Cool Things between Charlotte and College Station
February 10, 2016 6:24 AM   Subscribe

This is going to be a first for us - an extended family road trip that's not entirely about driving overnight and getting to the destination ASAP. And so, we are turning to you for some help.

In late March, the spouse, the spawn and I will be driving from Charlotte, NC to College Station, TX. It looks like there are two main routes - I-85 and I-10 takes us by the Gulf, and I-20 takes us across the tops of several states. We're open to taking either, but we're totally unfamiliar with the area. What cool, cheap things are there to do on the way? There or back doesn't matter, and we're open to both routes (and may switch it up on the way back) - only that it's interesting and can accommodate a likely antsy 4 year old. Bonus points for great places to eat on the way as well.
posted by daikaisho to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out Roadtrippers.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:32 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I've done the drive between Atlanta and Dallas on 20. This is pretty utilitarian frankly. There are quite a few places to stop and get drinks, pee, eat etc. Some are regional, and that can be fun, but it's all pretty 'meh'.

In Anniston, AL you can see the worlds biggest office chair. Drive further along 20 and there's Talledega (if you're into NASCAR). Anniston is about 7 hours into your trip (depending on how much traffic you hit in Atlanta,) and has a metric butt-load of cheap motels. Be aware if there's a race at Talledega they will all be full.

Desoto Caverns a hair south of Talledega. My parents went and there's some kind of show or something at the end of it, and it's patriotic and Christian. They liked it despite that. Frankly, caverns are fantastic and one of these days, I'm hitting it.

Your next stop should be in Louisiana. Yeah, banjo music. But there's also good eating there. Pick a wide spot in the road.

For cheap, goofy stuff check out Roadside America. You can search by state.

Sometimes it's not what you see, but just the whole Road Trip vibe. Stop often, be liberal with the pocket money and talk to local folks, even if it's just a folksy exchange at the local truck stop.

Have Fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:44 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: AAA's TripTik is the best Web site I've found for finding places to visit. After entering your from and to cities, click Places and then Play at the top, then zoom in. Details include address, description, hours, costs, etc.
posted by davcoo at 6:51 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: Seconding Roadtrippers for ideas of places to see. I would take I-85 down to I-10 and visit the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, and Houston on the way there. Then, I-20 to Jackson, MS, the Natchez Trace all the way to Nashville, and I-40 through the Smoky Mountains on the way back.
posted by bradf at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I will second that the I-20 section from Atlanta to Shreveport (and p is incredibly boring. Perhaps twice a year my wife and I drive from Atlanta to southwestern Arkansas; I prefer a more northern route for that trip (via Memphis or Oxford, MS) rather than I-20 if I want an interesting drive and nice places to stop along the way, and I-20 if I just want to get where I'm going.

There's also the more northern route where you drive the length of Tennessee on I-40. Might be worth a look, although it's a bit longer. Stop in Nashville and have some hot chicken.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:10 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I-10. Definitely.

New Orleans and/or Baton Rouge; Lafayette could also be interesting. Not too far from the Tabasco factory in New Iberia (I think).

Houston. NASA Johnson Space Center. Must-do.

As you get closer to Aggieland, you can try and visit the Blue Bell Ice Cream HQ in Brenham, if they have re-opened by then. (Currently closed; listeria scandal et al.)

Also, Memphis over Nashville 11 times out of 10.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:38 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: Places to eat, you say?

Road Food, a book and website (with great forums) about roadside eats, especially local gems. The book is in the Eleventy-fifth edition, but your local used book store will have a dozen versions. The website is probably more useful for impulsive searches for places.

Also good for planning: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (wiki episode list). Say what you will about host Guy Fieri, but the show is marvelous and showing off some great places for casual places to get regional food, pig-out spots, "challenge" meals (if that's your thing), and diamonds in the rough. Best of all, there are a million episodes on Youtube, so use google to and Road Food to locate places, find the episode they appear in, and then watch it online.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: Roadside America! And now there's an app for that.
posted by peagood at 9:28 AM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

you can try and visit the Blue Bell Ice Cream HQ in Brenham, if they have re-opened by then.

Note that Blue Bell has resumed production (and you can get it at least as far from the mothership as Atlanta). Obviously that doesn't mean they've re-opened for tours, but it's a good sign.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:17 AM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: It would be slightly out of your way, but if you go the northern route, Hot Springs, AK is cool (for kids as well as adults). It has the Gangster Museum of America, as well as historic hot spring bathhouses as part of a national park, among some other fun or neat stuff.
posted by eviemath at 4:54 PM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I have driven most this route ... too many times (I live in NC, my wife and her gf live in TX). I'd recommend 20 until it's time to cut south, and stop in Birmingham. Eat dinner at Dreamland. Take the kid to Vulcan. Run him around the botanical gardens. (The Civil Rights Museum is awesome, but likely not for an antsy 4 year old, sorry!)
posted by joycehealy at 6:55 PM on February 10, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers! I anticipate having to do this trip at least yearly so this is definitely going to come in handy for more than just one trip. This time around we'll be heading down to New Orleans for a day or two before heading on, and probably taking the northern route home, but having the ability to actually look ahead for roadside attractions, etc. is one of those things that seems really obvious in retrospect, yet didn't cross my mind.

Unfortunately the Blue Bell Ice Cream tours aren't back up, otherwise that would totally be part of the itinerary. I think NOLA is going to make up for it though. :D
posted by daikaisho at 1:21 PM on February 13, 2016

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