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May 13, 2012 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What should we see on our road trip? This is our route. Last 2 weeks of July. What are the best things to do? Where should we eat? What can we not miss?

So, we're going on a road trip from Erie, PA, through Minnesota, Texas, NOLA, Atlanta, and North Carolina. (We're starting and ending at family functions so the original drives to Erie and from NC will be straight drives home). We are both students, so looking to keep this relatively cheap. Travel dates are approximately July 23 - Aug 3. Our major stops will be Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, and maybe Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Kansas City.

--We want to eat the things that represent each place, and that we can't get anywhere else. (Things like cheesesteaks in Philly.) So what can't we miss? Cheap is better, but we'll pay if it's a "OMG must have" thing.
--Also, what are the cheap gems?

--Again, we want to get the feel of the major cities without being super touristy. We don't really have a game plan, so what to do? Cheap ideas also good!

--Know any cheap gas stations along our route? (I do have the app, but it never hurts to ask!)
--I think we'll need a hotel halfway from Minnesota to Texas, and possibly somewhere around Atlanta. What are the cheapest area to look?
posted by DoubleLune to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you do hit Kansas City, Arthur Bryant's BBQ is a must eat. The original location downtown has the additional benefit of being right by the Jazz and Negro Leagues Museums for your culture fix. You could probably find a pretty good deal on a hotel there, too, or maybe Tulsa if you want to get farther South for the night.
posted by ronofthedead at 11:29 AM on May 13, 2012

If you stop in Cleveland, it is fun to take the Rapid Transit downtown. It comes in under the Terminal Tower into a neat mall with a free dancing fountain light show.
Also, if you are there on the weekend, the Westside farmer's market is totally cool, unique and cheap. You can get a neat breakfast or lunch there cheap and, unless it has changed in the past few years, it will give you a multi-cultural experience I have found in few places in the U.S.
posted by srbrunson at 11:36 AM on May 13, 2012

In Minneapolis, go to the Mill City Museum and see the "Minneapolis in 19 Minutes" movie. Have a Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar (or the 5-8 Club or the Nook or the Blue Door Pub). For breakfast, the Mahnomin porridge at Hell's Kitchen.
posted by lakeroon at 11:43 AM on May 13, 2012

Visit the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and Pier W in Cleveland.
posted by lotusmish at 12:14 PM on May 13, 2012

The archetypical local foods in Chicago (in order of priority that you must try them) are Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, italian beef, and Chicago-style hot dogs. Wandering along the lakefront and Michigan Avenue is free, and will give you a good feel for what downtown Chicago is like.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:37 PM on May 13, 2012

The National World War I Museum is in downtown Kansas City. It's really well done.
posted by something something at 12:44 PM on May 13, 2012

If you can, stop at The House on the Rock in Wisconsin. It is unreal, and unlike anything else.

In Iowa, try to eat a pork tenderloin sandwich. You may also just hit the beginning of sweet corn season, so obviously don't pass that up if you can find it in a restaurant. If you can't find a proper small town cafe in which to get a pork T sandwich, you can do okay at a Maid-Rite restaurant/fast food joint. Famous for their "loose meat sandwich", but their pork tenderloin is pretty killer.
posted by wwartorff at 2:44 PM on May 13, 2012

Nthing the Mill City Museum! I lived in Minneapolis for a while, and it is great. If you're there on the weekend the farmer's market is great too.
posted by manicure12 at 6:16 PM on May 13, 2012

I know you're focusing on the major cities, but you're going to be driving through and stopping a lot things that aren't major cities, so don't write them off so quickly.

You're driving during upper midwest county fair season, so stop at one to soak up culture and eat small-town fair food. The Scott County MN fair is July 25th to 29th, the Freeborn MN fair is July 31 - Aug 5, Dunn County WI fair is July 25 through 29...that's just the few in close proximity to I94 and I35 that are in my stomping grounds, so check Illinois, eastern WI, and Iowa as well. With small county fairs, it's not hard to stop, grab something to eat, go look at the 4H booths, pet some cows, and be back on the road in an hour. Admission is usually pretty cheap, too, a couple bucks per person generally.

Also, many of the little towns along the freeways have county museums and historical societies that are mostly free and only take twenty minutes to a half hour to walk through them, so when you stop for gas or lunch or just stretch your legs, ask if there's a museum in town and go have a look. There's one in Black River Falls that's pretty nice and I've been there in the past year.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:52 AM on May 14, 2012

Salt Lick BBQ when you're running through Austin is worth the trip. If you're there in the evening the Alamo Drafthouse is a fun place to watch a late-night movie. They sometimes play old revival stuff. The LBJ presidential library is fun in its way (it has a robotic LBJ telling stories).

San Antonio isn't too much further if you'd like a side trip. There's good mexican food to be had between there and Austin.

Fredericksburg is more of a commitment in terms of side trip, but it's a cool little town with German influences. You can find some awesome Kolaches there.
posted by owls at 12:19 PM on May 14, 2012

Cafe du Monde. Yes it's touristy, but amazing and there is iced (what you want in July here) chicory coffee and beignets like no other place in the world. The wee hours are the least touristy.
Port of Call HUGE burgers will fill you up for days.

Preservation Hall again touristy but worth it and cheap.
dba great music in a wonderful neighborhood. Other great bars along this street.
Circle Bar cheap cool bar with great local, regional bands.
Rock n Bowl bowling alley bar with good live music in historic neighborhood.

LAFAYETTE LA: I'm adding it to your list because there's some great regional music and food here if you have time to stop do so:
Blue Moon Guesthouse and Saloon great cheap place to stay and live traditional Cajun music and wonderful resource for what's interesting in the area.
Old Tyme Grocery on St. Mary Blvd. This is the place in the world where you what to have a po-boy sandwich.

HOUSTON: can seem like a wasteland if you don't know where to look, but if you do you will find it to be one of the most diverse places in the country.

There's a new HI hostel or Houston Hostel both in a good location.

Tacos: Tacos a Go-Go or El Rey. All locations are in sort of interesting areas that can be fun to wander: esp. Tacos a Go Go on Main.

Huge Vietnamese community has Banh mi sandwiches: Le Givral's on Milam if you can't make it out to the West side of town. If you can try Nguyen Ngo. Be sure to get a Vietnamese Iced Coffee to wash it down.

Teoihuacan Mexican food. Huge plates and good margaritas.
Lankford Grocery. Lunch only: burgers or chicken fried steak if they have it that day.

West side along Hillcroft street has huge South Indian community with great cheap places to overdose on vegetarian Indian buffets. Udipi or Madras are big lunch buffet places.

Menil Museum and Rothko Chapel: free.
Aurora Picture Show
Art Car Museum
Orange Show
Beer Can House

Torchy's on South 1st: the dirty sanchez.
Magnolia Cafe on South Congress: PANCAKES.

CULTURE: at this time of year find a watering hole. (another good list here)

Kalachandji's. All you can eat vegetarian Indian. Wonderful.

hot dog at the Coney I-lander. Desert Hills Motel is an old Route 66 moter inn with an awesome sign. Rooms are not fancy but clean and cheap. Try to catch a show at Cain's Ballroom. Visit the Center of the Universe. Love Tulsa. Really underrated cheap place to visit.

Misc: stop by the Mars Cheese Castle in Wisconsin because you can and it's a cheese castle.

Have fun! Road trips are wonderful.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:50 AM on May 20, 2012

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