Coast to Coast Road Trip: The Best of Everything Along I-10
From the Pacific to the Atlantic, if you’re crossing the country through the southern part of the U.S., you’ll probably spend some time on Interstate 10.
Good thing, too, since I-10 takes you through some pretty awesome landscapes – the deserts of Southern California, Texas’s Hill Country, and the Florida Panhandle are all highlighted along the way. Whether you’re just hopping on for a little bit, or you’re seeing this bad boy all the way through, there’s tons to see and do just off the route.
Los Angeles, California, United States
The I-10 road starts on the West Coast in Los Angeles. The sprawling City of Angels has so much to see and do that you could easily spend weeks exploring. Whether you want to go star-spotting in Hollywood, hope to find amazing tacos, or just want to relax on a sunny, palm tree-lined beach, spend at least a few hours knocking some classic L.A. activities off your bucket list.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
The notoriously strange Venice Beach Boardwalk is the perfect place to do some people watching. Spot surfers riding waves by the pier, weight-lifters pumping iron at Muscle Beach, and all kinds of interesting folks at the Venice Beach Freak Show. The carnival-like atmosphere also features kitschy shops, sandy beachfront, and plenty of food. Rent some rollerblades and soak it all in.
If you’ve got a day to kill, then make your way to America’s most iconic theme park: Disneyland. Poke around Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at the Main Street USA, ride Space Mountain in Tomorrowland, and head to Fantasyland once the sun sets…it features the most fiber optic lights of all the park’s “lands”. Plan what rides and attractions you really want to see in advance and mark them out on a map to make the most of a one-day visit, especially if you’re visiting with kids.
Tio’s Tacos Restaurant
On your way out of Los Angeles on I-10, make a quick detour to grab a bite to eat at Tio’s Tacos, a folk-art shrine with Mexican flair that’s also a delicious Mexican restaurant – they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you can satisfy your craving for great Mexican no matter the time of day.
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are an iconic roadside attraction. The apatosaurus is named Ms. Dinny and the T. Rex is named Mr. Rex. Originally built to attract attention to a now-defunct restaurant, the massive dinos, which you can actually go inside, currently house exhibits on young Earth Creationism. Oh, and if they look familiar, it might be because they were prominently featured in the classic movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”.
Once you’re out of the L.A. area, you’ll find yourself near the quirky town of Palm Springs: book a stay at one of the stylish hotels in town, like retro-kitsch chic resort The Saguaro. The colorful rooms, luxurious spa treatments, and outstanding pool make this a decadent (and fun) getaway.
Joshua Tree National Park
Stretch your legs after cruising I-10 with a hike at Joshua Tree National Park. It’s named for its trees (which are actually not really trees, but a funky-looking species of yucca), but the park has got some rad geological stuff going on too. Hike out to Skull Rock for some rad climbing and boulder scrambling, and if you brought a tent, you can even set up camp here: there are also nine campgrounds inside the park. We suggest Black Rock Campground, Indian Cove, or Cottonwood Spring, since those are the only three with running water.
Maricopa Manor Bed & Breakfast
After California, I-10 will take you into Arizona. If you need a place to pull off the Interstate and rest for the night, Maricopa Manor Bed and Breakfast is a gorgeous little gem. The six rooms all have different themes and loads of amenities, ranging from whirlpool tubs and fireplaces to balconies and stained-glass windows. Plus, the pool has an epic waterfall in it, and breakfast is delivered to your room in the morning.
Road trips and burgers go hand-in-hand, but the grub you’ll find at The Stand in Phoenix is definitely not your average fast food fare. The patties are made fresh daily and topped with crisp, locally-grown veggies and other tasty accoutrements. Pro tip: their hand-spun milkshakes are to die for. Get the chocolate-chile if you’re feeling adventurous.
And if you need a hotel in Phoenix the Clarendon Hotel, the Zenyard Guesthouse and the Saguaro in Scottsdale are among the many excellent accommodation options.
Saguaro National Park
The great thing about I-10 is that it passes through tons of natural beauty. Detour off and take a scenic cruise through Saguaro National Park. Saguaros are actually pretty fascinating as far as plants go. They can live for over 100 years and grow to be 20 feet tall, and they’re pretty rare, only native to certain parts of Mexico, California and Arizona.
There are some nice hotels in Tucson as well: the Cactus Cove B&B, the Big Blue House Inn and the Catalina Park Inn B&B are a couple worth checking out.
Pima Air and Space Museum
The Pima Air and Space Museum is special not only because it’s one of the largest air and space museums in the country, housing more than 300 historically significant aircraft, but also because they have a deal with the nearby AMARG, also known as the world’s largest airplane boneyard. Call ahead and book tickets on a bus tour that will take you past more than 4,000 decommissioned planes.
Titan Missile Museum
You’ll also pass by the epic Titan Missile Museum. The only remaining Titan II ICBM (there were once 54 across the country), this is the only place where you can get up-close and personal with a missile that could launch a 9-megaton nuclear warhead. If that’s not totally epic, then I don’t know what is.
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon
A quick detour off I-10 will take you to the kitschy historical town of Tombstone, where the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. Stop by Big Nose Kate’s to grab a bite to eat in a historic Wild West saloon.
Also make a stop by The Thing, an old-school roadside stop that calls to mind the quirky attractions of years gone by- right down to the billboards lining the Interstate, asking “WHAT IS ‘THE THING’?” Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s only $2 to enter and have your mind blown by… whatever it is.
City of Rocks State Park
Then, the interstate will take you through a short portion of New Mexico. You won’t be here long, but you can stop by the gorgeous desert landscapes of City of Rocks State Park. Rocks and boulders, shaped by the forces of nature into hoodoos and pinnacles, reach nearly 40 feet tall, and make for a striking landscape to hike through.
Lundeens Inn of The Arts Spend the night soaking up some New Mexico culture at the Lundeens Inn of The Arts; each room in this B&B (located in a historic, 100-year-old building) is named for an artist and decorated with Southwestern flair.
Dripping Springs Natural Area
New Mexico is also home to Dripping Springs Natural Area. Here, you’ll find piñon and juniper lining the easy, well-marked trails, which offer the chance to see all kinds of desert wildlife, like golden eagles, mule deer, hawks, quail, lizards, and even mountain lions.
White Sands Missile Range Museum
Located on the grounds of the White Sands Missile Range military installation (one of the largest in the country), the White Sands Missile Range Museum is full of information about the United States’ nuclear program, our space adventures, and our development of rocket technology.
The museum is nice, but the Missile Park is where you’ll snap your photos. The park has roughly 60 different rockets all used by the U.S. in combat between WWII and the Gulf War. They’ve got a Loon (the U.S. version of the V-1), a Pershing II, a Patriot, and even a V-2.
Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site
The rocky hills at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site make for some world-class climbing, but even if you aren’t a rock-climbing pro, you can still appreciate this uniquely Texas park. It’s known for its pools of water found in the granite formations: they can be home to toads, shrimp, and all kinds of other interesting wildlife.
And, since you’re in the area, consider finding a hotel in El Paso. Camino Real is a cool historic landmark.
A full third of the I-10 route is located through Texas: the road crosses the Lone Star State at its widest part. Grab some cheap, quick grub at local favorite Chico’s Tacos as you swing through El Paso. Expect to find deep-fried taco deliciousness smothered in tomato sauce and topped with a healthy dose of shredded cheese: it’s nothing fancy, but it hits the spot.
Balmorhea State Park
Take a dip in the world’s largest spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park. The pool itself is 1.75 acres big and holds 3.5 million gallons of water – so it’s definitely Texas-sized.
It’s fed by the San Solomon Springs, which pump 15 million gallons of fresh, pure spring water into the pool every day – so it’s all natural and not chlorinated. The pool is up to 25 feet deep in some places, which makes it perfect for snorkeling or skin and scuba diving, if a casual dip in the more shallow parts or doing jack knifes off the diving board isn’t quite doing it for you. Plus, since the water stays around 72 to 76 degrees naturally, it’s refreshingly cool during the hot summers, but not so cold that you have to worry about it being too frigid to jump right in to.
They offer camping and an old-school motor lodge onsite as well, so if you find yourself staying longer than planned here, you can make a day of it.
Fort Lancaster State Historic Site
Then go back in time to the 1850’s at Fort Lancaster State Historic Site. Here, you can explore the ruins of more than 25 buildings that once served as a rest stop for mail carriers and settlers in the mid-19th century. You’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for the fact that you can road trip I-10 in a car, instead of in a horse-drawn wagon.
Caverns of Sonora
Stretching your legs on a road trip is super important, so get out of the car and head underground to the cool Caverns of Sonora for a change of scenery. This stunning show cave offers tours of the tunnels, loaded with stunning rock formations, as well as hikes above ground, the chance to pan for gold, and homemade fudge at the ranch-style gift shop.
South Llano River State Park
There’s tons of outdoor fun to be had at South Llano River State Park: hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, fishing, swimming, and more… but the coolest activity here is tubing down the river. The park itself rents out inner tubes so that you can lazily float down the cool, clear river.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Just outside San Antonio, you’ll find Six Flags Fiesta Texas, a massively popular theme park with tons of thrills. With rollercoasters like Superman: Krypton Coaster, Pandemonium, and Goliath, to drop towers, log flume rides, bumper cars, and tons more, everyone is sure to find something. Even those afraid of rollercoasters can enjoy food, games, and a live show.
San Antonio, Texas, United States
I-10 passes through the city of San Antonio, and it’s worth it to take a day or so to explore this Lone Star City. Home to The Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, The Institute of Texan Cultures, the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium, tons of museums, incredible Mexican food, and more, it’s a prime example of Texas at its finest.
Oh, and stay the night at the Menger Hotel, Hotel Havana, Omni La Mansion del Rio, or one of the other great hotels in San Antonio.
San Antonio River Walk
One of the coolest parts of San Antonio is the city’s River Walk. Lining the banks of the San Antonio River, you’ll find restaurants, shops, museums, parks, and tons more. Tour the river from a boat, or spend an evening strolling along the River Walk taking in the views. Stop by the Luke Restaurant for modern Cajun-inspired cuisine, Little Rhine Steakhouse for old-school eats, and explore even more shops and restaurants.
The Mission San Antonio de Valero, better known as The Alamo, is a fort where Spanish missionaries and Native Americans lived. It’s most famous for being the site where a band of Texans held out against the army of General Santa Anna. Even though the Alamo fell, “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry for the Texan Army, who eventually won independence. Today, The Alamo is a look into the past, and is an interesting spot to visit.
If you need a place to spend the night in San Antonio, check out the Hotel Havana. It’s a sleek boutique hotel right on the River Walk, and you won’t find a cozier place to stay while exploring the city. Located in a 1914-era building within walking distance of most of San Antonio’s most popular spots, it’s got an airy, old-school vibe and a great onsite restaurant.
Granzin Bar-BQ After San Antonio, you’ll be driving into Texas’s Hill Country. New Braunfels is a quaint little settlement that evokes small town Texas charm. Grab a bite to eat at local favorite Granzin Bar-BQ: get their delicious smoked meats as a plate, on a sandwich, or even in a taco. The sausage, brisket and turkey are especially tasty. Finish it off with a big glass of sweet tea and a few sides.
If you somehow still have an appetite after chowing down at Granzin, head to Lockhart to sample the food at Black’s Barbecue. The atmosphere is super authentic; it’s been around since 1932, making it one of the oldest BBQ joints in Texas. The beef ribs, brisket, homemade sausage, and chicken are especially delicious, and make sure to save room for sides and banana pudding. Bonus: you can buy bottles of their signature sauces so you can bring home a taste of Texas.
Houston, Texas, United States
Welcome to Houston, y’all. The city is a cultural hub for the state, and features tons to see and do. From the hugely popular Space Center Houston to the National Museum of Funeral History, it’s got attractions that range from classic to quirky. And, if you’re really looking to get an authentic Texas experience, head to the Houston Rodeo.
Space Center Houston
One of Houston’s most popular attractions is the totally rad Space Center Houston. This is the official visitor center for Johnson Space Center, the home of “Mission Control” for numerous historic spaceflight programs like the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle missions. It’s also where astronauts train for missions to space, and where loads of important research happens. Space Center Houston is loadedwith artifacts (like moon rocks and spacesuits), educational exhibits, tours, and an epic gift shop.
The sleek, modern Aloft hotel in Houston stands in stark contrast to the normal, rustic/country aesthetic you see all across Texas, which is kind of nice. Cozy, minimalist rooms, free wifi, and an awesome pool add to the experience.
Nibletts Bluff Park
Eventually, I-10 will take you out of Texas and into Louisiana. Get a taste for the state’s bayou landscape and history at Nibletts Bluff Park, where you’ll find camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing, as well as the remains of a Civil War fort, a railroad tram, and a 1910 church. It’s totally free to visit, so it’s a great place to hop out of the car and stretch your legs.
Mardi Gras Museum
Louisiana is best known for the wild Mardi Gras celebrations that New Orleans hosts each year. The festivities, which include numerous parades, intricate costumes, and plenty of food and drink, attract tons of people each spring. In nearby Lake Charles, the Mardi Gras Museum is a great place to learn about this colorful tradition, no matter the time of year. Video footage, costumes, historical background information, and even a parade float that you can climb on give visitors a good sense of what Mardi Gras in New Orleans is like.
After that, go back in time at Lafayette’s Acadian Village. It’s a collection of old and restored buildings built in the traditional Acadian style used by the descendants of French colonists. Most of the 19th century buildings are totally authentic, made with hand-cut cypress boards, mud walls, wood pegs, and tall, peaked roofs. It’s a gorgeous little place for a peaceful stroll and a glance back in history.
The French Press
If you’re starting to tire of the burger-laden menus of most road food joints, make a stop at The French Press. They do a classy, French/Southern-inspired breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, and chic dinners on Friday and Saturday nights. Think Cajun Eggs Benedict, cream cheese and banana-stuffed French toast, and biscuit sliders stuffed with brie and bacon.
Champagnes Swamp Tour
Driving through the swampy wetlands of Louisiana is an experience, but actually getting to explore out on the water is another thing entirely. On the two-hour adventure at Champagnes Swamp Tour, you’ll get to see all kinds of wildlife and learn about the unique ecosystem of the swamp, right in the heart of it all. It doesn’t get any more Cajun than that.
USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum
Step back in time on the USS Kidd, a ship that served in WWII and in the Korean War. The Fletcher-class destroyer is docked in downtown Baton Rouge, and is open as a floating museum, so you can walk the decks and see objects from the battles in which she served. Take in the views of the Mississippi from the ship, and reflect on those who lost their lives serving our country at the Memorial.
Sometimes you just need a casual, laid back place to spend the evening. Hang with LSU students while enjoying some oysters and great live music at The Chimes in Baton Rouge.
There are some great hotels in Baton Rouge, too. The Hotel Indigo is super chic and cool, and worth checking out.
Historic Michabelle Inn
Take a page from Scarlett O’Hara’s book (you are in the South, after all) and book a room in the charming Greek Revival mansion-turned-hotel at the Historic Michabelle Inn. There are eight unique rooms in the main home, and suites in Creole cottages on the property as well, for those who want extra privacy. Expect a healthy dose of Southern hospitality to go with the antebellum setting.
Abita Mystery House
One place you must stop off and visit along I-10 is the Abita Mystery House. This famously offbeat attraction has collections of antique oddities, folk art awesomeness, and loads more. This look inside the mind of an outsider art genius will likely be the best $3 you’ll spend on the trip.
Lunar Lander Exhibit
Right off the interstate you’ll find a little Lunar Lander Exhibit. It features a 30-foot replica of the Apollo 13 lunar lander, a space boot print left by Apollo 13 astronaut and Mississippi native Fred Haise, and a little rest stop. It’s a quick photo op and chance to stretch your legs.
Blow Fly Inn
Keep driving through Mississippi. Since the route is getting pretty close to the Gulf of Mexico here, you’ll want to grab some crawfish and crab on the bayou at the Blow Fly Inn.
Built in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse has withstood countless hurricanes and storms (including a tidal surge from Hurricane Katrina) to light the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Sound. The much-beloved lighthouse is open for tours, and has a little museum dedicated to its unique history. Fun fact: this lighthouse has spent more time under the care of female keepers than any other in the country.
Gulf Islands National Seashore Park
Next, take a moment to enjoy the white sand beaches and blue-green water you’ve been driving alongside at Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. Stretching from Mississippi into Florida, this preserve protects historic sites, wildlife, and lovely natural beauty. The Davis Bayou area is the only part of the park in Mississippi that’s accessible by car, so stop by and check out the views.
The Brick Pit
Getting hungry? Mix it up from all the seafood by ordering some saucy BBQ at The Brick Pit. Ribs, pork, and chicken, topped with their signature spicy sauce, and finished off with the banana pudding, make for a gut-busting but delicious meal.
Mobile, Alabama, United States
The next major city you’ll hit is Mobile, AL. Take some time to explore all that this town has to offer. The Azalea City is loaded with history (see the Oakleigh Historic Complex and Fort Conde), attractions (the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is awesome), and food (Wintzell’s Oyster House is a classic, and Mama’s on Dauphin serves up great Southern cookin’). Stay the night at the Battle House, Fort Conde Inn, the Malaga Inn, or one of the other hotels in Mobile.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
Visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park for some insane military history at one of the country’s most notable battleships. Here, you can also find the USS Drum, which is a submarine, as well as loads of historic aircraft. Kids and history buffs will definitely want to spend some time exploring, and even those who aren’t super familiar with military history will likely be blown away by the display.
Noble Manor Bed & Breakfast
Then the road takes you into Florida. You can detour down to Pensacola and stay the night at the quaint and cozy Noble Manor Bed & Breakfast. It’s got a gazebo hot tub and a pool for you to enjoy if it’s just too hot out, a porch with garden views, and well-adorned rooms with private bathrooms.
Coffee Cup Restaurant
Grab breakfast at the retro Coffee Cup Restaurant. It’s bustling pretty much any time of the day, features an old-fashioned menu and decor, and makes an absolutely to-die-for breakfast. Order the grits and the deep-fried French toast for a delicious start to your day.
Florida Caverns State Park
See a lesser-known side of the Sunshine State at Florida Caverns State Park. This dry cave is the only cave in any Florida state park that you can tour, and contains stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, and more. Plus, there’s a spring for boating and fishing, a 9-hole golf course, and camping here as well.
Need a comfy place to spend the night? Located right in the middle of downtown Tallahassee (and conveniently near tons of restaurants, shops, and attractions) the Governors Inn is a charmingly vintage hotel that makes for a great place to stay the night after an evening of exploring the city. It’s swanky, and is definitely one of the cooler hotels in Tallahassee.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
And as you drive through Florida, definitely don’t miss out on Ichetucknee Springs State Park (they have awesome tubing, swimming, and manatee-spotting opportunities) on your way to your final destination: Jacksonville.
Once you reach Jacksonville, you deserve some food. Moxie Kitchen offers sleek, modern takes on southern and soul comfort food classics. Crispy chicken livers, deviled eggs, chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and more are transformed into chic dishes worthy of the undeniably cool, industrial atmosphere.
And what’s a trip to Florida without a visit to the beach? The Jacksonville Beach is pretty great: it’s got a huge, free parking lot, clean shores, and plenty of shops nearby. Set up a towel on the sand and do some people watching, walk down the pier, or dip your toes in the water.
The colorful decor, hacienda architecture, and beach views make this the perfect place to spend your night in Jacksonville. Built in 1925, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and it only has 23 rooms, so it never gets overly loud and crowded.
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Jacksonville is a sprawling coastal city that has a special, beachy, “Florida vacation” vibe throughout the bustling metropolis. You can get the best of both worlds here – city and beach. Zoos, beaches, pro sports teams, parks, and cultural institutions can all be explored in Jacksonville, depending on what your idea of the perfect vacation is.
From the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Ocean, a trip along the entirety of I-10 means crossing through America’s deserts, hill country, swamplands, small towns, and big cities. One simple interstate can show you all different sides to America: landscapes, cultures, cuisines and attractions that are all distinct, yet distinctly American.
What’s your favorite stop along I-10? Let us know by tagging us on Twitter.
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