On our way home from The Grand Canyon last summer, I was already planning this year’s summer road trip. I wanted to drive through more states, see more national parks and monuments and take a little more time in each city. After lots of research, I planned this perfect road trip. From Nashville to Vegas….this is how it was done:
We flew Southwest from TIA to BNA. Grabbed a rental car from Hertz, loaded it with snacks and water, found our AirBnB apartment near downtown and began the adventure. I was really excited to show my kids the City of Nashville. That city means so much to me. A piece of my heart lives there. We got so lucky and arrived when the Predators were playing at home for the finals. The chase was on for the Stanley Cup and Nashville was electric. Not only was hockey a big talk of the town that week, CMA Fest kicked off the same week and Florida Georgia Line was hosting Opening Night at their new restaurant; The FGL House. My kids got to experience everything that Nashville is about in 48 hours. I took them to Peg Leg Porker, Frothy Monkey, Puckett’s and The Pancake Pantry. We went honkey tonkin’ too! Most of the bars on Broadway are family friendly until 10pm. Kip Moore and Granger Smith were playing concerts on the street and we managed to get close to the stage. They absolutely LOVED it and at the end of the entire trip, they both agreed that Nashville was their favorite part.
After a couple days in NashVegas, we headed northwest to St. Louis. On our list was the Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium and a couple of the must eats I found from researching foodie blogs. Foodie blogs, Pinterest and TripAdvisor are the tools I use to pick my restaurants when we travel. We enjoyed some St. Louis style pizza from IMO’s and for dessert, we checked out Fitz’s where the root beer floats were incredible. When we got into Kansas, we checked another MLB baseball stadium off the list; the Royal’s Stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs football stadium is next door, so we were able to see that one too. For lunch, we stopped at Joe’s BBQ, one of Anthony Bourdain’s “13 places to eat before you die”. It was located inside of a gas station. Not a typical place I would eat, but I trusted a professional this time. It was good, but not as good as Martin’s in Nashville. Next stop was Omaha, Nebraska where Evan could see AmeriTrade Park, where the College World Series is played. The Seminoles made it to Omaha this year, so it was fun for Evan to see it on TV.
We enjoyed the big cities, but the 2nd part of the trip included driving through the “Fly Over States”. Badlands National Park was outstanding. The scenery was spectacular. The colors were magnificent. There was no traffic, but we went early June, so that may have been the reason we never saw crowds on this trip. I heard and read that late June through late July is extremely crowded. Luckily for us, we were never inconvenienced by traffic issues or long lines. After experiencing The Badlands, we drove to Mount Rushmore. A monument I had wanted to see my whole life. It was bigger and better than I expected. After Mount Rushmore, the roads took us into Blackhills National Forest. Another part of the country that is absolutely stunning. There are lots of opportunities to hike and fish. We stopped by Horsethief Lake, hung our ENOs and enjoyed the nice weather while Evan tried to catch some trout. A great stop to help break up the drive. We found a Holiday Inn Express just outside the forest and it was perfect. Ordered pizza and called it a night! Most of the hotels we found with the exception of Nashville and Las Vegas, we booked as we drove. I was never 100% certain how far we would get each day, so I had to be flexible.
Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming was next. We saw lots and lots of beautiful animals including bison, moose and antelope. Wyoming is also where we ran into lots of snow. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the snow. Not something we see in June. But, we managed. The last stop before we made it to Yellowstone (east entrance via Rapid City) and lost cell service for about 24 hours (you WILL lose cell service) was the Buffalo Bill Damn. A quick stop in Cody, WY but a pretty cool view and free admission. The kids were so excited to spend the night in a tent, which I had planned for our first night in Yellowstone. I researched, found the perfect campground, booked a camp sight and we were all set…..so I thought! I brought an entire suitcase full of camping supplies. Even though it was only for one night, I wanted to be prepared. We happen to own a very nice travel trailer, but there was something about staying in a tent that excited them. We made it to check in, saw hundreds of tents and met some “neighbors”. We went to the lodge (near Fishing Bridge) for some firewood and a quick dinner (do not expect yummy food – it was not even close to being good). By the time we returned to camp, the temperature started dropping and a slight drizzle started. The rain picked up and the temperature continued to drop. While chatting with some camp neighbors about the weather, the rain quickly turned into snow. I knew we would freeze in a tent, but everyone else was doing it, so why couldn’t we? Easier said than done when the temperate is 30 degrees and snowing. Needless to say, we ended up sleeping the entire night in the car.. Luckily, we were able to laugh about it and at the first sign of day break, we pulled out of camp, nothing to clean up with the tent still in the suitcase!
” Elk roamed the roadways, bison wandered through the trees, Yellowstone Lake was stunning and the waterfalls were gorgeous…”
Yellowstone National Park is huge. We only had 2 days to spend there, so I had to be picky about what parts we would concentrate on. We stayed on Highways 14 and 191. Elk roamed the roadways, bison wandered through the trees, Yellowstone Lake was stunning and the waterfalls (Kepler Cascades & Lewis Falls) were gorgeous. We drove across the Continental Divide to Old Faithful. It was an amazing sight (be patient and wait for the eruption). The upper geyser basin was incredible as well. The 3.5 mile hike from Old Faithful to The Morning Glory Pool was pretty neat. Eastyn did get tired, but it wasn’t a hard hike. I’d say it was family friendly. Morning Glory Pool was much smaller than what I had envisioned. The other geysers on the hike were surreal. A HUGE helpful hint while in Yellowstone is to use their app. You can download everything prior to arrival and use the app during your visit without having cell service. I used it a lot.
When you exit Yellowstone from the south entrance, it takes you into Grand Teton National Park. Oh my goodness! The lake is picture perfect below the snow capped mountains. We saw lots more elk and bison in Teton. My pictures don’t do the scenery justice. Jackson Hole was the next city on the list and not far outside of Teton. It reminded me of a smaller version of Breckinridge, CO. We ate dinner at Lotus, an organic restaurant near Jackson Town Square. Breakfast was at Genevieve’s where I had the absolute best homemade granola and yogurt combo I have ever had. As I mentioned before, we had to wait to book rooms because we were never 100% sure where we would land that evening. So…..I never really considered Jackson Hole a hot spot in June. Well, it was…The only room available (and I was tired, so I needed to sleep) was at the “Antler Motel”. My option was a $100 “studio”. The front desk clerks were super sweet and we felt right at home. Believe it or not, I would probably stay there again! Glad I had a good nights sleep because the next day was a 9 hour drive to our final destination; Las Vegas!
I decided to stay at Trump Tower in Vegas because it was just off the strip and in a great location. They also offered a shuttle. We walked a lot and used Lyft several times. Theres a lot to do with kids in Vegas. I took them to the Venetian and rode the gondola. We saw the flamingos at The Flamingo, visited the Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage where they met the legendary Siegfried! Spent a few hours in the arcade, Hershey’s Chocolate store and the Shake Shack at New York New York. We dressed up on our last night and ate at Olives inside The Bellagio. We had a fabulous view of the fountains and the kids loved it. On our last day, we enjoyed being by the pool at the hotel. The kids swam and I rested. We had a long journey. 12 states, 9 days, 2500+ miles, from 30 degrees and snowing to 90 degrees and humid, national parks, forests and monuments, 22 different wild animals, 1 football stadium and 3 baseball parks, small towns and big cities. We were blessed to have had a safe and fun journey. My kids are turning into traveling professionals!