Plan my roadtrip.
February 18, 2009 4:40 PM   Subscribe

PlanMyRoadtrip Filter: Driving from St. Louis, MO to Brownsville, TX in 3 days. What should we do along the way?

My wife and I are driving from St. Louis, MO to Brownsville, TX, leaving on Monday, March 9th. The only constraint is that we have to arrive in Brownsville three days later. However we divide up the distance between the three days is fine.

Because we have three days to take the trip, we'd like to do some sightseeing along the way. As we've never driven through this area of the US, we'd like to see places, do things, and eat things that are representative of the region. We'll likely be through this area again, so it's not a farewell tour or anything like that. We're in our mid-20s and adventurous -- we'd like to see sights, eat local food, take photographs, walk around places, etc., but we'll have a car full of stuff so take that into account.

The default GoogleMaps route takes us through OK (a seemingly boring route) but we hit Dallas and Austin. I was thinking we could drive directly south through Memphis to New Orleans, then cut west along the gulf through Houston. It's less important for us to see Austin on this trip as we'll probably visit there later; it's less likely we'll visit New Orleans from Brownsville.

As far as the driving, we just have to arrive three days after we depart. So we could drive one day to New Orleans, stay one day, then drive the rest the second day. Or we could drive to Memphis, then drive to New Orleans, then drive the rest. Or we could drive to New Orleans, drive to Houston, then drive the rest. Or we could drive to Dallas, stay the next day, then drive the rest. You get the idea. Driving 11 or 12 hours in a day is not a big deal for us.

1. How should we design our route?
2. We have to sleep twice on the trip. Where?
3. Where should we eat?
4. What should we go see/do/experience?

Thanks, MeFi!
posted by lockestockbarrel to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
I'm more of a west coast traveler, but one place I can recommend, both from a kitschy, ironic standpoint, and truthfully as it was one of the most mind boggling experiences I've had, is the Precious Moments Park and Chapel in Carthage, MO.

A good place to start to look for other wonders of the highway is Roadside America. Make sure you read the comments because some of the attractions listed might have shut down since the site was originally written.
posted by sleepytako at 5:23 PM on February 18, 2009

Having driven from St. Louis to Houston multiple ways, I'll tell you that the NOLA route is slightly more interesting, and as far as getting to Houston, only takes an hour or two more. If you take 44 down to Oklahoma, then cut over to Dallas, there's isn't much of anything to see.

If you do end up in Houston, there are some travel threads in the AskMe archives, or feel free to MeFi mail me if you want more info. San Antonio also has some things worth seeing, if you've got the time.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:59 PM on February 18, 2009

OK here's some good stuff to hit, if you're going I-35 S through Texas.

In Fort Worth, Joe T's is a good place to get your Tex Mex food...

In Austin, take a walk around 6th street if you're there on the weekend. Catch a live show or just stop in somewhere to grab a drink (plenty of good choices). If you're there during the day, Town Lake is real nice with good jogging/walking trails around it. If you like coffee, check out Mozart's on Lake Austin.

In San Antonio, I'd highly recommend doing the "Mission Trails" drive. It's a five different missions from the early settlements that includes the Alamo. It's a U.S. Historic Nat'l Trail... so it's free and fun. Good for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. There's also a fun place to eat, if you like the whole organic foods thing... it's called Two Sister's and is pretty close to the Museum's..

In Corpus, you can stop and take a walk on the beach. Someone else will have to direct you to a good place... but weather has been decent down south lately (72F during the days... so if it holds and no rain comes through, it'll be perfect for something like that).
posted by eli_d at 6:02 PM on February 18, 2009

Drive through the Texas Hill Country. Stop at the Texas White House (LBJ's ranch and library) and at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. By the time you leave, the first wild flowers of springtime will be blooming in the Hill Country. That area, and all the wild flowers, is so beautiful in the spring.
posted by Flood at 6:38 PM on February 18, 2009

If you do head through MO and OK, Bass Pro Shops in Springfield is an insane shopping/ taxidermy/ live fish habitat experience. Western MO also has some cool caves to check out, including Meramec Caverns, which is a tourist trap that I've managed to avoid thus far, but if you're into kitschy, you can't miss it. You could head south at Springfield and go to Branson, where you can see such entertainment luminaries as Yakov Smirnoff (hello, MeFi in-joke origin!), Tony Orlando, and Shoji Tabuchi. There are also lots of buffets there. It's like Las Vegas for evangelical senior citizens, really, and something I think everyone should see once.

Have fun!
posted by PhatLobley at 7:06 PM on February 18, 2009

There are some beautiful roads in Arkansas. Highway 7 heading South goes through the Ozarks then to Hot Springs which is a must if you're at all into Arts & Crafts architecture - those bath houses are lovely with it. One of my favorite drives. Somewhere North of Hot Springs is a small cave tour that's a nice quirky stop.

Most road atlases have these 'green dots' that follow attractive roads. I've found following these green dots can really make the trip. You don't get bored or tired of you music - it's just a fun view for a lot of the way.

The River Road (along the Mississippi) is also very nice. Road Trip USA is a good resource. The road through Memphis is really lovely as well.

If you can afford it - splurge on some nice hotels along the way where you can more safely park the car inside a garage so you don't have to worry so much about your stuff.

One route I might do with that amount of time is Day 1 - short and easy to Memphis. Take highway 3 down the IL side of the river, to 51 in TN. Stay in the Peabody downtown (park car in garage) watch their cute ducks, walk over to Beale street, drive over to Sun studios and take a tour if you're into music. Memphis is a nice easy tourist place. People are cool there.

Leave EARLY on day 2, on highway 61 along the River. I wouldn't hit New Orleans if it's the first time. Save it for it's own trip some day. Or you could make NOLA you day 1 stop - just be sure you park the car in a safe garage somewhere. Hotel de la Monnaie has a good safe garage for people that get there early in the afternoon and is walking distance to lots of good stuff. Expensive though.

Day 2 eventually get to I-10, eat lunch in Lafayette (get an Old Tyme Grocery Po-boy - well worth the stop) finish drive to Houston. Stay at the Magnolia or the Ballpark (both have garages for your car. The Ballpark hotel has good deals online and is really nice and comfortable - plus it has this kind of dorky fun baseball theme. The Magnolia is just simply nice. Could also be had for good deals online. Eat breakfast at Tacos a Go-Go the next morning and hit the road South.

The other route I'd think about would be Hot Springs AK day 1. Stay at The Arlington. Bring your swim suit. That drive through AK is really nice all the way. Then hit Austin or San Antonio by day 2.

You've got lots of good options for this road trip. Sorry so long and not the most organized post. I love road trips. Have a great time.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2009

oops I think AK should be AR. Arkansas. sorry.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:22 AM on February 25, 2009

a few last things:

Some rest stops in Texas are great. Clean bathrooms, displays on local lore (from the super corney to intellectually stimulating!), info, free coffee. See the red stars.

There's a TeePee hotel in Wharton TX that could be a fun, reasonably priced place to stay.

NOLA quicky guide: Cafe Du Monde - get a cafe au lait and some beignets - yes the powered sugar is supposed to get everywhere, Jacques-Imo's, Pharmacy Museum, Preservation Hall, ride the trolley through the Garden District.

Lafayette quicky guide: Old Tyme mentioned above for sure, Dwyer's Cafe for serious home cookin', Borden Ice Cream - one of the last ice cream stores in the States I think - very cute building, Bluemoon Guesthouse for staying or music. for places to eat.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:54 AM on February 25, 2009

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