Experience the Southern United States Through the Massive I-10 Interstate
The I-10 is a massive highway system that runs from the state of Florida to California. In between, that's where it gets interesting. While the road can get monotonous for stretches of highway in Texas, the road is really an interesting journey the rest of the way. What can you expect on this Florida to California road trip? What sites are along the way that you should visit? Where should you stay? This page will cover the best sites on I-10, in states like Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Alabama.
You'll start off in Jacksonville, Florida, and wind up in sunny Los Angeles. Both places are known for their warm temperatures, laid back attitude, and beautiful stretches of coastline. Look forward to those two bookends on your trip! In between, you can experience some of the best tourist destinations that the United States has to offer. On the road, you'll see:
- A change in scenery from very humid swamps, rivers, and marshland to rugged, dry desert
- Two of the top five biggest cities in the USA
- Some of the most well known National Parks in the USA
- Plenty of bugs smacked against your windshield (so clean it often, or they'll be stuck for good).
If you're heading from east to west, you'll start in the city of Jacksonville. Not everyone is going to be starting their trip in Jacksonville, but that's where the I-10 begins. Jacksonville is the biggest city in the state of Florida, located directly on the Atlantic Ocean. If you have the free time, skipping a Florida road trip would be a big mistake! Sites like Key West, Miami, Naples, Tampa, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine are just too good to pass up.Florida
I-10 will continue west towards the Florida panhandle. The panhandle includes the cities of Panama City Beach, Pensacola, Tallahassee, and the Apilachicola National Forest. To see some of these cities, you'll have to take I-98, the coastal route through much of the Florida panhandle. It connects back with I-10 near Pensacola, near the Alabama-Florida state border.
The coastline of Alabama is very brief, but impressive. In the small expanse of coast that the state owns, it has one major city, Mobile, along with 53 miles of coastline. Here you can find beautiful Gulf Coast beaches with emerald waters and a laid back attitude you just can't find up north. In the city of Mobile, you can find the sublime Dauphine Island or the man made spectacle of Bellingrath Gardens. Whatever you do, get off the Interstate and do some exploring (and plan to spend a day here to get to know this fine southern city).
As you head further east on I-10, you'll enter another state that has a small coastline along the Gulf Coast, but one that is well known and respected. The coast has seen its fair share of tragedy over the years, with a decline in economy, a battering from the category five Hurricane Katrina, and the impact of the BP oil spill. It's all the reason to visit this area even more - they need your tourism!
You can start your trip by heading to I-90, which forks off from I-10 right on the Alabama-Mississippi state border. Pascagoula, Biloxi, and Gulfport all await along this stretch of beautiful highway. The shores of these towns were once decimated by Hurricane Katrina, but ever so slowly are returning to their former selves. In the towns of Gulfport and Biloxi, you can find beautiful southern style mansions lining the coast, along with some of the best known casinos, hotels, and beaches.
At this point in the trip, you should be heading east towards raised highways that rise above the swamps and bayous of the Louisiana area. These elevated highways stretch for miles, since the ground here is so wet and moves constantly. Over the Mississippi-Louisiana border, you can take I-90 or I-10 into the New Orleans area. Like the Mississippi coast, this area really needs the tourism from Katrina and the BP Oil Spill, so help them out if you can by eating at local restaurants, staying at hotels, visiting bars, buying souvenirs, or just by buying some snacks at a local convenience store.
The city of New Orleans has always been well known for its historic French Quarter, and for its beautiful riverfront area. What you might not know is that there's a World War II Museum, bike tours, cooking schools, cocktail tours, and even Ninth Ward bike tours to view the wreckage and the uplifting rebuilding process first hand.
While New Orleans overshadows most of the rest of the state, there's still plenty left to see further west along I-10. The Interstate will cut underneath Lake Ponchartrain, following the Mississippi River to the state capital of Baton Rouge. If you'd prefer to take a more scenic route to get there, you can follow the two roads that hug the side of the Mississippi River, River Road and South River Road. This is where you can climb aboard or just view from a distance the centuries old steamboats that have been running the river. Further west, the city of St. Charles awaits, along with more swamps, bayou, bridges, and southern scenery.
When you visit this part of the South, one thing is for certain: the way of life is much calmer and slower than you might be used to. Plan on spending a little bit longer in restaurants, expecting a little bit slower service, and maybe slower moving cars on the highway. Just relax, take it all in, and enjoy the surroundings while you're there!
Texas is a very intimidating state to drive through. The exits begin in the high 900's on the east side, working their way down as you move across the state. What will get you through this vast expanse of farmland and flatness is going to be a few things: music, people to talk to, and a good plan. If you can plan out what you want to see along the way, you can spend some time on your trip across I-10 seeing a few things, breaking up the monotony of the highway.Houston
It's not all boring on I-10 though, because there are three major cities along the route. First, you'll see the fourth largest city in the USA, Houston. This city is gigantic, and is also home to a collection of museums featuring artwork, history, and even funeral artifacts. In fact, the National Museum of Funeral History is one of the top rated attractions in the city! If you're headed through Houston, keep traffic in mind. Since it's such a massive city, you will experience heavy traffic during the extended rush hour times of about 7am-10am, and 2:30pm-7:30pm. If you can, aim to leave the city in the off peak times.San Antonio
After Houston, you will head west towards the true area known as "America's West." The scenery will become less dominated by greens, and more dominated by brown colors, open swaths of cattle ranges, and maybe even start to get a little hillier. It will take hours and hours to reach the next major city, San Antonio. When you hit the city, you'll know it. It's the only thing for miles around, and it's surrounded by nothing. There is surprisingly little suburban area around the city from the I-10 area. In the city itself, be sure to check out the beautiful Riverwalk area on the San Antonio River. The area is one level below the downtown area. You can find shops, restaurants, and galleries all along this area to explore. The other major attractions of the city are Sea World and the historic Alamo building.El Paso
This is the last stop in Texas before entering New Mexico. It borders Chihuahua, Mexico, and the adjoining city of Ciudad Juarez (which is substantially larger). El Paso is known for its great Franklin Mountains State Park, which offers extraordinary views of the mountains that surround the city, and Ciudad Juarez/El Paso below. Of all of the major U.S. cities, El Paso has some of the most apparent influence from its neighbor to the south.
Once you reach El Paso, you won't have much further until the border of New Mexico. The first city you will reach in New Mexico is Las Cruces, and the only major one along I-10. If you want to see the real attractions in New Mexico, you'll have to head north. There, you can find the White Sands National Monument area, Roswell, and the beautiful city of Santa Fe. In the middle of the state, you can find Carlsbad Caverns, and to the northwest, the Four Corners region. Heading to these areas of the state will take approximately 3-5 days minimum, so plan accordingly!
In this area of New Mexico, be advised that the hotels are sparse and often book during conferences to full capacity. Reserve yours ahead of time, or you could wind up driving around for a long time to find lodging.
Heading west yet again on I-10, you'll experience the blistering heat of the white desert, which can be blinding during the day. To beat the heat, travel earlier or later in the day, and take longer breaks in the middle of the day. Sure, it might take a little longer, but you'll be relaxinga nd recharging, one of the real benefits of taking a vacation. Onward, Arizona is just to the west.
Arizona's southern stretch along I-10 includes the city Tucson and Phoenix. Near Tucson, you'll find Saguaro National Park, which is split into two separate areas. Here, you can spot some of the towering Saguaro Cactus, along with the wildlife that has made the area worth protecting like the Burrowing Owl. To the west, I-10 will split with I-8, which heads towards San Diego. If you stay on I-10, you will reach Phoenix. Further north, you can take a side trip to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, or any of the great parks that lie in the Four Corners region. If you'd like to see the most that Arizona has to offer, head north off of the Interstate to I-17. Flagstaff, Petrified Forest National Park, and other natural wonders are just a few of the incredible sites to see here.California
Staying on I-10 will bring you through the rest of the Arizona desert, and to the Arizona-California border. The Colorado River forms the border between the two states. As you head west, you'll still be in the desert, but it will have different vegetation and will be more populated. Along the Interstate, be sure to visit Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs. Just about 100 miles from Palm Springs and Coachella Valley, you'll finally be in Southern California and the city of Los Angeles. You can finally set your gaze upon the blue waters of the Pacific. Head north to breathtaking destinations like Big Sur, or south to the city of San Diego.
California is huge. There's too much to see and experience to just leave it to chance to find the right things. When you're on the road, in your hotel room, or reviewing your trip prior to leaving, big chunky blocks of text can really drive a wedge between you and fun. DK Eyewitness illustrates perfectly everything that you'll see along your trip, from the little nuances like good local restaurants to cross sections of city museums. It points out the best of the best, including where to stay, what time of year is best to head to Cali, and what to do nearby (wherever you're staying). This is truly the only guide you'll ever need for staying in California.
Featuring details on Arches, Zion, Grand Canyon
This vast land is perhaps the least explored of the entire United States. Want to conquer it yourself? This guide by MOON is an incredibly detailed book that will tell you all about the "alien rock formations" of Arches National Park, the historic landmarks, best hikes, best mountain biking, and best places to stay in the Four Corners vicinity. If you're headed to this area, you can't afford to not have a good guide book like this with you.
Don't let people tell you that the Lone Star State has nothing to see! It has its own hidden gems and amazing backroads, 30 of which have been featured in this comprehensive guide book.
- San Antonio night photo by Corey Leopold.
- Jacksonville Florida Neptune Beach photo by DeusXFlorida.
- Battleship Alabama photo by Robert D. Bruce.
- Bilxoi Sunset photo by Digitized Chaos.
- Saint Louis Cathedral photo by Anthony Posey.
- El Paso skyline night photo by M. Pastor.
- Carlsbad Caverns photo by Kolin Toney.
- Grand Canyon photo by Wolfgang Staudt.
- Palm Springs windmills photo by Kevin Dooley.