Advice for Driving I-10 along the Gulf Coast?
November 28, 2007 7:51 AM   Subscribe

RoadTripFilter: 2.5 days in New Orleans, followed by driving to Orlando. We're okay (about 85% set) with the endpoints, but we'd love advice on the road between, both on the road, and on food. Bonus New Orleans tour question at the end.

We'll be down there in mid-December, right before the holidays, if that makes a difference for any answers.

Questions on the Road Itself:
Google's telling us it's about 9.5 hours on I-10. Is it wildly underestimating things? What're the chances of snow, rain, ice? How long/bad are the bridges? Do we need toll money? How much? Are there areas (Gulfport, Mobile, Pensacola?) where we might get stuck in very bad traffic at certain times? We'll probably leave early (7-8, if I have my way), to make the most of daylight. We have no necessary arrival time in Orlando, although we do have a hotel booked for that night, late arrival OK.

On Food:
We'll obviously be stopping and eating along the way. We'd much rather nip off the highway for good food than eat chain food. I don't eat seafood; the boy eats anything; we both loooove breakfast. This is mid-week, if that makes a difference.

Other: We might be able to stop somewhere interesting for an hour or so, if there's anything like that. Jump off the highway for scenic driving for a bit, or world's largest ball of twine, good; three hour museum stops won't be possible.

Bonus question: We're definitely doing a voodoo/cemetery tour in New Orleans, but we have no idea which ones are better than others. The haunted Savannah tour I took was great - not too serious, no costumes, slightly sarcastic. On the other hand, if it's dumbed down I'll be irritated and bored, since I have a better than average knowledge of both topics due to my graduate thesis. The websites I've found offer little in the way of information.
posted by cobaltnine to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Re: New Orleans cemeteries --- Frankly, the walled in cemeteries are creepy enough without a tour. Walk past a few above ground tombs filled with generations of bodies that have a cracked or crumbling door, then let your imagination go nuts. Not to mention to the rumors/urban legends that would try to convince you that going into the cemeteries is the best way to guarantee getting mugged.
posted by wg at 8:15 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: You might get some good food suggestions from the cross country roadtrip that Clotilde from Chocolate and Zucchini took across the US.

What're the chances of snow, rain, ice?

Almost nonexistent. Except for rain. But that shouldn't impact your driving time.
posted by MsMolly at 8:17 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Save Our Cemeteries runs tours guided by volunteers and all proceeds go to cemetery preservation, so that might be a point in favor of them over other tour groups. I was very happy with their tour of St. Louis #1, which I took several years ago. (That tour is only once a week though, on Sunday morning, so it may not fit with your schedule.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:30 AM on November 28, 2007

I've driven between New Orleans and Orlando quite a number of times. My experience has been that with stops and stretches it's about 10 hours.
posted by tcv at 9:16 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Sorry, I should have read more of your question:

There is one section of road that may require a toll. It's the Florida Turnpike. Typically, you pick it up from I75 and take it to I4 in Orlando. Your mileage may vary. They have a pretty neat little website and there's even a toll calculator on it. (Note: I couldn't work the toll calculator in Firefox. I had to use Internet Explorer.)

The only weather you may need to worry about is rain, perhaps a thunderstorm. Winter rain is pretty light compared to summer so you're not likely to be delayed.

Lastly: I don't know if it's any different, but the stretch of I-10 between Pensacola and Tallahassee is dreadfully boring. It's pretty flat with a few small towns. Now, I haven't done this route in about 10 years, so perhaps there's all kinds of excitement to titillate a young driver. Don't know.
posted by tcv at 9:26 AM on November 28, 2007

My kingdom for an edit button.

I don't know if this interests you, but there's a statewide Disney radio station. You'll see signs for it when you turn south in Florida. It's good for a small larf if you're just trying to get over road hypnosis.
posted by tcv at 9:28 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: For the road from New Orleans to Orlando, I would say there's a very slight chance of wimpy Southern ice. It only snows here in Nola every 8 years or so, and the snowballs always melt mid-throw. That drive time from Nola to Orlando is not too far off the mark. Toll charges will be minimal - between $1 and $3 with a max of three or four times, from Nola through Alabama. You can expect traffic (45 minutes or so) coming out of New Orleans heading to Slidell, and that's the longest bridge (thru Bama) if you follow I-10. It's about a 20 minute drive. The roads in LA suck - especially in Orleans parish.

AFAIK, in New Orleans there are only two cemetery tours being offered now, and they're both pretty campy (costumes, "supposed" Marie Louveau heritage, etc.) There's haunted houses to check out, and a couple restaurants that claim to have suspicious history. Muriel's Jackson Square is one I know of off-hand, and the food is 3.5 out of 5, figure $20 per person, plus tip. Here's my recommendations: breakfast at the Camellia grill (I'm pretty sure they serve it all day), Thai at the Basil Leaf (fairly expensive, but ask for the steak dish and a peach martini), sushi/hibachi at Miyako's, hamburgers at the Port of Call, classic creole at Commander's Palace (25-cent martinis for lunch, natch) and you must go to Jacques-Imo's. Visits - the Cabildo, New Orleans Museum of Art, Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, Canal Place for indie movies, and Magazine street for artsy shopping.

There's much more, but I have to work - I hope y'all have a great time!
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: I-10 bridge at Pensacola (Escambia Bay) is under construction.

Pensacola to Tallahassee is pretty boring.

You might consider leaving I-10 east of Tally and going south on
US 19 and then cut across on US 27 into Ocala. Then pickup I-75/I-4 again into Orlando. These roads are well traveled and not 'boonie' roads. If you've got time to kill, Silver Springs in Ocala is worth a stop.

Should be a nice mid-week drive this time of year.

posted by sandpine at 10:03 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: You may hit lots of traffic off New Orleans-Gulfport-Mobile during business rush hours (8-9am and 4-5pm) and you might get into a jam near the casinos in the area. You might want to get this part of the trip over asap.

There are a lot of nice beachtowns from Louisiana to Tallahassee but it is not worth to get off the Interstate just to see them, you have a long trip ahead of you.
Florida Caverns State park, about 8miles north of I-10 near Marianna, Ga.
Wakulla Springs 18miles south of I10, it's a small park with natural springs, alligators, cypress trees. Small cafeteria for lunch. Very worth it but you'd have to spend at least an hour there. Of course you can take US98 to US19 afterwards and continue the trip as sanpine suggested.
Havana, Georgia (16miles north of Tallahassee) is a nice little town with antique shops and coffeeshops.

If things are anywhere near what I remember, beware police staking out the interstates for speeding cars. Particularly near Madison on I10.
posted by carmina at 10:45 AM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Being in Tallahassee, I can attest to the long stretch of I-10 being about that length of time to drive and very uneventful. If you want good food, your best bet is to get off the highway in Pensacola or Tallahassee, because there is very little in between those cities and the intersection of I-75 (I think even fewer than average fast food stops). FWIW, if you're getting your time estimate off of mapquest, I've become convinced that they count on you speeding along at 70+mph along I-10/1-75... I'm a rather, ahem, zippy driver, and I just make their time estimates from Tally to Orlando.

I'm not very familiar with Pensacola, but Tallahassee has some fantastic eating (at all price points) within a few minutes of the I-10 exit at rt 319/61 (and a super vietnamese lunch place called Far East just off the exit).

You shouldn't have any trouble with cold weather like snow and ice, but make sure your car's wipers are in good shape - you can likely count on it raining at least once while you're in FL. Other than that, the roads you'll be on a generally pretty good and usually won't have any traffic (although bets are off if you hit Orlando at rush hour).

Feel free to email me if you have any questions - or want any more Tallahassee rec's!
posted by dicaxpuella at 12:21 PM on November 28, 2007

re: carmina post -

The caverns are in Marianna FLORIDA, not Georgia.

- other after-thoughts:

Good wipers are a great suggestion.

Also, if you can miss Tallahassee during lunch, that would be a good thing. The locals use I-10 a *lot* during the lunch hour.

And yes, those long open stretches on I-10 often hide FHP.

My recommendation about avoiding the I-10/I-75 interchange should have you avoid some of 'speed trap land.'

posted by sandpine at 12:30 PM on November 28, 2007

heh. egg in my face. The Florida caverns are indeed in Florida.
posted by carmina at 2:05 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Toll charges will be minimal - between $1 and $3 with a max of three or four times, from Nola through Alabama.

I'm not sure what the poster is saying here. There's no tolls on I-10 from nola to alabama unless I've lost my mind (which does happen).

I-10 bridge at Pensacola (Escambia Bay) is under construction.

Unless something else is going on this won't affect you. A year ago it would have been hell, but it's fine now.

New Orleans to Pensacola isn't bad, but as others have said from Pensacola to Tallahassee is boring as hell. Don't drive it without plenty of sleep.
posted by justgary at 3:33 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Everyone gets partial credit! You're all winners! Except you there, who suggested Disney. (One of the reasons we're splitting the trip is because we aren't Disney people but we keep ending up in Orlando for one reason or another; last year it was an ill-fated hookup, this year my brother's graduating, etc.)

The toll thing, well, I live in CT and I feel like I'm being panhandled (ha!) every time I cross the border.

Oh, god, costume tours. Aaarg. Well, we'll see if we feel up to them. Sadly, the SOC Sunday tour won't be possible for us (we get in Sunday afternoon) but we'll check out the Monday one.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:14 AM on November 29, 2007

I'm guessing these tolls on the off-chance that you might jump off the interstate for an out-of-the-way restaurant and possibly get caught on your way back to the interstate. The tolls I know of in New Orleans/metro area would be on the Westbank and on the northshore, which you probably won't come across. Have fun!
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:18 AM on November 29, 2007

The tolls I know of in New Orleans/metro area would be on the Westbank and on the northshore, which you probably won't come across. Have fun!

O.k. That makes sense. So to the original poster, you won't have any tolls at least to tallahassee (I haven't driven to orlando in years) unless you get pretty far out into new orleans. I drive 10 to visit new orleans often and I've never run into a toll, so I doubt you will either.

Most of the best restaurants, at least where I live, isn't near the interstate. Get ready to see a lot of cracker barrels :)
posted by justgary at 10:57 PM on November 29, 2007

For the bonus question there is no doubt about it, but you want this one. The Travel Channel has profiled it several times and it's absolutely amazing! I've been to New Orleans a few times now and this is THE tour.
posted by magnoliasouth at 5:37 AM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my god, the number of Cracker Barrels.

We left New Orleans at 7 am this Wednesday morning - with our chicory coffee in hand and beignets in our stomachs - and got in to our hotel in Orlando at about 7 pm. That's 11 hours with the hour loss in the Central to Eastern switch on the panhandle. Probably about 10.25 with our breaks and switching off the driving.

We took the alternate route on 27 as suggested. Any future drivers should note that you really, really need to make sure you're not low on gas before taking this route, and having non-radio sources of music are highly suggested. We were fine on the former, but painfully short on the latter.

Total tolls were $3.00 ($2.50 and .50), in Florida only. All bridges were passable, although some were down to one lane in either direction.

We loved our Save our Cemeteries tour. We didn't do any others. Full write-up of the NOLA portion is in this comment. Thanks all!
posted by cobaltnine at 6:46 PM on December 19, 2007

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