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Brande
Manhattan Beach

California, Grand Canyon National Park, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Memphis, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Ozark, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Dallas

Cross Country Trip - CA to FL with 3 children (ages 10, 7, 6) . . . HELP!

My family (including 3 children - ages 10, 7, and 6) is driving from California to Southern Florida and are looking for recommendations about places to stop along the way and fun experiences for our kiddos - thinking about hitting the Grand Canyon, Ozark National Forest, Memphis, and New Orleans - specifically landmarks, quirky/fun things to see, and restaurant recommendations would be great.  Thanks for your suggestions!

HI EVERYONE - we went on our trip - it was awesome!  I totally recommend it - we saw a mix of things along the way and made lots of good memories!  Thanks for all of the tips and feedback!!!


12 Answers

top answer by
Lisa from Sacramento

Lat year my husband and I moved from Memphis to Sacramento, CA so within a 6 week period I drove that southern route twice.  Several things are a must do, Grand Canyon National Park is great, maybe not so much for the kids.  I've had friends say their parents took them as kids and they didn't appreciate it. Wish I had had the time to see Hoover Dam.  Have a meal at Tim's Place (website) in Albuquerque.  Cadillac Ranch (website) just west of Amarillo is a cool thing to see and great for photo opportunity.  If/When you stop in Memphis visit Peabody Hotel and see the ducks swimming in the lobby fountain, and while you are downtown you can't go wrong with any of these BBQ places linked in blue. The Memphis Zoo is one of the best in the country! And even the kids will enjoy Graceland Mansion Elvis's home.  As you leave Memphis, head to Huntsville, AL and spend some time at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the kids will love it.  Atlanta will have lots to see as well, but been a while since I've been and never with my kids.  Hopefully you will get more info from others for the rest of the trip.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grand Canyon National Park (park)
  2. Hoover Dam (attraction)
  3. Albuquerque (attraction)
  4. Cadillac Ranch (restaurant)
  5. Peabody Hotel (hotel)
  6. Memphis Zoo (attraction)
  7. Graceland Mansion (attraction)
  8. U.S. Space & Rocket Center (attraction)
  9. Tim's Place (restaurant)
8 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Dennis from Nashville

Something tells me that the kids are not going to see much value in New Orleans or Memphis. As you pass through central Florida though, try some of the Gator places like Gatorland. It's a decent alternative to Magic Kingdom or Epcot or SeaWorld.

Also maybe the place to see some middle America sights would be Arkansas.  The great outdoors and others like Garvan Woodland Gardens.

Also, consider treating yourself to Destin. The Gulf is a very different environment from California.

Hope this helps!  Good Luck, be safe, and have fun!  


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Gatorland (attraction)
  2. Magic Kingdom (neighborhood)
  3. Epcot (attraction)
  4. SeaWorld (restaurant)
  5. Arkansas (state)
  6. Garvan Woodland Gardens (restaurant)
  7. Destin (city)
5 thanks


answered by
Andrew from Los Angeles

While you are in New Orleans check out Louisiana Children's Museum. Its located in the Warehouse district and is a blast for kids of all ages. Tons of activities for the kids and is actually pretty fun for adults too.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Louisiana Children's Museum (attraction)
4 thanks


answered by
Jeremi from Lafayette

With those stops, I'm not exactly sure what route you're going to take, but about an hour east of San Antonio on I-10 is a place called Buc-ee's (website).  It's basically a travel plaza on steroids.

In Memphis, I recommend the Memphis Mojo Tour from Backbeat Tours.  It's a lot of fun.  Also, go to the Peabody Hotel and check out the Peabody ducks.  Go at either 11:00am or 5:00pm.  That's when they enter and exit the lobby, respectively.  Get there at least 20 minutes early for a good viewing spot.


In New Orleans, there's no shortage of good restaurants. Café du Monde is a classic.  For attractions, you can checkout the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, and the The National World War II Museum.

On more recommendation I have is a book called The Next Exit.  It's a comprehensive listing of what's at every interstate exit in the US.  It will help you a lot on your trip.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Buc-ee's (attraction)
  2. Peabody Hotel (hotel)
  3. Café du Monde (restaurant)
  4. Audubon Zoo (attraction)
  5. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (attraction)
  6. The National World War II Museum (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)


answered first by
Cara from San Francisco

Two suggestions: 

1. Check out a site called RoadTrippers -- awesome features to help you map out a route based on what to see, what to eat, places to stay, etc. 

2. Utah & Arizona are awesome for good outdoorsy stuff, which is a great way for kids to burn off energy. You might be able to pick up the Route 66 trail somewhere in there as well, which is cool for the history angle. Marfa, TX has all sorts of weirdly interesting artsy/kitschy stuff to see, somewhat odd given that it's located a thousand miles from anywhere. Austin, TX is a must for history, BBQ, music, BBQ, hill country activities, and BBQ. New Orleans would be another great sensory experience for kids -- so many distinct things to see, smell, hear, taste, and do there. That can put you onto the Gulf Coast for lots of beach time along the final stretch. 

I'd also suggest stopping over for more than one day at a couple points along the way. It will take a little longer overall, but the extra 2 or 3 days here and there will give you time to relax a bit and see more of the interesting places you're checking out.  

Enjoy!

Update: Re-read your Q and a couple more things given your described route: Zion National Park in southern Utah is amazing and probably a bit less crowded than the Grand Canyon. Hot Springs, AR is charming and full of hikes & outdoors activities. In Memphis, we hit Mud Island when I was a kid, and loved it (if it's still around)...Beale Street has some fun kid-friendly things going on during the day (more BBQ) and of course Graceland Mansion (altho the kids might not appreciate that as much as the adults).


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Utah (state)
  2. Arizona (state)
  3. Route 66 (attraction)
  4. Marfa (city)
  5. New Orleans (city)
  6. Zion National Park (park)
  7. Memphis (city)
  8. Beale Street (attraction)
  9. Graceland Mansion (attraction)
  10. Mud Island (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
Zoë from Palo Alto, California

Re: New Orleans - Audubon Zoo is great for kids and right by Tulane. Before or after stop at St. James Cheese Company for lunch. Great kids menu and amazing cheese plates, sandwiches and salads. Then walk next door to The Creole Creamery for ice cream. The National World War II Museum downtown is also great for kids of all ages. Enjoy!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Audubon Zoo (attraction)
  2. The Creole Creamery (restaurant)
  3. The National World War II Museum (attraction)
  4. St. James Cheese Company (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Mark from Norman

If and when you come through Oklahoma City. There is a nice playground right in the heart of okc next to Chesapeake Energy Arena where the thunder play. I have kids your kids age and they all would think it was cool and you would be really close to as many restaurants as you could want in the Bricktown District. Enjoy!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Chesapeake Energy Arena (attraction)
  2. Bricktown District (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
JR from Manhattan Beach

I would add one place to consider. It's overlooked by many but I found it to be one of the most beautiful nation parks/monuments in the country, and it's a relatively short stop if you're headed past it. It's the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Sheer black cliffs that your can walk right up to the edge (with safety railings of course) and look down into the gorge. It's spectacular and relatively few people ever go to see it. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (park)
2 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Emory from Norman

We went from Oklahoma to California two years ago with our three kiddos (aged 14, 11, and 6).  We made several stops along the way, so I can share what I know.

Grand Canyon South Rim was great!

Roswell (New Mexico) was not so exciting for the kiddos.

Las Vegas...what were we thinking stopping there with kids?!

Hoover Dam was pretty neat, and the kids liked it - especially our oldest.

We are considering New Orleans currently for this summer, but not sure yet.  I have enjoyed my visits there, but not sure if there is enough for kids - probably would be for one or two days, though.

Boathouse Districtis fun (our backyard).  Our son had his 8th birthday party there that was quite the hit.

Hope this helps!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grand Canyon South Rim (attraction)
  2. Roswell (New Mexico) (city)
  3. Las Vegas (city)
  4. Hoover Dam (attraction)
  5. New Orleans (city)
  6. Boathouse District (attraction)
1 thanks


answered by
Jerry from Colorado

Audubon Zoo, a must see in New Orleans!

Café du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets (French donuts with powdered sugar!)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Audubon Zoo (attraction)
  2. Café du Monde (restaurant)
1 thanks


answered by
Rebecca from Mobile

A must stop for me is Midtown Caboose in Tallahassee, FL. It's an eclectic atmosphere with unique food. They specialize in burgers from the mundane to the extraordinary. I highly recommend the Chick Flick burger or the PB & J burger. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Midtown Caboose (restaurant)
1 thanks


answered by
Jim from Texas

If you go through Mobile, you should stop at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, the old battleship in the bay.  If you're on I-40, you might want to check out the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum in Oklahoma City, OK (that was the building that was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb).


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park (attraction)
  2. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (attraction)




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