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Where to stay between Chicago and Miami?
March 22, 2011 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Driving from Chicago to Miami over 5 days in June from the UK and all your hotel/must-see/misc recommendations for pregnant girlfriend and I would be gratefully received.

My partner and I will be visiting the US from the UK in June for a 2 week break - arriving in Chicago on 19th June and departing from Miami on 2nd July. We have accommodation arranged in Chicago until 24th June when we pick up a hire car. We then have 5 nights for which we don’t have anything sorted, until 29th June when we have a hotel booked in Miami for 3 nights.

Apart from some very vague ideas of things we’d like to visit en route (maybe stay at Peabody Hotel, Memphis one night, and, err), we don’t really know where to stay and things to see and do during these 5 days/1500 miles.

We were quite happy to leave the itinerary open and just see where we end up however now it seems OH is going to be approx. 20 weeks pregnant (woo hoo!) so we’re now thinking a little more preparation would be sensible.

Tips for anywhere (route, cities, towns, visitor attraction, hotels, etc.) for us to stay/visit during these 5 days would be most welcome. Neither of us has visited the southern states before so would like to experience what we can whilst considering budget ($150 a night hotel more or less but don’t mind splashing out on something special) and ensuring comfort and as little stress as possible for OH. The Chicago/Miami accommodation (thanks Mefi), hire car and flights (UK to Chicago, Miami to UK) are fixed.

We’re interested in food (particularly street food, diners), music, art, tech, cities, small town stuff, weird stuff.

Thank you.
posted by splout to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
So you're driving 300 miles a day averaging 6 hours of driving a day? That doesn't leave a whole lot of time to do much.

Really, the most Memphisy of all Memphisy things to do is visit Graceland. My Irish friends went there as a joke and ended up loving Memphis - the blues, the soul food and barbecue, etc.

I'd suggest checking out road trip food recommendations on Chowhound or Road Foods or even Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for recommendations of places to eat along the way.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:11 PM on March 22, 2011


Most of my trips through this corridor were from family vacations, so while specific details are really hazy, I have one word of warning. There is no back road thoroughfare through Florida where you can drive with Gulf or Atlantic views, no matter how close to the water the road appears to be on the map.
posted by hwyengr at 4:13 PM on March 22, 2011


There are lot of options.

How about Chicago - St Louis - Memphis - New Orleans (all 300-400 miles apart) following the Mississippi down to the coast, and then either along the Gulf coast, or back up and along I-20 through the Deep South before dropping down into Florida? Or if you don't want to see New Orleans, then perhaps Memphis to Nashville, and then a meander southwards.
posted by holgate at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2011


I can only address the Florida leg of your journey. Assuming you don't just zip down I-75 and the Florida Turnpike because you're running late, probably a fundamental choice you'll make is whether to venture through north/central Florida on 441 and/or 301 to see lush greenery and quirky stuff or just cut over to A1A and see white sand beaches the whole way to Miami.

If you go through central Florida, try to buy some boiled peanuts and fresh oranges and watermelon from people on the side of the road. Some quiet, interesting things to see include Manatee Springs, Silver Springs, Micanopy, The Orange Shop, and Sumter Landing at The Villages, a retirement city of 75,000 people (it's actually pretty fun to see people gather there on weekend evenings and dance outside). And of course in Orlando, there's Sea World, Disney World, and Universal Studios.

If you go down the east coast, there's St. Augustine, The Alligator Farm, Marineland, and Kennedy Space Center.

Either way is beautiful--have fun.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:20 PM on March 22, 2011


And Jamie Jensen's Road Trip USA is fairly decent on the stuff to be found on the old US highways that are mostly superseded by interstates, but often offer more local colour. (He also tells you when to stick to the I-roads.)
posted by holgate at 4:21 PM on March 22, 2011


There is no back road thoroughfare through Florida where you can drive with ... Atlantic views, no matter how close to the water the road appears to be on the map

I guess that depends on your definition of back road. These photos are not atypical of the view on much of A1A.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:40 PM on March 22, 2011


What's really enjoyable is to "see the ducks" at the Peabody. That's a twice-a-day thing; you don't need to stay at the hotel to see it, if that helps your schedule.
posted by cyndigo at 5:15 PM on March 22, 2011


The drive on I-55 from Chicago to St. Louis is unrelenting cornfields. If I may suggest, hop over to Indiana and head south on I-65.

Why?

Just south of Indianapolis is the small city of Columbus, the 6th most architecturally diverse city in the US, according to the American Institute of Architects. Why is that? Columbus is the headquarters of Cummins Diesel, which has funded public architecture for over 60 years.

From libraries to fire stations to churches to public schools, you'll see the work of every architect you've ever heard of, plus a few more.

Highly recommended.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:01 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You might find it interesting to go through Amish country in northeastern Indiana on your way out of Chicago. (As Short Attention Sp noted, driving through Illinois is a huge bore. Better to head east first, then turn south.) There's really not much more than gift and furniture shops around Nappanee and Shipshewana, and everything is closed up tighter than a drum on Sundays. But it's very peaceful to drive through the little towns that practice a totally different way of life.

(oh, and nthing the recommendation to see Columbus, IN. Totally cool.)
posted by DrGail at 7:09 PM on March 22, 2011


Thank you all for the tips. I'm now waiting delivery on a road map and Jamie Jensen's Road Trip USA: Great River Road so will work on the route. Columbus, IN sounds great.
Oh and we're actually looking forward to "unrelenting cornfields", just the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere with unusual views (unusual for someone from nothern England at least).
posted by splout at 5:16 AM on March 23, 2011


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