Washington State to Florida Road Trip
We love a good road trip so when we found ourselves in Seattle and needing to be in Orlando, Florida to board our cruise ship back to Europe, we knew we wanted to drive. This is our Seattle to Florida road trip. It took twelve days, however, we could have done it in ten be we stopped over in Yellowstone National Park and New Orleans for an extra day. In this article, I’ll include details of each section of the trip so you can see how much we managed to fit in. Obviously, you could make it longer and spend more time in each place but we found we could do quite a lot en route. Would I recommend the Seattle to Florida road trip? Absolutely, yes. It might seem like a very long way but it’s a great trip and I think it’s very manageable.
Seattle to Florida Road Trip Route Schedule
1. Seattle (Washington) to Boise (Idaho)
2. Boise (Idaho) to West Yellowstone (Montana)
3. Yellowstone National Park
4. Gardiner (Montana) to Gillette(Wyoming)
5. Gillette (Wyoming) to Sioux Falls (South Dakota) via Mount Rushmore
6. Sioux Falls (South Dakota) to St Louis (Missouri)
7. St Louis (Missouri) to Nashville (Tennessee)
8. Nashville (Tennessee) to Horn Lake (Mississippi)
9. Horn Lake (Mississippi) to New Orleans (Louisiana)
10. Day in New Orleans
11. New Orleans (Louisiana) to Tallahassee (Florida)
12. Tallahassee (Florida) to Orlando (Florida)
Why a Seattle to Florida Road Trip?
So, the first leg of our long trip USA road trip was from Seattle in Washington State to Orlando in Florida. Firstly, just to clarify why we chose this route. We arrived in Seattle by ferry from Vancouver Island. This is because we were travelling around the world without flying and our trans-Pacific cruise ended in Vancouver. You can catch up on the entire Round the World Without Flying saga by clicking on any of the images in the gallery towards the bottom of this post. If you want to start right at the beginning, then start here with the trip report overview.
Having crossed the Pacific Ocean, there was one more ocean to navigate to get home, the Atlantic Ocean. We booked a trans-Atlantic cruise on the Disney Magic which departed from Port Canaveral in Florida. So the road trip route was settled, Seattle to Florida.
Seattle (Washington) to Boise (Idaho)
On the first morning of our Seattle to Florida road trip, we got up early and walked down into town to collect our rental car. Unfortunately, we arrived at the address they gave me, only to discover that they had, in fact, moved offices 6 months before. Not a great start and I still don’t know why they didn’t let me know. Fortunately, the hotel reception, where the office used to be, knew where they were now so we walked across town to find it. Fortunately, it wasn’t too far away and we left our luggage at the hotel but all the messing about did mean we were behind schedule before we even got underway. However, these things happen on a road trip so just smile and on we go.
Of course, it was the right decision to leave our luggage at the hotel and it made it much easier to pick up the car. Once we had the hire car, a nice Toyota SUV which you can see in the photo above, we drove back over there and loaded everything in. Simples! The car was pretty big and so plenty of room for all our stuff. The perfect vehicle for our Seattle to Florida Road Trip.
Jimi Hendrix Memorial
Let the road trip begin! We were soon underway and en route to our first stop, Renton, where we hoped to find the Jimi Hendrix Memorial. Paul is a lifelong Hendrix fan and was delighted to discover that we had time for this small detour. As it turned out, the traffic was really bad around this area so it took ages. On the bright side, we found it without any problems.
Once we arrived at the memorial we found plenty of parking available. It is basically, a memorial in a small cemetery on the outskirts of town. It didn’t take long to walk around, have a look, take a few photos and then we were off again.
For those who don’t know, Hendrix was a famous musician who died in 1970 from a drugs overdose at the age of 27. He was originally buried in the adjoining cemetery in the family plot but was later moved to rest under the marble memorial you see today.
Within the domed structure, you can see a number of etchings of Hendrix which include some of his lyrics. The headstone from his original plot has also been included within the memorial.
Taking on supplies
Afterwards, we headed to Walmart to stock up on supplies. Nearby was probably the worst Walmart I’ve ever been in. Well, the smallest anyway but we managed to get the basics and set off towards Boise, Idaho.
As you can imagine, we crossed through a lot of states on this Seattle to Florida Road Trip. Today, we left Washington State, drove across Oregon and ended up just over the border into Idaho. We crossed into a new time zone, mountain zone, so had to put the clocks forward an hour. We drove all day but it was a scenic journey, through the mountains and countryside and we also followed the Oregon Trail for a while. It was interstate all the way and the cruise control comes in handy making it like driving a giant go-kart.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Boise overnight. It is just off the interstate so very handy and there is a nice Mexican restaurant opposite where we had dinner. I must confess that we didn’t see much of Boise itself as it was a long day driving.
Boise (Idaho) to West Yellowstone (Montana)
Today, we drove across Idaho into Montana. It was a scenic drive past snow-capped mountains, over vast plains of nothing much but bushes and the occasional huge vineyard. It also included some volcanic lava fields and calderas and then finally back into the snow at West Yellowstone.
We spotted this sign for Goodale’s Cutoff as we drove near the Oregon Trail and puled over to take a look. In fact, it is a spur to the Oregon Trail and many emigrants squeezed their wagons along this route as they headed west. Actually, Goodale’s Cutoff is part of the Craters of the Moon National Park, which is where we were headed next.
Craters of the Moon National Park
We arrived at Craters of the Moon National Park approximately 3 hours after leaving Boise. You can see the landscape change as you approach it but nothing quite prepares you for the sight of this lava strewn environment.
We stopped at the Ranger station at the entrance to pay our $20 park fee and then headed into the visitor centre. Inside we found various displays which explained how the park formed as well as the usual gift shop and of course, toilets. You can get maps and more detailed information on the park here also. There is also a film to watch. Although the park is open 24 hours a day, all year, the visitor centre is open between 8 am to 6 pm (4.30 pm in the offseason) so plan accordingly.
Basically, Craters of the Moon is a huge lava field from thousands of years ago when this area was the location of many volcanic eruptions. It is part of the same fault system which has now moved across state lines and resides under Yellowstone National Park.
We decided to drive the 7-mile loop road which is a scenic drive around the main sights at the park. This takes you around a series of stopping places where you can take short walks to get a close-up view of the rock formations. It’s a truly amazing place and you’ll soon see why they call it Craters of the Moon.
East to West Yellowstone
Our next stopover was Idaho Falls. It sounds as though it might have a waterfall or two and indeed it does. The falls stretch right across the centre of town and are quite impressive.
From Idaho Falls we drove closer and closer to the mountains and it started to get colder. It was already pretty cold but by the time we made the climb up the mountain road into West Yellowstone we were at snow level and the temperature had really dropped. Our hotel for the night was the quaint little Evergreen Motel. In fact, it is a small log cabin type motel, cheap and rather basic but very cosy. Not much was open in April and the motel is full so it was lucky that we booked in advance. For the first time this Seattle to Florida Road Trip we needed the heating turned up and not the air con.
Yellowstone National Park
We took a full day out of the Seattle to Florida road trip to explore Yellowstone National Park. Having stayed last night in West Yellowstone we were right at the west entrance of the park this morning so we could spend the whole day there. We joined a short queue at the ticket booth to pay our $25 entry fee.
The park ranger who took our money also gave us their spring newsletter which had a useful map and tips on what to do about bears. The advice runs as follows: stay well away from bears (ok!), all food to be kept locked inside a vehicle or in bear-proof storage, if walking on trails make lots of noise so the bears can hear you coming along. If you encounter a bear do not run but just back calmly away. So far, so good.
It goes on: if the bear approaches you, stand your ground. It gets worse though: if a bear makes contact with you lie on the ground on your stomach and pretend you’re dead (honestly, that’s what it says!). You’d think the bear would think you were easy meat lying dead on the ground but that’s what they say.
In case you’re not already suitably afraid of bears, it goes on with more warnings. If a bear stalks you aggressively and then attacks, fight back! There is something about bear spray in there also but we were already resolved to follow the initial advice and stay well away from bears!
As it happens we looked all day but didn’t see a single bear, not even at a distance so we didn’t have to put our new-found knowledge about bear tactics into practice. We did see lots of wild bison though and a few deer plus lots of ducks and various other birds.
Still, even without any bear sighting, Yellowstone Park is an amazing place. It starts from the minute you drive in and just goes on surprising you at every turn. Take a look at some of these views just a few minutes drive from the west entrance:
Of course, as well as the bears, Yellowstone is well known for its geothermal activity and the most famous is Old Faithful so we headed there first. We saw some wildlife along the way, quite a few bison, including a baby.
Seeing the geothermal activity was one of the highlights of our trip to Yellowstone National Park. It is the sheer scale of the activity that strikes you when you see it up close. Indeed, there are vents everywhere. As you drive around you can stop and get up really close to some of the geothermal fields. The smell of sulphur is quite powerful but it’s well worth the short walks to see the bubbling water and steam pouring from the pools.
Surprisingly, there are plants and trees growing right up to and in the geothermal pools. Not all of them survive though as you can see in the photo above.
Look at the amazing colours in this pool. In fact, it’s all to do with the minerals in the water and also the plants that grow there. They call them the ‘paint pot’ mud pools because they seem to be painting pictures in the mud as they bubble. How cool is that?
We were able to get a great close-up view from the boardwalks. They make exploring the geothermal fields really accessible while still keeping people safe.
As I mentioned earlier, Old Faithful is the park’s most famous attraction and no visit to Yellowstone would be complete without a viewing. Old Faithful is in the south area of the park. Unfortunately, we arrived just as it was finishing erupting at 11.28 am and the next predicted one was 1 pm so we had plenty of time to look around the visitors’ centre and get some lunch while we were waiting.
It was well worth it though. Of course, being so early, we got front row seats for the eruption. Then it bubbles a bit before it goes up and there is lots of steam and you keep thinking ‘is this it?’. However, you know when it erupts for real. The photos don’t really do it justice so if you’re ever in the area do try and see it.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
I was surprised at just how much there was to see at Yellowstone National Park. For instance, did you know that it has its own Grand Canyon? The canyon is 24 miles long and was formed due to the hot springs activity in the area. it’s a pretty spectacular sight.
Of course, the geothermal activity at Yellowstone continues today so the canyon will continue to change and evolve. Look out for the amazing colours which are created by the hot springs changing the rocks.
Overnight in Gardiner, Montana
Yellowstone National Park was definitely one of the ighlights of our Seattle to Florida Road Trip. Afterwards, we stayed overnight at the Yellowstone Gateway Inn in Gardiner, which is just outside the north entrance of the park. It’s a pretty remote little town but it is in a good location to make a quick getaway from the park in the morning. Moreover, the hotel doesn’t look much from the outside, it’s a rustic motel-style building, but inside t is very nice indeed. We relaxed in a huge suite with a separate living room with a huge tv, full kitchen and dining area, bathroom and a large bedroom. Very nice and a very reasonable price.
Gardiner (Montana) to Gillette(Wyoming)
We left the hotel in Gardiner early the next morning. Although we are ultimately heading for Florida, we continued going east today as we wanted to see Mount Rushmore before turning south. It was a long drive, almost entirely along the I-90. Indeed, it’s funny when the satnav says ‘turn right and then drive for 150 miles’.
Big Horn Museum
To break things up a bit, we made a couple of shorts stops. We passed through the area where the Sioux Wars took place and of course, probably the most famous battle was the Battle of Little Big Horn which took place in 1876. So, we stopped at the Big Horn County Museum which was very interesting but they didn’t seem to have noticed that the Sioux War took place in their area and were more concerned with old buildings. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth a look though. They did have a large barn full of old cars and tractors and stuff which was very interesting.
Last Stand Hill
Close by is ‘Last Stand Hill’ where General Custer unsuccessfully tried to fight off the local Sioux warriors. We started at the visitor’s centre, where we watched a film about the battle and the events leading up to it. It was very interesting indeed. I’d heard of Custer’s Last Stand but I didn’t know much about it. They also have a small gallery with displays of the various uniforms etc.
In a nutshell, after the Civil War, there was still some discontent between the Sioux and the American government because of the loss of land. The Sioux were a nomadic people and the Americans decided this wasn’t desirable and wanted to put them on reservations. One of the reservations spanned the Black Hills and someone found gold in them then this resulted in a rush of Americans looking to get rich quick violating the treaty which gave the area to the Indians.
Fed up of it, the Sioux revolted and Custer and a very small band of troops, too small as we now know, were sent to sort them out. The Sioux won the battle here but they lost the war overall and ended up with a lot less land than they started with. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that but as I said, in a nutshell.
From here, we walked up the hill to view the two memorials. One is for the American troops who died then the other was erected more recently, in the early 1990s I think and is for the Sioux warriors who died.
Cavalry Horse Cemetery
There is also a memorial for the horses. During the height of the attack, some of the soldiers shot their horses and used them as shields in a last-ditch attempt to survive.
Just a reminder to stay on the path. The idea is to protect the national monument but there is an added incentive here, rattlesnakes!
As I said, there is a separate Sioux Memorial. It is a striking monument which you can see here from the hill above where it appears to blend into the land itself.
You can then walk down the hill into the Sioux Memorial. You can see the inside in the photo below. There are inscriptions all around it. Its main message is peace through tolerance and understanding and focuses on the more recent acknowledgement that the Sioux were fighting to protect their way of life.
Throughout the area, you will see markers which indicate where individual men, American and Sioux fell. There is also a cemetery. If you walk all the way across the battlefields, you eventually come to this monument which marks the area where American troops were besieged.
All in all, it’s a fascinating place and well worth an hour or so of your time if you’re in the area.
On to Gillette
After leaving the battlefield area we had a long drive to our next stopover hotel in Gillette. We are back in Wyoming now after returned to Montana when we left Yellowstone Park. The scenery was interesting but there are few sights along the route, barely even a gas station, so we really did feel as though we were in the middle of nowhere most of the day. At least, driving here is easy as there is so little traffic.
The sign welcoming you to Gillette proclaims that it is not a ‘One Horse Town’ although they do have a statue of a man on a horse (just the one!). However, in all honesty, it’s not much more than that. It feels very remote.
Gillette (Wyoming) to Sioux Falls (South Dakota) via Mount Rushmore
In the evening we got news of a severe weather warning across the South Dakota area for Sunday. Unfortunately, this was just where we planned to drive through. They also forecast up to 2 feet of snow in the Yellowstone area as far east as Billings. Fortunately, we are far enough east of Billings not to be worried about the threat of snow but the forecast for the area around Kansas City is a real concern.
As of 10 pm Saturday evening, the forecast states severe threat of Tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail. Obviously, we have no desire to encounter any of these. There is also a flash flood alert so this was some serious weather. We are also told that a tornado touched down NE of Kansas City earlier in the evening causing considerable damage but thankfully no loss of life. Our plan was to leave as early as possible to get ahead of it.
Our first, and only, stop for the day was Mount Rushmore. It’s about 2 1/2 hours drive from Gillette so we got there just before lunch. It is an impressive sight and we took some photos of the mountain and walked through the exhibition area, saw a short film and had a quick look in the gift shop. You kind of feel you ought to look at the sculpture for longer, having driven all this way to see it, but really once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. The history of it, and the sculptor – Gutzon Borglum, however, is very interesting. He died before the 4th head was finished but his son Lincoln is also a sculptor and finished it for him.
We had lunch in the car park overlooking the sculpture and then had a quick look around Keystone which is the nearest town. It’s quite a cute little place, obviously dedicated to tourism but with lots of little shops as well as a ton of other tourist attractions. We still had over 300 miles to drive so we only took a quick break to pick up ice-cream at the fudge shop.
Driving across South Dakota
We had a cool GPS moment when we turned back onto the I-90 headed for Sioux Falls and the sat nav just said ‘turn onto the highway and drive for 342 miles’. Really, I don’t think I’ve ever heard quite such a big number from the GPS before. It is so strange driving out here since you can drive for miles and hardly see another vehicle. They are just big empty roads. There was nowhere really to stop at all except the odd rest stop and we did manage to find petrol at a small town dedicated to supplying petrol and coffee to tourists but otherwise, it is just endless hills and plains and hundreds of miles of roads. We only stopped for petrol and to swap over driving otherwise it was a long day of South Dakota plains.
Little House on the Prairie
There are lots of things to see in South Dakota and we’ll come back and see them some time but they are all too far from the I-90 and would have added too much to our journey. In particular, I’d like to visit the area where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. Remember Little House on the Prairie? It’s just north of the I-90 in a place called De Smet. Shame we couldn’t have made a side-trip into North Dakota as well but it was just too much of a detour. On the plus side, I now know that the capital of South Dakota is Pierre but pronounced ‘peer’ not like the French and that they really do have waterfalls in Sioux Falls. It has been an education (in the nicest possible sense).
We drove almost right across South Dakota today, having left Wyoming in the morning. So that’s another US state we’ve visited. We also crossed another time zone and are now on central time, having lost another hour. We rolled into Sioux Falls around 7.30 pm.
Sioux Falls (South Dakota) to St Louis (Missouri)
Another early getaway this morning due to the weather forecast so we were on the road by 8.30 am. The sky was pretty dark as we left and the rain was starting. The forecast for severe weather was for a strip running SW to NE between Omaha and Kansas City. Unfortunately, this is just where we needed to drive. Our plan was to be south of Kansas City by early afternoon when the storm was scheduled to hit.
We made good progress although the rain was heavy at times and behind us was a wall of dark storm clouds although ahead we could see it looked brighter so we kept going. It was pretty daunting at times but as we got towards Kansas City the sky started to clear in front of us and the temperature started to rise. Soon it had stopped raining and the sun was out but we knew the storm was still just behind us so we pressed on, only stopping briefly for lunch and several times for petrol.
Arriving in St Louis
At 6.30 pm and we finally rolled into the parking garage of the Hampton Inn in Downtown St Louis. The sun was out and it was 88 degrees. We drove around 500 miles today and have done 2500 altogether so far since Seattle.
Reading the storm reports online it was clear that we made the right decision. There were multiple tornado strikes in Nebraska and the storm moved right across the path of where we drove south of Omaha and is still moving NE. Looks like a lot of damage in its path too.
Just in case you think I was exaggerating, this is a picture of the storm front from the Weather Channel. You can see the Interstate 29 running from the top left of the page down through Omaha. This is where we were driving earlier in the day. They had tornadoes touch down in Omaha around 7 pm but we were fortunately well out of the way by then but still very scary to see.
St Louis (Missouri) to Nashville (Tennessee)
We didn’t see anything of St Louis when we arrived after our long drive south from Sioux Falls so we decided to have a quick look round before we set off in the morning. Basically, this involved taking a short walk to see the iconic Gateway Arch. It is pretty impressive up close.
The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall and is, in fact, the world’s tallest arch. You can ride to the top of the arch to an observation deck although we didn’t do this as there was too long a queue. However, underneath the arch is the fascinating Museum of Westward Expansion.
Here you can find out details and exhibits about the Lewis & Clarke expedition to discover the West. I’d never heard of them, which probably makes me pretty ignorant about US history but in fact, they were the first expedition to go towards the Western US after America bought more land from Napoleon. We’ve come across their names quite a few times over the last few days as we’ve travelled across from Seattle and unsurprisingly, they are quite famous here.
This looks suspiciously like a capitol building but, as I’m sure you all know, St Louis isn’t the state capital of Missouri. In fact, that’s Jefferson City and this is the Old County Courthouse. It’s now part of the Jefferson National Expansion Museum, of which the archway is also part.
We left Missouri almost as soon as we left St Louis since it is right on the Illinois border. Most of the day we were driving across Illinois although we also drove through Kentucky before we got to Tennessee. We are really ticking off those states. This is the bridge across the Ohio river which separates Illinois from Kentucky, it was very long.
Just over the river is a little town called Paducah. It is right on the riverfront so has a huge levee wall to protect it against flooding. To make it more attractive they’ve painted it with a series of murals which showcase their history. They stretch all the way along the riverfront. I really enjoyed seeing Paducah. This is one of the great things about the USA road trip that we discovered these small but amazing places.
The river was quite low, certainly well within its banks while we were there but the levy is obviously needed so the water level must rise considerably at times. It’s a nice little town and we would have stayed to look around more but not long after we parked the thunder started and then torrential rain so we jumped back in the car and headed off to lighter skies.
Land Between the Lakes
As we were making good time towards Nashville, we decided to drive through a scenic area called the Land Between the Lakes. It’s a very apt name as it is, quite literally, a strip of land between two lakes. There is a scenic byway which goes right through the middle but you only get the odd glimpse of the lakes unless you go down the side roads but it is a nice drive, very quiet. We drove through the Elk and Bison Prairie area once I got it to accept our credit card to pay the $5 entry fee at the automatic payment machine.
We drove down one of the side roads to get a view of the lake:
And, finally drove on to Nashville. The traffic was pretty heavy driving in and they all seem to speed around here, which is unusual in the US as up until now we’ve found that everyone sticks to the speed limit. Of course, that means the local police are busy and they were around and pulling people over, so I just put the cruise control on and let them overtake me. We actually stayed south of Nashville city centre so we didn’t get to see much of it.
Nashville (Tennessee) to Horn Lake (Mississippi)
Our next stop was Memphis to visit Graceland. It’s a 3-hour drive from Nashville and as we got closer the sky got darker and it looked like thunder was likely very soon. The rain held off until we were walking around the grounds of the house and then it started to really pour down. We were dressed for hot weather as it was well into the 80s and very hot and humid. So no raincoats, no umbrella. It didn’t look like stopping so we just braved the rain between the various buildings and got wet. Most of it was inside anyway.
So, more details on Graceland. Neither of us are huge Elvis fans but there’s no denying he’s a music icon and since we were going to be in the area we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see his house. I remember watching all his films when they re-ran them on the BBC the year he died and I even bought an Elvis album once. I know this because it’s on my Amazon cloud account and now I can download it again for free and listen to it again which is quite cool.
We were quite surprised that there wasn’t much signposting to Graceland. It wasn’t signposted on the road we came in on at all although it was on the signs on the other road when we drove by later on. So you need to know where you’re going but fortunately, I’d noted down the address – Elvis Presley Boulevard and the sat nav found it without any problems. They get over 3000 visitors a day so obviously people can find it well enough.
The $10 parking fee rivals Disney so we expected it to be the first of many expenses but it turned out to be reasonable value. The only other cost was the $37 entry fee which covers a self-guided tour of the mansion using headphones, shuttle bus to/from the house (we wondered why we weren’t allowed to walk as it’s only across the road from the bus stop but we were grateful later when it was heaving down with rain) – and entry to various exhibitions such as a display of his cars, his two aeroplanes and some galleries on his shows in Las Vegas, Hawaii and his show in 1968. The last two were little more than some displays but the cars, the planes and the Vegas exhibitions were good. He had a lot of cars and even his own tractor!!
It is a bit of a timewarp since it’s been left as Elvis last decorated it but it’s quite fascinating. The Jungle Room, shown above is quite something with its dark green decor.
There is an amazing collection of memorabilia to see including lots of record awards, posters, costumes and personal possessions.
The Car Museum
Entry to the automobile museum is included in the ticket price so of course, we popped in for a look. In fact, it’s a really interesting museum. You can see loads of different cars so it would be of interest to car enthusiasts as well as Elvis fans.
Outside you can see Elvis’s two planes. You can even go inside them. They look a bit old fashioned now but must have been pretty plush when he was using them.
A quick visit to Arkansas
After we left Graceland, we decided to drive over the Mississippi River into Arkansas before going to the hotel, just south of Memphis. Just so we could tick off another US State really. It was our first glimpse of the Mississippi but we’ll get a closer look tomorrow when we head to New Orleans.
Horn Lake (Mississippi) to New Orleans (Louisiana)
Our Seattle to Florida road trip continued as we headed south to New Orleans. We stopped off in Jackson on the way down from Memphis and went round the Old Capitol Museum. It’s free entry and gives a very comprehensive history of the area and the old Capitol. Additionally, you can see the new Capitol from outside, which is just up the street. They have some really good audiovisual displays with important legislative debates, for example, things like Mississippi’s secession from the union, and the married woman’s property act (which was put into place in Mississippi long before anywhere else in the US or the rest of the world).
The building itself is a real gem with some fine architectural features. Here you can see the view looking up into the dome at the centre of the building.
For visitors, like ourselves, who are not that familiar with the history of the US political system, this was a great museum. The displays and explanations are very clear and we picked up a lot of interesting information. It’s all done in a very visual and entertaining way as well. Truly a gem of a small museum.
We arrived in New Orleans early evening. The drive into town was certainly worth doing and we enjoyed driving on elevated roads over swampland and passing the two large lakes which surround New Orleans from the north. We took a short pause on the Seattle to Florida road trip here and stayed 2 nights.
After checking into our hotel, we headed straight out to Bourbon Street to explore this famous part of the city. Bourbon street is the restaurant and nightlife area and is supposed to be a must-see attraction. It’s certainly lively and very popular. Probably a bit too lively for me really. Having said that, it’s fun for an hour or so and we got a nice meal at an ‘authentic’ New Orleans restaurant. Judging by the signs you need to want a few drinks or like visiting strip shows to really get the most out of it. The local drink is called a hand grenade which seems more suited to student drinking than the middle-aged tour groups who seem to make up the majority of those on the street. Perhaps I’m getting old!
Beyond Bourbon Street
Thankfully, Bourbon Street is not all New Orleans has to offer and we had a good day exploring the city. We started by walking down to the riverfront which was being refurbished while we visited but you could still see the mighty Mississippi and there really are paddle steamers moored alongside. The people of New Orleans are very friendly so it’s a great place for walking. We wandered across a roundabout (which, incidentally, had a statue of Winston Churchill on it) and couldn’t get to the riverfront because of a construction site but the foreman kindly walked us through so we didn’t have to go all the way around.
We walked a little way along the river and found the riverfront streetcar so we bought ourselves an all-day ticket for $3 and rode it along to the French market.
New Orleans French Market is a really cool place with lots of craft stalls, food and drinks and stuff. We bought new sunglasses for $5 a pair and I picked up a Caribbean style dress which will be nice for the cruise. After this, we went around the old New Orleans mint which is a free museum and has displays of the old money-making machines. It also had a small exhibition on Jazz. We haven’t seen a lot of jazz stuff really – not as much as we expected.
From here, we walked around the French Quarter for a bit. The buildings are a French colonial style and the whole area is really interesting. There are lots of shops selling tourist stuff but it is quite uniquely New Orleans. We had lunch at the Oyster Bar restaurant, sitting on one of the balconies overlooking a park. There was even a bluesy jazZ band playing in the street outside and we had a perfect view of everyone going by. It is an absolutely gorgeous day, the sun is blazing hot and it was just a really pleasant place to have lunch. We shared 1/2 dozen oysters – which I’ve never had before. They were really fresh and very good. Paul had a po’boy – which is a kind of French bread sandwich and I had fish in tempura batter.
Then we wandered past some more shops and onto Canal Street. From here, we took the streetcar up to the cemeteries. In New Orleans, they have huge cemeteries with above-ground tombs as they can’t bury people underground. They’re fascinating and quite a tourist attraction.
City Park & Museum of Modern Art
Afterwards, we walked across to the city park which is just a few blocks away. The park is a great place to walk on a hot day. We saw turtles in the lake area and they have the swamp trees. The Museum of Modern Art is in the park and they have a sculpture garden with lakes and bridges – and sculptures obviously. It is free entry and we sat and watched one of the sculptures – a moving steel structure which was quite mesmerising.
We did consider renting a kayak but we don’t have a good track record doing that so we walked around the main lake instead and then took the streetcar back.
I sat by a nice old chap on the streetcar who said he was a WWII Veteran. To be honest, he didn’t look old enough but anyway, he liked to ride up and down on the streetcar looking at the buildings. He’d been in the US Navy and had been to England during the war (when, as he put it, we were having a bit of a problem with the Germans). He pointed out lots of different buildings as we headed back into town.
New Orleans (Louisiana) to Tallahassee (Florida)
So, onwards to Florida on the road trip. We left Louisiana via a series of scenic bridges and crossed into Alabama. We drove along the coast for a bit and I even dipped my feet in the Gulf briefly although it looked a bit murky.
We stopped at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial in Mobile, for a look around the ship and a submarine, the USS Drum. We wandered all over the ship and it certainly is a maze. The guns are huge and seem to be everywhere. In fact, the USS Alabama is a really historic ship. She was involved in the Second World War and led the American Fleet into Tokyo Bay on September 5th 1945.
We also did the walkthrough of the submarine, USS Drum. This is the oldest American submarine on public display and it’s a great opportunity to explore inside one. Inside, we got a good view of the torpedo launchers but it is very hot and claustrophobic down there so I was quite glad when we came up again.
The memorial site is huge with lots of helicopters, tanks, planes etc and there are also the Korean and Vietnam war memorials. You could spend a lot of time here really, but we needed to keep moving towards Tallahassee.
Tallahassee (Florida) to Orlando (Florida)
We stayed overnight just outside Tallahassee and then made an early start on the final drive to Florida. Since we were keen to complete our Seattle to Florida Road Trip we drove straight through to the Orlando. We’ve been to Orlando many times and after all the travelling it was nice to be somewhere familiar even if it is only for 2 days.
We spent our time swimming in the pool, doing loads of washing and generally lounging around doing nothing. It was an intensive few days but finally, our Seattle to Florida Road Trip was finished. On to the next phase of our Around the World trip.