I've been told by a good friend that driving across the Southern States is superb, stunning and full of different types of people and culture.
Should i go ahead with my plan, I'd end up in San Diego for 3-4 days to see friends there. I wouldn't mind where i begin.
1. Is hiring a car for this type of journey (I wouldn't need to drive the entire way, just a nice chunk followed by internal flight) reasonable?
2. Which cities in the South are worth visiting? So far i've been told that Austin Texas is excellent, and maybe Santa Fe in New Mexico?
3. What time of year should i go?
4. How long would i need? (I could feasibly get 3 weeks off work!)
I'm looking to take in some scenery, and perhaps 3 cities including San Diego. A few day hikes maybe, interspersed with some city life (and a college football game if i could!)
Actually on a trip from NO to SD, most of the trip is not in the South at all. Most of the trip will be in Texas, NM and AZ - we call that the Southwest. In my opinion, Texas is a pretty flat and endless journey - you'll wonder when it will end! The real South is the land mass north and east of Louisiana (excluding Florida) up to Virginia. I would say travel anytime except the hotter months. Expect to pay a very healthy drop charge if you're renting a car - a roundtrip is considerably cheaper in the long run.
If I were doing it, I think I'd mix car rentals with air travel and not attempt to drive straight through. I also think I'd avoid Texas as much as possible. By the way, going that route you will bypass one of the most beautiful states - Colorado, north of New Mexico has fantastic mountains and is the complete opposite of Texas.
I did kinda similar trip last year. I had about 3.5 weeks for that route, which you can see here.
You can also check my photos though my profile, just go to the USA photos from there.
Started in Houston and picked up the car and drove west towards San Antonio. Were in doubt about visiting SA or Austin, I think the latter is nice as well. San Antonio sure is as well! I was pleasantly surprised: great pubs and restaurants, walks along the river and of course the Alamo for culture/history enthusiasts.
From there, went to Big Bend National Park, a real gem and not a crowded National Park at all.
From there, crossed into New Mexico and did a sort of loop southeast from Carlsbad Caverns National Park north to Santa Fe and Taos, and south again to cross into Arizona from there.
I really liked Tucson as a base to explore the surroundings. There really is a lot to see and do here, including the great Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument. Also visit Tombstone and Bisbee for some Wild West adventure.
Crossed into California and visited Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs and San Diego before ending in Los Angeles.
I think 3 weeks is possible, but I would skip going to the north of New Mexico and instead keep following the rest of the route. Also, do this in either Spring (March-May) or Fall (October, early November) to avoid the heath but still have nice weather without the cold nights.
[ Edit: Edited on 04-Jan-2012, at 01:17 by Utrecht ]
1. Yes it's totally reasonable to hire a car and you can certainly get one cheap in southern California. The part you might want to fly over is west Texas which seems to go on forever (though Marfa, TX is an interesting little artsy town if you do plan to drive)
2. Austin & Santa Fe are both great, I'd also recommend Marfa if you drive, you should see the Grand Canyon, it's magnificent!
3. Since you're driving through the south, any time of year is okay, in July/August will be ridiculously hot when you get to Texas, but otherwise it's pleasant and warm-ish year round. (New Mexico gets pretty snowy in the winter time)
4. You can drive from San Diego to New Orleans in a couple of days, but you'll definitely want a couple of days in NOLA, a couple in the Austin area (Austin city itself is really cool and the surrounding Hill Country has great food and outdoor activities and is just beautiful), and I'm sure a day or two in Santa Fe. The other places you'll be driving (or flying through) don't need as much attention I wouldn't think!
Hope this helps
First of all, if you want to take in a college football game, you'll have to do this trip during football season, which is in the autumn (fall) months--September through early December. I suggest mid- to late September, so that you can be in San Diego when it is still warm enough to visit the beaches.
I'd also suggest you visit a few other national parks or monuments in the area, like Bryce Canyon and Lake Powell in southern Utah, and also Las Vegas, which is pretty much on the route.