Roadtrip Recommendations
March 31, 2010 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Roadtrip filter: Recommendations for things to see, places to eat, cheap but nice places to stay for a US roadtrip - Itinerary follows...

I've got a friend on a cross country road trip. Currently, she's in Austin headed towards El Paso. Afterwards, she'll be hitting San Antonio and Albuquerque and possibly western parts of Arizona.

Then she'll be looping back to Austin, then New Orleans, Atlanta, Savannah, Durham, & then on to Philadelphia. Looking for ideas on things to do & see, tasty places to eat regional foods, & nice cheap lodgings anywhere along the routes between these cities.

Additional items of interest: queer culture, native/indigenous culture, radical bookstores and media centers, hip hop groups/collectives, oral history groups, worker collectives.


(I have checked out some earlier travel threads referring to these cities & locales but I'm crossing my fingers for some recommendations on the additional items of interest)
posted by jammy to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Old Town in Albuquerque is pretty neat. Lots of small galleries, great food, and such. If she stops in ABQ, she should check it out.

I'm generally pretty wary of touristy-type places, but Old Town isn't like that at all.
posted by elder18 at 9:33 AM on March 31, 2010

i'm partial to the gila cliff dwellings near silver city, nm.
posted by lester at 9:45 AM on March 31, 2010

I don't have any particular recommendations along the lines of your additional items of interest, but...

There are many wonderful places to eat in Durham, but if your friend is wanting regional food in particular, then I'd suggest Bullock's BBQ.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:50 AM on March 31, 2010

The Cadillac graveyard in Amarillo is pretty cool.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 AM on March 31, 2010

My geography is abysmal so please forgive me if some of these suggestions are completely bizarre.

DC and/or Baltimore would make reasonable stops on the last leg (DC is maybe 2.5 hours from Philly, Baltimore more like 1 hour). If you come to DC (very gay friendly) it sounds like you would enjoy Ben's Chili Bowl and Busboys and Poets. The latter is a bookstore/restaurant/bar/cafe/performance space/etc. There are two locations but the original is on 14th St NW. Ben's is a DC establishment on U St NW not far from Busboys and Poets. It's been around for 50+ years and it's a must-visit for politicians and celebrities (Obama, DC's mayor, Bill Cosby). I've seen Sinbad there and the French president went recently. If you're into music the 930 Club is outstanding and not far from the other two places mentioned.

I know less about Baltimore but there is a wonderful museum there, the American Visionary Art Museum. I haven't been in years but it made an impact and they also had a lovely gift shop.

The Barnes Collection on the outskirts of Philadelphia is stunning, especially if you enjoy Renoir.

Savannah is beautiful and has some nice parks. There's the Paula Deen restaurant. I went by myself for lunch and had salad. People looked at me like I was insane. Good times.

Here's where my geography gets fuzzy but based on your interests, have you considered a side jaunt to Asheville, NC? I haven't been before but I've heard it's fabulous.
posted by kat518 at 9:52 AM on March 31, 2010

When in El Paso, there is still just one place to eat: Cattlemen's & Indian Cliff Ranch (which is really in Fabens but let's not quibble). Head east on I10, take the exit in Fabens to the north and drive until you get there. Truly excellent food (it is pricey) and spend a little time wandering around the 'zoo'.

She should also check out Hueco Tanks (about 10-30 miles outside of El Paso) and Carlsbad Caverns (a touch touristy but the walk down is really fantastic)

Atomic Books in Baltimore is highly recommended. And I second the American Visionary Arts museum. If she does go there & it's a nice day, she should definitely stop at Federal Hill and enjoy the (free!) view.

A Side-trip to Williamsburg, VA or Mount Vernon or Monticello might also be in order. Mount Vernon would probably be less out of her way. The folks who work at these places usually have great stories to tell.

And if she's going from El Paso to Albuquerque, I hope she takes the eastern route that circles closer to White Sands. A stop in Cloudcroft might also be in order.
posted by jaimystery at 10:59 AM on March 31, 2010

I've heard wonderful things about Cattlemen's in El Paso.

Las Cruces is pretty blah in terms of what she's looking for, but a stop in Mesilla (tiny old adobe town in the western part of LC) might be nice, they have little shops and stuff there.

Then she should take Main/70 up through the Organ Mtns (nice views for the drive) and make a stop at White Sands. It's a full moon so the park might be open late to experience the full moon/ white sand combo, which is supposedly pretty neat. She can continue on

Also seconding Cloudcroft.

Carlsbad is a bit out of the way, but probably worth it and if she wants to stretch the trip out some so she can be in San Antonio, NM on Saturday....the Trinity site, where the first atomic bomb was exploded, will be open this weekend (the first Saturday in April) and is outside San Antonio, NM. I went in October, it's definitely...eerie. It's only open for tourism twice a year. There's a monument, some pictures, radioactive Trinitite, the gravity of knowing you're standing where the atom bomb made its first appearance. The Owl Bar in San Antonio on the way back will be absolutely packed as it's pretty much the only restaurant around, but it's got a great green chile cheeseburger.

Back on the East Coast--Atlanta has some cutesy touristy stuff like The Varsity restaurant, the Coca Cola museum, and I'm sure lots of other culture that I never experienced when I lived in the area.

Savannah: RIVER STREET. City Market. Ghost tours. Pralines. Kitschy tourist shops, beautiful antebellum architecture, nice southern feel. Olympia Cafe on River St has great Greek food, Paula Deen's restaurant is there, it's a wonderful city (although it's my favoritest so I might be a bit biased).
posted by LokiBear at 11:15 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

About an hour's drive west of Albuquerque, which shouldn't be much out of the way if she's heading to Arizona, is Acoma Sky City, a Native American pueblo village atop a mesa that's been continuously inhabited since 1150. The tribe offers guided tours. I found it fascinating to visit a historic pueblo that's still intact and housing a vibrant community, to provide contrast with the long-abandoned (though still impressive) sites such as Walnut Canyon and Bandalier.

I have no specific recommendations for restaurants, but have found the Road Food site a useful resource when exploring new bits of the country. Its database of recommended spots can be searched by state or town.
posted by unsub at 11:39 AM on March 31, 2010

Some of my favorite Restuarants in the world are in Albuquerque. Rudy's BBQ is amazing at the Carlisle Exit on I40, REally good. Also Sade's on River Road (I think) is really good if you like your mexican food hot enough to make you sweat. I don't know what it is buy the mexican food along the Rio Grande Valley doesn't taste the same anywhere else. White Sands is worth seeing and if you have the chance to go to the Trinity site it is amazing, it is also one of the least densely populated areas in the US, that alone can be a little eery if you are not used to it. If you are science geek the Very Large Array is about an hour west of Socorro (which is where you will be getting back on i-25 if you go to white sands) and it is the largest radio telescope in the world (it was the telescope in the movie Contact), which is also in the least densely populated area of New Mexico (which doesn't have a lot of people in general). The tram ride in Albuquerque is pretty cool and the view from teh top of Sandia is worth the trip. Heading more north Los Alamos is north of Santa Fe and on the way to Taos (both of which are way touristy and not really worth it in my opinion) and has some interesting stuff to see and the drive is pretty neat. Las Vegas (NM) has some old hotel ruins heading out of town into the mountains to the east that are pretty cool but I hear they are not accessible anymore. If you do want to head north to Los Alamos from Albuqerque head through Jemez and over the mountains instead of Santa Fe to see more real old New Mexico in all its splendor (mostly abject poverty-but the scenery is nice). If you are heading east from Albuqerque you can see the grave of Billy the Kid in Ft Sumner (kinda obscure I know) and all the flatness you can stand until you hit Palo Duro Canyon outside of Amarillo (which is actually pretty cool). After that I don't really have any suggestions.

Hueco Tanks is cool if you are into hiking/rock climing and rattlesnakes-I spent many a day there when I was a teenager. Cattlemans is good and worth eating at. have fun and plan lots of time to see the sites-it is a different world there than the rest of the nation, and BTW I would stay out of Juarez right now-when I as a teenager it was fun to go shop, now it is scary and danegerous.
posted by bartonlong at 2:58 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your friend is going to be in Albuquerque, she needs to have good New Mexican food. My favorite New Mexican restaurant here is El Patio. They have the best red chile in town. Rudy's is the best barbecue in town, but it is a chain, and I imagine that your friend will probably be able to find better barbecue while she's in Texas. We also have some good bars to check out. The Anodyne downtown has a great beer selection, as does O'Neill's in Nob Hill (they also have great bar food). Also, check out the Marble Brewery for local beers.

As far as culture here, we have the Albuquerque museum, which has a pretty decent permanent collection of local art. The tram that was mentioned before is definitely worth the trip. The ride is fun, and hiking around the top of the mountain is a good way to spend an afternoon. Old Town is nice, and I'd also suggest going to Nob Hill for strolling about and shopping. There are a lot of fun little shops there. Of course, she can also check out Santa Fe for some art and culture. The Georgia O'Keeffe museum is really nice, and there are a couple beautiful old churches on the plaza that are open for tours.

I'll also second checking out the Jemez mountains and hot springs. Going north to Las Vegas and Mora is really fun, but might be out of the way.
posted by lexicakes at 9:55 PM on March 31, 2010

Stop at the Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, learn about the various pueblo peoples, and pick some to visit. Not all of them are visit-able, and some are only open to the public on feast days -- they are all communities where people live, and some are more interested in tourism than others.

If she is going to Arizona, she might enjoy driving through the Navajo Nation on the way. The Navajos are not a pueblo people, so no info on that at the Pueblo Cultural Center. There are visitor's centers in the area, but she might want to connect with groups that don't have shiny brochures there -- maybe stop in Gallup and ask around a bit? I've found it to be interesting just stopping at gas stations on the res (on the less-popular routes) and talking with people.

Do stop at the Owl Bar in San Antonio, NM (9 miles south of Socorro, closed Sundays), and get a green chile cheeseburger. Oh, they are good. They grind their own beef, and the chile is from a farm just up the road.

The tram is very touristy, although locals sometimes take it to get to the hiking and skiing. There is also a road up the other side of the mountain, with a viewing area up top and access to the same hiking trails. This time of year, she'll be looking at snow or mud, but the viewing area is a paved walkway. Parking is $3.

Some of her additional interests sound like she might have more success connecting with people who would know people rather than going to a specific location. In Albuquerque, I'd start with an in-person visit here and see if she can connect with someone who knows someone. She's just missed seeing Ceasar Chavez's granddaughter (or daughter?) speak, but whatever group organized that might have something else.
posted by yohko at 7:39 AM on April 1, 2010

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