through Lake Powell was stunning. Photos don’t do it justice. Restaurant mention: El Tapatio was very good, authentic Mexican food.

The Grand Canyon was next. It was very easy to maneuver our way around. The park officials do a great job at directing travelers. There are hundreds of lookout points. We decided to stop at every 3rd one to save time and energy. Every view of the Canyon was different. Every one was just as amazing. It literally took my breathe away at times. The kids and I hiked a little to find cool photo ops.

After a day at The Grand Canyon, we headed into the beautiful City of a Sedona where we found a hidden gem; The Sky Ranch Lodge. It was my kids favorite hotel on the trip. It was simple, but extraordinary. Excellent views, quiet pathways and cute fish ponds. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant we ate at in Sedona. It was a farm to table, gluten free and paleo. So many of them to chose from. The city has an abundance of superb eateries with stunning views.

We started driving more hours a day and stopping less after we left Sedona. The State of Texas is HUGE. It felt like it took days to drive through. Quick refuels and stops for snacks was about it until we got to New Orleans where we spent the day walking the streets. NOLA is still dirty, but still very unique. It’s been years since I was there, but nothing has changed. We ate at The Court of Two Sisters and took lots of  pictures on Bourbon Street.

The last leg of the trip ended with a brief stop in Tallahassee for dinner. After 4500+ miles on my {new car} and 10 states checked off our list, we made it home safe with memories that will last a lifetime.

*I used Marriott points and the Expedia app for booking our hotels. Open table for booking dinner reservations. Lots of research including travel blogs, Instagram and Pinterest to find the noteworthy stops along the way.