My boyfriend and I drove from California to Tennessee (an onwards to Virginia) over the course of one week. We had been saving up and looking forward to this road trip across the country for awhile. I wanted to share our itinerary in case you ever wanted to plan your own road trip! This whirlwind trip revealed to me how magnificent the various regions of our country are.
- Los Angeles
- Grand Canyon
- Santa Fe
- Blue Hole
- Cadillac Ranch
- Great Smoky Mountains
Day 1: Los Angeles to Flagstaff
We began our trip in Los Angeles, where my boyfriend had been living for one year. I had been living in L.A with him for about six weeks to explore southern California. Leaving California was sad–it’s such a beautiful state with so much to see. But it was time to go, so we packed the car and hit the road.
The terrain quickly changed from beachy to very hot and dry as we made our way through the Mojave Desert. And wow, was it HOT! We made a few stops along the way for cold drinks and ice cream (which melted into my hand way faster than I could eat it), but worked our way toward our first stop: Arizona.
Our first stop was breathtaking. We decided to drive directly to Sedona to enjoy the scenic land of red rocks. We ate dinner at an outdoor market with different vendors selling food, as we admired the scenery all around us. After eating an early dinner we strolled the streets, took some pictures, and headed back to the car. The drive in and out of Sedona was incredible. We drove through the mountains, felt the cooler air, and admired the trees–which we hadn’t seen during our desert drive.
We arrived at a wonderful Airbnb in Flagstaff. We took refreshing showers, booked our accommodations for the next night, and hit the hay. We woke up the next morning to a delightful breakfast prepared by our host, accompanied by good conversation, then took to the road.
Day 2: Flagstaff to Santa Fe via the Grand Canyon
After another stunning drive, we arrived at the Grand Canyon. It was the highlight of our trip. We packed some snacks with us to take on the hike so we didn’t have to make any extra stops.Check out our guide to visiting the Grand Canyon
After a few hours of exploring this world wonder, we stopped at an Indian reservation before heading to our next stop: Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Driving toward Santa Fe was another highlight. We drove through a lesser known route our Airbnb host recommended, which takes you through the Navajo Land. We were literally driving through Indian reservations that have stood there for years and years. It was so neat to see the constantly changing scenery from Arizona to New Mexico, but a word to the wise: there are very few stops. We were happy that we prepared in advance with a cooler full of cold drinks and snacks–so keep that in mind if you ever do this drive!
That evening we arrived in Santa Fe, checked into our Airbnb and went right to sleep.
Day 3: Santa Fe to Dallas
We woke up the next morning and headed to downtown Santa Fe. It was SO cute! Adorable pueblos lined the streets and we saw hints of artwork everywhere we turned. We ate a great breakfast at one of their most popular restaurants called Plaza Cafe. The service was incredible–the staff was so nice and the food was delicious!
After popping in and out of a few shops and taking some photos, we set off toward Dallas, TX. There was so much to see along the way to Dallas! Our first pit stop was the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa.
Blue Hole, NM
This was one of my favorite memories! Before our trip we researched attractions to see along Route 66 and Blue Hole was one of them. The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa is a natural cold spring in Santa Rosa, NM. It was truly an oasis in the desert. I felt so hot and dry after 3 days of driving through unrelenting desert heat. Ryan and I couldn’t get our bathing suits on fast enough! We were so excited to jump in.
The Blue Hole is 81 feet deep and is a pure, clean spring. The water filters up from deep within the Earth and recycles its water every six hours. It was so refreshing–the temperature of the water was a cool 61 degrees F (about 16 degrees C). We had so much fun jumping off the cliff into the water. This is a must-see attraction if you are ever in the area!
Cadillac Ranch, TX
Our next pit stop was to check out the famous Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. It wasn’t a long stop, just a quick pullover, hop out, take a pic, hop in. But it was a really cool thing to see out in the middle of nowhere. We decided to eat an early dinner in Amarillo at a Chipotle and oh my, it was the most seasoned and delicious Chipotle I have ever had! Kudos to Amarillo.
This was a long stretch to drive, but we were very excited to get to Dallas. We decided to stay in Dallas for two nights and scored an amazing deal at a beautiful hotel: The Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown. We had a luxurious king sized bed was and our room was on the 16th floor in the heart of Dallas. We were so excited to get there!Where to stay: Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown
Day 4: Dallas
The next morning we enjoyed lunch in a plaza in Dallas and booked a JFK Memorial/City tour. It was a great informational tour and it was also nice to be on an air conditioned bus. Our legs were tired from hiking the Grand Canyon and our bodies needed a break from the heat. That evening we ordered a delicious steak dinner from a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing evening overlooking the city.
Day 5: Dallas to Nashville
We were anxiously excited to arrive in Nashville, TN. Earlier that day we had researched a few spots that had live music and dancing. After checking into our hotel, we set off for the heart of Nashville. It was such a fun night! We went a place called Rippy’s and enjoyed the live bands playing on every level. We even got up toward the end to dance along. It was an incredible time, in fact it was such a fun time I didn’t even think to take any pictures! I hope to one day return to Nashville to explore it even more.
Day 6: Depart Nashville
Our trip was winding down. Driving through Tennessee into Virginia was such an incredible drive. We passed through the Smoky Mountains and it started to drizzle! It felt so good to be in the mountain air–such a welcome break from the heat. After crossing into Virginia we looked at each other and smiled. Everything was SO green–it was incredible to see after miles and miles of deserts and heat. I had never noticed that before about my home state but I felt so happy to arrive home. Virginia is such a beautiful place and I found a new appreciation after being gone so long.
This cross-country trip was a dream from beginning to end. We made so many fun memories, and saw so much of our beautiful and diverse country. I only hope to get the opportunity to do it again one day and try the northern route this time.
Well, there you have it! An example itinerary for a cross-country trip. For more information on how we prepared for the trip, check out this article.
Author: Erin founded the Wonderlost Travel blog in February of 2015 after her experience of studying abroad in Europe. She has had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of South America and Asia. She enjoys writing about and photographing her travel experiences in order to inspire others to get out and follow their travel dreams. Erin has a passion for traveling the world to experience other cultures and explore nature!