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From Sunny San Diego to The Big Easy: A Road Trip Adventure

If you're looking for an early spring, fall or winter road trip idea, consider the journey from San Diego to New Orleans on Interstates 8 and 10. From the ghost towns of the Old West to the bayous of Louisiana, you'll get to explore several of the most unique and renowned destinations in the United States.

You could complete this journey of approximately 1,800 miles in four to five days, but you'd miss many of the attractions along the way. Instead, spend at least a week on the road, if possible, in order to explore these destinations at your leisure. Here are some highlights you won't want to miss.

San Diego

With constantly sunny weather and miles of beaches, San Diego is full of outdoor attractions. Begin by exploring the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and then enjoy a stroll and scenic views from Balboa Park. Go to one of San Diego's excellent beaches, such as Mission Beach or Pacific Beach, or check out the exotic animals at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. When you're ready to hit the road, head east on Interstate 8.


If you need to stretch your legs or are craving some Mexican food, Calexico makes a good pit stop. Next door to the city of Mexicali, in Mexico, Calexico is full of south-of-the-border ambience. Heber Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the place for off-road fun for those with all-terrain vehicles. Check with local sources for hours of operation and other regulations before visiting this park.

Photo: Calexcio Food (Source:


Just over the state line in Arizona, Yuma features prominently in the history of the American West. At the Fort Yuma-Quechan Museum, you can learn about this colourful history. For a more immersive experience, visit the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, where you can explore old cells and even pose for a mugshot in the penitentiary that used to be known as "the hellhole of Arizona."


Tucson is the first major city you'll visit after leaving San Diego, and you'll find many urban attractions here, as well as a good choice of restaurants and accommodations. If you have time, stay a day or two to visit a few of Tucson's museums, such as the Arizona State Museum, which features displays on the archaeology and Native American culture of the Southwest. Learn about the plants and animals native to the area in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is near another Tucson highlight, the Old Tucson Studios, where many Western movies were filmed. In Saguaro National Park, also in the Tucson area, you can get up close to giant Saguaro cacti and view ancient petroglyphs.


Although there are more tourists than outlaws in Tombstone these days, this notorious town is a must-see attraction for fans of the Old West. You can visit the famous OK Corral and the Boothill Graveyard, ride a stagecoach, or even watch re-enactments of gunfights. Tombstone is 25 miles south of Interstate 10 on Arizona Highway 80.


Get a sense of the boom and bust cycles that shaped the West in Lordsburg, a small New Mexico community that boasts two ghost towns in the vicinity. Shakespeare Ghost Town and Steins Railroad Ghost Town are both open to visitors, with an admission fee. Consult local sources for hours of operation.

Photo: Steins Railroad Ghost Town (Source:

Photo: Shakespeare Ghost Town (Source:

Las Cruces / Mesilla

Situated on the Rio Grande, Las Cruces is a regional hub with many dining and accommodation options. The neighboring community of Mesilla contains a picturesque plaza that houses restaurants and boutiques in thick-walled adobe buildings. Billy the Kid passed through here, and you can visit the old courthouse where he was condemned to the gallows.


The quirky West Texas town of Marfa, three hours southeast of El Paso via Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90, is worth a detour if you're interested in art or the paranormal. With a thriving art scene featuring galleries and many festivals and cultural events throughout the year, Marfa draws visitors from all over the world. The town is equally famous for the mysterious Marfa Lights, an unexplained phenomenon that can be viewed most nights in the skies outside of Marfa.

San Antonio

Leaving the desert behind for the Texas Hill Country, you'll reach the historic yet vibrant city of San Antonio. Here, you can sample delicious Tex-Mex food and innovative fusion cuisine. Stroll, dine or catch a boat tour along the peaceful Riverwalk, or visit the Alamo and San Antonio's 18th-century Spanish missions.


The fourth-largest city in the United States, sprawling Houston is famous for its key role in the space industry. Stop in at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Flight Center and Space Center Houston, whose interactive exhibits will thrill children and the young at heart. Get the lay of the land from the visitors' gallery on the 60th story of the Texas Commerce Tower.


This charming old resort town makes a good day trip or overnight excursion from Houston, just 50 miles away. History buffs will enjoy touring the city's grand Victorian-era buildings such as the Bishop's Palace. Dip your toes into the Gulf of Mexico, then get your thrills at the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, which buzzes with carnival rides and souvenir shops. Another top Galveston destination is Moody Gardens, which is organized into three large pyramids featuring an aquarium, a rain forest and a science-themed museum. There is also a popular water park on-site.


Get an introduction to the Cajun culture of Louisiana with a stop at one of Lafayette's three noteworthy museums, which feature living-history and architecture exhibits, among other subjects. Take a 16-mile detour to learn more about both Cajun and Creole culture at the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in Saint Martinville, which contains traditional models of Cajun and Creole homes. Explore Lake Martin, a swamp where you might spot an alligator, on a tour with a Cajun guide.

New Orleans

Time your visit to The Big Easy to take in Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, or soak up the city's lively atmosphere at any time of the year. Whenever you visit New Orleans, there will always be something happening. If you're into history, see St. Louis Cathedral, which is one of the oldest churches in the United States. Enjoy live jazz at the world-famous Preservation Hall.

From dusty deserts to swampy bayous, from California beaches to swinging New Orleans and everything in between, this road trip promises excitement and adventure. While most of the attractions described above are open year-round, scorching summer temperatures in many of these destinations can make outdoor activities difficult, so plan to do this trip during the cooler months.



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