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I drove cross-country and these were the 16 coolest places I stopped along the way, plus 3 spots I’d skip next time

I by no means deliberate to drive cross nation.Michelle Gross

  • My associate and I drove 6,036 miles from New York to San Diego and again throughout the pandemic.

  • On our street journey, we stopped for regional meals, unbelievable nature, and quirky roadside points of interest.

  • If I were to drive cross nation once more, these are the places I’d return to and these I would skip.

Driving cross-country was by no means one thing I deliberate on doing. But it was my associate’s life-long dream, and we lately road-tripped from New York to San Diego and again.

A man, woman, and a dog in a car.

We drove a complete of 6,036 miles cross-country from New York to my hometown of San Diego and again throughout the pandemicMichelle Gross

Driving cross-country is an formidable journey that all the time sounded a bit extra romantic to me in concept than in follow.

But when my associate satisfied me to develop my horizons, we began planning with the Ralph Waldo Emerson adage “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” as our tenet. I figured we’d as properly see as many cool and quirky issues along the means as potential.

Here are the places we stopped that I would go to once more and the places I would skip next time.

After leaving New York, our first cease was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the place we ate pizza and visited The Andy Warhol Museum.

A piece of modern art on display in a museum.

The Andy Warhol Museum is a must-visit to witness greater than seven tales of a few of Warhol’s most seminal artworks.Michelle Gross

I married a Pittsburgher and have visited the Steel City many instances. And whereas there all the time appears to be a brand new spot to take a look at in Lawrenceville or South Side, after a requisite cease to the Strip District to strive Pizzeria Davide, we headed over to the Andy Warhol Museum.

After touring the reveals, I thought it was an absolute must-visit for anybody to Pittsburgh to witness greater than seven tales of a few of Warhol’s (a Pittsburgh native) most seminal artworks. The museum was additionally well-placed to observe with a stroll to The Point downtown the place the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers merge into the Ohio River.

We left Pittsburgh en-route to Cincinnati, Ohio, stopping at Buckeye Lake State Park to stretch our legs and seize lunch.

A line of cars parked at a small building.

Buckeye Lake was not someplace I would want to return to.Michelle Gross

The midway level between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Buckeye Lake State Park in southern Ohio is touted as Ohio’s oldest State Park.

It’s additionally residence to a neighborhood vineyard, brewery, and beer pier, which sounded intriguing and appeared to be a really perfect spot to cease and refuel.

However, we discovered the meals choices and lack of masks and masks compliance usually to be a bit off-putting, and whereas it was a ok place to get out and stretch our legs, we’d skip a cease to Buckeye Lake in favor of one other park or city if we may do it over once more.

From Cincinnati, we drove to Nashville, Tennessee, the place we had drinks at a Dolly Parton-themed restaurant.


We ate at White Limozeen, a Dolly Parton-themed rooftop restaurant.Michelle Gross

The street to Nashville was peppered with so many cool pit stops, however on account of unhealthy climate, we bypassed places we might been wanting ahead to love Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Instead, we went straight for Nashville, arriving hungry and prepared for a drink at White Limozeen, a Dolly Parton-themed rooftop restaurant positioned simply off the Vanderbilt University campus.

We sat alfresco overlooking a large Dolly Parton bust and did not miss an opportunity to strive the signature champagne Jell-O pictures, which come topped with sprinkles.

Along with the pink décor and convivial rooftop vibes, the cease was a nice and utterly sudden shock. It was positively properly value a go to, however next time, I would come right here only for drinks and save dinner for The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden, which was palms down the finest burger we had on our journey.

Next, we stopped at considered one of my all-time favourite BBQ joints in Memphis, earlier than driving by means of Ozark National Forest to a memorable resort in Northwest Arkansas.

A wall display of an Arkansas flag surrounded by United States flags.

We liked the hometown satisfaction on show at the Graduate Fayetteville resort.Michelle Gross

After a fast cease at considered one of my all-time favourite BBQ joints, Rendezvous in Memphis, we headed straight by means of the wilds of Arkansas Ozark National Forest, considered one of the greenest and most scenic stretches of our drive.

Along the means, we paid a last-minute go to to Fayetteville, a captivating school city tucked away in the northwest pocket of the state.

There, we loved an off-the-cuff dinner on the patio of a former put up workplace referred to as Cheers at the O.P.O (for Old Post Office) and determined to tuck in for the night time next door at a unusual local hotel.

The Fayetteville-themed foyer along with camouflage carpets and Arkansas ephemera throughout the partitions was a enjoyable contact, and we liked the hometown satisfaction that this place needed to supply.

We continued along Route 66 and noticed an uncommon roadside attraction in the form of an 80-foot-long blue whale on the method to Oklahoma City.

A woman posing in front of a sculpture of a blue whale.

In Tulsa, we made a pit cease at The Blue Whale of Catoosa, a novel waterside sculpture off Route 66.Michelle Gross

The trip by means of the plains of Oklahoma supplied a stark distinction to the lush and wild landscapes in Arkansas.

We made our means by means of Tulsa, residence to architectural marvels similar to The Philbrook Museum of Art and considered one of the largest collections of artwork deco structure in the nation. But our cease at The Blue Whale of Catoosa left rather a lot to the creativeness.

We realized that this large 80-foot sperm whale was constructed as a diving platform and slide for teenagers in the early ’70s and has been mainly marooned ever since.

While I can see the enchantment when you have younger children in tow, and certainly, there were a couple of households with kids who couldn’t have been extra delighted by this distinctive waterside sculpture off Route 66, it wasn’t a should for us.

Just off Interstate 40, Cadillac Ranch exterior Amarillo, Texas, was Instagram-worthy shock.

Spray painted Cadillac cars on display in the desert.

At the Cadillac Ranch, you need to use spray paint to tag the automobiles.Michelle Gross

It was windy and dusty the day we visited Cadillac Ranch, a public artwork show that is free to take a look at and properly value a fast go to to stroll round and snap some photographs.

Comprised of a colourful assortment of upended Cadillacs coated in paint, you may even deliver your personal spray paint or purchase some from considered one of the native distributors simply exterior the entry level to tag the automobiles when you’re so inclined.

While we did not partake, I’m glad we stopped to test it out for the photographs alone. But one time was ample and we did not really feel the have to return on our means again to New York.

When we drove by means of Texas on our return, we stopped in Odessa to see a Stonehenge Replica.


The University of Texas’ “mini-Stonehenge” is made up of 19-foot tall slabs of limestone.Michelle Gross

Set on the University of Texas at the Permian Basin Stonehenge campus, “mini-Stonehenge” is made up of 19-foot tall slabs of limestone and was donated to the college in 2004.

It’s designed to function a teachable second for college kids and guests right here, however as a result of I’ve visited the authentic Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates again some 5,000 years when I was touring throughout the UK, I would skip this next time as nothing can really examine to the authentic.

We skipped Dallas in favor of Fort Worth, Texas, the place we noticed dozens of longhorn cattle strolling by means of city.

A man on a horse leading a herd of cattle.

Experiencing the Fort Worth cattle drive felt like being in outdated Western film.Michelle Gross

The daily cattle drive in Fort Worth occurs twice a day and was considered one of the coolest issues we witnessed on our journey. It additionally made us really feel like we were entrance and heart in an outdated Texas Western as Fort Worth is stuffed with honky-tonk eating places and old-timey boutiques, plus Stockyard Station, which is lined with enjoyable retailers.

There’s additionally the Cowtown Coliseum, which is residence to the nation’s solely year-round rodeo which we did not get to go to however would positively try on our next go to.

After Texas, we continued west to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the place we stopped at a thermal spa.

A woman in the water at an outdoor spa.

Ojo Santa Fe Spa is considered one of the nation’s oldest pure well being spas, relationship again to 1868.Michelle Gross

Tucked in the foothills simply exterior Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ojo Santa Fe Spa is named considered one of the nation’s oldest pure well being spas relationship again to 1868. With its spa and spring-fed thermal pools, it was a much-needed cease for somewhat relaxation and leisure.

The spa was closed on account of COVID-19 throughout our go to, however we nonetheless soaked in the geothermal mineral water, which is alleged to have therapeutic powers. After spending a full day right here, I’m a believer in the therapeutic properties of that water and would positively cease right here once more.

In Santa Fe, we additionally paid homage to Georgia O’Keeffe Museum earlier than trying out the galleries and boutiques discovered along Canyon Road, each of which were worthwhile stops.

Along Route 66, Petrified Forest National Park in Northeastern Arizona was a last-minute cease that I would not hesitate to return to.

A photo of etchings on a rock, and a photo of petrified logs in Arizona.

The Petrified Forest is greater than 200 million years outdated.Michelle Gross

Driving into the Petrified Forest National Park felt like driving by means of considered one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s summary work.

The Mars-like landscapes with purple and beige sandstone rock formations were totally surreal and considered one of the best-unplanned stops we made along the means.

More than 200-million years outdated, there are lots of places to cease and stroll round all through the park. We selected The Painted Desert Inn, an adobe constructing relationship again to the Thirties, and Newspaper Rock, with the park’s largest focus of petroglyphs that were carved into boulders by the ancestral Puebloan inhabitants that dates again so far as 2,000 years in the past. The carvings at Newspaper Rock can finest be seen by means of binoculars or a telephoto lens, the latter of which I was glad to have available.

It’s positively value a go to to witness this awe-inspiring panorama.

On the residence stretch, we could not depart Arizona with out seeing the Pillar at Cathedral Rock in Sedona up shut.

A man and woman posing beside a rock pillar.

We were not ready for the depth of the Cathedral Rock hike.Michelle Gross

There’s no scarcity of the way to see and expertise Sedona’s huge landscapes, however one place we could not depart with out seeing was the view of Sedona from the summit of Cathedral Rock.

I will admit, we were not well-prepared for the depth of this 1.2-mile out and again hike. It’s labeled as “moderate-to difficult” by AllTrails.com and “popular for hikers of all ages,” however I will say, the practically vertical climb and slippery rocks were difficult for lots of people on the path that day, ourselves included.

However, the views from the prime were out of this world. I would positively cease right here once more, though I would plan accordingly and deliver extra water and higher sneakers next time.

Cathedral Rock’s practically vertical climb and extraordinarily slippery rocks made the path difficult.

On our means out of Sedona, we stopped at Yavapai Apache Fry Bread & Jewelry.

Fried bread with powdered sugar.

The candy and savory made-to-order fry bread was topped with powdered sugar.Michelle Gross

Just off Route 17 exterior of Sedona, the choice of Native American jewellery, crafts, crystals and candy and savory fry bread at $4 a pop was an amazing place for a fast break.

Located outdoor underneath a tent, there were tons of distinctive souvenirs together with a dream catcher that I now have hanging above my mattress.

The made-to-order fry bread topped with powdered sugar was scrumptious, and an added bonus.

The remaining cease of our street journey was in Temecula, California, to strive chocolate wine.

Five glasses on wine lined up on a table.

Thornton Winery is understood for his or her old-world methodology of winemaking, along with their espresso and chocolate wine.Michelle Gross

The Temecula Valley is a burgeoning wine area in Southern California and whereas it is typically neglected for the wineries to the north in Napa and Paso Robles, their Italian and French grape varietals and tasting experiences are positively value trying out.

We stopped by Thornton Winery for a really particular case of wine. Considered “the original champagne house,” Thornton is understood for his or her old-world Champenoise-method of winemaking, along with their espresso and chocolate wine flights.

I could not assist however partake in a fast tasting, and after driving greater than 3,000 miles throughout the nation, my horizons had been broadened, and a case of wine referred to as Milk Chocolate Kiss was the very candy cherry on prime.

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