While back in the US for several weeks, we decided to take advantage of family visits in Western New York and Texas by setting out on a 1,600 mile (2,500 km) road trip between the two points. We ended up on a week-long adventure that included thrills, kitsch, and history of the region. You can do the itinerary backwards or forwards, or just pick a site or two to visit based on your tastes and available time. In general, we tried to keep drive time to about 6 hours per day to allow for stops along the way.
Day One: Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio (note: it's best to arrive the day prior to ensure that you'll be among the first visitors to enter the park). Cedar Point is the self-proclaimed roller coaster capital of the world and it does not disappoint. It seems to add a new coaster each season (May - October). Be sure to buy tickets online in advance.
Day Two: Sandusky to Louisville, Kentucky - We stayed overnight near Louisville to break up the drive. While we didn't go into the city, options include a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Day Three: Louisville to Memphis, Tennessee - We stopped at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, the historical home of America's seventh president (1829-1837), located just outside Nashville, about midway between Louisville and Memphis. It is well worth a visit for history buffs and horticulturists, but other options include a visit to the Grand Ole Opry or Loretta Lynn's Ranch. We ended the day at a hotel in downtown Memphis with views of the mighty Mississippi River.
We were very pleasantly surprised by downtown Memphis, which offers a great selection of restaurants, shops, theaters, and of course Beale Street. You cannot visit Memphis without taking a stroll down this street known as the "Home of the Blues." The live music will draw you in and the drinks will keep you there for a while.
Day Four: Memphis - We packed the day with two visits: Graceland , the home of Elvis Presley, and The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the location where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Both are must-see locations in Memphis. No complaints about another night in this city.
Day Five: Memphis to Natchez, Mississippi - We drove along the Natchez Trace, a historic parkway manage by the US National Park Service between Jackson and Natchez. I wondered if there were more gaps in my education.... I had never heard of the Natchez Trace, an ancient natural corridor for migratory animals and later used as a trade route by native americans and pioneers. It's a wonderful drive just for the scenery, but be sure the stop at the historic points.
Day Six: Natchez - The history of Natchez is amazing. Untouched during the US Civil War, it is one of the best places to see Antebellum (1840-1860) architecture in the US, and the location high above the Mississippi River offers amazing views. There are numerous architectural gems to visit in Natchez. We choose two:
Longwood House - In my opinion, this site is not to be missed. It's a project frozen in time at the outbreak of the Civil War. What was planned to be the grandest residence in the country was never completed. The tour brings to life the family history (and tragedy) and the unfinished parts of the building let your imagination take the lead.
Stanton Hall - A grand Greek Revival style home in the heart of town.
With all the beauty and history, Natchez has a very gay vibe, and clearly the LGBT community has a strong presence.
Day Seven: Natchez to Houston, Texas - On the way to Houston, we took a slight detour to visit Natchitoches (pronounced Nah-ki-doe-chess), most famous as the filming location for Steel Magnolias, and a lovely southern town.
Day Eight: Houston to San Antonio - We finished our road trip with a trip up to the home of the Alamo.
Rainbow Rating (of 5) 🌈🌈🌈 - Keep in mind that you will be traveling through more conservative parts of the United States. Open displays of affection or LGBT symbols may draw unwanted attention, but generally you will be left to your own business.
You can see the route here: https://goo.gl/maps/eXjw8jaakpj